Thursday, May 23, 2024

15 Best Places to Eat in Halifax, Nova Scotia


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Curious about what to eat in Halifax, Nova Scotia? While Atlantic Canada’s biggest city is famous for its endless coastlines, East Coast charm and historic museums, it’s also got an incredible food scene.

I’ve been coming to Halifax for years and always love being in the salty Atlantic Coast air.

But I’ve never really paid much attention to the food beyond its famous lobster rolls and the surprising official dish of the city, the Halifax donair.

Recently I discovered there’s a lot more must-try Halifax food beyond lobster rolls and donairs!

Lobster Roll on white plate with fries and salad in Halifax.
Lobster rolls are a must-try dish to enjoy in Halifax. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

So whether you’re stopping in on a Canada & New England cruise, heading to the Acadian Shores or are staying awhile to explore other regions of Nova Scotia, read on to discover the best food in Halifax and where to find it.

These are the essential eats to add to your itinerary including must-try Halifax restaurants on the waterfront, best new restaurants and casual places to eat downtown.

1. Dave’s for the Best Lobster Rolls in Halifax

Two Lobster Rolls over chips in baskets.
Dave’s is a waterfront shack serving up their famous Lobster Rolls. (Credit: Karen Burshtein)

Locals like to say that choosing a favourite lobster roll place is like choosing a favourite child.

But if you ask around, and especially if you ask a lot of people who have lobster in their blood (who come from generations of lobster fishers) Dave’s name tends to pop up.

Open seasonally, this lobster shack on the Halifax waterfront (Google Map) serves the rolls right: cold with lobster mayo and celery or warm lobster with butter, lemon and garlic.

And with a side of Atlantic Canada’s Covered Bridge potato chips.

2. Browse the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market for Blueberries

Jars of blueberry juice and jam a top food in Halifax.
Wild blueberries have a unique and special flavour. (Credit: Karen Burshtein)

Take a walk on the Halifax waterfront and you’re sure to see scores of people coming out of the weekend farmers’ market at Pier 21, with Tupperware containers full of blueberries.

Farmers with stalls at the market provide the containers and the delicious fruit that Nova Scotia grows so perfectly.

If it isn’t practical to take blueberries home with you, then you’ll want to stock up on jars of luscious blueberry jam.

The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market takes place on Saturday and Sunday. But Saturday is the day you want to go.

Sunday is a watered-down version of the market, focused more on crafts than food.

🌟  Pro Tip: To really dive into Halifax street food culture, take an Eat Halifax Street Food Tour that combines sightseeing with noshing in the emerging foodie hot spot, the historic Hydrostone neighbourhood, home to its own artisanal market.

This popular Halifax food tour includes transportation.

3. Head to the King of Donair for a Famous Halifax Donair

Donair on plate in front of menu.
Donair is a pita sandwich filled with shaved roast beef. (Credit: Cailin O’Neil)

If you want to taste Halifax’s “official snack” head to the pizza shop. That’s where you’ll find the Halifax donair, a tasty but messy pita sandwich filled with spit roasted shaved beef, tomatoes, onions and donair sauce.

How did this Greek-Turkish late night street snack become synonymous with a city that is known for lobster boil ups? It’s an immigrant story.

Greek-born Peter Gamoulakos started selling Donairs at his pizza shop in the 1970s, eventually tweaking the recipe to please the palate of Haligonians.

The Halifax version of the Donair’s sauce is a little surprising: It’s made with three ingredients, sweetened condensed milk, vinegar, and garlic. (It tastes way better than it sounds.)

Today, you’ll find Halifax Donairs in most pizza shops, and snack bars across the city.

Everyone has an opinion about the best, but we think it’s the one at King of Donair (or KOD as locals call it).

🌟 Pro Tip: Join a Halifax Harbourfront Walking Tour and sample fresh oysters, a lobster roll, a donair, seafood chowder and dessert along with the sights. This small group tour is a great way to experience the most famous Halifax foods in one fun afternoon!

Check rates and availability of the Halifax Harbourfront Food Tour on Viator.com. 

4. Sip Craft Cocktails and Small Plates at Peacock Wine Bar

Shaved vegetables on white plate for an appetizer.
The Peacock Wine Bar is known for their cocktails and small plates. (Credit: Karen Burshstein)

In just under a year, several chefs from across North America have moved to Halifax and opened new restaurants.

They’re creating show-stopping, ethically-sourced dishes using produce picked at farms down the road and seafood pulled from their backyard, aka the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the most exciting new restaurants in Halifax, Peacock is a just-opened wine bar and restaurant in the waterfront area of Queen’s Marque (Google Map) with an extremely well crafted and progressive cocktail program.

