We had the great pleasure of touring Via Rail writer, Sue Nador & son around downtown Guelph.
A DAY TRIP TO GUELPH
March 9, 2018
“Want to visit Guelph?” I ask my 20-something–year-old son. We feel a mid-winter itch to escape the big city. Only an hour train ride from Toronto, Guelph seemed like a first-rate destination for day-tripping since neither of us had ever gone. I’ve been on a bit of a kick lately, discovering the delights of close-by and unassuming cities like Chatham and Kitchener. Guelph seemed the logical next stop.
We roll into Guelph’s historic train station at noon on a misty February day. Crossing over to Old City Hall to meet Taste Detours’ Lynn Broughton for a three-hour romp to restaurants and points of interest, we spot her immediately holding two cups of hot chocolate and pastries from Eric the Baker. My son takes a sip. “I thought I’d grown out of hot chocolate – but apparently not,” he says. Yes, our day is off to a good start.
A Little Slice of Europe
Lynn gives us a history lesson in front of the statue of John Galt, Guelph’s Scottish founder. He arrived in 1827 to build a hub for agriculture and commerce with a European flare. Indeed, Guelph feels like a little slice of Europe. Its downtown is lined with low-rise historic limestone buildings, old churches and a market square that lies in the shadow of the majestic Basilica Of Our Lady.
Like Europe, Guelph also has its local watering holes and share of “scandalous” history. Across from the church is the old Albion Hotel. Granted Ontario’s second liquor license in 1856, it’s still a popular place to imbibe. During prohibition, tunnels (now boarded up) between the hotel and the church were used to transport booze to bootleggers’ trucks stationed behind the church and as a clandestine walkway for priests to drink at the hotel. Mobster Al Capone was a regular guest. His jilted lover hung herself on the top floor and now, according to local folklore, still haunts this place.
Guelph Food Tour
Our mobile feast with Lynn begins at Atmosphere. We munch on thin-crust pizza generously topped with goat cheese, almonds, cranberries, and a burst of spinach. Co-owner Nicole explains that when they opened 14 years ago in this historic building with exposed brick walls, restaurants mostly catered to University of Guelph students. As we happily discover on the rest of our tour, Guelph now gratifies serious foodies.
At our next stop, the modest Guelph Caribbean Cuisine, our taste buds burst from the complex flavours of Trinidadian street food. Married partners Lorenza and Lochan serve us “doubles”—two pieces of deep fried baras stuffed with chickpea stew. I douse mine in a sauce of chadon beni (a coriander-like herb) brought fresh from Trinidad by Lochan’s mother. Oh, heavenly comfort food.
At Miijidaa, every dish tells a story celebrating first nations and our earliest settlers, using only ingredients grown in Canada (Miijidaa means “let’s eat” in Ojibway). No olive oil, lemons or avocados here! My vegetarian son devours sweet potato roasted with Piri Piri (a spice brought over by the Portuguese) while I slather welsh cakes with homemade butter and preserves. I imagine 19th century wives tucking these little morsels into their husbands’ pockets as they left to work in the mines.