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June 13, 1997 Halifax Herald

Good restaurants guide needed in Nova Scotia

The response to my column "Is there a good place left to eat in Nova Scotia" was excellent. Over 60 letters and oral responses were received from people residing in all regions of the Province and from all walks of life.

Because of the high volume of written responses, I wish to take a moment to inform the respondents that, in this instance, I won't be able to reply personally to your letters. Therefore, many thanks; your well-considered comments were well taken and much appreciated!

During the course of this discourse, I'll share some comments from the messages, but first I want to say that the responses didn't speak well for the future health of the restaurant and, by association, the tourist industries in Nova Scotia. A large majority were supportive or somewhat supportive of the statements made in the column. The most surprising thing is that many of the supportive responses came from restaurant owners.

To begin, I wish to quote an insightful gem from a Clementsport womanís letter: "Enjoy your columns, don't always agree, and sometimes you make me very angry (but that's what itís all about). Keep up the good work!" Thanks my friend! You can bet your boots that what its all about. We should never be afraid to express our opinions; our freedom depends it!

Now down to the business stirred up by the column. Perhaps the most telling comment made about the quality of restaurant food in Nova Scotia was made orally to me by a restaurant owner, who stated: "I don't agree with the statement made in your column; only about 50 percent of the restaurants in this province are bad." Personally, I wouldn't go that far; suffice it to say there are far to many bad ones, which makes it bad for all.

I know full well that there are good restaurants in the province; unfortunately, most locals and tourists have a hard time finding them. The challenge for the industry is to find a way to assist them in finding the good.

Here are a couple of samples of the good:

*If you like Chinese food, there's Chinatown; itís a place my family has been patronizing for over 25 years. My friend Michael Ha, the owner, informed me when I last visited that he had just imported a new chef from Toronto, who specializes in preparing traditional Chinese food. I tried a fish dish prepared by him, and it was delicious!

*The Milford House in South Milford, highway No. 8., serves very good food; I've tried it several times and wasn't disappointed. The General Manager, Maggie Nickerson, told me that some of their guests are fourth- and fifth-generation descendants of the original guests. She firmly believes that the Milford's good food is a key factor which brings them back year after year.

An old acquaintance from the past, Big Al, dropped me a line and invited us up to try his place in Tatamagouche - Acadia Restaurant and Lounge. See you this summer Al.

Eateries highly recommend by respondents for good food at lower prices included The Shillelagh House in Truro, Gary's Chuckwagon in Nictaux Falls, R. and G's in Hantsport. But the most highly recommended of all was Pearl's in Paradise. Although the list of restaurants recommended by readers is quite extensive, not surprisingly many have recommended the same places!

Of course, there were a few very defensive letters, the majority of which were published on this newspaper's opinion page. The one from Rob Evans, president of the Nova Scotia Restaurant & Food Services Association, is the one I found to be most interesting. Mr Evans, without taking the time to appreciate the column as constructive criticism, came charging out with a fantastic statement that all 300 hundred restaurants connected with his association are great places to eat.

Well, I and many others beg to disagree with Mr. Evans. There are some very lousy eating establishments in this province and, unfortunately, many are servicing the tourists industry. For instance, my "underdeveloped palate" (Mr. Evansí words) prevented me from eating the rancid fish hash which I was served on two occasions in one of our top tourists restaurants during the past two years. Further, the day the column appeared, my wife and I dined out at a popular spot and were served mechanically processed food.

Letís get real: neither tourists nor locals are going to stand for this type of treatment. There is a problem in the industry which is in dire need of addressing; hiding our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn't exist won't make it go away. What's needed to cure the problem is constructive and imaginative action.

Wouldn't it be great for the tourist industry if people were sent on their way singing the praises of Nova Scotia's scenery and great food. The repeats and new business engendered from this word-of-mouth advertising would give the industry a much-needed shot in the arm.

To head in this direction, I would be so bold as to suggest that the Department of Tourism and the owners of the province's good restaurants get together and publish a tourist handout, which would have very strict guidelines for inclusion, entitled Where to Eat in Nova Scotia. The comments I received indicate strongly that this booklet is also wanted by Nova Scotians for personal use!

Daniel N. Paul

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