Nova Scotia is a delicious melting pot of culinary experiences. There are all sorts of cultures that combine here, and out of that mix a few dishes have risen as recognizably Nova Scotian dishes, several of them unique to the province. If you want to get a true taste of Nova Scotia, try as many of the following as possible. You won’t regret a single one.
Donairs and Garlic Fingers Donairs are shaved spit-roasted meat wraps with onions, tomatoes, and donair sauce, and they were invented in Nova Scotia in the 70s. Garlic fingers are, as Wikipedia describes, pizza dough topped with garlic butter and cheese, cooked until the cheese is melted but the dough is still soft; their origin remains unclear. Both foods are fiercely Nova Scotian, rarely found even in the rest of the Maritimes. You can get both at most pizza places, so take some time to look around and decide which place gets them exactly right for you. Here are some suggestions:
King Of Donair
Johnny K’s Authentic Donairs
Meat Paste Egg Rolls
This is one that’s always puzzled me when people come to visit from away, and they don’t get why the egg rolls are different. It turns out that this great way to have egg rolls is very much a Nova Scotian thing, and mainly Halifax. Most egg rolls have shredded cabbage and chopped meat, which are good too. But Halifax meat egg rolls are more often a paste made of different meats inside the roll. It’s a departure from the norm that still tastes great, which is very much a part of the Nova Scotian food legacy.
The Great Wall Restaurant
Qiu Brothers Dumplings
Moon Mist Ice Cream
I am genuinely amazed that people don’t have this ice cream outside of Nova Scotia. My mom always called it Barney ice cream, because it has swirls of purple (grape), yellow (banana), and green(ish) (bubble gum). That sounds like a weird flavour combination, but the thing is that it’s greater than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t have told you what the combination was without looking it up, because it just tastes like Moon Mist. But don’t take my word for it; wherever there is ice cream, there is a chance to try this out-of-this-world flavour.
Rappie Pie Rappie Pie is an Acadian dish that is honestly a bit hard to describe. It’s not technically a pie because it has no crust, but then again neither does shepherd’s pie. Its main ingredients are chicken and potatoes, and it can be served with maple syrup or hot sauce. If you’re visiting Grand Pré or you have Acadian roots, give this one a go!
This dessert—cooked blueberries with steamed sweet dumplings—is a classic of the East Coast. It’s especially well known in Nova Scotia though, because the sheer number of blueberries in this province is astonishing. Whether you’re on the mainland or Cape Breton, you can find wild and cultivated blueberries, including several u-picks. Why not take a weekend and spend Saturday picking, and Sunday making the grunt?
Scallops are a fantastic shellfish, and Digby, Nova Scotia has some of the best in the world (according to people from other parts of the world, so you know it’s legit). They’re the main provider of scallops all over the province, but if you want to get them as fresh as possible you should go to Digby. There you can see the Bay of Fundy’s insane tides, walk along trails, and even book a whale-watching trip nearby.
Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland, and we celebrate that heritage. One of the smaller ways we do that is by serving oatcakes, which are sometimes dipped in chocolate. There’s some variety depending on location: Halifax oatcakes tend to be cooked thick and chewy, while Cape Breton oatcakes are thin and crunchy. I’ve tried both, I love both, and they don’t even need chocolate (it just makes them more fun).
Halifax: Italian Market, Mrs.P’s Homestyle Bakery
Cape Breton:The Dancing Goat Cafe & Bakery, Cape Breton Oat Cake Society
Pepperoni is delicious. Deep frying things often makes them better (except spinach, which just becomes translucent, but that’s another story). Logically, deep fried pepperoni is a fantastic dish that’s great as a bar snack. Most of the deep-fried pepperoni in Halifax is made from pepperoni at Brothers Meats in the North End, which has been open for over 60 years. Try it at any pub or bar in Halifax, and be sure to try honey mustard as a dip!
The Maxwell’s Plum
Bearly’s House of Blues and Ribs
Nova Scotia has a long history of beer, from Alexander Keith all the way to the dozens of modern micro-breweries.There are beer tours within Halifax, but you could honestly plan an entire road trip all the way from the South Shore to Cape Breton, visiting different places. Most Nova Scotian bars will have local offerings on tap or by bottle, so you can try several different ones. If you’re around in the summer, check out the Beer Festival on the Waterfront!
Propeller Root Beer
Propeller is one of Halifax’s brewing companies, and they make excellent beer. My favourite drink they have on offer, however, is their root beer. It’s made in the old-fashioned style and is sweetened with cane sugar, which gives it a unique great taste. Grab one before you go to their Gottingen Street Tap Room arcade!
Seafood Chowder Seafood chowder is one of those dishes that’s found in many places, but each place has their own charm. Nova Scotian seafood chowder is crammed with fresh seafood from our shores, and mostly local creams, half-and-half, or condensed milk. If you can’t decide on one place, not to worry! Visit the Nova Scotia Chowder Trail to get your passport and try to hit multiple places along the ‘trail’, which stretches the length of the province.
Dulse is dried seaweed, let’s start there. Nova Scotia Dulse is a red seaweed that’s also found in California, Spain, Ireland, and Maine, but since it’s more prevalent near Nova Scotia, that’s how it got its name. Dulse is full of minerals and is a great healthy snack. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re interested in trying to eat weed of the sea, give it a shot where it’s local!
Haskap berries look like blueberry sausages, which sounds weird until you look at them. They are native to Canada and there are a few places that grow them in Nova Scotia. They’re loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols, and they have an interesting sort of tart-bittersweet taste that works well in preserves and juice. Check them out at the La Have Berry Farm.
Nova Scotian Ice wine
Ice wine is wine made from grapes frozen by cold winter winds, creating a unique and delicious beverage. Ice wine isn’t a Canadian invention (it was first popularized in Germany), but Canada holds its own on the world stage. Nova Scotia has a dozen vineyards that produce award-winning ice wine, and every year there is a Nova Scotian Icewine Festival in February. Celebrate the fruits of Nova Scotia’s cold winters with this great festival!
Avondale Sky Winery & Restaurant
Lobster Supper in Hubbards
Lobster is enjoyed all over the world, but Nova Scotian lobster is fresh off the boat and absolutely delicious. To get the full experience, take a short drive from Halifax down to Hubbards. There you’ll find the Shore Club, which is recognized worldwide for its lobster suppers. You get unlimited salad and mussels, rolls, dessert, and whatever size lobster you want. Enjoy an 84-year-old tradition of food and fun—check out their dance nights!
By: Adrienne Colborne