Windsor Essex Pelee Island, or as the locals refer to it “Canada’s South”, is worth adding to any culinary tourists list of new Ontario regions to discover. Four hours west of Toronto by car or an hour by Porter Airlines from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to downtown Windsor, the area is accessible to anyone looking to broaden their understanding of our province and especially its historic relationship with our neighbour to the south.
I started my Windsor exploration with an Art Cart Tour along the waterfront of the Detroit River, which is rich in history from the prohibition era. While much of the our tour highlights the Odette Sculpture Park, our guide Jay Potts, interjected stories of the rum running days and the activities that took place on the Ambassador Bridge and the underground tunnels. Interestingly, 30 per cent of commerce between the U.S. and Canada travels the bridge, which is the busiest international crossing in the world connecting Windsor, Ontario with Detroit, Michigan.
The stories of Hiram Walker, the establishment of Canadian Club in Windsor, and the development of Walkerville would delight any culinary tourist and breath life into the enormous impact the region had on our early, and complex, relationships with the US. Guided tours of the Canadian Club Brand Centre not only retell these tales; you chase them down with a tutored whisky tasting! You can’t beat the value at $5 per person (hours vary depending on the season)
Looking for fresh, local and fun food in Windsor? Rino’s Kitchen, located in The House on Elliot Street in downtown Windsor offers up a daily menu that showcases seasonal ingredients with a home-style flare. A visit to Motorburger is a must – their eclectic menu and funky space liven up Erie Street. Their SMART Veg-Engine burger is one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten, anywhere!
Once you’ve gotten your bearings and a taste of Windsor a trip out to Essex and Kingsville is a must to complete your trip. Home to 13 wineries and Point Pelee National Park, there is plenty for the culinary tourist to experience! We stopped into one of the region’s newest treasures, The Butcher of Kingsville, a perfect up ingredients for a picnic at the park! Lunch at Jack’s Gastropub was delightful, with a lovely menu including all Ontario meats, fish and plenty of veg from local farms. The pub also hosts Inn 31 with three recently refurbished and artistically decorated rooms.
The perfect way to explore the wineries of the region is to join the Wine Trail Ride hosted by the good folks at Windsor Eats. The highlight of our particular ride was our final stop, Pelee Island Winery, where they served samples of the wine and a great meal by caterers County Connect. While there are 6 scheduled rides from May to October you can also create your own private Wine Trail Ride tailored to your special interests.
No trip to the region would be complete without visiting Point Pelee National Park. While it may be the second smallest National Park, you know what they say good things come in small packages! Pack a picnic of local treasures and spend the day at the southern most tip of Canada!