Best of the East: 2011


Best casual dining

Jane’s on the Common

Time has flown by for Jane Wright, the owner of Jane’s on the Common, the popular restaurant at the corner of Robie and Cunard streets across from the Halifax Common. Prior to opening her first dining establishment in 2003, Wright remembers having little support from her family and friends. “Nobody thought it was a good idea,” she says. “My mother was mortified.”

A librarian by training, Wright borrowed every book she could find on how to run a restaurant, then slowly started piecing together a business plan for what she now jokingly refers to as her mid-life crisis. “I was brought up with my mother telling me that getting a pension was the most important thing in life,” says Wright, 52. “I just decided to gamble on what I felt like I really wanted to do. I wanted my days to involve joy.” 

So in 2003 Wright said goodbye to an 18-year stint of 9-to-5 office jobs in politics and labour relations and began her pursuit of happiness. “The idea first came into my head that March, I gave my notice at work in May, resigned in July, and opened Jane’s on September first,” she says. “I joke about what five months can do to change a life.”

First came Jane’s on the Common, a cozy upscale diner serving dishes created by chef Paolo Colbertaldo and made with many provincially sourced ingredients. Then in 2008, Wright opened a takeout shop adjacent to the restaurant, aptly named Jane’s Next Door. “It’s not microwaveable food,” says Wright. “It’s gourmet frozen food designed to be baked in an oven.” The shop also carries fresh sandwiches made daily, Jane’s signature coffee, and a tantalizing variety of sweets, muffins, and tea biscuits.

Recently, Wright bought a commercial building at 2053 Gottingen St., from which she plans to operate a catering business. This newly renovated commissary kitchen, to which Wright modestly refers as “the most gorgeous kitchen in the city,” will allow her to supply a larger quantity of items for Jane’s Next Door thanks to its bigger prep and storage areas, in addition to a having a designated space to prepare catering orders. It’s all very impressive for a woman whose quest for joy ended up launching a mini food-services empire. “It has thrown the world open for me,” says Wright of her ventures. – Jenna Conter

N.S.: Wildwood Café (Bridgewater)
N.B.: The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse (Moncton)
N.L.: Yellow Belly (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Landmark Café (Victoria)


Best formal dining

The Press Gang 

A formal dining experience like no other, The Press Gang is located in one of Halifax’s most historic brick buildings, dating back to 1759. For a fine-dining experience, chef Matt Castain offers a decadent variety of meals ranging from seafood and game to poultry. The restaurant’s rustic and historic locale sets a charming ambiance for a quiet chat about revenue numbers to a large-table reservation where the perfect groundwork can be laid for that all-important pitch. Looking for something lighter? The Press Gang also serves oysters on the half shell at its oyster bar. Indulge in The Press Gang’s wine or spirits while sampling different oysters from around the Maritimes; it’s a great way to give your client a taste of the East. – J.C. 

N.S.: Trattoria Della Nonna (Lunenburg)
N.B.: Bogart’s (Moncton) 
N.L.: Blue on Water (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Lot 30 (Charlottetown)


Best place to socialize

Happinez Wine Bar
Saint John

Well, happinez is a little wine bar with lots of wine located in downtown Saint John. Opening its doors in 2005, co-owner Peter Smit says the main motivation was to create “a cozy environment for people to socialize with a good glass of wine.” Knowing there were no wine bars in New Brunswick, or anywhere in Atlantic Canada at that time, Smit and his team found their niche. The building can be traced back to 1878, and customers enjoy the feel of a small “cellar” with beautiful stone and brick walls designed with glass, pine, and local art. The establishment offers 25 wines by the glass to suit all palates and price ranges, as well as some local nibbles. – J.C. 

N.S.: The Old Triangle (Halifax)
NB: James Joyce Irish Pub (Fredericton)
N.L.: The Bay of Islands Bistro (Corner Brook)
P.E.I.: Globe World Flavours (Charlottetown) 

Best international n
ewspapers and magazines

Atlantic News 

The go-to place for news since 1973, Atlantic News changed hands from the original owner to former employees Michele and Stephen Gerard in 1998 and has continued to reign as king of the newsstands. Carrying myriad national and international titles, it has maintained and expanded its loyal following throughout the years. Catering to the reading pleasures of the masses, it’s common knowledge that if you can’t find it, you haven’t checked Atlantic News. J.C. 

