10 Foodie Reasons Why Peterborough & the Kawarthas are Worth Visiting All Year Long

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The region is known for its beautiful cottage country but Peterborough restaurants are worth visiting all year round.

I recently read that traveling off season was a new trend and I guess I have been trendy for years.

I love visiting regions and cities without the crowds of people on the sidewalk, traffic and rush to get reservations at the best restaurants.

Life isn’t as hectic in the off season and you can actually interact with locals, and servers have the time to give you their best food tips.

No doubt Peterborough & the Kawarthas is busiest in the summer – as a well-loved cottage country destination.

Vacationers come to the Canoe Capital of Canada for its beautiful cottage country and some of the most beautiful sights in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, Warsaw Caves and Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park.

But did you know the region is also a long standing food history here:

  • Home of Red Fife Wheat: In the 19th century farmer David Fife introduced one of the hardiest and best grains to grow in Canada.
  • Manoomin: Also known as wild rice, it holds deep cultural and spiritual meaning. Often called “the gift of the Creator” and “the good seed,” it’s cherished by local Indigenous communities. These communities are now reviving manoomin in regional waterways. They use age-old techniques to plant, care for, harvest and process this wild rice.
  • Quaker Oats: Quaker Oats was established on the Otonabee River in 1902. Today its presence is undeniable with the smell of warm oatmeal and brown sugar but also its community support that is beyond employment. The most notable is the Quaker Foods City Square which is home to a refrigerated outdoor skating rink in the winter and the Peterborough Farmers’ market in the summer and autumn.

Peterborough has many attractions, such as the Peterborough Lift Lock, Trent University, soon to be open Canadian Canoe Museum, Jackson Park Pagoda Bridge and more.

But what struck me most was the people.

People in Peterborough are quirky. They do things differently. They care about the community and especially their most vulnerable members.

While you can find friendly people all over the world I found locals to lack pretension and are so earnest.

It really reminded me of Maritime hospitality and I felt immediately at home.

Why is Food in Peterborough So Good?

It seems that many people come to Peterborough for many reasons and never leave.

It’s an interesting mix of students from Trent University, cottagers in the summer, and many professionals who left bigger cities for a better work life balance.

The city has both cheap eats and fine dining. Traditional Canadian classics and food inspired from around the world.

And the Peterborough restaurants I visited weren’t just great because of the food. People seemed to really care about their jobs, the food.

That is really hard to find nowadays. But I found myself smiling when I left spots, not just because of the food but the conversations I had with strangers.

Why Visit Peterborough in Winter?

Good question!

Not many of us like winter but in 2020 I realized winter was happening whether I liked it or not so I changed my attitude and started to embrace it.

And now I really love traveling in winter because I don’t want my life to be waiting for the summer every year. There are lots of ways to enjoy travel, in different ways.

When I arrived I was really tested by this belief as I had plans to tour Peterborough but also the Kawarthas. And then it started to snow…

…and snow and snow and snow.

Instead of driving everywhere I bundled up and stuck to the city sidewalks. And in a strange way it was the best thing that could happen.

Everyone was still outside! They also bundled up and walked. I found so many people just embraced the storm as part of an adventure. It really made me love this city.

So while it seems like visiting during a storm is a bad idea, I saw a special side to locals that I really love.

Peterborough distance from major cities in Ontario

And if you needed any more encouragement I grabbed this map from Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism.

A great time is only 137km from Toronto, 271km from Ottawa or 294km from Buffalo NY – 183 miles for my American friends.


Peterborough Restaurants

It goes without saying that Peterborough & the Kawarthas is so much more than just this city.

I had grand plans to travel far and wide but the snowstorm kept me on foot. Yet the beautiful thing about Peterborough is that it is extremely walkable.

There are so many great Peterborough restaurants with interesting stories but I didn’t have time to see them all. So this is where I went and loved.

And at the end of this post are the restaurants I wanted to visit on this trip but wasn’t able to fit in.

There’s only so much you can eat in a few days so I’ll check them out the next time I visit!

Pioneer sandwich at Sam's Place in Peterborough Canada

Sam’s Place

So many recommended this spot to me that I came with high expectations. And I know it’s a busy spot so a snow storm was the best time to visit.

I stepped into the smell of bacon sizzling and a warm welcome from the open kitchen. I started to take out my cold camera gear into the warm dining room, which sparked a conversation with another diner who brought his camera out to capture the snowy city.

Although Sam’s is a deli sandwich spot one of it’s most popular sandwiches is called Vegetarian Boyfriend.

There were too many good options then my server said his favorite was the Pioneer with ¼ lbs of turkey, swiss, horseradish, mayo, tomato, red onion and lettuce served on toasted sourdough.

It was so good I ate THE WHOLE THING!

I never eat everything. At most I eat half of my meal. But he asked if I like horseradish so they put lots of it on and it cleared my winter sinuses.

