Boy oh boy were my eyes opened on a recent trip along the Niagara River Corridor, stretching 56 km from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. My memories of Niagara Falls restaurants were redolent with whiffs of bland boil-in-bag chili, greasy hot dogs and frozen fries. That is sure not the case today. On a recent culinary crawl through Niagara Parks, I sampled dishes at five beautiful dining establishments, all concocted by proud chefs who came out to make sure we liked what we were served. Answer? A resounds YES!
Oh, and I should mention all the food was paired with delicious Wayne Gretzky wines and even a WG whiskey called, what else, but 99.
STOP ONE: Legends on the Niagara Restaurant.
The 19th hole at many golf courses specialize in cold beer and that’s about it. At Legends, Chef Dan Willick’s menu includes gourmet sandwiches and tender Ontario beef brisket, washed down with hard craft cider or in my case, a fragrant Wayne Gretzky Founders Series Baco Noir.
First sandwich was a Spy apple and Gunn’s Hill grilled brie with arugula, dried cranberries and maple-Sriracha aioli. Second was a Battlefield Grilled Chicken sandwich with Seed to Sausage bacon, arugula, caramelized onion jam, hot house tomato and Devil’s Rock blue cheese mayo.
Gotta have greens, of course. Caprese salad with Niagara butter lettuce, Roman cheese bocconcini, heirloom tomatoes, crisp basil with rosewood honey balsamic vinaigrette. WOW.
STOP TWO: Queen Victoria Place Restaurant
This second floor restaurant has amazing views of Niagara Falls. With a gift shop and other establishments on the main floor, it’s a little incognito. Just go up the stairs on the left side of the building. Chef Sidney Krick served up a stuffed Chicken Supreme with Thornloe blue cheese, grilled Bosc pears, Vineland sundried cherries and a VQA Shiraz glaze. This sat on a bed or celery root rosti and roasted Den Boer Farms root vegetable fritter. Delicious. To wash it down? A Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Cabernet Merlot. Lovely.
STOP THREE: Whirlpool Restaurant
Back on the links, we sat down to Niagara-on-the-Lake raised Chef Tim Vandelaar’s a lovely, light house-made linguini with Chardonnay cream sauce, Brandt’s pancetta, 100km edamame, Miller’s Asiago and crispy basil. What better to tipple than Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Chardonnay? I was almost up for a game!
STOP FOUR: Queenston Heights Restaurant
What a view! This extraordinary venue, built in the 1930s, is located on a sprawling, verdant lawn and has a spectacular vantage point looking down on the Niagara River. Chef Bill Greenan whipped up slow roasted Ontario beef short ribs, Bright’s extra old cheddar mashed potatoes, Simcoe County asparagus spears, green peppercorn jus and crispy shallots. This rich, melt-in-your-mouth dish was nicely paired with a Queenston Mule made with ginger beer, lime and 99, the Gretzky whiskey.
STOP FIVE: Elements on the Falls Restaurant
This spot is on the brink of Horseshoe Falls, located on the upper level of Table Rock. Rainbows and spray abound! Chef Elbert Wiersema, who has worked in Paris, London and Bermuda, loves classic French cuisine, but he gets his ingredients from local purveyors. The Manitoulin rainbow trout, Fogo Island cod fillet, northern pickerel soufflé, maple wood smoked scallop, asparagus, roasted fennel Riesling reduction was cooked to perfection. The Wayne Gretzky Estate Series sauvignon blanc was a perfect match. To top it all off? A baked Spy apple tart, Crimo Farms heartnut marzipan, sea buckthorn, berry gelato and cranberry Anglais sauce …along with a lovely shot of Gretzky Cream Cocktail.
What a day. I totally recommend all these restaurants and they deserve major kudos for upping the Niagara Parks culinary image. Bravo! (Now, after the feast…it’s time to fast.)
Since 2014 all five of the Niagara Parks full-service restaurants have received the Feast On certification. They use 25-50 per cent Ontario grown and made food and 90 per cent Ontario beverages. That’s why the food in these restaurants is so good!