As a Maritimer I wanted to share my top picks for seafood at PEI restaurants, including the best restaurants in Charlottetown and where to find the best lobster supper in PEI. If you don’t have time to read this post just download the free PDF with all the info and a map.
I was invited to judge the chowder competition for the PEI International Shellfish Festival. I was so excited to go because the festival is so well known, but also I wanted to come a few days earlier in search of the ultimate list of the best PEI restaurants to visit if you want to eat the best seafood on the island.
As a Maritimer I grew up with very simple food, but seafood was always a constant. My grandmother made Nova Scotia chowder most Fridays, I remember when we needed to watch out for bones when eating fish, and lobster was and still is my favourite food.
But just like not all food in Italy is amazing, not all seafood in the Maritimes is delicious.
So this post is for my friends, who want to know which Charlottetown restaurants to make reservations for and which PEI restaurants you’ll find locals recommending. Because I’m afraid they’ll get stuck going to a tourist joint that sells the captain’s frozen fish sticks – although that was also one of my favourite suppers growing up so I guess it’s sort of authentic.
There are some good spots to eat seafood in Charlottetown but the best spots are around the island, which is why I created a map in the free guide above. You can plan your drive to hit more than a few spots in PEI.
Don’t be intimidated by driving, Prince Edward Island is small but beautiful. Driving out to these spots gives you a great understanding of just how diverse the island is.
I was on the island for five days and my mother joined me at the end to help eat and share her thoughts. For three of those days I sampled 21 different chowders and yet somehow still made room for lots of fish, lobster, scallops, mussels and crab.
If I ate at one of the PEI restaurants and would not go back I did not include it on this list. There are a couple spots that often made all the lists but cooks have changed.
I found some of the Charlottetown restaurants really had mediocre lobster rolls and there is one famous joint that I visited and left off the list. I’m pretty sure they used previously frozen lobster. But why bother spending the time to tell you where not to go, instead let’s focus on all the delicious PEI restaurants to visit.
Some places in this list were closed for the season but they were recommended by several trusted sources (Maritimers) so I feel comfortable sharing them here.
Best Lobster in PEI: Not All Lobster Rolls are Equal
The Lobster Barn Pub and Eatery
Located in picturesque Victoria by the Sea, you can’t miss this restaurant on the wharf.
Although it may scream tourist trap, this is where many locals go and so the prices are quite reasonable as it’s open year round and so it must survive with local support. It was started by two sisters in 2009 and on the menu it says:
Eat whatever you want. And if someone tries to lecture you, eat them too!
The lobster roll ($17) is a very generous portion of fresh lobster on a buttered bun, served with a choice of fries, potato salad, onion rings, house salad or caesar salad. Interestingly they also put a bit of sugar in their mayo so it’s a bit sweet. I’ve never had it like that but I really enjoyed it.
The menu is vast with veggie options and notably appetizer mussels and a beer ($10), chilled lobster dinner ($26), scallops ($19), bar clam burger ($16) and Wharf Platter with scallops, haddock and lobster ($26).
But get there early, I stopped in at 11:15am and was able to sit at a table overlooking the water but in a span of ten minutes the joint was packed.
The Lobster Barn
19 Main St, Victoria, PE C0A 2G0
One of the restaurants in Charlottetown, just up from where the cruise ship guests dock, I was curious about this roll as there is an option to buy a cold roll (most common), hot roll (with butter, lemon, garlic) or a half and half.
It’s on the small side, although lobster rolls ($21) are made with 4 oz. of PEI lobster, which they proclaim “more than you’d get from a full 1 lb. lobster dinner!” I don’t know any Maritimer who would eat a 1lb lobster, it’s so small.
If you only have time to eat in Charlottetown this is a great option, tastier than others that get more press in the city. It comes on a split roll along with local kettle chips. I’d stick with the traditional cold roll.
6 Prince St, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P5
Sugar Skull Cantina
One of the more modern restaurants in Charlottetown, after all not everything has to have a nautical theme. This is not a lobster roll, but appropriately a lobster taco from a Mexican cantina inspired restaurant. Sugar Skull Cantina is the sister restaurant to Hopyards and both bring a younger, hip feel to Charlottetown which I like.
I wasn’t sure what I would think about this innovation. I’m an old school lobster purist – I like it cold without butter. On a boat from Panama to Colombia I had lobster in a tomato sauce and hated it.