I loved everything about this place. It’s a local favorite for a reason.

Sam’s Place
188 Hunter St W, Peterborough, ON K9H 2L1

Cabbage Chicken Chipotle soup from Soupcon Bistro in Peterborough Canada

Soupçon Bistro

Is it just me or are there not enough cafes that just serve nice soups, sandwiches and salads? Restaurants try to be fancy and reinvent the wheel with trendy food but I just want good soup in the winter.

Soupcon Bistro is a small, cozy shop that each day serves 7 different soups, which they announce on social media and on their sandwich board.

Alongside you can get freshly made in-house baguette or their famous beer bread.

I knew it was a popular spot as everyone said I had to go. I arrived when they opened at 11am to get a seat by the steamed up window.

Such a contrast from the chilly winter to the small dining room heated with steaming soup and freshly baked bread.

I chose the chicken and cabbage in tomato chipotle broth with sour cream and cheese.

It was one of the best soups I’ve had and would challenge anyone who thinks they don’t like cabbage to try it.

Owned by a couple, this is a special spot where guests come in for soup and stay a bit longer to chat and check in on what’s new.

Pricing here is spectacular: the small was more than enough for me to eat and only $8.60 tax included. Medium and large are $9.75 and $11 tax included.

Soupçon Bistro
187 Charlotte St, Peterborough, ON K9J 2T7

Peterborough Cafes & Diners

black honey cafe in Peterborough Canada

Blackhoney Cafe

Although I have no food allergies or sensitivities I could not help but notice just how accommodating Blackhoney Cafe is to those that do.

Besides tea and specialty coffee there is an array of delicious looking sweet and savory goods with so many options for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. It’s really impressive.

Blackhoney Cafe is FeastON certified through the Culinary Tourism Alliance. It has also recently changed hands and so there should be lots of exciting new changes for this sweet spot.

Blackhoney Cafe
 217 Hunter St W, Peterborough, ON K9H 2L1

Dreams of Beans

The most inspiring place I visited, Dreams of Beans has been in the community for years but changed ownership and business model.

The new ownership pays staff a livable wage of $25/hour and he gave staff paid time off during the holiday closing.

There is no tipping here. But those that insist on it they will put the money a pot to give food/drink to those who cannot afford it.

Speaking to the owner was fascinating. He wants to inspire other businesses to do the same. In a time where everyone complains no one wants to work he has a stack of resumes.

I ordered without looking at prices and wondering just how much my gingerbread latte and house made mixed berry strudel would be. Shockingly it was $9, taxes included.

Peterborough has an interesting mix of entrepreneurs and businesses but this really showed me that we can pay people properly, we just need to learn how to work differently.

Note: I found Dreams of Beans through this article from Peterborough Currents. I love how they feature independent businesses.

Dreams of Beans
138 Hunter St W, Peterborough, ON K9H 2K8

East City Coffee Peterborough Breakfast Special

East City Coffee Shop

I may travel solo but I didn’t feel alone at East City Coffee Shop . What a gem across the Otonabee River.

It’s a small, family owned diner that so many people recommended for the “breakfast special” with potato. I hesitated on whether I should get sausage, ham or bacon as restaurant bacon can be thin and too crispy for me,

But this was so good. I loved the potatoes and toast comes in a choice of white, whole wheat or this delicious marble rye.

I couldn’t believe all this food and a coffee was only $11.95!

But what struck me most was the community atmosphere. There were families and friends, kids behind me sneaking peaks at my camera screen.

As I tried to discreetly shoot some video of the cooks at the flat top, two guys at the counter jokingly asked if I needed some men in my video.

Eventually I realized if I ate any more I’d ruin my appetite for lunch. And I was hogging a booth when there were groups waiting to be seated.

I got up to pay and had to laugh when the owner loudly announced “she hardly ate anything!”

He then asked me if anything was wrong? Could they box it up for me? It reminded me of Maritime hospitality and I can see what it’s such a local favorite.

If you do have a bigger appetite I was tempted by the DIRTY WAFFLE: Waffle smothered in home fries, all the meats, 2 eggs, cheddar cheese and Hollandaise.

East City Coffee Shop
55 Hunter St E, Peterborough, ON K9H 1G4

Exterior view in winter of Publican House in Peterborough Canada

Peterborough Pubs

Many Peterborough restaurants are licensed and opened in the evening. But with a thriving student scene and active night life I popped into these two pubs.

Pint of Beer at Publican House in Peterborough Canada

Publican House Brewery & Pub

I don’t often eat at pubs because I find the food to be the same wherever I go. But after quick search on Instagram I could see Publican House wasn’t a typical pub.

Sure they had pub favorites but also daily specials that included ramen, roasted bone marrow and Mexican inspired steak.

Now we’re talking!

Publican House is a family owned business that has been around since 2008 and a popular local spot.

