Best of the East: 2013

Best Place for Business over Cocktails


The subdued and sophisticated big-city vibe of Onyx makes it the perfect destination for meeting a client over cocktails or savouring a glass of wine at the backlit bar. Seating 69 guests, the open-concept space separates tables with sheers for private conversation. Onyx’s relaxed modern setting invites all to sample from the exquisite Asian-inspired and French-influenced menu, which offers oysters on their shells, Quebec cheeses, spicy lobster risotto, quail, beef tartare, and smoked brisket. To end on a sweet note, indulge in a baked Alaska that’s complemented by a port-infused fig centre or decadent chocolate turtle served with Tahitian vanilla ice cream.  


N.B.: Britt’s Pub and Eatery (Saint John,
N.L.: Blue on Water (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Gahan House Pub & Brewery (Charlottetown,



Best Place for a "Party-down, Fuzzy on Details Next Day" Drink

Durty Nelly's

If, like Oscar Wilde famously boasted, you can resist anything but temptation, you’re going to be in for a seriously good time at Durty Nelly’s. Named after a legendary Irish hostess and entrepreneur, this gastropub entertains with traditional live folk music, trivia nights, and a big-screen TV for watching the game. Co-owner Joe McGuinness takes pride in the hearty food that’s served with quality ingredients and careful attention to presentation. With menu categories dedicated to Irish favourites, Celtic cocktails, and Guinness creations, the only thing you’ll need the luck of the Irish for is finding the door at closing time, which isn’t until 2 a.m. 


N.B.: Saint John Ale House (Saint John,
N.L.: Shamrock City Pub (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Hunters Ale House (Charlottetown,



Best complimentary sommelier service

Raymonds/Jeremy Bonia
St. John’s 

Raymonds has taken the Canadian culinary scene by storm, garnering rave reviews and turning chef/co-owner Jeremy Charles into a foodie celebrity. The “other Jeremy,” sommelier/co-owner Jeremy Bonia, is also an integral part of the dining experience. Originally from Logy Bay, N.L., Bonia received his certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2011. 

The restaurant maintains 10 wines by the glass, plus eight “premium pours” from Raymonds’ Enomatic wine-preservation system. The full list rounds out at 700 wines, with another 10 to 15 that are paired specifically with the menus. “Food and wine matching is important,” says Bonia. “We started out offering five- and seven-course tasting menus with wine pairings, then we expanded to offer individual glasses paired with every menu item we have.”

Raymonds changes its menu monthly, which keeps Bonia on his toes searching to find the appropriate matches with each new dish. “There can be a level of intimidation when it comes to dealing with a sommelier,” he says. “I’m here to help our customers find a bottle or glass that they’ll be happy with.” 


N.B.: Déjà BU!/Robert Noel (Caraquet,
N.S.: The Bicycle Thief/Steve Adams (Halifax,
P.E.I.: Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar/Debbie Smith (Charlottetown,


Best Breakfast Brainstorm Restaurant

Cedar Tree Cafe

At first glance, hummus, eggs, and Lebanese bread may seem like an odd morning-meal combination, but the Cedar Tree Café’s Mediterranean take on the power breakfast is a crowd pleaser among its downtown-Fredericton clientele. Business professionals, artists, parents, and teenagers also savour the homemade granola, smoothies, and baked goods while getting their jolt of caffeine from an espresso. 

Owner Lisa Wilby proudly features locally sourced and organic products whenever possible in her café, which has a relaxed atmosphere. In fact, CBC host Jian Ghomeshi recently visited Fredericton and tweeted: “When in #Fredericton you need to make a tasty pilgrimage to @CedarTreeCafe. Here’s to the locally owned indies in this country.”


N.L.: Velma’s (St. John’s)
N.S.: The Coastal Café (Halifax,
P.E.I.: Maid Marians (Charlottetown) 



Best Restaurant and Chef for a Locally Sourced Menu that Will Impress Clients

The Wooden Monkey

The Wooden Monkey is known for crafting fresh, flavourful, health-conscious meals from locally sourced and organic suppliers, but co-owner Lil MacPherson insists, “We’re not a vegetarian restaurant.” She and co-owner Christine Bower brought the Grafton Street restaurant in 2009. Since its launch, it has been one of the hottest spots to eat in Halifax. In fact, last year the pair expanded by opening a second location in Dartmouth on Alderney Drive with a third partner, Matthew Gass. Every weekend, diners line up to enjoy its local fare, including grass-fed beef and award-winning lentil burgers. “We cater to people who want beer and burgers, pizza and seafood lovers, vegans, people with celiac disease—the list goes on,” says MacPherson. “We want everyone to come to the table.” 


