My first getaway exploring Saint John restaurants was memorable. Not just for the food, but because the city was unexpectedly fantastic.
Despite growing up in Nova Scotia, I’m embarrassed to say I’d never visited Saint John New Brunswick.
When I shared that with others the response was “well, why would you?” and the answer is because it may be the most delicious city in Atlantic Canada.
I hope Nova Scotia doesn’t disown me for saying this!
And its coffee shops rival cafes in Quebec City.
It’s not surprising that people are now calling the city Saint Awesome.
Table of Contents
WHY VISIT SAINT JOHN
Saint John reminds me of Halifax in some aspects, of Brooklyn with some houses, and of San Francisco with some hills.
You need to keep your eyes peeled in uptown Saint John because there is so much to take in.
I spent three nights in Uptown Saint John and I wanted to kick this post off with some fun facts and reasons to visit Saint John New Brunswick.
- Saint John New Brunswick is the oldest incorporated city (1785) in Canada.
- It is the only city on the Bay of Fundy.
- Wikipedia says it is home to Canada’s 3rd largest port by tonnage.
There are so many more delicious reasons:
- Home of Moosehead Breweries, Canada’s oldest independent family-operated brewery.
- Uptown Saint John is small and pedestrian friendly. You can park your car and spend your entire time walking anywhere you need to go.
- There are 85 bars and restaurants within 10 blocks of uptown Saint John.
- It is home to the country’s oldest continuing farmers’ market – Saint John City Market.
- You can see a continental collision between South America and Africa at the Reversing Falls Rapids.
- Its commitment to public art. The visitors centre has a map to take a self guided tour sharing different artists sharing their expression of salmon swimming upstream, various street art and sculptures.
- Incredible architecture. The great fire of 1877 changed the face of Saint John. It was today’s equivalent of 500,000,000 in damages! And so the architecture and layout feels slightly different than what you’ll see in other areas of Atlantic Canada.
- A city of local independent businesses. Many of the businesses in this historic Victorian architecture neighborhood are mom and pop or chef owned.
- The ferry! In my life I have been on more ferries than I can count, but this one was the most memorable. Simply drive to Digby and the ferry is a scenic 2.5 hour ride. I bought some tea, a sandwich and parked my laptop in front of a window looking out onto the Bay of Fundy.
- The restaurants in Saint John. I saved the best for last. I had such an incredible time here. It is the perfect getaway where you can wander from one place to the next, just sipping and nibbling all day long.
So when people ask “why would you go to Saint John?” I have so many good reasons.
RESTAURANTS IN SAINT JOHN
I came to Saint John to eat!
As always I had far too many recommendations and not enough time. But you can’t really go wrong, uptown Saint John has so many great restaurants.
I was so impressed and ridiculously full as I tried to eat and drink as much as I could.
Even in low season you’ll need a reservation here. It’s small and delicious.
Opened by a husband and wife team who have been vegetarians for nearly 25 years, they also have extensive culinary experience and it shows.
There are small touches like citrus in the water that make it such a great experience
If you’re thinking it’s just a hippie, granola, wheat grass juice option think again!
Saint John VEGolution is a modern restaurant with great options for those just dipping their toes into meatless eating, and also serves local beer.
The Korean sticky soy bites were crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and sticky delicious.
The Revolution burger can have regular cheese but I wanted to try the vegan cheese and it was actually really good.
Does it taste like beef? No.
Does it taste like a fantastic burger? 100% yes.
If you haven’t been yet. You should go.
26 Germain St, Saint John, NB E2L 2E5
Port City Royal
Is Port City Royal a fantastic bar with killer food or vice versa?
I think it may be both. While everyone raves about the cocktails, there were so many things I wanted to try on the menu.
The seared yellowfin tuna loin looked fantastic and they cure all of their meat in house.
I settled on the Korean Fried Chicken, which was delicious and large enough for three people!
And while I don’t like desserts, the boozy dessert menu sounds like an adventure of its own.