But at Sugar Skull it works, they serve lobster with charred corn salsa, red pepper mayo, iceburg lettuce and hickory sticks. The portion is so generous I think it works better as a salad as most will fall out of the taco. It’s definitely worth popping in for one.
Sugar Skull Cantina
83 Water Street, Charlottetown
Best Lobster in PEI That I Missed
Seasonal food truck Terry’s Berries has become very popular for its warm Salt Daddy Lobster Melt ($16.31). It’s served on a hearty baguette with garlic and chives so it’s not traditional and definitely a “melt”.
I made the mistake of coming to the truck the Sunday after the Shellfish Festival, I think Terry may have had too much fun so he wasn’t open but he did stay open until September 20th. Make sure you check the Facebook page for hours.
20 Great George St, Charlottetown
The Lobster Shack on Souris Beach
Owned by legendary fisherman Johnny Flynn, this is THE place for a lobster roll as well as his Coleville Oysters and fresh or cooked lobster. Not surprisingly they won the 2017 PEI Lobster Roll Challenge.
With a view you can’t beat, they overlook the beach. If you can only drive to one location in PEI to eat this would be the one.
They open June 15th closed September 15th, I had planned to go on the 16th. Keep an eye on their Facebook page.
Best Chowder on Prince Edward Island
In the Maritimes you can order chowder in 99% of local restaurants. It’s so common to order a cup of chowder and half sandwich. But not all chowder is good, in fact you some of the best chowder isn’t served by the Charlottetown restaurants and is well worth a picturesque drive on the island.
Point Prim Chowder House and Oyster Bar
Locals will tell you one of the best PEI restaurants for chowder requires heading out to the remote area of Belfast to Point Prim. It’s a 45 minute drive from Charlottetown and there’s nothing else out there but picturesque Point Prim lighthouse – the island’s oldest lighthouse.
You must call ahead for a reservation, even in September as it’s quite popular to eat at sunset.
Point Prim Chowder House
2150 Point Prim Rd, Belfast
Blue Mussel Cafe
This PEI cafe is a worth a drive just to see North Rustico, which is so pretty – but also very cold off season so bring a sweater.
I did not order the chowder here after judging 21 different kinds. Instead, I opted for the seafood bubbly bake ($21), which was like a thickened chowder with cheese.
So much for going light!
Blue Mussel Cafe did enter the competition and after discovering their entry and while they didn’t win they were a strong contender.
This is one of the most popular PEI restaurants for tourists, but don’t let the come from aways deter you from eating here. Open from May to October with the first seating at 11:30 and final at 9pm, with a quick closure from 4-5pm.
Go early at 4:30pm and put your name on the dinner list (no reservations) as they’ll give you a buzzer to let you know when your table will be ready. There’s plenty of instagram friendly spots to walk around while waiting for dinner.
Blue Mussel Cafe
312 Harbourview Dr, North Rustico Harbour
Charlottetown Restaurants Note:
The Claddaugh Oyster House won the Chowder Competition at the Shellfish Festival (Point Prim did not compete) and if they are serving the same chowder on the menu it’s a great option in Charlottetown.
Chef Erin Henry from Piatto Pizzeria and Enoteca did not win but I loved her twist with this seafood chowder recipe, you can now find her at the Culinary Institute of Canada Bootcamp where Chef Ilona Daniel once taught me how to put a lobster to sleep.
Best Fish and Chips on PEI
Richard’s Fresh Seafood
PEI restaurants always have fish and chips on the menu but Richard’s is known as the best. Although the claim to dame is the best fish and chips, everything here is so beloved by locals it’s simply called Richards for almost 40 years.
It’s also a fish mart if you’d like to buy seafood to go and prices are very reasonably based on market prices.
It opens in June and sadly they closed for the season on September 8th, five days before I arrived. It’s best to keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Where to Eat PEI Oysters
Prince Edward Island has some of the best oysters in the world. At the International Shellfish Festival I tried 21 different kinds and it’s impossible to say which one is the best as they are all so different.
James Strong from Raspberry Point suggests looking for oysters with a deep shell instead of a shallow one. And while many PEI restaurants offer a happy hour buck a shuck he isn’t a fan.
While it helps local bars and restaurants get people in early, it encourages the production of cheap oysters that will grow quickly instead of quality. You get what you pay for with oysters.
