All roads lead to Ontario’s Southwest for foodies looking to sink their teeth into Canada’s freshest summer flavours.
The region is home to some of the country’s most fertile soil and is known for long stretches of summer sunshine. Combine those two factors with a talented team of farmers, producers and chefs and you’ve got a recipe for one tasty day of touring. Here are some favourite local flavour makers to seek out on your next summer road trip.
Shaw’s Ice Cream
Stopping at Shaw’s Ice Cream in St. Thomas is a time-honoured tradition for locals and tourists on their way to Port Stanley beach. The beloved local landmark has been producing ice cream since 1948 and today three sisters are carrying on the tradition of making ice cream a true family affair. The over 50 flavours of ice cream all share a few things in common: fresh, local cream and the purest flavourings. Try a scoop of Port Stanley Sunken Treasure, which is a luscious mixture of vanilla ice cream with a caramel ribbon and small treasures of chocolate covered almond toffee.
Location just minutes from the entrance to Point Pelee National Park, you'll find what's become one of the favourites stops for anyone who comes to the southernmost tip of mainland Canada, Birdie's Perch. Its fresh Lake Erie perch, their signature crisp, lightly breaded treat, is served from a bright red 1965 double decker bus overlooking the waters. Be sure to try the perch in a cone with the owners’ secret tartar sauce!
Refined Fool Brewing Company
What started out as a group of friends brewing beer in their houses has evolved into one of downtown Sarnia’s most beloved brewpubs. In addition to an always changing and always delicious collection of inspired craft beers, with amazingly creative names, Refined Fool offers its patrons a casual environment that builds a strong sense of community. Visit them in one of their two Sarnia locations, including their brand new Midtown location with a restaurant right on site!
Burning Kiln Winery
If you prefer your Lake Erie breezes with a glass of wine rather than a pint of beer, visit Burning Kiln Winery, which overlooks the UNESCO-designated Long Point Bay World Biosphere Reserve. Burning Kiln has made its mark in the Ontario wine industry by repurposing bulk tobacco kilns to perfect the ancient art of “appassimento,” which is the practice of using dryed grapes to enhance wine flavours. During the summer months, plan a mid-week visit to enjoy “Wine Down Wednesdays,” which feature live music, lawn games, a crackling outdoor fire and delicious food specials from David’s On Tour.
If you’d like to visit some other Norfolk County wineries and breweries on your trip, consider taking one of Ride the Bine’s four-hour guided tours. Learn more.
Bayside Brewing Company
Summer pints on the patio just seem to taste better with a view of the water. If you agree, the deck at Bayside Brewing Company in the historic town of Erieau has a view of Lake Erie’s Rondeau Bay that is hard to beat. Order a Honey Cream Ale, which is made with locally sourced honey. Be sure to try one of Bayside’s wood-fired pizzas. The Peaches & Cream, which is topped with grilled peaches, chicken, caramelized onions and a parmesan cream sauce, pairs beautifully with the Honey Cream Ale.
Bonnieheath Estate Lavender and Winery
You’ll feel like you’ve escaped to Provence when you walk amongst the rolling rows of lavender and breathe in the sweet smell at Bonnieheath Estate Lavender and Winery. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the property, which features vineyards, orchards, prairie grasses, lavender fields and a natural wetland. The Estate’s lavender begins to bloom in mid-June and continues until harvest, which is typically in early August. In addition to the delicious wines and ciders they produce, Bonnieheath offers their own line of lavender-based products, including culinary items like preserves, teas, honey and even a cocktail syrup.
Munro Honey and Meadery
There’s no better time to visit a working apiary than during the hot summer months when the buzzing bees are at their busiest. Munro Honey and Meadery, just outside of Alvinston, welcomes visitors from Monday through Saturday. There’s a fascinating observation hive, fresh honey products and if you ask nicely, maybe even a sample or two! Try their Gourmet Jalapeno Honey for a sweet treat with a bit of heat.
Local Flavours in Leamington
Thousands of labourers from Mexico come to work in Leamington each year to help area farmers and greenhouse growers with their crops. As a result, there is a delicious collection of Mexican restaurants that cater to this market of hungry labourers who miss the flavours of home. Using fresh local produce like tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs from local produce stands, these restaurants serve up delicious Mexican favourites!
No visit to the shores of Lake Erie is complete without a taste of some freshly caught perch. While you can find perch served up in a delicious array of dishes at restaurants throughout the region, Chef Ryan’s perch tacos at The Combine in Simcoe are a must-taste treat. Wrapped in a grilled corn tortilla with scrumptious toppings like butternut aioli, pickled salsa, avocado sour cream and fried lemon, this is some seriously picture-perfect perch!
Oxley Estate Winery (and friends)
Located on County Road 50 in Essex County, Oxley Estate Winery is in very good company. The scenic road, which winds along the shore of Lake Erie, is just a short drive from Windsor and is home to a friendly collection of farms, wineries, vegetable stands, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and other unique small businesses. Each summer the neighbouring businesses host a weekend-long touring event called Explore the Shore, which encourages visitors to sample local foods, taste local wines and browse area shops. This year’s event is on July 28th and 29th. Learn more at www.exploretheshore.ca
Would you like to receive regular updates about things to see and do in Ontario’s Southwest delivered right to your inbox? Sign up to receive our e-newsletter here.