One of the beers on tap benefit’s the local SPCA so I had to get it. And I am trying to eat more veggies this year so I paired it with the KFC or Kawartha Fried Cauliflower.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t taste like chicken.

But it is served in a secret blend of herbs and spices that taste like KFC and the large chunked dipped in house ranch are a great beer snack.

And if I’d had more room I would have tried the beet risotto the people next to me ordered because it was beautiful.

Publican House
294 Charlotte St, Peterborough, ON K9J 2V5

St Veronus Taproom in Peterborough Canada daily mussels and frites special

St. Veronus Cafe & Taproom

I have a general rule of not eating fish or seafood unless I’m near a coast. But St Veronus is known for authentic Belgian food and beer you can’t find anywhere else.

I took a chance on the daily moules et frites (mussels & fries) because they were from Prince Edward Island, where I know the quality is going to be good!

I’ve had mussels in Belgium and these were infinitely better.

There are 3 traditional styles always on the menu but I rolled the dice with the daily special of carrot, ginger, lime, coconut. Cooked perfectly and amazing fries and their famous beer bread.

The special is $25 and I think good for 2 people. I asked them to choose the beer pairing and had La Chouffe with citrus notes.

The storm meant not many people were out so I chatted with the server who declared that there was no bad dish on the menu.

She explained the kitchen refined it over time to keep its greatest hits. She knew this because she’d been a guest for years before she started working there.

St. Veronus Cafe & Taproom
129 Hunter St W, Peterborough, ON K9H 2K7

Revelstoke vegan restaurant in Peterborough Canada, exterior during winter storm

Best Restaurants in Peterborough I Missed

I had ambitious plans to visit so many restaurants in Peterborough & the Kawarthas but the weather had different plans for me.

I’d love to return to explore more of the city and the beautiful region. If you’re planning a visit to Peterborough hit these places and let me know if they are as good as everyone says.

Al’s Pizza and Yee’s Chinese Food

I am the most disappointed I didn’t make it here because pizza rolls are something everyone eats late-night in university and I wanted to know if they were good.

Peterborough Currents shared the story of their invention at Al’s Pizza and it’s a fascinating story of immigration.

Al’s Pizza and Yees Garden Chinese Foods
119 Parkhill Rd W, Peterborough, ON K9H 3G8

Island Cream Caribbean Cuisine

Caribbean food would have brightened up my cold, winter day especially as I adore goat and wanted to have the goat roti. Next time I’m heading there first.

Island Cream Caribbean Cuisine
227 Hunter St W, Peterborough, ON K9H 2L1

Fresh Dreams

This spot is small and popular so you need reservations. I’ve heard the service is as outstanding as the traditional Spanish tapas and mains.

Fresh Dreams
373 Queen St, Peterborough, ON K9H 3J7

Night Kitchen

I love this story of a hole in the wall pizza joint selling pizza by the slice with crazy toppings only to be so successful that they open a formal restaurant.

Going against the grain can bring success and I hope to taste that triumph the next time I visit.

Night Kitchen
168 Hunter St W, Peterborough, ON K9H 2L2


Revelstoke was the first restaurant I planned to visit in Peterborough. A vegan restaurant popular with carnivores, people have about it.

Unfortunately I walked 1.7km in the snow to discover it was closed for repairs. And then mistakenly tried to go after 4pm on a Wednesday.

I won’t make that mistake when I visit again!

641 George St N, Peterborough, ON K9H 3S7

Downtown Peterborough Canada shops such as East City Knife Co

Peterborough & the Kawarthas Food Trails

Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour

The Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour is a sweet adventure through Central Ontario. It’s Canada’s biggest self-guided tour dedicated to butter tarts.

The tour features over 50 bakeries, each offering their unique take on this classic Canadian treat.

It’s not just about the tarts, it’s an opportunity to explore the charming towns and beautiful scenery of the Kawarthas and Northumberland regions.

Brews, Bites and Barns Brewery Route

The Brews, Bites, and Barns Brewery Route is a curated journey through the scenic Peterborough & the Kawarthas.

This self-guided tour explores local breweries and local food. Along the way, you’ll savor delicious bites that pair perfectly with a range of handcrafted beers tailored for craft beer lovers.

It’s an ideal way to experience the vibrant craft beer scene while enjoying the city and picturesque countryside of the Kawarthas.

Where I Stayed in Peterborough

The perfect place to stay in Peterborough if you’re on foot. It’s been in the community for years but recently renovated and has a bed so comfy to come back to after a day of exploring.

When booking, ask for a room that looks onto the stunning views of the Otonabee River.

Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront
150 George St N, Peterborough, ON K9J 3G5

This post is in partnership with Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism. I reached out to them two years ago because I’d heard what a great food city it was and finally we were able to work together. I chose all of the restaurants independently through my own research and was thrilled. My only disappointment is that I did not have time to eat more. I hope to return soon.

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