The Birds’ Word cocktail includes ingredients like green juice and absinthe.

As well, heading the kitchen is young chef Moira Murray, a Nova Scotia native who has done tours in the kitchens of Toronto and New York.

She’s especially innovative when it comes to small plates.

A dish of fermented and fresh local vegetables, or a summer squash and hasp salad, as simple as they sound, are revelations.

5. Sip Nova Scotia Wine on a Scenic Harbour Cruise

Restaurants and boardwalk on the Halifax waterfront.
Sip wine and enjoy the scenery of Halifax’s waterfront on a sightseeing tour. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

To discover even more about Nova Scotia wines, take a 2.5 hour Sunset Wine and Cheese Yacht Cruise.

You’ll depart Halifax Harbour at sunset and sail along the coastline enjoying artisanal cheese and sampling four local wines.

A harbour cruise in Halifax also gives you an opportunity to see the city’s landmarks from a unique perspective.

You’ll cruise past places like the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and George’s Island, learning about Halifax’s maritime history along the way.

It’s a relaxed and enjoyable way to take in the sights and learn about the city’s past while enjoying some local eats.

Check rates and availability of a Sunset Wine and Cheese Cruise on Viator.com. 

6. Stock Up on Artisanal Chocolate at Peace by Chocolate

Box of chocolate on table.
Peace by Chocolate is one of Canada’s best known chocolate makers. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

And Halifax is, of course, an immigrant hub. Some of the great new food stories are stories of immigrants.

In, 2012, the Hadhad family moved to the small Nova Scotia town of Antigonish, refugees from war torn Syria. Their family had a successful chocolate factory in Damascus.

Eventually they were able to start a new business manufacturing the quality, artisanal chocolates they had made a name for themselves with in the Middle East. They named their new Canadian company Peace by Chocolate.

In 10 short years they’ve become one of Canada’s best known chocolate makers and won awards for their product as well as their community’s hearts.

Their story has even inspired a Hollywood movie.

The family have just opened a stylish new brick and mortar in the Queens Marque district within easy walking distance of the cruise ship port.

You can pick up one of their fancy chocolate boxes or a bar with flavours like dark chocolate and blueberry, and milk chocolate and potato chips.

The bars, with their colourful wrappers that say Peace in different languages, are artfully displayed in their gallery-like shop.

7. Dine on Hodge Podge Stew at Drift Restaurant

White plate filled with seafood over vegetable.
Drift’s version of hodge podge elevates the vegetable stew with fresh seafood. (Credit: Karen Burshstein)

When it comes to must-try new restaurants in Halifax, Drift is a dining hot spot.

Helmed by Toronto star chef Anthony Walsh and Jamie MacAulay, it’s located in the stylish new Muir Hotel.

The dining room overlooks the harbour in downtown Halifax and the Tidal Beacon, an exciting new outdoor art installation.

Drift’s vibe is casual and the food offers a sophisticated take on coastal food, with ingredients from the ocean just outside their window.

One dish on the menu you don’t want to miss is hodge podge. The restaurant’s version of this classic Nova Scotia vegetable stew elevates it, adding wax beans, root vegetables, vibrant scallops and fresh haddock.

Brown Bread on plate on table with flowers and utensils.
This Brown Bread is sweetened with molasses. (Credit: Karen Burshstein)

You also don’t want to miss the MaryAnn’s Brown brown bread dinner rolls if they’re available.

They’re sweetened with molasses and served with organic honey butter and might be one of the best things you ever tasted.

8. Try a Scoop of Moon Mist Ice Cream at Sugah Confectionery & Ice Cream Emporium

Moon Mist Ice Cream in waffle cone in hand.
Moon Mist Ice-Cream is a combination of banana, grape, and bubblegum (Credit: Sugah! Halifax)

This waterfront candy shop is a handy place to try the ice cream flavour that’s been the unofficial treat of Nova Scotia since three dairies started producing it at the same time in the 1980s.

Moon Mist ice cream is a beautiful to look at and surprisingly delicious flavour combination of banana, grape, and bubblegum.

The purple, yellow, and blue colours are just so cheery especially when eaten (or Instagrammed) against a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.

Making a stop at this popular ice cream emporium is one of the best things to do in Halifax with teens and tweens.

It’s such an icon of the city, that one Halifax hairdresser even specializes in dying hair Moon Mist colours.

9. Dive into Seafood Pasta at The Bicycle Thief

Signature Halifax Food Experiences Bicycle Thief Restaurant from the outside.
The Bicycle Thief is an award-winning restaurant on the Halifax waterfront. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

The Bicycle Thief is a lively, award-winning restaurant on the Halifax waterfront with a hard to snag reservation. Its name pays homage to the great Italian neorealist film and the menu is Italian with Atlantic Canada influences.