N.S.: Blowers Street Paper Chase Newsstand (Halifax)
N.B.: Reid’s Newsstand (Moncton)
N.L.: Chapter’s (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Bookmark (Charlottetown)


Best gym/fitness centre

Goodlife Fitness
32 Atlantic Canadian locations

David Patchell-Evans owns and operates the largest fitness empire in Canada. Regionally, Goodlife recently bought the Nubody’s fitness chain, inheriting all of those locations. Boasting top-notch equipment, Goodlife is a great place to work out and pick the fitness-minded brains of the helpful and knowledgable staff. You can hop on a treadmill, hire a personal trainer, or take advantage of the Group Exercise programs, including Zumba classes. – J.C.

N.S.: Palooka’s Gym (Halifax)
N.B.: YMCA (Fredericton)
N.L.: The Works (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Atlantic Fitness Centre (Charlottetown)


Best place for a breakfast meeting

15 locations in Atlantic Canada

Cora’s wouldn’t be what it is today without the drive and determination of Cora Tsouflidou, who is the epitome of a self-made entrepreneur. She put her professional career on hold when she got married and had a family; when her husband left her and her children 10 years later, she returned to her passion. In 1987 she bought a small café in Montreal and opened Chez Cora. Twenty-three years later, she has 100 franchised locations across the country serving such breakfast staples as pancakes, waffles, eggs, sausages, and toast, along with her signature fresh fruit, proving to everyone that it’s never too late to start a business. – J.C. 

NS: Ryan Duffy’s (Halifax)
N.B.: Triiio Restaurant & Lounge (Moncton)
N.L.: Blue on Water (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Casa Mia Café (Charlottetown)


Best smart casual clothes for men


Douglas “Dugger” McNeil has been keeping Halifax men well dressed and trendy since 1971 with a wide selection of the best designers, including Hugo Boss and Leonardo Ceni for formal occasions or more casual looks with impressive labels such as Lacoste, Burberry, and Ted Baker. No detail is too great, with added services such as at-home wardrobe consults and an in-store kids’ room with bean-bag chairs, colouring books, and free popcorn. For a look that suits younger shoppers, head downstairs to D2 for such brands as Diesel, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Bahama. – J.C. 

N.S.: Moore’s (Halifax)
N.B.: Peter Roberts for Men (Fredericton)
N.L.: Benjamin’s Menswear (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Dow’s Menswear (Charlottetown)


Best place for men’s suits

Peter Roberts for Men

Client care and a genuine interest in the best look for every individual customer is a large part of the experience offered by Peter Roberts for Men. Knowledgeable staff is on hand to help find the perfect look, whether it’s a buttoned-up suit or casual attire. Co-owner Erik Nielsen and his employees take care to help customers navigate the store’s impressive selection of international brands to make sure they leave happy and well dressed. – J.C. 

N.S.: Moe’s Menswear (Halifax)
N.B.: Moore’s (Saint John)
N.L.: Benjamin’s Menswear (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Dow’s Menswear (Charlottetown)


Best career clothing for women

The Village Green 

Located in Sunnyside Mall, The Village Green is a label-heavy hideaway for fashion-conscious women. If you’re looking for a suit that will not only command attention in the boardroom but also garner compliments from colleagues, the staff at the Village Green can help you choose from such names as Elie Tahari, Ralph Lauren, TeenFlo, and Gerry Weber. – J.C. 

N.S.: Foreign Affair (Halifax)
N.B.: Harlequin (Moncton)
N.L.: Johnny Ruth (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Dow’s Fashions for Ladies (Charlottetown)


Best smart casual clothes for women

The Unicorn Trading Company

The Unicorn was the first store in Halifax to carry European imports and specialize in head-to-toe service. For a unique piece from such top designer names as Creenstone, Gerard Darel, and Didier Parakian, and stylish shoes from Badgley Mischka and Stuart Weitzman, The Unicorn has all you need to create an outfit that will keep heads turning after the 9-to-5 grind. Offering attentive client care in Halifax since 1969, The Unicorn is locally owned and operated, making its 1477 Lower Water St. location the only one of its kind. – J.C. 

