When we say Niagara, you might think of big water falls and vineyards. You might also think golf and casinos too — depending on which is your pleasure.
From now on though, we want you to think parks — big, beautiful, green, expansive parks — and food. Let us introduce you, or reintroduce you, to the wonder that is the Niagara Parkway.
Founded in 1885, Niagara Parks is charged with preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River corridor. They are the gate keepers to a slew of adventures including two golf courses, five restaurants, the butterfly conservatory, the botanical gardens, the Aero Car, Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk and if you can believe it, much more. In total, they manage over 16 square kilometres of parkland along the river and the entire Niagara Parkway, which spans 56 kilometres. It’s one of the prettiest drives in Niagara, dotted with orchards, magnolias, vineyards and of course, the canyon carved by the river itself. Think of it as an outdoor adventure museum.
Along the way, you’ll find no less than five Feast On certified restaurants. We had the chance to taste our way through some of their summer menu and were floored by the variety, creativity and commitment to Niagara’s farmers and artisans. Here’s just a taste of what’s in store for you on your next road trip!
Your first stop, as ours was, should be Queenston Heights Restaurant. The view alone — the dining room looks over the vineyards and orchards leading out to Niagara-on-the-lake — will have you coming back season after season. The menu is simple, but refined with local heroes like Slegers Greens and St. David’s Hydroponics being celebrated on most plates. We loved the braised Ontario beef rib with arugula risotto and sriracha pan jus. It pairs near perfectly with a Trius Merlot hand picked by Manager Jackie Lynch.
A little further south along the Parkway, you’ll find Whirlpool Restaurant. Open to the public throughout the golfing season, you can sit on the patio that overlooks the 18th hole while enjoying a Niagara heavy wine list– a surprising rarity in the Niagara Falls region. They serve dips, chips, burgers and other summer favorites to please almost any palate, but we’re all about the specials. On our last visit, we had a beautiful Ontario asparagus soup with forest mushrooms.
Your next stop along the Parkway is Elements on The Falls. This is the crown jewel of the Niagara Parks collection — if there were such a thing. Sitting on the very edge of the falls, almost every table has a very of the expansive Canadian side of the falls. Chef Elbert Wiersema uses local ingredients to create innovative, thoughtful meals. You’ll find smoked duck breast with ice wine dressing, artisanal charcuterie boards and timbales of spaghetti squash and pulses.
A little further south, overlooking both the American falls and Horseshoe Falls, you’ll find Queen Victoria Place Restaurant. It’s been through many renames and renames, and despite it all, it’s still standing. This is the oldest operating restaurant in Niagara. Chef Sidney Krick creates dishes that pair as easily with the areas most celebrated wines, as they do with craft beers and ciders from across the province. We got a chance to indulge in Northern Trout strudels with fried capers and Shoal Lake wild rice.
Past the falls, on the site of the historic 1814 Battle of Chippawa and now the celebrated Legends on the Niagara golf course, you’ll find the Legends Clubhouse. Open to the public during the golfing season for lunch and dinner, the space is a great retreat for cyclists and golfers exploring the area. Legends is not your average golf course meal. Chef Chris Brown creates globally inspired dishes using locally sourced ingredients — likethe pictured grilled pork tenderloin with apple chutney and spicy pad thai noodles.
To learn more about Niagara Parks and their commitment to local food, visit: niagaraparks.com