Burgers, beers and a restaurant with a history as old as Confederation

Posted on March 05, 2021 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments

What goes better with beer?
The ubiquitous burger, of course

Once upon a time B.C. (“Before Covid”), March was burger month in many parts of Atlantic Canada. Luckily, not even a pandemic can keep a good patty down.

It’s official. The PEI Burger Love 2021 festival is officially on for the entire month of September. Organizers say: “After receiving such a positive response both from fans and restaurants, we can’t wait to celebrate. Get hungry, friends! PEI Burger Love: Celebrating all the love of our local food industries across Prince Edward Island through amazing burger creations of our talented Island restaurants and chefs.” Mark your calendars.

Darrell’s Restaurant of Halifax consistently wins top marks among critics for creative audacity. Opened in 1992, it’s a favorite for professionals and families. Reader’s Digest, The Toronto Star and The Coast have all given it thumps up for its meaty artistry. There’s the Peanut Butter Burger (no, they’re not kidding), the Hen Den (topped with a fried egg), the Hawaiian, the Mediterranean and, of course, the classic Veggie.

Speaking of meatless heaven on a bun, check out Vegolution Restaurant in Saint John, N.B. It’s a husband-and-wife team with a combined 35 years of experience in the kitchen. Keith’s professional experience and years of creating vegetarian delicacies mix with Sarah’s love of foods and flavour. Their cheeseburger of rice, mushrooms and walnuts is a hit even with customers who prefer their protein “on the hoof”.

YellowBelly Brewery and Public House of St. John’s prides itself on its craft beers. But it also has a well-deserved reputation for innovative burger building. In fact, its menu boasts no fewer than eight special sandwiches, including The Guilty Pleasure Burger (Fresh ground beef, crumbled bacon, tomato aioli, onion jam, provolone, deep fried pickle, prosciutto). After all, the suds need a little something to wash down. —ALEC BRUCE

Slaymaker & Nichols: Noteworthy dining at landmark location

Charlottetown was a busy spot in September, 1864. On one side of town, a group of hopeful politicians were working to create a whole new country. On the other side, a circus had rolled in, complete with clowns, trained monkeys and equestrian stunts.

The circus—one Slaymaker & Nichols Olympic Circus—set up their tents on a vacant lot at the corner of Queen and Fitzroy Streets. When restauranteurs Christine McQuaid and Steve Murphy sought a name for their newest venture, located in a heritage building on that same site, they turned to the city’s colourful history. On November 22, 2019, gastro house Slaymaker & Nichols was born.

The couple were already well known for one of the Island’s most popular seasonal eateries—the Blue Mussel Café on the North Rustico waterfront—so they had an instant following when they opened their doors in Charlottetown. It’s a true family operation; the owners’ son was our server. Prices are reasonable at Slaymaker: appetizers range from $11–$25 and entrees from $16–$32. The restaurant’s décor and menu reflect the heritage building, creating a cozy ambience with rich hues and dishes that embrace the guests with warmth and colour.

It was a snowy January evening when we ventured into Slaymaker & Nichols and we felt instantly welcomed and relaxed. We jumped right into a festive mood with an impressive bottle of Champagne Saint-Réol Brut Grand Cru while we scrolled through the menu for dinner selections that fit the atmosphere. Appetizers featuring crab, and mushrooms and avocado were the perfect way to start the evening. The Mushroom Avocado tower is intensely flavourful with sesame, ginger, kimchi and red pepper coulis, served with crostini. This dish is famous in local parts; it’s fresh, colourful, pungent and unlike any other appetizer—a real winner for Slaymaker.

