When both locals and tourists love a restaurant, you know it has to be good: Rhubarb Café in Nova Scotia

img_3994One of the great pleasures of travel is discovering new places to eat. Sometimes, though, revisiting a favourite haunt can be equally fabulous as illustrated by our recent road trip through northeastern US and Canada.

When visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia, it is mandatory to take a trip along what the tourism people call the “lighthouse route.” And for discerning travelers, it’s mandatory to eat along the way. There are choices: you can eat at Peggy’s Cove if all you really want is the view of the lighthouse (the food is secondary), or you can stop in at Hackett’s Cove and eat at the Finer Diner. We aren’t kidding: that’s really their name (the food is okay; the view okay). We’ve eaten at both on more than one occasion. Or you can make the right choice and stop in Indian Harbour at the best of the lot: Rhubarb Café.

Let’s back-track for just a moment. We used to live on the east coast, on the shore of St. Margaret’s Bay about a seven-minute drive from Rhubarb, a restaurant that has had at least three different owners since we first began visiting it. But it wasn’t until the current proprietors took it over that it was truly able to strike that balance that restaurants in touristy areas need – they need to offer something for tourists and locals equally so that they can thrive in both the tourist season and in the off season. Current owner/operators Diane and Jim Buckle have found just the right recipe.

You leave downtown Halifax and take route 333 along the coast, looping past Peggy’s Cove on the way to Indian Harbour. You can eventually close up the loop and head back into the city, or continue along the St. Margaret’s Bay Road (or the highway if you prefer) down along Nova Scotia’s south shore. But before you do, have lunch, dinner or weekend brunch at Rhubarb.


Rhubarb’s tag line is “…delicious food and welcoming service in a cozy seaside setting…” And it lives up to its press. We first met Diane when she was working at the restaurant at Peggy’s Cove many years ago. We always knew that she had exactly the right personality and customer service mentality to make it on her own in the business if the opportunity presented itself. When she and her husband Jim took over Rhubarb some years ago, we couldn’t have been more delighted for them – and for us.

Restauranteur-extraordinaire, Diane Buckle, behind her bar at Rhubarb.


Located adjacent to Oceanstone Seaside Resort (but not actually a part of it), Rhubarb focuses its menu on comfort food with a dash of culinary inventiveness. For example, their kale Caesar salad is truly wonderful, as are their pork tenderloin and their crispy haddock – these are favourites of ours. However, we also visit Rhubarb for creative pizzas, and they often offer a specially-topped pizza of the day. Their 10-inch, thin-crust pizzas are really worth trying. Art’s favourite is the Lawrencetown (named after a famous Nova Scotia beach) – bacon, red onion, pineapple and hot peppers. Odd sounding? Maybe, but it works.

So the food is worth the drive. And the welcoming service is worth the drive. What about the ambience?

The cozy dining room has two focal points: the view of the bay beyond (it’s not directly on the water), and the large fireplace. As you dine, you’ll be surrounded by a plethora of local artists’ work. Every time we visit, the art work is different – and it is all for sale. It’s great fun to take a walk around and peer at the walls while waiting for lunch – although if it’s busy you might want to peer from afar so as not to annoy other diners! Feel free to buy one, though.

It’s not often that we focus on just one restaurant or hotel in our stories, but this one is worth spending a bit of time on. Wonderful people serving delicious comfort food. Need we say more?

Visit Rhubarb online at http://www.rhubarbrestaurant.ca/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/therhubarbrestaurant/?fref=ts

It’s “cooler” along the coast: Day tripping in Halifax

We boarded our neighbor's boat on the Halifax waterfront.
We boarded our neighbor’s boat on the Halifax waterfront.

For those of us who live along Canada’s Atlantic coast, weather reports in the summer always tell us that it will be “cooler along the coast.”   But we just think that everything is cooler along a coast!  If you have yet to spend any of your travel time along Canada’s Atlantic coast, come along with us – yesterday we spent a wonderful afternoon on the water in Halifax harbor, seeing our city from that different point of view – it’s so much cooler to see things from the water!

It was fabulously sunny and breezy as our wonderful neighbors picked us up at Cable Wharf on one of the floating docks beside Halifax’s Murphy’s on the Water and we were off.  Murphy’s itself is a restaurant, event space and water tour company all wrapped up in one.  For discerning travelers who aren’t as lucky as we are to have friends with (large) boats for touring, you can book a tour at Murphy’s on any one of a variety of boats.  We had the private experience – and we were off!

Once onboard as we shared sandwiches and a bottle of wine, we were reminded momentarily of our perfect day on the Med a few years ago.  But we didn’t have to travel to Monaco for it.

Halifax's waterfront: Historic Properties, the Marriott Hotel and Purdy's Wharf office towers beyond.
Halifax’s waterfront: Historic Properties, the Marriott Hotel and Purdy’s Wharf office towers beyond.