N.B.: The Blue Door Restaurant and Bar/Lizzie Stewart (Fredericton,
N.L.: Portabello’s Restaurant/Edward Farrell (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Lot 30/Gordon Bailey (Charlottetown,


Best place to combine business with a vacation








White Point Beach Resort
Hunts Point, N.S.

Whether you’re visiting for business, pleasure, or a healthy balance of both, White Point Beach Resort is the place to go. With cottages, guestrooms, vacation homes, and oceanfront meeting space in natural lighting, the breeze off the sea will rejuvenate and recharge the weariest visitor. Open for business since 1928 and recently renovated after a devastating fire in 2011, the resort has evolved into a rich modern style without losing its classic charm—or more importantly, its much-loved stone fireplace. By blending relaxation and recreation on the South Shore, White Point has become known as the perfect getaway spot.


N.B.: L’Hotel St. James (Moncton,
N.L.: Winterholme Suites & Spa (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: The Great George (Charlottetown,



Best Local Coffee Shop/Barista








Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food
St. John’s

Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food is known for its baristas, who include Steven Fairdosi, Becky Gibson, and Anja Sajovic. All are tremendously friendly, even by St. John’s standards, and have an uncanny recall of their many customers’ names. The drinks are always perfect, and staff members chat and joke while making your beverage of choice, whether it’s an organic micro-lot coffee or direct-trade roast. 

The bakery sells mouthwatering breads, sweets, and sandwiches and boasts the best selection of gluten-free options in the downtown core. Rocket offers all sorts of goodies, but one of them truly sets it apart: the fresh, flaky, buttery croissants. Upstairs, live music plays in what has been dubbed the Rocket Room. It accommodates up to 150 people and is the perfect spot for a simulated Newfoundland kitchen party. Whether in the café or upstairs, the charm of the more-than-100-year-old restored building makes for a homey experience that captures the Newfoundland spirit. 


N.B.: Java Moose/Glen McLean (Saint John,
N.S.: Just Us! Barrington Street/Liz Bishop (Halifax,
P.E.I.: Beanz Espresso Bar & Coffee/Lori Kays (Charlottetown,



Best Atlantic Wine

2005 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve
Wolfville, N.S.

While Benjamin Bridge is widely known for its popular Nova 7, an off-dry, aromatic, bubbly wine, critics insist that its best are the premium traditional-method sparkling wines made from Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. The winery’s original goal, which it’s well on its way to achieving, was to make premium Méthode Classique wine that rivals the best Champagne. 

Several 2012 blind tastings of Benjamin Bridge’s Brut Reserve went up against top Champagnes, proving that wine writers and sommeliers considered its top wines at least on par with the Champagne. That’s a remarkable achievement for owners Gerry McConnell and Ashley and Devon McConnell-Gordon, wine-maker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, and consultants Raphaël Brisbois and Peter Gamble.

The 2005 Brut Reserve received similar acclaim. It has remarkable elegance, freshness (especially considering that it has aged over six years), structure, crisp acidity, and the signature for high-quality traditional method wines: rich, toasty, bready notes.


N.B.: Reflection wine /Magnetic Hill Winery (Moncton,
N.L.: Blueberry wine/Rodrigues Winery (Markland,
P.E.I.: Gamay-Noir wine/Matos Winery & Distillery (St. Catherines,



Best Boutique for Head-to-Toe Style for Any Season, Budget

Robert Simmonds Clothing 

Haan are just a few of the top brand names sold at Robert Simmonds Clothing, where shoppers can view a vast selection of casual and professional apparel and accessories by European and Canadian designers. Founder Paul Simmonds prides himself on what he calls the “three Es”: an exceptional experience every time. Employees make extra effort to help clients find the ideal garment, which is often something they weren’t expecting. The casual yet comfortable atmosphere is accentuated by little luxurious touches such as free cappuccinos and an on-site tailor. 


N.L.: Model Citizens (St. John’s,
N.S.: Biscuit General Store (Halifax,
P.E.I.: Dow’s Fashions (Charlottetown,



Best Thank-you Wares, from Chic to Comical

The Old General Store
Murray River, P.E.I. 

Handmade beach glass and silver jewlery sparkle under the sun that shines through the large windows that front The Old General Store. Handmade quilts adorn two antique beds that almost invite shoppers to cuddle under them, while items crafted from more than 50 local artisans beckon from every shelf. Owner Charlene Belsher greets visitors with a smile and guides them through her vast selection to find the perfect purchase. Will it be a fused-glass lamp, fragrant soap, local jams and jellies, or a batik wall hanging featuring a blue heron? 


