After a third calendar year chock full of COVID-related restrictions and closures (earlier on in 2022) it feels like we’ve reached the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The tourists have returned to the rock, hungrier than ever and ready to eat at nationally acclaimed restaurants and sip brews at dozens of breweries. Locals have found a ferocious appetite too, dining at old favourites and exciting new spots.
Some heavy hitters did shutter throughout 2022—most notably Raymond’s, Seto Kitchen + Bar and Fort Amherst Pub—and ever-rising food costs and staff shortages have not made the year easy for anyone in the restaurant industry, it was nice to see a few firsts happen in St. John’s: its first doughnut shop, first drag-focused restaurant and lounge and the first Persian restaurant.
With all of this in mind, here are some highlights of Newfoundland and Labrador’s food and drink scene from the past twelve months.
Top Chef Canada winner Ross Larkin and wife Celeste Mah open Portage
The most anticipated restaurant opening of 2022 was, without a doubt, Portage, thanks to the notable culinary couple behind it. Top Chef Canada Season 6 winner Ross Larkin and his partner Celeste Mah (named Canada’s Best Pastry Chef in 2019 by Canada’s 100 Best) opened their first restaurant together in the summer and it has maintained buzz ever since.
The former chef de cuisine and former pastry chef of Raymond’s, the two “portaged” their skills right across the street from the now-closed-but-much-acclaimed restaurant to open a more casual, personalized rendition of their alma mater. It’s no surprise that locality is a primary focus with Portage’s menu along with nods to the pair’s cooking experience and backgrounds.
Expect perfectly executed dumplings, rutabaga with sweet chilies and sunflower seeds, and a truffle-topped grilled cheese that was on everyone’s Instagram feed here in Newfoundland.
Newfoundland’s first queer restaurant Kaleidoscope opens in St. John’s
An exciting, new queer-owned and operated bar on George Street opened in July of 2022. In doing so, it's created a safe, inviting (and fun!) space for so many in the community.
The first of its kind in the city offers a variety of events and themed nights from karaoke and bingo to Canada’s Drag Race viewing parties (any Irma Gerd fans out there?) and, of course, no shortage of high energy drag shows.
Kaleidoscope Drag Lounge and Restaurant offers plenty to eat too, with shareable bites like apple feta flatbreads and deep-fried goat cheese balls and brunch on weekends, while you’re taking in all of the dazzling performances.
The Roots, Rants and Roars culinary festival returns
The province’s famed food festival returned to its original glory in Elliston, NL and festivalgoers got a welcome-back feast to remember.
In September, Roots, Rants, and Roars held its first in-person event since 2019, hosting chefs from across North America including Food Network’s Duff Goldman, Dartmouth-based Renée Lavallée, Shaun Hussey and a plethora of local talent. Everyone involved served up dishes inspired by their own experiences and Newfoundland's bounty over three days and three main events: the hike, the feast and the much-anticipated Cod Wars.
Pop’s Diner slides into Churchill Square
The space that once housed the Fort Amherst Pub is now a haven for nostalgia lovers.
Opened in July 2022, Pop’s Diner has been a huge hit in the city ever since its first cheeseburger (with a house-made bun) came off the line. Its continued popularity makes it one of the hardest reservations to get in town.
The 1950s-style diner, complete with turquoise vinyl booths and bubblegum pink walls and checkerboard floor, offers milkshakes, soups, sandwiches and burgers, all enjoyed to the soundtrack of throwback tunes from its vintage jukebox.
The Old Dublin Bakery changes gears from mobile to fixed location
After 7 years on the road, St. John’s favourite roving pastry truck affectionately called “Cindy the Sweet Ride” was sold, and Old Dublin Bakery owner Kevin Massey spent half the year renovating an old home at the apex of Freshwater Road and Merrymeeting Road.
By summer 2022, the bricks-and-mortar bakery was up and running. Since then, Old Dublin Bakery been churning out their quality croissants, breads and cinnamon buns, in addition to pastries, breakfast sandwiches and tarts—and even some imported Irish pantry staples like Tayto potato chips.
Namjim garners national acclaim
This pop-up-turned-must-try-restaurant in St. John’s moved into Bannerman Brewing on Duckworth Street in late 2021, but really hit its stride in the summer of 2022 when it made the longlist for Air Canada enRoute’s Canada’s Best New Restaurants of 2022.
Namjim's innovative and hyper-local take on Thai cuisine is to thank for the nomination. Their spicy, salty dishes like Sai Ua cod fritters, tomatoes with Fogo Island snow crab and Nam Jim Jaew and funky, fish-saucy chicken wings are perfectly paired with the quality beers you’ll find at Bannerman.
Expanding pizza horizons with Black Cat Pizza and Crust Craft Bakery
2022 saw the rise in popularity of two styles of pizza in St. John’s, and I think we can all agree that you can never have too many kinds of pizza to enjoy!
Black Cat Pizza opened as a pop-up inside Terre Restaurant with sourdough slabs made from the famous Oregon Trail starter, served in a Detroit style. The pop-up has become so popular that owner Albin Jose Toms is opening a standalone location for Black Cat Pizza in early 2023.
Persian food arrives in Newfoundland
Persepolis Persian Restaurant opened in early May and boasts a brilliant, sparkling sign that’s impossible to miss driving down Torbay Road.
Inside, owners Mohammad Ghazazani and Negin Mirzabeigi showcase their Iranian heritage with traditional decor and a delicious menu filled with Persian favourites like chenje kebab, kebab koobideh, fesenjoon and gheyme nesar, all of which is beautifully presented on copper plates.
St. John’s beloved Basho reopens after fire and extensive damage
After more 8 months of being closed due to a fire and subsequent damages, the beloved sushi and steak restaurant Basho (with recipes gifted by sushi master Nobu from when Basho’s chef-owner Tak Ishiwata spent time working under his wing) reopened in May 2022. Clearly everyone was ecstatic for its return as Ishiwata’s reservation book was quickly filled to the brim.
Newfoundland Donut Company finally opens a bricks and mortar location
Did someone here in St. John’s hear my constant crying about not having a doughnut shop in the city? Maybe, because it finally happened.
The Newfoundland Donut Company, which had been serving doughnuts via pop-up for several years opened its doors in August. The daily barrage of stampeding doughnut fanatics sell out the bakery before noon most days, so go early if you haven't been yet.