Our road trip this summer took us through Canada from Toronto to Montreal, eating the freshest of Canadian produce and trying the many craft beers (once the RV was safely parked of course!). We tasted our way through gourmet burgers and poutine, cooked up a storm over the camp fire and enjoyed an occasional sophisticated dinner at in some of Quebec’s finest restaurants, all washed down by the wonderfully varied, locally brewed craft beer.
Our first taste of Canada was in Toronto where we spent a day exploring the harbour front before picking up our RV from Cruise Canada. Right on the waterfront, the Amsterdam Brewhouse caught our eye, with a double height restaurant space and seating on the deck outside. We bagged a table by the lake-front and ordered a pulled pork bun with sweet potato fries and a flight of their craft beers – with names like Bigwheel Amber Ale and Downtown Brown.
The only one that was a bit odd was the ‘Adventure’ brew – small batches of something a experimental and ours was an orange flavour beer, which tasted… well… like orange juice. The menus here change seasonally but are based around casual burgers, smoked meats and a good selection of hearty salads too – plus the beer is all brewed by the company with natural ingredients and no preservatives. In cosmopolitan Tornoto this felt as close as you’ll get to typical Canadian cuisine and it was a tasty start to our trip. Amsterdam Brewhouse, 245 Queens Quay West, Toronto
A Road-side stop in Ontario at Weber’s
Picking up our RV from Cruise Canada in Toronto, we drove north towards Algonquin Provincial Park where we would be spending a couple of nights, stopping for a late lunch at Weber’s on Highway 11 near Orillia. It’s a fabulous roadside diner which is the top place to stop if you’re heading north for a camping trip. After parking the RV we joined the fast moving line in the small takeaway area – where burgers and hot-dogs were sizzling over charcoal and the orders with fries, extra cheese, milk shakes or iced tea were being efficiently assembled.
Taking our paper wrapped burgers and cartons of fries we found a shady spot at a picnic table on the grass to enjoy our lunch – there’s also a vintage railway carriage that has been converted into a restaurant car for those who like their air conditioning. If you need something sweet for desert, pop next door to buy an ice cream or frozen yoghurt – we had a tub of berry flavour.
Farm shop flavours
Although we’d stocked up at the supermarket at the beginning of our road trip, we quickly realised that the more interesting foodie discoveries were to be found at local farm shops and markets. One such was the Coutts Country Flavor Shop which we stopped at on our way to Murphy Point Camp Ground, close to Perth.
Pulling up in front of the wooden building surrounded by fields, we looked around the store which is part of a 5th generation family farm and sells organic meat, fresh farm veg, local cheeses, their own maple syrup and the famous Ontario butter tarts ( a bit like a treacle tart but not quite as sickly sweet).
Craft beer with a hint of Maple
In nearby Perth we also found the wonderful Perth Brewery to stock up on craft beer to take back to our campground. Surrounded by copper vats and packing benches, the friendly staff at the front counter were more than happy to let us have a taste of the different beers on tap. After trying just a few (we still had to drive the RV) we stocked up on the tins of our choice, to drink later by the campfire. Our favourite was the Canada Maple Ale which had a subtle flavour of maple syrup without too much sweetness – a really enjoyable taste of Canada.
A taste of Poutine
Another Canadian speciality that we came to know (but not necessarily love) was Poutine, a dish that’s especially favourite in Quebec. It’s basically french fries, scattered with squeaky curd cheese and drenched in gravy – with variations sold everywhere from roadside food stops to fine dining restaurants. Our first encounter at a roadside food truck was not that promising. Frankly we couldn’t see what the fuss was about, with crispy fries turned into a soggy mess by the gravy (in fact poutine is Québecois slang for mess!).
We did give the Poutine another try at Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau and although a slightly more elegant version, we concluded that as a dish it was best saved for those outdoor events in the freezing Canadian winter when you need to carbo-load. In Montreal the ultimate poutine is said to be found at Au Pied de Cochon, where they do a variation with Fois Gras. I could have tasted it at the food truck event in Montreal where the restaurant had a stand but was worried I’d be disappointed again, so I declined – a decision I somewhat regret.
Pancakes and Maple Syrup
Another unmissable feature of the Canadian food scene were the pancakes – which were normally served for breakfast with lashings of maple syrup. A meal in themselves, they would keep you going until well after lunchtime – we enjoyed these ones with fresh fruit at a modest roadside diner close to our campground at Parc de Plaissance north of Ottawa.
A foodie hotspot at Kingston
One of our favourite foodie stops on the road trip through Ontario, was Kingston set beside Lake Ontario. This university town close to historic Fort Henry, punches above its weight when it comes to great artizan food producers, bars and restaurants. As we arrived, a farmer’s market was in full swing, with stall after stall selling perfectly polished peaches and plums, soft fruit, green beans and other fresh produce. We took the opportunity to buy a basket of luscious mixed berries to eat on the go and some butter tarts from the bakery stall as a lunchtime snack.
Kingston had a much more European feel than many of the places we drove through, since the town was established in 1673 at the confluence of the St Lawrence River, at a time before cars (let alone RVs) dominated the town planning. We enjoyed walking around the streets, dipping into coffee shops and meandering through courtyards with secluded restaurant patios like Chez Piggy who also run the Pan Chancho bakery where we stopped for some excellent fresh bread.
Beaver Tails in Ottawa
Our road trip next took us north to Canada’s capital Ottawa where we left our RV at the Wesley Clover Campground and took their convenient bus service into the city. After watching the changing of the guards on Parliament hill, our stomachs lead us to Byward Market, the neighbourhood surrounding the covered market building which has numerous food stalls as well as bars and restaurants.
