Last weekend we decided to visit North Bay – specifically to eat the East Coast Brunch brunch at the North Star Diner, and because I have a fondness for North-Central Ontario. Currently , I’m eager to take any excuse to travel a bit further than our usual 2hr radius away from Toronto, and this was an excellent reason. We ended up doing even more than we expected.
The East Coast Brunch really spoke to us all, because the last big roadtrip we did was around Eastern Canada – so places like Halifax, Digby, Bay of Fundy, St Johns, and Perce were familiar and happy memories, and it just looked like a solid collection of items. This wasn’t going to be the first time we’ve engaged in some food based tourism, and it certainly wont be the last.
On Friday night we started the drive after work – it took us about an hour and a half just to get out of Toronto, but once we made it out of the GTA, it was smoother sailing. North Bay is about three and a half hours on a good day, and it took us around 4hrs with a few short breaks for charging our car. It can be tough to travel at night, especially with a 5 year old, but the payoff for that effort is waking up in the place you want to be. We also were treated to one of the most spectacular views of the waning gibbous harvest moon – there is nothing quite like a moon that looks like its on fire.
Saturday we planned to visit North Star Diner and order the whole menu, maybe look at a beach, and otherwise, stay at our cute and comfortable airbnb, read books, and watch episodes of Pokemon Sun & Moon on Netflix. The weather promised cloudy skies and lots of rain, and it delivered, but we managed to pick up brunch without getting soaked. There was a bit of a line with people waiting to order and to pick up their orders, but the pace seemed comfortable, and gave me the opportunity to decide what I wanted for breakfast (and for us all to play Pokemon Go.)
When I walked in they had an ordering table set up and some baked goods on offer – like cakes and cookies and these magnificent things they called scones, but they were more like edible art jelly rolls.
I picked the Halifax Donair and JC got the Bay of Fundy Benny. The Halifax donair was stuffed with Kind Butcher donair meat, which is locally made in North Bay, and was amazing in every way – loved the pickled onions and the copious local greens and sliced tomatoes. It was also saucy – but in the Halifax donair style – with a sauce that was a touch sweet vs the donair sauce you might find anywhere else in Canada. When we were in Halifax in 2018, Real Fake Meats wasn’t open yet (and I hear their donair is great), but we did have a sauceless donair from Johnny K’s. Anyway, the one from North Star was easily better, I don’t like making hierarchies between restaurants, but the sauce really adds to the experience.
I can always tell when JC likes something, or is eating something extra special, because he almost seems confused after the first bite. He gets this look in his eyes like “how dare this be so good?” it doesn’t happen that often, but it happened with the Bay of Fundy Benny. I had a bite too, and yum.
Somewhere in the middle of everything, it started pouring rain. One thing that we can usually count on when it’s grey and rainy is that our kiddo will want to go out and play in the puddles. I had had the wherewithal to pack some decent rain gear for most of us, including boots perfect for splashing, so we all played at the windy rainy beach until we were soaked, and warmed up in our temporary home watching pokemon on netflix and waiting until a reasonable time to have dinner. It really is a gift not to have to think much sometimes.
When it was time to head back to North Star to grab dinner, and we just got nearly everything else on the menu. I had the inclination to get a soup for each of us, and that was the right call. Lunenbeg Chowder was hearty with carrots, potatoes, corn, zucchini, and onion and came with the most amazing toasted sour dough from Culture Club bakery (another local favourite.)
And then, after all of that, it was time to put the kid to bed and plot out our Sunday. Time flies when you’re having fun and eating well. I had been petitioning to swing by Algonquin Provincial Park on the way home, since it was only a bit out of the way, but JC came up with an even better idea – 3 Provincial Parks, none of them Algonquin, and all of them taking us back in the direction we actually needed to go. Algonquin is like THE park in Ontario, and it seems worth doing well, so waiting to visit until we could do it properly seemed like a solid plan.
We planned to stop at South River, Mikisew, and Restoule. I got to work looking for other things we could do en route, on the off chance that there would be a random vegan food truck off of a highway or something (which I found) as well as a new to us restaurant in Barrie! But that will have to wait until next time.