The Getaway
15 Must-Try Dishes When Visiting Halifax

Located along the rough Atlantic coast, Halifax is a city where the ocean breeze brings the enticing smell of fresh seafood and the streets are filled with welcoming pubs and active farmers' markets. From the moment you arrive, it's evident that food is more than just nourishment here—it's a lifestyle. The food scene in Halifax is a delightful blend created from the city's deep maritime roots, the abundant yields of nearby farms, and the varied cultural impacts that have influenced its past. Whether you're a dedicated food enthusiast or just eager to try some of the city's standout dishes, Halifax offers a range of flavors to please every palate. From the well-loved donair, a local favorite, to the delicious lobster rolls that highlight the area's globally recognized seafood, the city's food options are as varied as they are tasty. Join us on a delicious exploration as we highlight 10 essential dishes that embody the spirit of Halifax's dynamic food scene.

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01 Donair

The donair is a beloved Halifax specialty that has captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and visitors alike. This savory sandwich features spiced shaved beef, typically a combination of ground beef and lamb, that is slow-cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The meat is then thinly sliced and served on a soft pita bread, topped with diced tomatoes, onions, and a generous drizzle of the iconic sweet donair sauce.

What sets the donair apart is its unique flavor profile. The meat is seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices, including garlic, oregano, and paprika, giving it a strong and slightly spicy taste. The sweet donair sauce, made with condensed milk, vinegar, and garlic, perfectly complements the savory meat and adds a distinct sweetness to every bite.

To experience the authentic taste of a Halifax donair, head to King of Donair, the restaurant that claims to have invented this local specialty in the 1970s. Other popular spots include Tony's Donair and Johnny K's Authentic Donairs, where you can savor this delectable sandwich in a casual and friendly atmosphere.

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02 Lobster rolls

Nova Scotia is renowned for its succulent cold-water lobsters, and no visit to Halifax would be complete without indulging in a classic lobster roll. The key to an exceptional lobster roll lies in its simplicity—generous portions of fresh, chunky lobster meat nestled in a soft, buttery bun.

When seeking out the perfect lobster roll, look for restaurants that prioritize freshness and quality. The lobster should be the star of the show, with minimal ingredients that enhance rather than overpower its delicate flavor. A touch of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkle of herbs are all that's needed to complement the sweet, tender meat.

One local favorite is The Canteen on Portland Street, where the lobster rolls are crafted with care and served on a warm, toasted bun. Other great places include Murphy's The Cable Wharf and Esquire Restaurant by the waterfront, both praised for their commitment to presenting the best seafood in the area.

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03 Seafood chowder

When it comes to seafood chowder, Halifax's offerings stand out from the rest. What sets these chowders apart is the abundance of fresh, locally sourced seafood that takes center stage in every bowl. From succulent lobster and tender scallops to flaky haddock, the seafood is the star of the show, simmered to perfection in a rich and creamy base that's never too heavy.

For an unforgettable seafood chowder experience, head to Salty's on the Halifax waterfront. Their award-winning chowder shows off the city's cooking skills, packed with big pieces of lobster, scallops, and haddock in a smooth broth that will warm you up. Other great places include The Press Gang and The Five Fishermen, both famous for their dedication to using the best seafood from the area in their chowders.

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04 Digby scallops

Hailing from the charming town of Digby in Nova Scotia, Digby scallops are renowned for their exceptional quality and unparalleled taste. These succulent sea scallops are harvested from the pristine waters of the Bay of Fundy, where the cold, nutrient-rich currents create the perfect environment for them to thrive. What sets Digby scallops apart is their sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture, making them a true delicacy among seafood lovers.

To fully appreciate the exquisite taste of Digby scallops, it's best to keep the preparation simple. Pan-searing them with a touch of butter, garlic, and herbs allows their natural flavors to shine through. Some restaurants may also offer them grilled or baked, but the key is to avoid overwhelming the scallops with heavy sauces or excessive seasoning.

When in Halifax, be sure to visit The Five Fishermen, a historic restaurant housed in a former schoolhouse that dates back to the 1800s. Their menu features a delightful array of seafood dishes, including perfectly seared Digby scallops that are sure to impress even the most discerning palate. Another noteworthy spot is The Press Gang, where the scallops are expertly prepared and served in an elegant, intimate setting.