N.B.: Room to Remember (Fredericton,
N.L.: Home on Water Street (St. John’s,
N.S.: Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (Halifax,



Best Venue for Collaborative Thinking or Launching a Start-up

The Hub Halifax

Going to The Hub is like going to the library, if your study buddies are in myriad different programs. Only instead of getting shushed for laughing, you could meet some new business partners. With a young focused energy in a bright space overlooking Halifax’s Barrington Street, The Hub has an open-concept work area with exposed brick and local artwork, a kitchenette, and a private meeting space. It also provides the technologies you can’t (or won’t) imagine working without, such as wireless Internet, a printer, scanner, fax machine, phone line, and projectors. A place for entrepreneurs to connect on a flexible membership program, The Hub is ideal for collaboration and inspiration. 


N.B.: Trinity Centre for Business (Saint Johns,
N.L.:  Johnson GEO Centre (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Atlantic Technology Centre (Charlottetown,




Best Office-- So Cool that When You Walk In, You Want to Switch Careers

Egg Studios

Mike Hachey had worked in a few corporate offices and loathed the drab open spaces filled with lonely cubicles. A decade ago, when he started his own production company, Hachey vowed to be different. Egg Studios’ main office contains evidence of that pledge. The company’s boardroom table, a heavy relic, was plucked from an antique shop. Another table was fashioned from an old Toronto subway turnstile. The reception desk is made of lumber from a Lunenburg barn. And the office bar was once part of a set at Neptune Theatre.

“It’s about finding creative ways to make things more functional, without spending a ton of money doing it,” says Hachey, who believes a well-designed office can improve mental health and inspire creativity. “I spend a minimum of 60 hours a week at work. I don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle.”


N.B.: Orange Sprocket (Fredericton,
N.L.: The Idea Factory (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Atlantic Technology Centre 



Best large event space

Fredericton Convention Centre

When asked what the most important element is that makes the Fredericton Convention Centre (FCC) the best space to host a large event, general manager Cathy Pugh doesn’t hesitate. “Our people,” she says. From the welcoming smiles of staff members as soon as visitors enter the state-of-the art facility to the employees who go out of their way to help them meet their needs, FCC staff has East Coast hospitality down to an art and a science. “We truly care about our guests and each other,” says Pugh. Opened in 2011, this chic modern building has 36,000 square feet of meeting and function space that combines advanced connectivity such as complementary fibre-optic wireless and wired Internet with green practices that support its LEED silver design.


N.L.: The Rooms (St. John’s,
N.S.: The Cunard Centre (Halifax,
P.E.I.: Delta Hotel (Charlottetown,


Best Golf Course to Stay and Play

Cabot Links
Inverness, N.S. 

Dubbed Canada’s only true links golf course, the recently opened Cabot Links on Cape Breton Island is winning accolades from enthusiasts nationwide. The course flows with the land and is set along the shoreline of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. With sweeping panoramic views of the ocean from every hole, it presents a different challenge every time you tee up. Plus, the hard fast fairways, deep pot bunkers, large greens with deep swales, unpredictable ocean winds, thick gnarly gorse, and sand dunes that link this treeless design to the sea make it a shot-maker’s dream. 
In fact, Cabot Links was recently chosen by ScoreGolf magazine as the best new course in Canada, and Golf Digest has ranked the links as the ninth-best course in Canada and one of the two most important courses opened in the world in 2012. “These accolades mean a great deal to us, and they’re a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” says Cabot Links owner Ben Cowan-Dewar. “Those who built and maintain the property and course, and those who showed incredible vision to make this property what it is, should be proud of their accomplishments.” 


N.B.: Fox Creek Golf Club (Dieppe,
N.L.: Terra Nova Resort & Golf (Port Blandford,
P.E.I.: Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach (Crowbush Cove,



Best Running Route, Before or After Work 

Point Pleasant Park

Perched on a rocky 75-hectare piece of land that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, this much-loved forested park has long been a haven for runners, dog walkers, bikers, and families. Not far from a scenic waterfront boardwalk, the quiet park is the ideal place to watch container ships and sailboats entering and leaving the city’s busy harbour, feel the ocean breeze, and listen to the crunch of the gravel trails under your shoes as you run. The outer perimeter is 3.2 kilometres, but if that’s too far you can make your way along several shorter hilly or flat trails and paths through the pine and spruce woods. Feeding the bold-as-brass chickadees and squirrels from your hand is an unexpected mid-city delight. 