While the lobster roll is always a wise choice, the Spaghettini ai Frutti di Mare is outstanding. Its creaminess pairs beautifully with a glass of Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia’s signature wine.

If you’re looking for the best waterfront restaurant in Halifax, you won’t be disappointed with The Bicycle Thief (Google Map). It’s a wonderful place to have a long leisurely lunch overlooking the ocean.

The Fire and Ice Champagne Bar is a welcoming treat in the winter. Heat lamps and outdoor fire glows keep you warm and toasty outside and bubbly keeps you warm and fizzy inside.

10.  Go for the Best Fish and Chips at John’s Lunch

Deep fried Fish and chips in basket with plastic fork.
John’s Fish and Chips is known for their golden haddock served with fries. (Credit: Cailin O’Neil)

An iconic fixture on the Halifax dining scene. John’s Lunch is an old school place in the neighbourhood of Dartmouth that serves excellent fish and chips, especially focusing on haddock, as well as all kinds of casual seafood dishes like clams and scallops.

They also do burgers and deli sandwiches but true Bluenosers come for the fresh battered golden haddock served with crispy fries.

🌟 Pro Tip: Halifax Transit offers two ferry services. There’s one from the Halifax waterfront to Alderney Landing in downtown Dartmouth and another from the Halifax waterfront to Woodside wharf near John’s Lunch.

Adults fares are $4.25 CAD. Note that John’s is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

11. Learn about Afro-Canadian History at The Africville Museum

Cover of the Africville Cookbook.

The city’s Afro-Canadian community has also shaped Halifax’s food scene. They helped transform then throwaway food, such as lobster and eel, into the delicacies we know today.

To gain greater understanding of the Afro-Canadian history of Nova Scotia and to try generations old recipes (such as Sunday boil), stop by the Africville museum. and purchase a copy of the cookbook The Africville Kitchen: The Comforts of Home.

The cookbook is a collection of historic recipes handed down through generations from the actual residents of Africville.

Africville was a primarily Black community located on the south shore of Halifax that started in the mid 19th century and lasted until it was demolished in the 1960 in what was an act of racism.

It was home to a mixed population of formerly enslaved people, Maroons, and Black refugees from the War of 1812.

In 2019, the mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality apologized for the demolition and a museum was built. Africville is now a National Historic Site of Canada.

12. Dine With History at Henry House Pub

Pub fare at Henry House in Halifax. Credit Gary Cralle
Dine on Nova Scotia specialties and British pub fare at historic Henry House. (Credit: Gary Crallé)

Contributed by Gary Crallê

Some foods are unapologetically timeless and best consumed anywhere. But if you’re looking for surroundings to match the dish, Henry House, one of the best restaurants in Halifax fits the bill.

Located in downtown Halifax near the waterfront, the 2.5 storey stone structure with its gable roof and attic windows is a prime example of a style of residence popular in the 19th century among the elite.

Built in 1834, Henry House (La Maison Henry) is designated both a National Historic Site of Canada and Nova Scotian Provincial Heritage Property.

It earned these accolades as between 1854-1864 it served as the home of  William Alexander Henry, one of the Fathers of Confederation and a prominent Halifax citizen.

Since 1968, the building has been home to the Henry House Restaurant and Granite Brewery Pub.

Whether draught, bottled or canned, domestic or imported, beer is the beverage of choice here. The food menu offers diverse selection of dishes from Nova Scotia salt cod cakes to creamy seafood chowder with soda bread to British Pub Fare echoing the cuisine of early European colonists.

🌟 Pro Tip: To soak up the most of this historic atmosphere, choose a table on either the first floor or the basement.

13. Celebrate Canadiana Culture (and Baking) at Cabin Coffee

Baked goods at Cabin Coffee in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Enjoy old-fashioned treats at Cabin Coffee. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

If you can’t get to Canada’s cottage country then making a stop at Cabin Coffee is the next best thing.

One of the oldest family-owned coffee shops in downtown Halifax (Google Map), it celebrates the unique identity of Canada in both decor and food. Sink into one of the oversized leather armchairs by the stone fireplace and soak up the spirit of Canada’s wilderness.

With its kitschy Canadiana decor of moose to hockey skates, you’ll feel as though you’ve been magically transported to a rustic log cabin in the woods.

Order one of Cabin Coffee’s famous old-fashioned cinnamon buns and the picture is complete.

14. Learn About Lobster Fishing on a Lobster Boat Tour

Lobster fisher Captain Kyle Redden in Nova Scotia.
Take a tour with lobster fisher Captain Kyle Redden in Nova Scotia. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

To learn more about Atlantic Coast culture and cuisine, take a day trip from Halifax to Nova Scotia’s southwest coast.

