Matt Jennings of Boston's recently opened Townsman recently spent several days in St. John, Newfoundland for the Northern Chefs Alliance, a culinary think-tank for some of North America’s top chefs. Food, of course, was top of mind. Here, his five top picks for lobster rolls, Canadian comfort food, and chef-approved potato chips.
“This is the ultimate St. John dive bar. It's been around since 1842 and has that classic, throwback feel, darkly lit and underground with lots of nautical memorabilia. Technically it's a museum, as recognized by the Museum Association of Canada. They're very proud of their war heroes, which you could feel all around you at this place, given its location adjacent to the National War Memorial.”
“Another one of Jeremy Charles's spots, this is St. John's version of a New England seafood joint. It's super casual but the food quality is exceptional. Jeremy puts his own spin on New England comfort food classics. We had a killer fried fish sandwich with some local Newfoundland cod, lobster rolls, burgers, fried chicken; you name it. Jeremy's makes something special out of the ordinary.”
“Raymonds is not to be missed while in the region. The head chef, Jeremy Charles, is a good friend of mine and his food is the epitome of "new Northern" cuisine. Everything is super fresh and locally sourced or foraged. It's almost Noma-esque, with lots of naturalistic influence—things plated on beach rocks, etc. Get the arctic char and enjoy some of the amazing wines picked by their sommelier, Jeremy Bonia.”
“This place is built in one of the oldest wooden structures in America. How cool is that? The restaurant is in a super cozy cabin with low ceilings, right on the harbor. The vibe is very homey. It's a great spot for brunch or lunch, and in this setting, you can't go wrong with any of their seafood options. I'd recommend the lobster roll and the razor clams. It was so good, we went back twice.”
Esso gas station
“This might sound silly, but being the junk food appreciator that I am, one of my favorite food memories from the trip was finding regional potato chip flavors at the Esso gas stations. Crazy stuff like roasted chicken-flavored potato chips, ketchup potato chips, and even poutine potato chips. I took a foraging trip with a bunch of the chefs and it was a sight to see all of us clamoring for this Canadian junk fix during our pit stop.”