If you’ve traveled widely and have had the good fortune to see other harbors around the world, Halifax might seem diminutive by comparison to, say, Sydney, Australia (click here to see our entry into Sydney Harbor by cruise ship last winter), but there is something about the very compactness of the city and the elegance of the two suspension bridge spans that join the two sides of the city.  The air is clear and clean, and the other water traffic varied and interesting.

Just off the dock and we motored past Theodore Tugboat of television fame.  It might surprise travelers with children who love Theodore to know that he is a product of Halifax.  Indeed, the harbor where this children’s TV celebrity plies his trade on any given foggy day is a replica of this very harbor.  (If you don’t know Theodore, read all the way to the bottom and then watch him in action!)

You can even tour the harbor on Theodore Too.
You can even tour the harbor on Theodore Too.

Then, of course there are the varied tour boats.  The first one we see is a large sailing vessel, followed by the inevitable amphibious vehicle that tours locals and tourists alike not only on the harbor water, but also on the city streets.  In Halifax it’s the Harbour Hippo.

Just past the waterfront Historic Properties , the Marriott Hotel and the casino, we motored past numerous naval vessels (Halifax is home to Canada’s Atlantic fleet) and pleasure craft of various kinds and sizes.  We motored under both bridges and around what’s called Bedford Basin then back past the downtown and around into what is known as the Northwest Arm.

The main downtown portion of the city is on a peninsula that runs between the harbor and the Arm which is home to waterfront mansions and the Yacht clubs where dozens of tiny sail boats scurried across in front of us – ten-year-olds at the helms as they learned the fine points of sailing.

The Harbour Hopper: need we say more?
The Harbour Hopper: need we say more?
Motoring into "The Arm."
Motoring into “The Arm.”


The best bargain way to see the city from the water is to hop on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry for a return trip.
The best bargain way to see the city from the water is to hop on the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry for a return trip.


A "mansion" on the Arm
A “mansion” on the Arm
The "Dingle Tower" & looking back out to sea from the Northwest Arm.
The “Dingle Tower” & looking back out to sea from the Northwest Arm.

Coastal cities have a vibe that’s different from the land-locked variety.  Maybe it’s the salt air and the ubiquitous seagulls.  Maybe it’s the way the sun sparkles off the water creating a sheet of diamonds.  Or maybe it’s just that there’s a kind of romance to a coastal life.  We just think it’s ‘cooler.’

Now, if you’d like to see how Theodore Tugboat sees Halifax…

One perfect end-of-summer day – in Nova Scotia

As you round the point from St. Margaret’s Bay into Mahone Ba,y the ocean can be sightly rough even on an otherwise calm day.

It seems like every time we think about a perfect day that we’d like to bottle up to take out at a later date to relive, we’re on a boat.  The first one we can remember was a day of sailing in the British Virgin Islands, the only time in her life when Patty sat at a bar (on an otherwise deserted island – Norman Island to be specific) in a bikini!  A couple of years ago, we rented a boat and a captain and motored along the French Riviera, glass of champagne in hand.

This past week, as we near the end of summer, we’re traveling closer to home.  Armed with a picnic and a full tank of gas, we motored our 24-foot Chris Craft out of our cove on St. Margaret’s Bay in the Halifax region of Nova Scotia.  We headed across the bay and rounded the point of land the separates St. Margaret’s Bay from Mahone Bay and headed toward the tiny village of Chester.   More of a summer refuge for both Americans and Canadians who can afford the fabulously large, east-coast-styled clapboard dwellings, the village is on every tourist’s travel itinerary as they make their way along what is known as the lighthouse route on the south shore of Nova Scotia.  Seeing it from the water, however, always imbues it with a different kind of charm.

The Chester waterfront dominated byt the pub-like “Rope Loft” restaurant.

After Chester, we made our way along the coast and into Marriott’s Cove that is home to the South Shore Marina and one of our favorite out-of-town restaurants, The Galley.  We pulled in to top up our gas and then were off to Oak Island.  Yes, Oak Island of the buried treasure fame.  Situated just on the shore that is connected to the island with a causeway is the Oak Island Inn and Spa.  Rather than pull into here for lunch, we dropped anchor just off the mysterious Oak Island and had a wonderful lunch in the sunshine.

Just after lunch it was about time to head home thinking that we’ll remember this day next winter when we’re gazing out a window to see the snowflakes dancing on the dock!

The iconic “three churches” from the water in the village of Mahone Bay itself.
In Nova Scotia, when they say a cottage is “on the water,” you had better be more specific!
Houses on the Chester peninsula.

A discerning guide to traveling close to home: Seeing Nova Scotia through new eyes

The iconic Peggy’s Cove lighthouse – with the Sou’wester Restaurant to the left.