When ordering our entrees, it may have seemed we played it safe with steak and chicken dishes. But you can count on the Slaymaker team to go a few steps beyond “safe,” creating entrees that present an appealing mix of veggies including dark purple carrots, spaghetti squash, charred broccoli and roasted potatoes. Most importantly, though, the kitchen team at Slaymaker & Nichols have developed a fine understanding of sauces. From the steak’s blue cheese dressing, the chicken’s aji verde, to the bourbon bacon jam with the crab cakes, the chef consistently creates sauces that enhance the dish without overpowering the main ingredients. It’s not easy to blend a blue cheese to a level that draws attention without dominating, but these culinary experts nailed it.

A chocolate torte topped with Chantilly cream and cranberry coulis was a fitting cap to a special meal. The wine list at Slaymaker & Nichols was curated by a local sommelier and the selections cover an impressive range with bottles not seen in every other restaurant in town.
Slaymaker & Nichols’ owners have taken full advantage of the heritage building’s potential and created three charming guest rooms on the second floor—each named for a different character in the famous namesake circus. From top to bottom, this place is a showstopper.

Slaymaker & Nichols
82 Fitzroy Street, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Monday to Wednesday 5pm-9pm
Thursday & Friday 11am-11pm
Saturday 9am-11pm
Sunday 9am-9pm

Get into the surf on time
It’s not just for polar bears anymore

It’s minus eight, the sun’s not up, and the ground’s frozen solid. Obviously, it’s time for a pre-dawn surf.
East Coast Surf School in Lawrencetown, N.S., is Mecca for winter surfers in this province. Founder Nico Manos is the coach of the Canadian Junior Surf Team, and his 10-person team of instructors have been written up in The Wall Street Journal and Maclean’s.

The beaches in and around Cavandish, P.E.I., aren’t just for Anne fans—there’s some wild water there, too. Summer storm season brings the best conditions, but locals say you don’t have to wait long if you’re hardy enough to brave the bracing northwest winds of early spring.

New Brunswick offers some tidy, tucked-away spots for cold-weather surfers, including Bayshore and Mispec Beaches in Saint John. The 30-minute tidal bore ride along Moncton’s Peititcodiac River is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for proficient boarders.

Newfoundland’s cold-weather conditions for adventurous surfers can’t be beat. Think Portugal Cove South and New Melbourne. Also, there’s Trepassey, which gets its name from the French, trépassés – meaning dead men. Just saying, is all. —ALEC BRUCE

The (true) tale of Sober Island Brewing Co.

About the only thing Rebecca Atkinson knows how to do better than brew beer is tell stories.
Hers began in 2015 when, on a trip to Cardiff, Wales, she fell for a particular Oyster Stout and decided Nova Scotia needed one to call its own. “It was something I thought this province was really missing,” she said. “Besides, I wanted to create a job for myself.”

Beer and self-employment. How much more “Maritimes” does it get? Just a bit, as it turns out. “You know it’s a true Nova Scotia product when you can put oysters and beer together,” said Atkinson. “It’s the land and sea…you know?”

Certainly, her Sheet Harbour-based Sober Island Brewing’s growing legion of fans do. In the five years since starting, she and her handful of employees have grown the craft beer operation from a 50-litre (about 80 cans) to an 800-litre system. Not even the dreaded Covid-19 has managed to derail progress.

Said 31-year-old Atkinson, who has a business degree in tourism management and hails from the area: “The Eastern Shore is less explored. Last summer we opened a beer garden that had live music in a safe setting. We did incredibly well.”

Of course, the other reason for success is the brew itself. According to the company’s website: “The oysters in our stout are from nearby Pristine Bay. And every can is filled by hand (which is totally as painstaking as it sounds), but it’s worth it. Our recipes are built from scratch and are the products of a full-mash process, which means that you’ll never see us use an extract in our production.”

Sober Island also brews and sells Beach Stone bitter, Marigold Blond and Wave Breaker.
“We take pride in producing classic styles of beer, consistent styles that people can turn to time and time again,” said Atkinson, who noted she’s on track to double sales this year, from last. “The key is interacting with people. We’re great at telling stories.”

And that’s no tall tale. —ALEC BRUCE

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