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05 Oat cakes

Oat cakes are a beloved treat in Nova Scotian cuisine, reflecting the region's strong Scottish heritage. These humble yet delightful snacks are made with simple ingredients like oats, butter, and salt, resulting in a crisp, crumbly texture that's both satisfying and comforting. Well-made oat cakes strike a perfect balance between savory and sweet, with a subtle buttery richness that's complemented by the earthy, nutty flavor of the oats.

For some of the best oat cakes in Halifax, head to the Farmers' Market, where you'll find an array of local vendors offering their own unique takes on this classic treat.

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06 Blueberry grunt

Blueberry grunt is a classic Nova Scotian dessert that showcases the region's abundant wild blueberries. This comforting dish features a sweet, bubbling blueberry filling topped with soft, pillowy dumplings that are steamed to perfection. The blueberries, often picked from the province's coastal barrens, lend a delightful tartness that's balanced by the sweetness of the dumplings.

The grunt gets its unique name from the sound the blueberries make as they simmer beneath the dumplings. As the berries cook down, they release their juices, creating a luscious, syrupy base that's bursting with flavor. The dumplings, made with flour, sugar, and butter, are dropped onto the simmering blueberries, absorbing the fruity goodness as they steam.

For an authentic taste of this Nova Scotian classic, head to The Wooden Monkey in Halifax. This cozy, eco-conscious restaurant serves up a delectable blueberry grunt made with locally sourced, organic ingredients. Their version is served warm, often with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream that melts luxuriously over the top, creating a perfect harmony of flavors and textures.

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07 Garlic fingers

A beloved staple in Halifax's pizza scene, garlic fingers are a delightful twist on traditional pizza that will tantalize your taste buds. These savory, finger-shaped strips of pizza dough are generously brushed with a fragrant garlic butter sauce and topped with a blend of melted cheeses, creating a perfect harmony of flavors and textures.

The key to exceptional garlic fingers lies in the balance of ingredients. The dough should be crisp on the outside yet soft and chewy on the inside, providing a satisfying base for the toppings. The garlic butter sauce, made with fresh garlic and high-quality butter, should be applied liberally, ensuring that every bite is infused with a rich, aromatic flavor. The cheese, typically a combination of mozzarella and cheddar, should be melted to gooey perfection, creating a delightful stringy texture that complements the garlic butter perfectly.

For some of the best garlic fingers in Halifax, head to Salvatore's Pizza. This local chain is renowned for its authentic garlic fingers, which are made with their signature pizza dough, a generous helping of garlic butter, and a blend of cheeses that will leave you craving more. Another noteworthy spot is Alexandra's Pizza, where the garlic fingers are consistently praised for their perfect ratio of garlic butter to cheese, resulting in a truly addictive treat.

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08 Hodge Podge

Hodge podge is a traditional Nova Scotian dish that showcases the region's fresh, seasonal produce. This comforting stew features a medley of vegetables simmered in a creamy, savory broth, creating a hearty and satisfying meal that's perfect for any occasion.

The beauty of hodge podge lies in its simplicity and versatility. The ingredients can vary depending on what's available, but it often includes tender new potatoes, sweet carrots, crisp peas, and snappy green beans. These vegetables are gently cooked until they're just tender, allowing their natural flavors to shine through. The broth, made with a combination of cream, butter, and seasonings, is rich and velvety, coating each vegetable in a luxurious sauce.

To experience an authentic taste of hodge podge in Halifax, head to The Armview Restaurant & Lounge. This cozy, family-friendly spot serves up a classic version of the dish, made with the freshest local vegetables and a perfectly seasoned cream sauce. Another great option is The Wooden Monkey, where the hodge podge is prepared with organic, locally sourced ingredients, showcasing the restaurant's commitment to sustainability and quality.

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09 Solomon Gundy

Solomon Gundy is a unique and flavorful dish that originated in Nova Scotia, Canada. It consists of pickled herring that has been cured in a brine solution and then smoked, resulting in a rich, savory flavor profile. The herring is typically chopped into small pieces and mixed with diced onions, creating a chunky, relish-like consistency.