N.S.: Mills (Halifax)
N.B.: Robert Simmonds (Fredericton) 
N.L.: Johnny Ruth (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Dow’s Fashions for Ladies (Charlottetown)


Best run/walk before- or after-work

Point Pleasant Park 

With an assortment of trails that appease runners at any level of training, Point Pleasant Park has been a Halifax natural landmark since the 1700s. Not only does it offer scenic views, a beach, and several walking trails but it also houses the remains of several historic forts, including The Prince of Wales Martello Tower National Historic Site, which was used to help protect British gun batteries. Sadly, some of the park’s splendour was destroyed in 2003 during Hurricane Juan, but re-growth is an ongoing process to one day restore the park to its original glory. Point Pleasant is also the outdoor main stage for Halifax’s Shakespeare by the Sea live theatre company, which performs a variety of the classic plays during the summer. – J.C. 

N.S.: Shubie Park (Dartmouth)
N.B.: Harbour Passage (Saint John)
N.L.: Bowring Park (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Victoria Park/Boardwalk (Charlottetown) 


Best cultural space

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Canada’s newest national museum, Pier 21 is dedicated to preserving, celebrating, and sharing Canada’s immigration stories. As visitors enter the cavernous space overlooking the harbour, they can relive the first steps on Canadian soil of 1.5 million immigrants, war brides, displaced people, evacuee children, and Canadian military personnel who used this gateway between 1928 and 1971. Museum COO Marie Chapman says Pier 21 offers compelling and emotional stories from a cultural perspective, as well as a glimpse into the broader story of nation building and Canada’s early beginnings. The venue hosts more than 250 events a year, from national conventions to exhibits on cultural communities such as Cuba and Vietnam, plus such travelling exhibitions as “Lace Up: Canada’s Passion for Skating,” which will be on display until March 27. – M.L.

N.S.: Astor Theatre (Liverpool)
N.B.: Imperial Theatre (Saint John)
N.L.: The Rooms (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: The Guild (Charlottetown)

Best place to clear your mind

Peggy’s Cove
Nova Scotia

Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, Peggy’s Cove is one of most popular stops in Atlantic Canada. The backdrop of rocky shores, famous lighthouse, and tiny fishing village are not only a photographer’s paradise but also a great place to get off the grid and clear your mind. Though called one of the busiest tourist sites in North America, the location is still incredibly laid back. After walking around the village, which was founded in 1811, pop into The Sou’Wester restaurant and treat yourself to a piece of warm gingerbread topped with ice cream. – J.C. 

N.S.: Public Gardens (Halifax)
N.B.: Java Moose (Saint John)
N.L.: Cabot Tower (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Brackley Beach (Charlottetown) 


Best place for drinks with clients

The Fireside Bar/Restaurant 

Entertaining clients in a relaxed atmosphere is easy at The Fireside, which offers a variety of seating, from cozy armchairs next to one of four elegant fireplaces to couches and booths, as well as dining tables and a bar. Several nooks and crannies offer plenty of opportunity for quiet conversation, both one-on-one or with a group. And don’t forget the upstairs’ glass atrium, which is a perfect spot to people watch while overlooking the busy Spring Garden Road and Brunswick Street intersection. A full menu is complemented by the restaurant’s famous $5 Martini Mondays, a large selection of wines, and fine single malt scotches. After 14 years in business, owner Don Webster reveals his secret to great casual dining: offer the best club sandwich in town. – Mireille LeBlanc 

N.S.: The Carleton (Halifax)
N.B.: Happinez Wine Bar (Saint John)
N.L.: Gypsy Tea Room (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: 42nd Street Lounge (Charlottetown)


Best public golf course

Granite Springs Golf Club 

Featuring rugged terrain, granite outcroppings, and spring-fed ponds, Granite Springs Golf Club is set in Nova Scotia’s natural beauty. Its tranquility is nowhere more apparent than from its signature 10th hole overlooking the picturesque Shad Bay. Your tee shot will bring you alongside three spring-fed ponds and various granite outcroppings, while your second shot on an elevated green will provide an unbeatable view. General manager Andrew Chant and his staff will greet you with the province’s proverbial hospitality in the rustic cedar-log clubhouse. Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Halifax, Granite Springs is ideally situated for a quick round of golf with friends or business associates. It also offers one of the longest golfing seasons in the province; it’s usually open from late March to mid-December, thanks to its mild coastal climate. – M.L.

N.S.: Chester Golf Course (Chester)
N.B.: Fox Creek (Dieppe)
N.L.: Clovelly (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Crowbush (Charlottetown)


Best place for morning brew

Two If By Sea

After opening less than two years ago, Two If By Sea, or TIBS, is Dartmouth’s new hot spot, boasting not only a great caffeinated cup of black gold but also mouthwatering pastries. Zane Kelsall and business partner Tara MacDonald met while working at another HRM coffee shop and have formed a solid partnership based on their interests; she just wanted to make pastries, he just wanted to make coffee. Now that their passions are their profession, the pair caters to a steady stream of customers from both sides of the harbour. – J.C. 

