Former Bish chef Mark Giffin makes waves at the airy Coastal (2731 Robie, 405-4022), delivering stellar bistro-style breakfasts at diner prices: Don't miss the fantastic huevos rancheros with fresh guacamole and salsa. In a city which honours crisply battered white fish, Phil's Seafood (6285 Quinpool, 431-3474) knows how to please, and the only thing wrong with Westcliffe Restaurant's (3089 Oxford, 454-8140) ridiculously cheap meals and its 2 to 4pm banana split happy hour (!) is that it's closed on weekends. For a taste of German gemütlichkeit, cut across town to Colby Ale House (920 Cole Harbour, 435-5148) for a little schnitzel and spaetzle.
BIGGEST LOSS GOES TO...
Every year at the Academy Awards, the cameras take a brief hiatus from Jack Nicholson's smirk to honour those who passed away during the past year. Restaurants and bars receive no such ceremony but, given how much they mean to us, they deserve a Puff Daddy-style send-off. Stage Nine, it seems like just yesterday we used to rock the show. The Nail and Kneecap, words can't express what you mean to me. It's kinda hard with you not around, Starr's Bakery, yeah. Every step I take, every move I make, every single day, every time I pray, I'll be missing you, North End Pub and Diner.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
While every year Halifax's foodie landscape becomes more eclectic, there are still those cravings that can't be satisfied. Cheap Thai take-out would tickle our spontaneous cravings for basil eggplant. Can we talk burritos? Silky refried beans and feisty jalapenos all cuddled up inside a grilled tortilla. Yeah! Speaking of tasty pockets, the Ontario government (hint, hint) recently gave municipalities the option to sell street salads, samosas, smoothies and yes, burritos! Speaking of municipalities, it's about time that Halifax did away with its archaic zoning regulations, which have eliminated any chance for local neighbourhood bars (that weren't stolen away from old men) to flourish: Sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name, or where there's Moroccan, French or Cuban cuisine.
NIPS & TUCKS
It didn't take long for stylin' Haligonians to crowd into Mosaic (1584 Argyle, 405-4700) and with its recent expansion, there's more room to fill up on small plates. Kinda like the secret White Stripes show on Citadel Hill, the Coast-reader favourite for best-kept secret, (ahem) the always-popular Mexico Lindo (3635 Dutch Village, 445-0996), expanded to make room for diners in the know. Tom's (5428 Doyle, 423-8667) proves that you can take away the cigars, but you can't take away one of Halifax's best bars. The former Copper Penny is classed out as Winston's (278 Lacewood, 443-7024), with a new English pub look. The Thirsty Duck's (5472 Spring Garden, 422-1548) new bistro decor is no ugly duckling and The Armview Restaurant's (7156 Chebucto, 455-4395) retro look and new patio is the only beauty spot amid this summer's Armdale Rotary construction.
SWEETS FOR THE SWEET
Prohibition is, thankfully, behind us but the sweet idea of making rich rum-soaked cake lives on at Rum Runners (Bishop's Landing, 421-6079). Follow your nose next door to Sugah!, where homemade fudge rolls out of the kitchen. If you like 'em tall, check out Onyx's (5680 Spring Garden, 428-5680) ice cream tower. Rosemary's Chocolates (City Centre Atlantic, 454-9588) lives up to its namesake by adding spicy goodness, such as ginger and jalapeno, to her handmade Belgian treats. Cupcake fans will find sweet heaven at Whet (2606 Agricola, 455-9438), where you can expect the unexpected, such as lavender or espresso.
When it comes to salads, The Wooden Monkey (1685 Argyle, 444-3844) means business: vegans, check out the roasted chickpea and nori salad. Dharma Sushi's (1576 Argyle, 425-7785) ginger dressing makes iceberg do a happy dance, and if you're in a hurry, there's no beating Pete's (1515 Dresden Row, 425-5700; Sunnyside Mall, 835-4997) for the green stuff.
HOT FOR DINNER
Bring a hanky for your tears of joy and heat at Hungry Chilli (5234 Blowers, 444-3554), where the hot numbing chicken, beef and shrimp live up to the fiery name. Starlite Cuisine (5467 Cornwallis, 425-8051) makes lunch the hottest meal of the day with its spicy jerk chicken and black-bean tofu. Punch up roti with the hot sauce of your choice at Rani's Curry & Roti Shop (5280 Green, 404-3440) and enjoy the ride!
Release that old-school carnivore with a meat sandwich from Brothers Meat Delicatessen (2665 Agricola, 455-8774). More than 50 years ago, Maximillian Kielbratowski brought his secret recipes from Poland, so you know it's the real deal. Down the street at Sweet Spice (2725 Agricola, 431-5500), generous helpings of goat, oxtail, beef and chicken are kissed by the curry and jerk gods. Across the bridge, meat-lovers shouldn't overlook the pho dat biet (Vietnamese noodle soup) at Pho Hoang Minh (172 Wyse, 465-6868).
It's still much easier to be a meat-eater in Halifax than a vegan. More places are offering vegan options but there are only a few restaurants where one does not have to pick strategically off the menu. One World Cafe (2412 Agricola, 404-7378) has daily specials and a kickin' weekend Latin American brunch, while Bob & Lori's Food Emporium (2179 Gottingen, 422-3150) takes care of the crowd with tofu scrambles and spreads. Check out Tumbleweed's A Cure for Vegoraphobia: A Vegan Dining Guide to Halifax and its sister mag, TOFU, both available at fine animal-loving shops around town (full list at: www.twentertainment.ca).
I'll bet you two falafels for five dollars that you can't beat Mid-East Food Centre's (2595 Agricola, 492-0958) Wednesday lunch special. Proving that tasty doesn't have to come in a big expensive package, that wee purple bunker, Shiraz (1240 Hollis, 404-3300), serves up awesome, fairly priced Persian kebabs, soups, salads, stews and rice. Raising the bar for quick food-court fare, Spring Garden Food Court (5640 Spring Garden) rules with Bakerell, Bonne Cuisine, Tarek's and just follow all those happy sushi faces straight to Ko-Doraku.
You don't need to subscribe to its delivery service to shop for local organic produce at Home Grown Organic Foods (6186 Allan, 492-1412), and you don't need to volunteer at The Grainery Co-op (2385 Agricola,
446-3301) to shop there. Stock up on dumplings at the Japanese & Korean Food Market (7018 Chebucto, 455-8383) and at Quinpool's Taishan Asian Grocery (405-1110). Finish off with the homemade barfi from Indian Groceries (2585 Robie, 423-6339).