On the recommendation of local blogger Cindy Baker we joined her for lunch at Murray Street, for a delicious plate of local charcuterie and cheeses on their shady patio, before paying the obligatory visit to the BeaverTails stand for desert. The flat pastries (shaped like a Beaver’s Tail) are a cross between a pancake and a doughnut and come with lots of sweet toppings – I was relatively restrained with my choice of buttery maple sauce!
Craft Beer at Brasseurs de Temps in Gatineau
After our day sightseeing in Ottawa we drove across the river to explore the city from the Quebec side, with an excellent dinner at Brasseurs de Temps in Gatineau. There was definitely a theme developing in the popular restaurants that we visited, being based around breweries offering an ever changing selection of craft beers. Below the restaurant is a quirky little museum about the history of beer in the Outaouais region and you get a look down into area where the beer is being brewed. It was pleasant to sit outside on the patio overlooking the canal and select our beer from from the detailed descriptions on the menu cards – according to which my fruity white beer had aromas of banana and ginger. This is where Guy decided to try the Poutine again but I had a duck salad which was certainly the better choice.
Fine dining at Wakefield Inn
A highlight of our foodie quest around the Outaouais region north of Ottawa was the day we spent in Wakefield, a pretty little historic town, full of old houses, craft shops and artizan bakeries and restaurants. After parking the RV in the centre of town, we walked up from the main road to Wakefield Inn, a charming boutique hotel and restaurant which would have made a wonderful spot for a weekend break. The hotel’s restaurant offered a sophisticated alternative to the more casual dining of the brewery restaurants we’d tried, and we deemed it one of our Top 10 Canada moments.
From our table beside the window, we overlooked the mill stream rushing below and I enjoyed my Arctic Char with a pretty arrangement of mushrooms, green beans and other vegetables. The thick stone walls and open fires of the old mill house make for a cosy atmosphere and I can imagine snuggling up here after a winter snowshoe walk on the paths around the hotel.
We found that the Outaouais region north of Ottawa especially full of fabulous food stops, like the area of Chelsea just outside Gatineau Park, the outdoor playground for the citizens of Ottawa. At the Chelsea Pub we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, sitting outside on the patio with live music while drinking our beer and ordering a club sandwich with fries and salad. The same establishment runs Biscotti, a cute little cafe around the corner which is the place to go for coffee, cakes and delicious deserts.
While staying at Parc de Plaissance we enjoyed a contrast of luxurious al fresco dining at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello and gourmet burgers at Au Délice Champêtre, although both were marked by a typically Canadian relaxed atmosphere and lack of pretension. Le Chateau Montebello is best known as the world’s largest log cabin, although of course it is no garden shed, but a grand hotel that’s stuffed full of hunting-shooting-fishing memorabilia from the time when it was a private club for the great and the good. We dined in the outdoor restaurant overlooking the potager garden and lawns rolling down to the river, with a delicious buffet that had something for all tastes with a choice of steaks and fish cooked to order over the barbecue.
More down to earth but equally good was Délice Champêtre right opposite the tourist office in Montebello where we were welcomed by the owner Daniel who cooks up gourmet burgers and Belgian fries, using the best ingredients from local suppliers. Next door was a popular ice cream bar with gelato, frozen yoghurts and other classic deserts made on the premises. They even make all their own sauces and relishes to a secret recipe which unfortunately Daniel wouldn’t reveal even though I promised I’d share it with only a few close friends and readers.
Our foodie adventures in Canada wouldn’t be complete if we hadn’t tried a bit of campfire cooking. In my article Tips for driving an RV I note that our vehicle from Cruise Canada was equipped with gas hob, fridge and freezer, so it wasn’t exactly a necessity to cook over the open fire. But since every camping space came with a fire pit and a built in grill it seemed a shame not to give it a go, and on our last night in Mont Tremblant National Park we grilled some juicy steak kebabs over the fire for that smoky BBQ flavour.
The true Canadian tradition of course is to sit around the camp fire toasting marshmallows or s’mores as they are strangely called over there – the name’s an abreviation of ‘I want some more’. After a few attempts we managed to get the right balance of lightly toasted and deliciously melting as opposed to charred black and set on fire.
And so we reached our final stop at Montreal and dropped off the RV, leaving us a couple of days to explore the city. If I had tell you about the food in Montreal it would be a whole extra article, since there’s such a thriving and vibrant food scene here – among the best food in Canada (or anywhere). If you’d like to find out more about bagels, tacos and maple syrup you’ll have to read my article – How to have a perfect day in Montreal. And while you’re reading it I’ll be mentally settling down in front of the camp fire with a can of that Canada Maple Ale.
Where we stayed on our RV Road Trip
Night 1 – Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Toronto
Night 2 & 3 Algonquin Provincial Park near Whitney, Ontario
Night 4 Murphy’s Point Provincial Park near Kingston, Ontario
Night 5 & 6 Wesley Clover Camp Ground – south of Ottawa
Night 7 &8 Camping Cantley – north of Ottawa
Night 9 Parc de Plaisance National Park in Quebec
Night 10,11,12 Mont Tremblant National Park in Quebec
Night 13 Le Centre Sheraton Hotel Montreal
More inspiration for your road trip across Canada
Travel with Kat – The Wildlife of Canada’s Clayoquot Sound
The Quirky Traveller – A dash of History and Culture in the Rocky Mountains
On the Luce – Land of the Lakes: Exploring Ontario’s National Parks
Information for planning your trip to Canada
You can find more information to plan your visit to Montreal on the Ontario Tourism Website, the Quebec Original Website, the Tourism Outaouais Website and also on the Explore Canada Website covering all the things to see and do in Canada.
Our RV (Recreational Vehicle) for the two week Explore Canada Road Trip was provided by Cruise Canada.
To compare prices and book for hotels in Canada, visit the HotelsCombined website where you can find the best prices from a range of different booking sites.