Here you can take a tour with Bay of Fundy Scenic Lobster Tours  on a working lobster fishing boat while sightseeing past attractions such as the famous Balancing Rock and Boar’s Head lighthouse.

Along the way you’ll learn about the lobster fishing industry and even have the opportunity to band a lobster!

Tours take place between June 15th and Sept. 15th. Bay of Fundy Scenic Lobster Tours operates out of Tiverton Port near the village of Digby, a 2.5 hour drive from Halifax.

15. Sample a Classic Seafood Chowder

A bowl of seafood chowder at Salty's Restaurant in Halifax.
A bowl of seafood chowder at Salty’s Restaurant in Halifax. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

No trip to Nova Scotia is complete without sampling a bowl of seafood chowder. So it’s definitely a must-try when it comes to Halifax eats!

At its best, seafood chowder is a creamy and hearty dish, generously loaded with fresh clams, shrimp, scallops, tender potatoes, savoury bacon or salt pork, and aromatic vegetables and herbs like onions, celery and thyme.

It usually comes paired simply with saltine crackers or a tea biscuit.

While variations of this classic abound, the essence of this iconic dish remains consistent. It’s a comforting bowl of goodness that pays homage to Halifax’s culinary heritage and its close connection to the sea.

Enjoy it with liberal amounts of fresh-ground black pepper.

Halifax Food and Travel Planning

Where to Stay in Halifax (Luxury Hotel)

Bottles of liquor on glass shelves with drinkware.
Bar in a guest suite at the Muir Hotel. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

The Muir Hotel in the Halifax’s new waterfront district of Queen’s Marque is one of Canada’s most stylish new hotels. With guest rooms overlooking the harbour, it’s decorated with beautiful modern Atlantic Canada furnishings.

For food-focused explorations you can’t go wrong with the Muir Hotel’s location. You’re within easy walking distance to several of the best restaurants in Halifax.

Check rates and availability at the Muir Hotel Autograph Collection in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Booking.com

Where to Stay in Halifax (Mid-Range Hotel)

Hotel room with bed and window.
Enjoy stunning views at this upscale hotel. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

You’ll be close enough to get a birds-eye view of the Halifax Citadel Historic Site at this upscale hotel in downtown Halifax.

Enjoy stunning views plus an easy walk to the waterfront, restaurants and bars. It offers excellent value.

Check rates and availability at the Sutton Place Hotel Halifax on Booking.com

Getting Around

You’ll need to rent a car if you want to go exploring beyond Halifax independently. Check car rental availability and prices at Discovercars.com. They compare car rental deals from many companies so often offer the best deals on car rentals from Halifax Airport and Halifax Port.

Weekend in Tatamagouche

Another tasty day trip from Halifax is to take a road trip to Tatamagouche on Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore.

There are lots of things to do in Tatamagouche but foodie highlights include sleeping in a vintage train at the Train Station Inn and sampling Jost Tidal Bay wines at the winery’s circular wine bar.

Weekend in Digby

A collage of Digby scallops in Nova Scotia.
Enjoy some Digby scallops for breakfast at the Dockside Suites in Digby. (Credit: Michele Peterson)

For a food-focused weekend getaway from Halifax, head to the town of Digby, home to a large lobster and scallop fleet. The best place to stay in Digby is the Dockside Suites Hotel on the waterfront.

Not only will you be steps to the quaint shops and village square but the modern guest rooms have fantastic views, coffee makers and plenty of space.

There’s an added bonus of a stay here. Fundy’s, the onsite restaurant, is the place to go for a traditional local breakfast featuring the famous local Digby scallops.

Check rates and availability at the Dockside Suites in Digby, Nova Scotia on Booking.com.

Official Tourism Websites

Second Secret Sightseeing boat in the harbour in Tiverton, Nova Scotia.
Get a taste of Nova Scotia’s fishing heritage on a fishing excursion by lobster boat.

Discover Halifax: Get maps, event listings and tips on markets and local food in Halifax.

Tourism Nova Scotia: The official website for the province offers a one-stop resource for planning a trip to Nova Scotia.

Yarmouth & Acadian Shores: Go off the beaten path in Nova Scotia and discover culture, cuisine and loads of outdoor adventure along the southwest shores of Nova Scotia.

This article was originally written by Karen Burshtein in 2022. It was updated with new information and photography by both Gary Crallé and Michele Peterson in 2023 and 2024 following onsite visits.

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A collage of must-try food in Halifax Nova Scotia including lobster roll, fish and chips and ice-cream.

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