If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, Halifax is a beautiful coastal city that bursts with charm and authenticity. I also consider it to have one of the country’s most-underrated smaller-scale food scenes, which includes restaurants such as Edna, the Argyle Street institution Economy Shoe Shop and cocktail bars such as Field Guide. All are worthy of national recognition in their own right. Recently, a new Halifax-themed eatery, Blowers and Grafton, has set out to offer Calgary a taste of what they think the East Coast offers.
The cozy, 30ish-seat establishment gets its name from the intersection of Halifax’s famed Pizza Corner, which gained its notoriety from a trio of late-night fast-casual spots – the iconic King of Donair (relocated years ago), the European Food Shop (closed in 2015) and Sicilian Pizza (still operational).
Though not the indulgent, calorie-ridden destination that it once was, plenty of boozed-up individuals will flock to these cross-streets well into the early hours. On occasion, myself included.
“The Haligonians – with a rich history of street-food bravados – have created Canada’s most enduring street foods and have wondrously managed to cluster them in the intersection of Blowers & Grafton,” Blowers and Grafton proudly proclaims on its food menu.
To be blunt, nothing could be further from the truth. Halifax does have its own, unique food history, but street food? Like most other Canadian cities, aside from hot dog carts and food trucks, you won’t find much of it.
If you want a good grasp of what “street food” is, the lively Richmond Night Market on Canada’s West Coast is an excellent example. Sizzling woks of oil waiting to deep-fry chunks of skewered meat and vegetables, crowds of people bustling up and down the rows and rows of food stalls cramped side by side. It’s energetic, hectic and an assault on the senses.
Which is all to say that there is plenty of misinformation offered up here, but within the parameters of its concept, Grafton does a decent job of Halifax late-night specialties, especially for those who yearn for a taste of home. Deep-fried Brothers pepperoni, donair wraps, donair pizza and garlic fingers all grace the menu.
The latter are, essentially, vivified bread sticks made from pizza dough, drenched in garlic butter, plenty of mozzarella cheese and a side of donair sauce. These “fingers” amount to the same size as a large pizza, so consider it more of a main than an appetizer.
The classic sauce – a combination of condensed milk, vinegar, sugar and garlic powder – helps make it extra filling.
The fried pepperoni comes from its namesake, the well-established deli and meat-supply company in Halifax. Served with a couple of ounces of honey mustard for dipping, there’s not much to complain about. On both of my visits, my donair wrap was on the soggy side, with the thin slices of donair drenched in too much sauce and hardly any diced tomatoes or white onions – both of which are traditional additions for this style of donair.
Outside of staples, the one small glimmer of creativity came by way of the blueberry grunt “doughnuts.” Grunt is a traditional dessert of Nova Scotia, similar to an apple or berry crisp, but is filled with wild blueberries and topped with buttery dough instead. In this reinvention, fried balls of biscuit dough are made-to-order and served with sweet blueberry sauce, finished with a maple-and-condensed-milk glaze.
People wanting a sip of the coast won’t find it in the bar’s minimal spirit selection or bizarre and overpriced cocktail list, but what you can do is take a swig from a bottle of beer made by Garrison Brewing Company, Halifax’s most well-known brewery save Alexander Keith’s.
Over all, I can’t deny that Grafton gives East Coast transplants a taste of the familiar here in Calgary. Just know that there is much more to Halifax’s culinary culture than garlic fingers and a sweet sauce-soaked donair, much like there’s more to our city’s food scene than simply steak and potatoes.Report Typo/Error
Follow us on Twitter: