The ShopTalk Guided Tour: Quinpool Road

With many international cuisines interspersed with other local, vegetarian and organic-friendly menus and makes for an easy destination at suppertime, especially for students looking to get off campus.

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Try the greens at Heartwood Bakery & Cafe, which has been a success on the organic/vegetarian front - BIANCA MÜLLER
  • Bianca Müller
  • Try the greens at Heartwood Bakery & Cafe, which has been a success on the organic/vegetarian front

It’s time for Quinfest! The celebration of all things Quinpool Road is this Saturday, September 15, 11am-3pm. The fun includes a reptile zoo, clowns, carnival games, face-painting, kite-flying and science booths. Most of the street’s restaurants are offering free samples from noon to 2pm. And at 1pm there’s a free concert, with Razzmatazz For Kids playing at the Quinpool Education Centre. We’ve used Quinfest as an excuse to stick around and see what else Quinpool Road has to offer, and we’re not at all surprised to find the business district continues to hop, with an array of cafes, restaurants and shops. Its many international cuisines are interspersed with other local, vegetarian and organic-friendly menus and makes for an easy destination at suppertime, especially for students looking to get off campus.

Wine and cheese
When we think cheese we often think Europe, but for the past year Leicester's Deli & Cheese Emporium (6253 Quinpool Road, 431-3771) has been drawing its menu and inventory from Quebec---cheeses are brought in from the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Quebecois' thriving cheese industry produces a lot of interesting cheeses, and customers are getting more adventurous, says co-owner Mark Rimmington. The menu starts with the Montreal smoked meat sandwich and is rounded out with salads, baked goods and hummus. Plus, now that it's newly-licensed you can cap off your meal with the perfect cheese-enhancing drink.

Want to pour that glass yourself? The Noble Grape (6112 Quinpool Road, 423-2739) sells winemaking supplies to get you uncorked quickly.

World cuisine<
Ebby Gholami has lived in Halifax for 30 years, but he remembers an old cafe back in Tehran alive and bustling with activists, poets and students sharing ideas about politics and society. Food connects people, he says, so with his brand spanking new restaurant, the Garden of Eat'n (6293 Quinpool Road, 431-8050) he hopes to create a gathering space for all people of all backgrounds to come together to eat, converse and build a community. That's why the tastes are so diverse---Persian, Mediterranean and Acadian. The menu is intriguing with everything from Rappie Pie to Forbidden Fruit Salad, with lots of kabobs and Persian dishes. "I love to hear people," says Gholami, "I don't want this to be a quiet place."Mezza Lebanese Restaurant (6386 Quinpool Road, 444-3913) is another option for Middle Eastern food.

Here's something different: The B-well Sushi and Cafe (6184 Quinpool Road, 428-4019) is just that---a cafe that serves sushi. Owner Masa Amemiya wanted to open a sushi restaurant but they were all the same, expensive restaurants. He decided to do something different and have a casual space where a good coffee can be paired with a meal. Sushi isn't normally done cafe-style in Japan, but Amemiya says coffee often goes with some nice food---maybe Spanish or South Asian fare. Over here, coffee just seems to come with a muffin. B-well has a great atmosphere for an outing somewhere in between going for coffee and having dinner. If it's too late for coffee, you can also order alcoholic drinks. Get your fancy full-serve sushi up the street at Wasabi House (6403 Quinpool Road, 429-8858). For a change from Japanese, try Song's Korean Restaurant (6249 Quinpool Road, 444-3030) or Truly Tasty (6214 Quinpool Road), the new ramen and dumpling shop catering to the fun niche of Chinese noodles.

Restaurant row
Pizza made with local ingredients? Yes please. Bramoso Gourmet Pizza (6169 Quinpool Road, 425-2222) offers gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free and a slew of toppings sourced from local vendors. (I'm happy to sound like a broken record about these things lately.) What's new? The restaurant is slowly expanding with a new kitchen section and will be taking over the unit next door to allow for more seating. The plan is to create more space and also offer new choices like sandwiches and paninis. Until then, the wooden patio will be open for pizza and beer until the end of October while Sicilian Pizza (6302 Quinpool Road, 455-5555) is still open across the street for big slices and donairs.

Colin MacDougall's dessert restaurant, Sweet Hereafter Cheesecakery (6148 Quinpool Road, 404-8001), is coming up on its one-year anniversary this month. The year has treated the cheesecakery well, with the number of different cakes on offer swelling from 14 to 85. One nice thing about cheesecake is that it's easy to accommodate different diets. "I can do about 75 percent of my menu as gluten-free," says MacDougall. There are also plenty of vegan and dairy-free choices. Some great flavours have arisen out of customer suggestions, most notably the Poppa Fudge, the creation of which helped raise money this spring for Relay for Life. Too sweet? Try the greens at Heartwood Bakery & Cafe (6250 Quinpool Road, 425-2808), which has been a success on the organic/vegetarian front, or the fresh coffee at Ireland 32 (6220 Quinpool Road, 444-7555).

It's nice to see new life in the area but some things don't need change. For a cheap and simple bacon and eggs breakfast, you still have to go down to the Ardmore Tea Room (6499 Quinpool Road, 423-7523), a Halifax diner that's been holding down the fort for decades. (It's not a real diner if, for example, the food's garnished, or they've hired an interior designer.) Bring cash.

Other favourites include Freeman's Little New York (6092 Quinpool Road, 429-0241), a sure thing for good pub food, drinks and fancy lampshades as well as Athens Restaurant (6273 Quinpool Road, 422-1595)---celebrating 30 years of successful Greek cooking. The newest addition on the street is the always-packed Relish Gourmet Burgers (6024 Quinpool Road, 474-4152).

Out and about
Quinpool Road has a steady base of sports and adventure shops. First, get in shape at Fitness FX (6330 Quinpool, 422-1431), a locally-owned fitness emporium, which has really set the standard for hands-on, customer-oriented fitness. Cyclesmith (6112 Quinpool Road, 425-1756) is a go-to destination in a city obsessed with riding bike. Skaters and snowboarders that head to Pro Skates (6451 Quinpool Road, 429-6788) might just rub elbows with the famous. Last week, Ben Harper who was in town for Summersonic hooked the scene up with VIP treatment. Outdoor enthusiasts can still trust The Trail Shop (6210 Quinpool Road, 423-8736) to stock up for camping season.

Don't forget your local green spaces. At the foot of Quinpool Road lies the Halifax Common where people play sports, use the off-season Oval and skate park and attend all-ages shows at The Pavillion (5816 Cogswell Street). Common Roots Urban Farm (corner of Bell Road and Robie Street, 473-3168) is also up and running in the now-green lot vacated by Queen Elizabeth High School. You can drop in on Fridays between 2-6pm to help out.

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