Goderich, Ont. has a great food scene
GODERICH, Ont. -- What's cooking in Goderich?
A lot, it turns out, for a small town of 8,000 nestled along the eastern shore of big beautiful Lake Huron in an area known as "Ontario's West Coast," where you can see some of the province's best sunsets.
A recent two-night visit to the town's top restaurants more than proved visitors won't ever be wanting for great food choices.
After pulling into the historic Benmiller Inn & Spa (about 15 minutes out of town with views of the Maitland River from the River Mill building), we head into town to check out the unusual octagon-shaped square anchored by the courthouse and surrounded by shops and restaurants.
Its quaintness resembles something straight out of Mayberry R.F.D. During the summer there is a Saturday-morning farmers market (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and a Sunday flea market (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Both draw activity inland before people gravitate to the town's three beaches, about five minutes away, to beat the heat.
Once in the square, be sure to check out Cravings and its colourful Adirondack chairs outside for the only espresso drinks to go (the 2011 tornado wiped out Coffee Culture).
The farmers market's big draw (hint: there's a long lineup) is the yellow food truck from nearby Burdan's Red Cat Farm, which offers sourdough and breads of all variety, and delicious cinnamon rolls among other treats.
I don't remember tasting a better cinnamon roll and, with a good latte in the other hand, it's the perfect way to explore the markets.
Our first Goderich dinner is a doozy on the waterfront at Beach Street Station with its large outdoor deck to watch those famous sunsets.
The restaurant is actually a beautifully restored former train station built in 1907 that was relocated in 2013 and renovated before its 2015 opening.
After a refreshing Lavender Collins cocktail (lavender confit with gin, fresh lemon juice, splash of soda, lavender sprig) and caesar and roasted-beet salads, friendly owner Herb Marshall treats us to a chef's tasting menu of their best seafood offerings from angel hair pasta with lobster and shaved asparagus to fresh yellow perch and chips, Great Lakes pickerel, and Atlantic salmon. Not one dud.
My dining companion finishes up with creme brulee while I run off to catch a longstanding Goderich tradition -- Piping Down the Sun at Rotary Cove Beach about five minutes away, where the Celtic Blue Highlanders perform at sunset every Friday night during the summer. Their final song as the sun goes down? Amazing Grace.
After a day of exploring (okay eating), we head back to the quiet of the Benmiller Inn, the area's largest accommodation, to soak in the indoor hot tub and do some laps in the swimming pool before passing out early to get rested for the next day.
The Aveda Petit Spa in the basement of the River Mill building has a list of holistic treatments for the adventurous. Everything from Tibetan Bowl Sound Therapy to Indian Head Massage are on offer.
On day two, we head straight to the Mayor Of Goderich, not to complain but to eat -- again.
His Honour Kevin Morrison and his partner Pat serve some of the best breakfasts in town at Pat & Kevin's On The Square.
We sample Pat's Eggs Benedict (with slices of bone-smoked ham) and Back Bacon Eggs Benedict, the latter which is as good as it sounds, at an outdoor table, where we also gulp down large glasses of lemonade.
We don't have room for lunch at West Side Willy's but do a drive-by to see such specialities as Red Velvet Pancakes and Morning After Poutine, and really wish we did.
Our final dinner is a genuine but delightful surprise at Thyme on 21 -- an old Victorian-home-turned restaurant with an herb garden out back -- currently ranked No. 1 out of 34 restaurants in Goderich by TripAdvisor. We sample the best Pad Thai I've ever had -- both fresh and flavourful.
Owner Peter King tells us he gets as many takeout orders for the speciality dish as he does from those eating in the restaurant. I'm not the least bit surprised after sampling it.
Kudos to Chef Terry Kennedy, who also offers up a divine appetizer of scallops wrapped in smokey bacon and topped with Robinson's Maple Syrup and Dijon Cream Sauce.
You'll practically lick the sauce off your plate.
Before we leave Goderich, we dine at the Benmiller Inn's popular Sunday buffet brunch in the pretty Ivey dining room, where you can also get fresh crepes and omlettes while sitting inside at a window overlooking the creek or outside overlooking the garden.
Our only final wish is that our stomachs were big enough to try to fish and chips at the Goderich Harbour Restaurant, a cute blue and white restaurant offering some of the best in town we're told.
NEED TO KNOW
Goderich is primarily a drive destination. There is no bus or train service (closest is Stratford 45 minutes away). Travel time from Toronto is about 2.5 hours.
Benmiller Inn & Spa has 56 rooms in three 19th-century mill buildings plus the completely independent Mill House and Sharpe's Retreat. Try to get a room with a balcony to take advantage of the river views. See benmiller.ca.
Breakfast and lunch: Pat & Kevin's and West Street Willy's. Dinner: Beach Street Station and Thyme on 21.