45 Grannan St, Saint John, NB E2L 0E9
Italian by Night
An incredible story of a restaurant that started as a nighttime pop-up at Urban Deli and now has its own space.
I would absolutely recommend reservations as we arrived late on a Tuesday evening and were lucky to be seated.
I can only imagine what it is like on a weekend.
I loved the warm atmosphere and open kitchen concept. We started with signature cocktails – the Italian Job, with rum, vodka and grenadine along with a refreshing IBN Collins with elderflower syrup and lemon.
Although the bruschetta, fried calamari and polpetti (meatballs) are the most popular appetizers we decided to go with an Italian American classic – shrimp scampi.
And as everyone recommended the ravioli of the day we shared the spinach and ricotta in an arrabiata sauce.
We did save a bit of room for dessert – the torta di fromaggio aka Nonna’s classic cheesecake, blueberries, lavender simple syrup and whipped cream.
97 Germain St, Saint John, NB E2L 2E5
Cask & Kettle
This is a very popular spot for brunch with $5 caesars, mimosasa and boozy coffee.
But this Irish pub also has locals popping in all week long and plays sports on the big screen televisions.
It has typical pub food options with happy hour special most nights.
I stopped in for “Flights and Bites” on a Wednesday, where you can choose 4 local beers from Atlantic Canada and order 3 bites of pub food.
112 Prince William St
Ethel and Mary’s
Currently serving take out only, the menu is surprisingly large considering the size of the kitchen.
There are both savoury dishes and a number of baked goods available, including the tart of the day.
Next time I’d like to try the smoked mackerel plate, as a Maritimer I feel like I need to embrace smoked fish as much as I can.
The menu changes with local availability and is committed to using humane New Brunswick meat products so if it’s not available they won’t have it on the menu.
It’s also a nut-free kitchen so traditional items like frangipane, which are made with almonds are adapted and made with oats.
107 Princess St, Saint John, NB E2L 1K5
Saint John City Market Restaurants
Saint John City Market is the oldest continuing market in Canada.
Unlike other markets around the world, the Saint John City Market is for locals.
A traditional farmers market, with local artisans, it’s also a great spot to have lunch!
- North Market Seafood, formerly Lord’s Lobster, is considered an institution in Saint John. I love that they kept all the old signage when it changed hands. The menu has classic dishes, lighter fare and new items like Crab-O-Cado toast with sriracha mayo drizzle. Daily specials include treats like bacon wrapped scallops, but the fish and chips with Moosehead beer batter are the most popular and it was fantastic.
- Kim’s Korean is a local favourite and the only restaurant in Saint John serving authentic Korean cuisine, the lunch special is a great way to try many dishes. While we enjoyed the japchae, spicy pork and sweet beef, we couldn’t stop raving about how much we loved this plain looking potato soup that was bursting with flavour. And if you like ramen, it consistently gets rave reviews
- Jeremiah’s Deli, beware there is a long line of locals at lunch. But it seems to move quickly and gives you the opportunity to decide what you want to try.
- Slocum & Ferris, I was so sad it wasn’t open in city market while I was there. Although dulse is a common Nova Scotian food, I’ve never really eaten it beyond tasting it for curiosity but here they put it on bagels and sandwiches.
47 Charlotte St, Saint John, NB E2L 2H8
Popular Saint John Restaurants I Missed
As much as I’d like to eat EVERYWHERE, you can only cover so much in three days.
But in some ways it doesn’t bother me to miss popular spots because it’s just a reason to come back!
- Saint John Ale House: with food from Saint John Chef Extraordinaire Jesse Vergen, this pub is located in scenic Market Square.
- Let’s Hummus: I really regret not getting take out for the road home as this popular spot has authentic Lebanese food.
- Bella’s Traditional Ice Cream: I really really really wanted to have ice cream. But it was 3 days of very cold, windy weather and I just couldn’t do it.
- Lemongrass Thai Fare: another great spot in Market Square, order the curry nachos. Some say they have the best pad thai in the city
- East Coast Bistro: if you’re in Uptown Saint John on Friday stop in for their fish and chips.
- Marci’s Salads: To be honest I really did need a good salad on the trip and I just ran out of time. This new spot is next to Rogue Coffee and looks so good. Next time, it will be the first place I go.
- Taste of Egypt: Although it also has Mediterranean food, I would love to try Egyptian food.
As you can see I missed enough Saint John restaurants to plan my next trip.
UPTOWN SAINT JOHN BARS
There are lots of great local beer, wine and fantastic cocktails in Saint John restaurants. In fact, so many people speak first of Port City Royal’s cocktails and then of the food.
On top of that there are so many bars to just pop in and grab a drink.
Uncorked New Brunswick is a great spot to learn about local food and drink.
Not only does it offer, local walking tours around the city but it also has its own tasting room right in Saint John City Market.
While the market has a seating area, you can also bring market food into the tasting room to have with local wine, beer, cider or a cocktail.
I’ve never had New Brunswick wine, so with some help I chose the Magnetic Hill Winery Lodestone White to go with my Korean lunch special and fish and chips.
It was fantastic! If I’d had more time I would have stayed to do a formal tasting. Uncorked offers tastings of 6 wines, beer, or a mix for groups of 2-8 people.
It’s a great way to get to discover the local flavour.
47 Charlotte St, Saint John, NB E2L 2H8
Happinez Wine Bar
A cozy spot with very reasonably priced wine, it’s too easy to spend too much time here.
42 Princess St, Saint John, NB E2L 1K2
Hopscotch Whisky Bar
THE spot for whisky in Saint John with a very extensive whisky menu.
The bar is set over three floors but the main level is so bright and cozy. I stopped in for happy hour, and with so many cocktail options you’ll never want to leave.
The bourbon and basil was fantastic, and the bartender made a rum punch on the fly for my mother.
Non whisky drinkers have no fear they also have other spirits and beer.
45 Canterbury St, Saint John, NB E2L 2C6
Craft Beer in Saint John
Although craft beer is deservedly popular right now, Saint John embraces its roots with Moosehead beer.
Canada’s oldest independent family-operated brewery, locals feel the same pride for Moosehead as Nova Scotians do for Keith’s.
You’ll find classic Moosehead beer all over the city.
And if you’re interested in innovations, the Moosehead Small Batch Brewery is a 6 minute drive from uptown and features a Tap Room with 10 rotating beers.
89 Main St W
Picaroon’s General Store
One of the largest, brightest spots with plenty of seating, it features British style ales but has cider and innovations like blueberry sour.
Picaroon’s General Store doesn’t do flights per se, but they do have small glasses that they’ll sell for $2-$3:50.
Although they don’t have food on site, you can bring food from Pomodori next door, a wood-fired pizza spot.
32 Canterbury St, Saint John, NB E2L 2C5
SAINT JOHN COFFEE SHOPS + CAFES
Locals really love their coffee in Uptown Saint John.
There are so many good coffee shops I spent my time walking the delicate tightrope of food, drink and coffee to keep my energy levels up.
Rogue Coffee really symbolizes what Saint John embodies – independent entrepreneurs doing modern, innovative things in a historic city.
This place just has buena onda.
Rogue Coffee is also one of the most photogenic spots in Saint John. It is located in an alleyway where they have created a “nest” shelter which makes for great photos and view of Canadian artist Uber5000 artwork.
But there’s more to it than just its pretty looks.
I had a great autumn latte, which isn’t like the pumpkin spice that you see everywhere else as they make the flavouring from scratch rather than buy a syrup.
It’s also Atlantic Canada’s first Mod Bar with espresso service and a variety of brew methods, a rotating selection of single origin offerings.
They also serve kombucha, nitro-infused cold brew on tap and some of its baked goods from Saint John’s oldest bakery.
And while it seems like all of this would make a pretentious coffee bar, the people here are so down to earth with lots of fun recommendations for more things to do in the city.
36 Grannan St, Saint John, NB E2L 2C5
If you’re a fan of flavoured lattes or want to take coffee flavours to the extreme THIS is the spot.
I had a chocolate peanut butter latte and it was delicious!
84 Prince William St, Saint John, NB E2L 2B3
There’s something really special about newcomers making it in a historic city.
This Syrian family-owned business introduced Syrian food to the city at local city markets.
They have recently opened ChocoZein cafe serving both Canadian and Arabic coffee along with sweets and snacks.
I tried the Arabic coffee along with a pumpkin baklava – a good way to start the day!
1 Princess St, Saint John, NB E2L 1J9
Another great spot for coffee in Saint John, Pivot started in a boutique hostel in 2018 and quickly became a hot spot for local music and community events.
This is not your typical cafe.
They serve a variety of coffee, tea lattes and beer on tap and interesting cocktails.
They also serve Montreal bagels, and there are daily soup and sandwich specials made from scratch. Its menu includes vegan, and gluten-free options.
And they recently launched a pole dancing studio. In the true spirit of Saint John entrepreneurship I love that this owner embraces the ability to pivot.
36 Water St, Saint John, NB E2L 2A5
Unfortunately there was construction on the front window when I was visiting so it was temporarily closed. But I’ve heard such great things and love the premise.
Catapult is a social enterprise business run by an organization that works to improve the lives of the people who live in poverty.
It’s a win-win idea the organization aims to reduce unemployment, hunger, homelessness, and medical costs.
And as a visitor I want to feel like I’m not only enjoying a city, but also contributing to its greater good.
The cafe uses a New Brunswick coffee roaster and tea company, and the decor features fibre arts and handcrafted furniture made by Catapult Creative.
116 Princess St, Saint John, NB E2L 1K4
UPTOWN SAINT JOHN ART + ARCHITECTURE
I have never seen a city so committed to sharing its art and heritage in such an easy way.
I don’t often seek out architectural details in a city. But it’s hard to miss architecture in Saint John when you’re standing on a corner and the details are right at your feet.
It really made me appreciate walking around and I found myself looking up much more, not just walking by buildings but taking them in.
I wish more cities did this.
Saint John Art You Don’t Want to Miss
- There are 23 salmon run sculptures throughout Uptown Saint John you can find them on the Salmon Run Tour map.
- See Stories by Uber5000
- Clementine by Dodo Ose
- The Fiddlehead sculpture, because I’m a food geek
More available to Discover Saint John’s map of Art in Public Places
SAINT JOHN HOTELS AND ACCOMMODATION
The great thing about exploring Uptown Saint John is that you can ditch your car.
There are enough great bars and restaurants in Saint John that you can walk to, or grab an inexpensive taxi.
The farthest we ventured was Mimimi restaurant, which was only 9 minutes by car.
Where I Stayed: Chipman Hill Suites
A collection of nine historic properties, this really is the best of both worlds as you get the assurance of a hotel but the space of an apartment.
I stayed at 1 Chipman Hill, which was one of five buildings still standing that survived the Great Fire.
With two bedrooms, a kitchen and living room there was lots of space to relax at the end of the day…and eat all the things I ordered to go!
But what I really appreciated was check-in was so easy. It’s contactless so you don’t have to meet anyone at a specific time.
And when I locked myself out 5 minutes after entering it was a quick call to discover there was a lock box by the laundry room so I could easily get back in.
HOW TO GET TO SAINT JOHN
Saint John Ferry
I really LOVED arriving by ferry. Instead of feeling tired from driving a long distance it was a quick trip to the Digby ferry.
Two and a half hours flew by on the ferry and when we docked I was five minutes away.
On the way home we drove home, although I was sad not to take the ferry again because it was so great.
But as we wanted to head to Tatamagouche for the day it was a quick three hour drive. This stretch of the highway was divided and a very easy drive.
PIN IT: BEST SAINT JOHN RESTAURANTS
Disclosure: this post about restaurants in Saint John New Brunswick is in partnership with Discover Saint John. They were fantastic about offering their favourite suggestions for things to do in Saint John but allowed me to explore and report back as I would normally do.