N.S.: Cabin Coffee (Halifax)
N.B.: Java Moose (Saint John)
N.L.: Brewed Awakening (Corner Brook)
P.E.I.: Beanz Café (Charlottetown) 


Best place for jewelry

Bejewel by Trudy Gallagher

Time has flown by since Trudy Gallagher was a little girl and her mother found her pinning her grandmother’s jewelry to the bottom of her dress. “She does it so she can see it,” her grandmother explained to Gallagher’s mother.

So when a friend of Gallagher’s suggested that she should go to school to become a jeweler, she did some research and discovered that there were classes at Le Centre des Formation Professionnelle in Quebec for jewelry design. She didn’t hesitate to enroll, even though she was living in Vancouver at the time and it meant a cross-country move.

“I remember standing in the back of my first class and knowing this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” says Gallagher. 

Now 52, Gallagher has successfully turned her life’s passion into a career, surrounding herself in beauty at Bejewel, her Fredericton-based gallery and shop. Known for pushing the envelope, she prides herself on being one of the first jewelry designers to use vibrant stones in her pieces. 

“Nobody was doing colorful beadwork when I started designing it,” says Gallagher. “Of course now there are copycats, but I was certainly ahead of the curve.” 

In addition to countless loyal Bejewel followers, Gallagher has earned the attention of Ganong, the New Brunswick candy-maker, which honoured Bejewel by using Gallagher’s Bon-Bon glass-bead set of a necklace, pendant, bracelet, and earrings to help launch its new line, Fruitfull, in 2008. In addition to local notoriety, the previous year Bejewel had been chosen to participate in the Philadelphia Museum’s 31st annual Art Craft Show. 

Bejewel was even featured in a display at the 2010 Winter Olympics representing New Brunswick Tourism. Today Gallagher’s designs are spreading across Canada, into select locations in the United States, and beginning to trickle into the international market. – J.C.

N.S.: Touch of Gold (Halifax)
N.B.: La Mine d’Or (Moncton)
N.L.: Diamond Design (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Walker Studios (Charlottetown)


Best hotel for out-of-town clients

The Prince George

Beautifully furnished and centrally located in the middle of downtown, the Prince George has every comfort you’d expect in a four-star hotel, all while over-looking beautiful Halifax harbour. As soon as you walk out the doors, you’ll find yourself next to world-class shopping and some of the finest eating and drinking establishments on the East Coast. The hotel boasts harbour-view outdoor patios, more than 6,000 square feet of meeting facilities, a concierge service, and one of the best restaurants in the city. If you book a massage and order room service, your business trip will feel more like a vacation than work. – James Gilfoy 

N.S.: The Lord Nelson (Halifax)
N.B.: Château Moncton (Moncton)
N.L.: Courtyard by Marriott (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: The Delta Prince Edward (Charlottetown)


Best space for special events

The Westin Nova Scotian

Conveniently located in the east end of downtown Halifax, the lobby is spacious and classy, with fine materials used throughout to create a comfortable, regal atmosphere. The venue boasts 11 meeting spaces of varying themes and sizes that can accommodate more than 800 guests. Many of those spaces are located on the main floor, offering convenience and accessibility. For those who wish to hold eco-conscious conferences and meetings, the Westin has been rated four out of five “leaves” by the Audubon International Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program. – J.G. 

The Cunard Centre (Halifax)
N.B.: Marco Polo Cruise Terminal (Saint John)
N.L.: St. John’s Convention Centre (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Confederation Centre of the Arts (Char.)


Best place to unwind

Spa at Ninety4

It’s the only full-service spa in the Lunenburg area, but it’s clear the services go above and beyond international standards. Indulge yourself with luxurious spa favourites such as manicures, pedicures, massages, and facials or take your pampering to the next level with a steam shower, fusion stone massage, or dip in the skin-tingling Oasis Tub. Naturally derived Aveda products that smell good enough to eat are used at the Spa at Ninety4, providing a decadent pampering experience. – J.G.

N.S.: Spirit Spa (Halifax)
N.B.: Escape Spa, Salon & Studio (Moncton)
N.L.: Spa at the Monastery & Suites (St. John’s)
P.E.I.: Spa at Crowbush Golf Resort (Charlottetown)



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