N.B.: Harbour Passage (Saint John,
N.L.: Bowring Park (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Charlottetown boardwalk (Charlottetown)



Best Walking Trail to Inspire that Next Big Idea

Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge

Pedestrians, cyclists, and in-line skaters can meditate in motion on the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge while the mighty Saint John River flows beneath their feet. Connecting the north and south sides of New Brunswick’s capital since 1936, this 580-metre-long former railway bridge is open year-round to hundreds of daily users. “The bridge offers both residents and visitors the chance to connect with the river, allowing them to relax and reflect on the simple pleasures of life,” says Mike Glynn of the City of Fredericton’s park and trees division. 


N.L.: East Coast Trail (St. John’s,
N.S.: BLT Trail (St. Margaret’s Bay,
P.E.I.: Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada



Best Drop-Dead View for a Picnic








Cape Enrage Lighthouse, Fundy Trail
Waterside, N.B.

On a clear day, visitors to the Cape Enrage Interpretive Centre can see all the way across the Bay of Fundy to the north shore of Nova Scotia while standing next the 19th-century historic lighthouse. This breathtaking view is accentuated by the sound of waves pounding rocky cliffs as the tides rise as much as 16.3 metres every 12 hours. Take a picnic and enjoy the natural surroundings or dine at the Cape House restaurant. Adventurous visitors will enjoy the beauty of Cape Enrage from different viewpoints, either while glancing over their shoulders as they rappel down the cliff or moving at high speed on the new 180-metre zip line. 


N.L.: Signal Hill (St. John’s,
N.S.: Cape Split Trail (Scott’s Bay,
P.E.I.: Belmont Provincial Park (


Best Festival

Cavendish Beach Music Festival
Cavendish, P.E.I.

Once a year the coastal community of Cavendish, which is best known as the iconic hometown of Anne of Green Gables, transforms itself into one of Canada’s largest country-music festivals and welcomes more than 50,000 visitors. Fans from across the nation flock to the three-day Cavendish Beach Music Festival for the tunes and end up getting to know a welcoming city filled with great places to dine and plenty of other entertainment. The concert includes a main stage and smaller “kitchen” stage, viewing towers, corporate lounges, food vendors; thousands of fans will fill the fields of Avonlea Village. More than 30 musical acts will rock their stuff from July 5 to 7, including such superstars as Kenny Chesney, the Dixie Chicks, Little Big Town, and Jason Blaine. 


N.B.: Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival (Fredericton,
N.L.: Brigus Blueberry Festival (Brigus,
N.S.: Halifax Jazz Festival (Halifax,


Best Spa to Unwind

Spa at the Monastery and Suites
St. John’s

Located in a tastefully renovated heritage monastery just moments from downtown
St. John’s, it’s no surprise that this spa regularly wins this category. While the peaceful Monastery offers all of the traditional relaxation, beauty, rejuvenation, and therapeutic services you would expect in a traditional spa, guests can further pamper themselves in tantalizing mineral-water soaks, chromatherapy treatments, and indulgent sensory journeys. For a more exotic experience, Monastery offers a two-hour Himalayan Rejuvenation Treatment, aimed at detoxifying the body’s impurities. An overnight stay in one of the 31 luxurious rooms offers the ultimate relaxation and renewal experience. 


N.B.: Avalon SalonSpa (Fredericton,
N.S.: Spirit Spa (Halifax,
P.E.I.: Pure Spa (Charlottetown,


Best Gym and Trainer for Every Exercise Buff (or Not)

One to One Wellness Centre/Matt Mombourquette 

Armed with a kinesiology degree, Matt Mombourquette became a personal fitness coach when he joined One to One Wellness in 2007. Since then he has trained 11-year-old kids, 90-year-old seniors, and everyone in between. Possessing a passion for fitness and health, he admits that his 30-minute, high-intensity training sessions aren’t fun but hard work. What motivates Mombourquette and his clients are the results. “It’s rewarding to see the hard work making a difference in someone,” he says. That might mean greater mobility for an older person or stronger legs for someone preparing to hit the ski slopes. Off duty, he researches new training techniques and reads scientific literature on resistance training and nutrition. “I wouldn’t do anything with my clients that I haven’t already done myself,” he says. 


N.B.: Goodlife (Moncton,
N.L.: Goodlife (St. John’s,
P.E.I.: Naturally Fit/Jason Mosher 




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