How far away from home do you have to go before it counts as ‘traveling’?  Indeed, what are a couple of discerning (and inveterate) travelers to do when stuck in their offices, chained to their desks  for a few months with only the smallest of travel lights at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel?  We think that if they are true travelers, they can hop into the car, crank up the satellite radio and set out on a day trip that would make even the most jaded armchair traveler green with envy.  So, that’s what we did last week.

Striking out on the east coast of Canada is a no-brainer ; there are so many things to see and experience.

Sometimes we book a room at our favorite waterfront hotel downtown and spend a Saturday night pretending we’re tourists in our home town.  We have dinner, walk along the beautifully restored Halifax boardwalk and relish sleeping in and having breakfast served to us in the dining room with a front-row seat on the harbor.  Well, that’s for next week on Art’s birthday.  Last week, we set out around St. Margaret’s Bay, the home of Peggy’s Cove, and then around to Mahone Bay.

An iconic fishing village, Peggy’s Cove seems to be a tourist must-see in this part of the world.  The truth is that there are many just as charming fishing villages dotted along the Atlantic shoreline of Nova Scotia.  But Peggy’s Cove, at the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay is synonymous with Maritime culture it seems.  It’s actually only a ten-minute drive from where we live, so we like to take a Sunday noon-hour drive there to sit at the Sou’wester Restaurant to indulge in fish and chips about twice a year.

The actual cove that put the ‘cove’ in Peggy’s Cove!

(We can’t justify following this lunch with their gingerbread – but you should try it!)In the fall, this part of Canada is subject to the ravages of hurricanes that make their way up the eastern seaboard of the United States.  This means that the day after a hurricane is the best time to sit and watch the grandeur of Mother Nature as she pounds the waves against the shoreline making mountains of foaming surf.

The other direction out our driveway takes us to Mahone Bay.  Larger than St. Margaret’s Bay, Mahone Bay is home to dozens of little islands, making it a haven for sail boats and small yachts.  We love to drive along, finding wonderful little places to lunch; and although we’re not ‘antiquers’ (as we’ve taken pains to mention before), we can still tell you that if you are, then you’re in luck because antique shops are dotted along the shoreline in many of the villages we pass through.

Where the Discerning Travelers day-trip.

Last weekend we were delighted to find a favorite restaurant had reopened.  Closed for some three or so years, The Galley, located at South Shore Marine, has reopened for business.  We did a U-turn in the middle of the road when we spied the ‘open’ sign so that we could once again sit in a window seat over the marina and watch the sailboats rocking in the breeze.  It’s a good thing that we didn’t have any hard and fast plans or we would have missed the best lobster rolls ever.  After lunch we continued on to our destination: the local nursery that stocks the best annuals and perennials in the area.  After a bit of shopping, we made our way home, happy in the knowledge that in spite of our currently busy schedules, we could find a short trip to take us away from our own yard.

A beautiful summer day on Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

So, if you can only venture out for a day, here are our favorite tips for discerning travel in your own neck of the woods:

  • Don’t plan or at least don’t over-plan.  Although this is counter-intuitive to the discerning travel mantra, these kinds of trips are better left a bit loose.  We would have missed eating at The Galley last weekend if we had followed through on our loose plan to eat at the Seaside Shanty and Chowder House (which is kitschy and quaint).
  • Try something new.  This is your chance to turn down a road less traveled, a road that you’ve always wondered about.  Just go.
  • Take photos.   We’ve mentioned before that seeing the world through the lens of your camera might not make for the best experience of a place.  The truth is, though, that we often don’t take photos close to home.  This is a chance to turn this on its head: take photos of the things that you thought you knew.  Later, when you look at them, you just might see more-or-less familiar places from a different point of view.

Oh…and if you are actually planning a trip to the east coast of Canada (or will stop in on a cruise of New England and eastern Canada) we have a few suggestions for discerning travelers.  Here are a few of our favorites in and around the city.

Part of the Halifax weterfront

Favorite Restaurants: Il Mercato for chicken-filled ravioli and the best pizza anywhere, Da Maurizio for fine Northern Italian, The Five Fishermen for Nova Scotia seafood, The Bicycle Thief because it has the best harbor-front location.

Favorite Photo Ops: The Halifax Public Gardens, Citadel Hill, the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry from the middle of the harbor, Historic Properties, the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse (45 minutes from downtown)

Favorite Shopping Spots: Park Lane on Spring Garden Road (best shoe store in the city, ladies), Spring Garden Road in general (just stroll along).

But please remember: if you rent a car and take that day trip to Peggy’s Cove, remember that many of us live there and like to get where we’re going.  If you want to take in the views, please pull over!

Photo credit:

Halifax waterfront:  http://www.ecslcanada.com/UserFiles/Image/Halifax%20Images/Ship.jpg