What sets Solomon Gundy apart is its bold, complex taste. The pickling process infuses the herring with a tangy, slightly sour note, while the smoking adds a deep, smoky flavor that lingers on the palate. The onions provide a sharp, pungent contrast that complements the richness of the fish.

To experience the authentic taste of Solomon Gundy in Halifax, head to The Henry House Restaurant & Pub. This historic spot, housed in a charming 19th-century building, serves a traditional version of the dish that's garnished with crisp crackers and a wedge of lemon. The combination of textures and flavors creates a truly memorable appetizer that showcases the region's culinary heritage.

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10 Rappie Pie

Rappie pie is a traditional Acadian dish that has been enjoyed in Nova Scotia for generations. This hearty and comforting casserole showcases the region's love for simple, wholesome ingredients and rustic cooking techniques.

The main components of rappie pie are grated potatoes, onions, and meat or seafood, typically chicken or clams. The potatoes are finely grated and then squeezed to remove excess moisture, resulting in a unique texture that's both crispy and soft. The onions are sautéed until tender and mixed with the grated potatoes, while the meat or seafood is cooked separately and layered into the dish.

To assemble the pie, the potato mixture is pressed into a greased baking dish, creating a thick, dense base. The cooked meat or seafood is then layered on top, and the dish is baked until golden brown and crispy around the edges. The casserole turns out delicious and is great for meals with loved ones.

Rappie pie is typically seen in Acadian areas across Nova Scotia, but you can also try it in some places in Halifax. The Ardmore Tea Room, a cozy and inviting spot known for its comfort food, sometimes offers rappie pie as a special menu item. Keep an eye out for this delicious Acadian classic during your visit to Halifax.

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11 Haddock fish cakes

Homemade fish cutlets.

Haddock fish cakes are a beloved staple in Nova Scotian cuisine, reflecting the region's deep-rooted fishing heritage and love for simple, hearty fare. These savory cakes are made with a combination of flaky haddock, mashed potatoes, and seasonings, creating a delightful balance of textures and flavors.

What sets a great haddock fish cake apart is the quality of the ingredients and the care taken in preparation. The haddock should be fresh and flaky, with a delicate, slightly sweet flavor that's not overpowered by the other components. The potatoes should be creamy and well-seasoned, providing a smooth, comforting base for the fish. Herbs like parsley and green onions add a bright, fresh note, while a touch of lemon juice lends a subtle tanginess that complements the richness of the fish.

When seeking out the best haddock fish cakes in Halifax, head to most of the pubs in town. This ccity is renowned for its homemade fish cakes, which are crafted with care using the freshest ingredients. Their version usually features a generous portion of flaked haddock, perfectly seasoned mashed potatoes, and a crispy golden exterior that's sure to satisfy. Another great option is The Armview Restaurant & Lounge, where the haddock fish cakes are a popular breakfast item, served with a side of tangy chow-chow relish that perfectly complements the savory flavors of the cakes.

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12 Dulse

Dulse is an edible seaweed that has been enjoyed in Nova Scotia for generations. This unique sea vegetable is harvested along the province's rugged Atlantic coast, where the cold, clean waters provide the perfect environment for it to thrive.

What sets dulse apart is its distinctive taste and texture. It has a rich, umami flavor that's often described as slightly salty and savory, with a hint of ocean brininess. The texture is soft and chewy, making it a satisfying snack or addition to various dishes.

In Halifax, you can find dulse at the iconic Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. This active market features an array of local vendors, many of whom sell fresh or dried dulse. Look for stalls offering locally harvested sea vegetables, and don't hesitate to ask for recommendations on how to prepare and enjoy this unique delicacy.

One popular way to savor dulse is to enjoy it as a simple snack. Many locals love to munch on dried dulse straight from the bag, appreciating its natural flavor and chewy texture. You can also crumble dried dulse over salads, soups, or pasta dishes for a pop of umami flavor and added nutrition.

For a truly authentic Nova Scotian experience, try a dulse and cream cheese sandwich. This classic combination features a generous layer of cream cheese spread on soft bread, topped with a sprinkling of crumbled dulse. The rich, creamy cheese perfectly complements the salty, savory notes of the seaweed, creating a unique and addictive flavor profile that's sure to leave a lasting impression.

