canada letter restaurants that are local institutions according to readers

We asked Canada Letter readers to tell us about the restaurants that have become institutions in their communities.

To end the year, we’re catching up on some old business.

A while back, in a newsletter about Bistro Praha in Edmonton, we asked you to tell us about restaurants that have become local institutions.

Read: Restaurants That Are Institutions as Much as Places to Dine

Les Fougères opened 30 years ago in Chelsea, Quebec.Ian Austen/The New York Times

Things are tough right now for many restaurants. Worldwide food inflation has, in some cases, increased the costs of ingredients used in restaurant kitchens beyond the ability of these businesses to raise their menu prices. In January, the government will start charging interest on the emergency loans that kept many of them in business during the pandemic. And staff members remain difficult to recruit in many areas. A July survey by Restaurants Canada, a lobby group, estimated that 33 percent of restaurants were operating at a loss, compared with 7 percent before the pandemic.

As we wrote earlier, restaurants that are considered institutions may not offer impressive décor or the ultimate in cuisine (although some do), and many are in less than inviting locations. But they are often part of people’s routines, or they are the places people return to when they visit their hometowns.

Below are a handful of the favorites you sent us.

Our best wishes to all of you for 2024.

The following submissions have been edited for clarity and length.

Les Fougères in Chelsea, Quebec

“The food is delicious, well portioned, beautifully presented and served by excellent staff, usually staff with presence, personality and experience. As for being an institution, Les Fougères is the definition. They have never wavered in their support of their community and the community beyond. I can’t begin to list the good causes they have supported. As for celebrities, too many to name have passed through their doors, and often late at night.”

David Maitland, Chelsea, Quebec

John’s Family Diner in Ottawa serves only lunch and breakfast.Ian Austen/The New York Times

John’s Family Diner in Ottawa

“It just so happens that my morning walk today took me to John’s Family Diner along Wellington Street for my usual: two eggs over medium, peameal bacon, beans, wheat toast and coffee. The place was hopping at 10 a.m. There are lots of small tables, so you don’t feel uncomfortable sitting alone. You feel like you’re joining your extended family.”

Brian Gold, Ottawa

Little Bavaria Restaurant in Port Alberni, British Columbia

“It’s several years since my last trip to Vancouver Island, but a friend from Comox ate there recently (having grown up in Port Alberni and knowing it was the place to go to for a special catch-up-with-old-friends meal) and was extolling its many virtues: excellent schnitzels, friendly atmosphere, attentive but not intrusive service. From the street, it’s in no way prepossessing and you would never guess what delights are just behind the door.”

Rita Legros, London, England

The Armview Restaurant and Lounge in Halifax

“I live in the west end of Halifax, and for 70 years the Armview Restaurant and Lounge has been a mainstay in the neighborhood. The diner décor is mostly original with some upgrades, along with the menu, which still features such longtime favorites as liver and onions (although I suspect it’s not the most popular item on the menu). The steak and frites are a big favorite in my crowd, and the burgers are always a hit. The patrons are a diverse group of folks from not just the neighborhood but from across the city.”

Christa Hornberger, Halifax

At Les Fougères, a reader writes, the meals are “delicious, well portioned, beautifully presented.”Ian Austen/The New York Times

Nick’s Steakhouse in Calgary

“The restaurant institution I immediately thought of in Calgary is Nick’s Steakhouse. It has been around since the 1970s (an era of dark brown wood interiors and yellow stained-glass windows). Nick’s is conveniently located between the University of Calgary, McMahon Stadium, Motel Village and a transit stop. My parents used to go there when they were in university, and we go there, too — especially for deep-dish, guilty pleasure pizza.”

Caitlind Brown, Calgary

The Bruce in Kincardine, Ontario

“I’ve had meals here over the past eight years and never had a bad meal yet! It is typical pub fare: steak, hamburgers, fish and chips, with some interesting entrees thrown in. (Their Cajun-style blackened catfish is delicious!) The big attraction, other than great food, is the location, on a hill overlooking the town’s lighthouse and the lake. Each summer, their popular outdoor patio is jam-packed with folks who want to enjoy their drinks while watching a marvelous sunset.”

Lee Evans, Neustadt, Ontario


Jason French, a Toronto man who has long been treated for depression, intends to seek an assisted death when Canada’s rules change.Ian Willms for The New York Times
  • Canadians cannot receive medical assistance in dying if their sole medical condition is a mental illness. But that could change in March.

  • Despite recent political tensions with India, Canada remains a big draw for international students. In Timmins, a town in northern Ontario, 82 percent of a public college’s students come from abroad — nearly all from India, writes Norimitsu Onishi.

  • Two Canadians make the list of The Times’s favorite Saturday Profiles of 2023.

  • Elaine Glusac, the columnist behind The Times’s Frugal Traveler series, offers some tips on how to take the whole family skiing without going broke.

  • For the wealthy, owning a private island is the ultimate status symbol. “The idea of having your own island really fits into that American entrepreneurial spirit,” said Chris Krolow, the Canadian chief executive of a real estate website that lists private islands. He owns 13 in Canada, Belize and Fiji.


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for over two decades.

Vjosa Isai is a reporter and researcher for The New York Times in Toronto.


How are we doing?
We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to nytcanada@nytimes.com.

Like this email?
Forward it to your friends, and let them know they can sign up here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *