Coffee Adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia

We booked overnight flights, so as to save money on accommodation. We had read about that "tip" on a travel blog, aimed at travellers like ourselves; young(ish), low on funds, high on travel aspirations. It seemed like a good idea at the time...yet we soon remembered, an hour or so into the flight, that our brains have a slight, no, moderate aversion to sleeping in a plane, car, train, basically anything other than a bed really. 

But it was a means to an end, and it got us where we needed to go: Eastern Canada.
We were really excited to see the complete opposite side of Canada. And especially to explore the Coffee scene outside of B.C.

Flying out of Vancouver, Monday night

Flying out of Vancouver, Monday night

Flying over Eastern canada, Tuesday Morning

Flying over Eastern canada, Tuesday Morning

So, we managed to lightly doze our way through the 6+ hour flight from Vancouver to Halifax (with a brief stop in Montreal). Needless to say, we emerged into the chilly eastern air, tired, groggy and a little worse for wear. 

After collecting our bags and picking up the rental car, we already knew what the next, and vital step was: Finding a good cup of coffee.

From the Airport, it was a short drive into the city, including a bit of scrambling to find a spare coin for the toll bridge (a "loonie"/$1 coin will do!). We parked, did some quick research on our phones, and decided which coffee destination we would start our Eastern explorations with. 

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1. The Old Apothecary

Bakery and Cafe

From the parking lot down by the waterfront, to The Old Apothecary, there was a KIND OF BIG hill. That, paired with the fresh and biting wind of the Atlantic Ocean, sure woke us, and our appetite, up. Once we found the cafe, we were immediately charmed by the exterior. It had a boutique style, elegant, yet simple.

We stepped inside and found colourful furniture, rustic brick walls, quirky decor and a nice looking selection of desserts and baked goods.

Lemon meringue tart seemed a good choice for breakfast at the time (blame the sleep deprivation), and we paired this with a Latte + Double Macchiato. 

Our experience:

Food - the Lemon Meringue tart looked really good, and the taste was really nice. The meringue was well done, not over- or under-cooked. 

Coffee - the Taste of the coffee was okay, but the milk texture wasn’t great. The Latte came out more like a Cappuccino. However, the milk wasn’t burnt and the overall flavour still held well. The Barista probably just needed to hone their milk texturing technique. 

Would we visit again?
We would go back there to try more of their baked goods.

Lemon meringue tart for breakfast, solid choice

Lemon meringue tart for breakfast, solid choice

sweet selection at the Apothecary cafe and bakery

sweet selection at the Apothecary cafe and bakery


The next day, we had a busy day of driving planned to explore the East coast of Nova Scotia. We needed coffee and a snack to start the day before heading out, and were happy to find that one of our pre-researched coffee spots was right down the road from the Hotel we were staying.

 

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2. Dilly Dally 

Coffee Cafe

A small, cozy place; light and bright and busy, but didn't feel cramped. They had lots of good cafe-style food to choose from, including cabinet and menu items.

We went for the Veggie Bagel + Coconut coffee Muffin + Latte + Flat white.

Everything came on mismatched, antique crockery, which looked cool. The staff were hipsters, but seemed friendly enough.

Our experience: 

Food - Muffin had unique flavour and tasted pretty good, though it was a tad dry. The bagel was really good, and they cut it in half for us without us even asking, which was nice service.

Coffees - Very good taste and they had pretty good-looking latte art.

Would we go back? Yes, and we would be interested to try more of their food/menu too.

 
dilly dally eats

dilly dally eats

 

Our third, and last day in Halifax. We had read about our next spot and were keen to check it out before heading to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

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3. Grafton Cafe

 

by Scanway


Scanway bakery’s specialty is their baked goods, and when you first walk into this cafe, that is apparent. They had a big selection of breads, baked goods, and a cabinet with some great looking doughnuts.

It was one of those moments when you just accept your fate and eat pastries, because, well, why the heck not...we got a pain au chocolate + white chocolate blueberry doughnut + Latte + Double Macchiato.

Our experience:

Food - the pastries, as expected, were really good. It was a little bit of a sweetness overload, but that was due to our choice of goods.  

Coffees - Unfortunately, I would say their specialty lies in their baked goods, and baked goods alone. We may have just got an inexperienced barista that day, she did seem kind of young. The milk was piping hot (burnt) and the taste of the espresso was bitter and ashy.

Would we go again?
We would probably return for the food; it would be a good place to go grab some baked treats to share with friends, family or workmates. 

 
Grafton cafe

Grafton cafe

 

Wandering around the Maritime Museum for a few hours, and our time in Halifax was drawing to a close.
We had a longish drive ahead of us to our next destination, and wanted a little fuel to keep the fire going, our next stop had been on our radar, so we mapped our route out of the city and made sure to pass it on our way out.

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4. Two if by Sea

Cafe

When we pulled up to park outside Two if by Sea, we were a little apprehensive upon seeing the brick facade and old fashioned awning. We wondered if it might be a little dated, with not-so-good coffee. 
But, as they might just say, "Don't judge a cafe by it's facade". Once we stepped inside, the interior was much more new and modern. It was light, open and fairly busy.

We were looking for lunch, and at first were a little disappointed by the small selection of baked goods on offer. But then we noticed a winding staircase leading to a second level, and were happy to find some food options up there too (more on that here).
Once we had lunch, we headed back down the spiral staircase to grab some drinks to go. We also checked out the merchandise. There was a good selection of general merch and also coffee to purchase, and we bought a t-shirt.

Staff were a little spacey, or awkward, or shy? We couldn’t really tell which, but they were nice enough. We ordered coffees (Latte + Double Macchiato), and picked up a cookie for later, as they looked too good to miss.

Our experience:

Coffee - Great texture of milk and the overall flavour of the coffee was very good. My 12oz Latte tasted a little weak, so next time I would check the espresso to milk ratio when ordering, and possibly go down a size, or add another espresso shot to get more strength in flavour.

Food - the cookie we had later on, and it was really good! It was oatmeal chocolate chip, with a blend of spices, so it had a great flavour. Texture was good too; firm on the outside, soft on the inside.

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Our time in Halifax was short, but sweet. It's a small city, a little bit quirky, and with lots of character.
We would definitely like to go back, should the chance arise, and could see it being a cool place to live.

In our adventure to find good coffee, we managed to go to 4 of the coffee places that we wanted to visit, and out of those we had some pretty good coffee.

We have no doubt there are a probably a few more good coffee spots hiding away though. Or if not yet, in the near future the city will see growth in the coffee and food scene.  

Have you experienced good coffee in Halifax? Or in other parts of Nova Scotia?

Let us know! We're curious to hear more...


Food and Drink Adventures in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia lies on the East Coast of Canada, and makes up what is known as the "Maritimes", also including New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It's main city, Halifax, has a long and vibrant history, resulting in a varied selection of good food and good drink options to be found. The Maritimes are probably most well-known for the seafood, however we found there to be so much more on offer than just seafood. 

We had just over 2 days in Halifax, so were time limited. However, we still managed to squeeze in a taste of the local flavours. 


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1. Chain Yard

Urban Cidery

We found Chain Yard Cidery after a quick Google search of places to eat within walking distance from where we were staying. It peaked our interest on-line, and in person, it did not disappoint.

The decor is urban, rustic, and chilled out. Dimmed lights and a glowing red neon sign gave the place a night time glow well-paired with good food and alcohol. We were seated and served extremely well by the waiter; the service was excellent. 

Our experience:

Food - We chose a few small plates to share and it was all REALLY good. The kitchen was pretty small, so it was impressive with how quickly the food came out and at a high quality. 
The dessert was amazing!

The plates we chose were: Scallop Arancini + Southern Fried Chicken + Apple cinnamon crumble with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce

Drinks - We chose 2 flights: one had four Chain Yard ciders, and the other had four local "guest" ciders. The presentation was unique, and the names were written under each small glass, which was great, because we knew what we were drinking and didn't have to try memorise what the server told us. There was a good variety of flavours in each flight, and it was customisable, so you could choose the ciders that interested you to try. 

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2. Good Robot

Brewing Company

We had researched this brewery back in B.C before embarking on our trip, and it was on our list of places to try while in Halifax. It also happened to be not far from where we were staying (I guess everything was..? Halifax isn't huge).

They specialise in beverages, but they have paired up with local food places who will come and cook in the corner of the bar to offer things to eat as well. We just had beer this time, but the food and menu looked good.
As it was Winter, inside was humming, but we managed to find seating. We can imagine some evenings getting pretty busy, but in warmer months, they have a great outdoor area, which would spread people out a bit. 

They also had a shop on-site where you could buy Drinks and Merchandise to take home.

The decor was cool, and we're always interested to see different and unique ways to display flights; here they came in a muffin tray which was pretty inventive and deserved a mention. 

What we tried:

"All you can Eat" Coconut IPA - we really liked it, and it wasn't all just talk; it actually had a coconut flavour. Delicious.

Flight of 4: El Espinazo del Diablo, We're not Bitter, Dave and Morley 4.0, But Wait there's More
As with Chainyard, you can mix and match your flight, and there's lots of interesting options to choose from. The four we chose were all very good, but our favourites had to be these two:

El Espinazo del Diablo - with Lime and Jalapeno; some zest and heat. Like the coconut IPA, it really did taste like it said it might and the flavours were well-balanced. Recommendation: try this last if in a flight, as the warmth from the Jalapeno can linger and affect your taste of the others!

Dave and Morley 4.0 - this was a coffee brown, and of course we will try almost anything with coffee in it. The taste was deep and dark, and the rich coffee flavour came through well. It was almost like drinking a cold brew. 
 

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3. Studio East

Food + Drink

After trying out the some local beer at Good Robot, we wandered to our next spot. We were ready for some food, and possibly a few more beverages, as it was Wednesday Tiki Night at Studio East. 

The place was cosy, and decorated accordingly. We were seated quickly, and right next to the Tiki bar, which allowed us a Front row seat to watch the bar tender at work.  

We ordered some unique cocktails, and after perusing the menu, chose some food to share.
The staff were charismatic and friendly. The kitchen and bar wasn't huge, but they really worked their space and it seemed to be running like a well-oiled machine. 

What we tried:

Drinks - For Tiki Wednesday, the bartenders create 3 feature cocktails. The 2 we chose were the "Cinnamon Girl" and the "Sleeping Giant". Now, we don't have a good recollection of what exactly was in them, but we do remember that they tasted amazing! They were fresh, full-of-flavour and the display and garnishes were excellent. 

Food - Calamari Pakora + Dumpwing + Ricebowl with Pork Belly. The food was excellent. Particularly the Ricebowl, which had extremely tender pork belly, and some amazing house-made kimchi.    

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YeahYeahs

Pizza

On our way out of Halifax, we stopped in Dartmouth to check out a coffee shop (more about that here). While there, we stumbled across our last foodie stop before heading to our next destination.

Yeahyeahs offers New York style Pizza sold by the slice, and by the pie. A few choices of flavour kept it nice and simple. The decor was also simple, but stylish. 

What we tried:

A slice of cheese and mushroom + a slice of pepperoni. 

Both flavours tasted really good, and there was a good ratio of toppings, cheese and base. They weren't too greasy, and we liked that the flavours were kept simple, but they still had ample flavour and taste.

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Overall, we enjoyed getting a brief taste of Nova Scotia. As we travelled in Winter, there were a few places and areas closed for the season, so although it was good to go when there weren't too many tourists around and the hotel prices were a little lower, it would be good to go back to sample more in the warmer seasons. 

As for seafood, we didn't end up having a lot of it in Nova Scotia, but later on in our Maritime travels we did eventually get to taste some. You can read more about that soon. 

Any other local food places in Nova Scotia that you think are worth a visit? Let us know