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13 Haskap berry treats

Small glass jar with homemade haskap berry jam, on wooden background with bowl of fresh haskap (honeysuckle, honeyberry) berries, copy space

Haskap berries, also known as honeyberries, are a relatively new addition to Nova Scotia's thriving berry scene. These oblong, deep blue berries have been gaining popularity among local farmers and food enthusiasts due to their unique flavor profile and impressive nutritional benefits.

Haskap berries boast a complex taste that's often described as a cross between blueberries, raspberries, and elderberries. They have a delightful balance of sweetness and tartness, with a hint of tanginess that sets them apart from other berries. The texture is soft and juicy, with tiny edible seeds that add a pleasant crunch.

When in Halifax, be sure to seek out some delectable haskap berry treats. One must-visit spot is Rousseau Chocolatier, a charming boutique chocolatier known for its exquisite confections. They offer a range of haskap berry-infused chocolates, including decadent truffles and chocolate bars that beautifully showcase the berry's unique flavor.

Another great option is The Coastal Cafe, where you might find haskap berries featured in their seasonal desserts, such as crumbles, tarts, or parfaits. The berries' vibrant color and tangy-sweet taste make them a perfect addition to these comforting, homemade treats.

For a refreshing twist, keep an eye out for haskap berry lemonade or cocktails at local cafes and bars. The berries' tartness pairs wonderfully with the bright, citrusy notes of lemon, creating a thirst-quenching beverage that captures the essence of summer in Nova Scotia.

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14 Craft beer and cider

Halifax boasts a thriving craft beer and cider scene, with over 15 local breweries and several cideries that showcase the region's passion for artisanal beverages. Many of these establishments use ingredients from Nova Scotia in their products, like hops, apples, and berries grown locally, leading to distinctive and tasty creations that mirror the local flavor of the province.

For beer enthusiasts, recommended breweries to visit include Garrison Brewing Company, one of Halifax's first craft breweries recognized for their creative and award-winning beers, and 2 Crows Brewing Co., a recent addition that has rapidly built a reputation for their innovative and adventurous brews. The Halifax Waterfront is also home to several brewpubs and taprooms, such as The Stubborn Goat Beer Garden and Gahan House, where you can sample a wide range of local craft beers while enjoying stunning views of the harbor.

Cider lovers will delight in the offerings from local cideries like Chain Yard Urban Cidery, which crafts small-batch ciders using 100% Nova Scotian apples, and Lake City Cider, known for their unique flavor combinations and commitment to supporting local farmers. Many of these cideries also offer tastings and tours, providing a fascinating glimpse into the cider-making process and the opportunity to sample a variety of styles.

To fully immerse yourself in Halifax's craft beer and cider scene, consider visiting during one of the city's annual festivals, such as the Halifax Seaport Cider & Beerfest or the Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week, which showcase the best of the region's artisanal beverages and provide a lively, festive atmosphere for sampling and celebration.

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15 Halifax Farmers' Market finds

No visit to Halifax would be complete without exploring the lively Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, the oldest continuously operating farmers' market in North America. This active market is a true showcase of the region's rich agricultural heritage and thriving food scene, featuring over 250 vendors selling an incredible array of local produce, artisanal foods, and unique culinary delights.

As you wander through the market, you'll be greeted by the tantalizing aromas of freshly baked bread, sizzling sausages, and fragrant spices. Be sure to stop by the Annapolis Valley Cheesemakers' stall to sample some of the finest local cheeses, crafted with care using traditional methods and the freshest milk from nearby farms. For a taste of international flavors, check out Pinoy's Best, a popular vendor specializing in mouthwatering Filipino steamed buns and dumplings.

Other must-try items include the market's famous fish cakes, made with locally caught haddock and served piping hot, as well as the wide selection of jams, chutneys, and preserves crafted from the region's bountiful harvests. Don't forget to grab a bag of crisp Nova Scotian apples or a pint of juicy wild blueberries to snack on as you explore.

With its lively atmosphere, friendly vendors, and an incredible selection of local foods, the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market is a true gem in the city's culinary crown. Whether you're a foodie seeking out the latest artisanal creations or simply looking to immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, this market is not to be missed.

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