My best advice is to try many and choose what you like.
Gallant’s Seafood Market
Gallant’s is a seafood supplier on the island. You can find them at the Charlottetown Farmer’s market or at the seafood market in New London. It’s a small shop where you can pick up seafood to go or order from a very small menu and eat at one of two tables out front.
I used this photo of the Belle River rock crab cakes to emphasize that you should go for PEI oysters AND get the best crab cakes I’ve ever had. I tried to get the recipe from them…but sadly it’s a secret.
And if you haven’t had lobster they will cook and crack it for you for only $2 extra per pound, which is really a steal. They’ll even give you melted butter although personally I skip the butter as it interferes with the delicious taste of lobster.
Gallant’s Seafood Market
10056 Rout 6, Stanley Bridge
(902) 886 2716
Carr’s Oyster Bar
Just around the corner from Gallants in New London, Carr’s has a great view of New London Bay. Stick with the raw oysters on the half shell range from $2.50 – $6 per oyster. The $6 oyster is known as the George Carr special and they’ll warn you before ordering as it’s quite large.
Carr’s Oyster Barr
32 Campbellton Road, Stanley Bridge
Old Dublin Pub
If you want to try buck a shuck oysters, the Old Dublin Pub in Charlottetown is one of the most popular places to go. It’s upstairs from the Claddaugh Oyster house, and serve buck a shuck from 4-6pm daily. They offer small choice oysters for $1 each with the purchase of an alcoholic beverage.
Old Dublin Pub
131 Sydney St, Charlottetown
Fine Dining in PEI: Most Extravagant Experience
Without a doubt Fireworks at the Inn at Bay Fortune is a dinner to talk about. You begin with a reception wandering the grounds, eating Coleville Bay Oysters and other island delicacies and move to a family style dinner of local food cooked over a fire.
It should be noted this is the vision of Chef Michael Smith. I’ve met him and can attest that he’s an amazing person. He’s active at the resturant but also a popular chef, author and tv producer. So he’s not there all the time, but has a chef de cuisine to bring his vision to life.
Inn at Bay Fortune
758 Route 310, Souris
Lobster Supper in PEI: Where Do Locals Eat?
If you’re wondering where to find the best lobster in PEI it’s always at someone’s home. Maritimers absolutely eat seafood chowder at restaurants and lobster rolls for a treat, but we don’t eat lobster in restaurants. It’s too expensive. Sure, we *might* take our upper Canadian friends out somewhere that we visit once a year with tourists. But it’s much more likely that we’ll cook it at home and serve it to them in our backyard.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with eating a lobster dinner with fellow travelers. If you’re on the island for the International Shellfish Festival there’s likely to be a lobster supper in PEI and locals are there.
If you want to go to a formal lobster supper (yes we call it supper not dinner) in PEI, the Fisherman’s Wharf, New Glasgow is well known nad has been around since 1958. You could also look for a community fundraiser lobster supper for locals. Or if you’d like lobster without the fuss buy it cooked from Gallants, Richards or the Lobster Shack mentioned above.
Best Time to Visit Prince Edward Island
While the summer has the warmest weather it also has the most crowds. I think the best time to visit Prince Edward Island is the beginning of September. The weather is still warm and the crowds are gone so you can get really affordable accommodation.
Plus there’s Shellfish Fest! The only downside is that the later you go in September, the more you risk some of the best seafood spots being closed.
If you’re worried about swimming in the ocean let me assure you it is ALWAYS freezing. So whether you go in July or September you’ll find it cold.
Best Places to Stay in PEI
Where I Stayed
The Great George is a boutique hotel in Prince Edward Island but it’s not one location. You check in at the main house and there’s complimentary breakfast along with coffee and tea throughout the day. However, it’s a series of historic buildings close to each other. So you can stay in a hotel room, suite, cottage or efficiency units.
They were generous enough to host me but took it a step further. When I mentioned my mother was coming with me to check out PEI restaurants they booked us in a two bedroom condo.
I love non-traditional accommodation. It was fantastic as there was so much room AND a back patio with a barbecue. If you’re traveling with a group for a few days this is a great way to do it. There’s a full kitchen and two bathrooms with lots of space. I would highly recommend for a family or friends visiting.
The Great George
58 Great George St, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4K3
Tell me what PEI restaurants did I miss? Do you have any other favourite restaurants in Charlottetown that should be on this list?
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