Culture

Where to eat, drink, play and stay in Prince Edward County

A guide to Ontario’s always-evolving Prince Edward County
Arisa Valyear
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Prince Edward County is back and bustling after its COVID-induced slumber, thanks in part to the throngs of Torontonians who relocated there during the pandemic and opened new wineries, boutique hotels and restaurants. Nearly half a million visitors will flock to the area by the end of 2023 to check out P.E.C.’s freshest attractions, including cool cocktail bars, tapas-style restaurants and innovative breweries, plus County mainstays like Sandbanks Provincial Park’s pristine stretch of beaches, which are arguably the best in the province. Here is a selection of the top picks—new and old—for drinks and dining out during your next trip to P.E.C.

Best Winery

Domaine Darius

1316 Wilson Road, Hillier | facebook.com/domainedarius

In 2008, Dave and Joni Gillingham bought 50 acres of County land. Dave, a winemaking hobbyist, wanted to grow his own grapes, but the couple wound up with more vines than they needed. “If you’ve ever wanted to open a winery, now’s the time,” Joni said. Six years later, Domaine Darius finally opened its doors. It might be one of the County’s smallest wineries, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality: on average, the Gillinghams only produce 1,000 cases each year, and many varietals sell out before they’re even bottled. Domaine offers a wide range of wines, including ripassos, gewürztraminers, chardonnays, pinot noirs and cuvées, which are unique blends that Dave makes once a year. On the outdoor terrace, Joni often guides visitors through tastings, walking them through each wine’s notes and creation process. Her guiding philosophy: “Even if you know nothing about wine, you know what you like.”


 

Best Pizza

TerraCello Winery

2436 Prince Edward County Road 1, Bloomfield | terracellowinery.com

Tony Auciello was four years old when his nonna from Calabria, Italy, taught him how to make pizza. In the early 2000s, he moved from Toronto to the County and constructed one of the area’s first Neapolitan-style outdoor pizza ovens on his property. He’s been serving guests the best pizza in the County ever since. For a true Neapolitan pie, order the Margherita, which Auciello prepares by following strict regulations that govern the diameter of the dough, how it’s stretched (by hand, of course), the height of the crust and the cooking time—90 seconds exactly. The Calabrese is equally authentic, topped with mozzarella, Calabrian soppressata, green olives, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and a drizzle of Italian olive oil. Auciello calls it “sheer pizza alchemy.”

 

 


 

Best Sandwiches

Flossie’s Sandwich Parlour

1317 Wilson Road, Hillier | flossiesandwiches.com

Back in 2018, after quitting a high-intensity startup job, Kyle Jones began serving his sandwiches out of a cooler at the Wellington Farmers Market. Fast forward a few years, and he’s graduated to a food truck and low-key outdoor patio at Carson’s Garden + Market. His sandwich shop is a County cult favourite. Meat lovers will want to try the Hogfather, a bacon-wrapped sausage patty topped with mozzarella, provolone and three house-made sauces: arrabbiata bolognese, hot pepper relish and pesto. For the vegetarians, there’s Jones’s all-time favourite, the eggplant parm, plus hand-cut, double-blanched fries that are seasoned with kosher salt and a savoury Italian herb mixture.

 


 

Best Brewery

Slake

181 Mowbray Road, Picton | slakebrewing.com

Built into a west-facing limestone hill on an 100-acre farm, Slake Brewing is the place to be at sunset with a cold beer. Eric Portelance and Greg Landucci, who previously opened Toronto’s Halo Brewery, launched Slake in 2020 with the goal of making easy-drinking ales, clean lagers and innovative barrel-aged brews. Slake’s brewing team, headed by co-owner Nick Bobas, crafts almost every batch of beer with 100 per cent Ontario malt. The taps rotate regularly, but any of the brewery’s signature juicy, bitter pale ales and IPAs are a sure bet.

 


 

Best Cultural Experience

Base31

343 County Road 22, Picton | base31.ca

Base31 was originally a military base and training site. After it was decommissioned in 1969, it became a private airport and was later rented out for storage and studio space. Then, in 2021, PEC Community Partners snapped up the site and created Base31. With the help of former property manager Jacqui Burley, who’s credited with saving the site from ruin, they’ve turned the base into a vibrant cultural hub for music, art, entertainment and culinary experiences. Visitors looking to explore Base31’s fall events—including art exhibitions and comedy shows—can also browse galleries and retail stores housed in the site’s former mess halls, barracks and 22,000-square-foot gymnasium.

 


 

Best Restaurant

Bocado

252 Main Street, Picton | bocadorestaurant.ca

Bocado is the latest endeavour from Australian chef Stuart Cameron, who worked at Mira and Byblos in Toronto before putting down County roots in 2020. His tapas-style restaurant has a rotating, Spanish-inspired menu; one of his favourite dishes is the pan con anchovy, a slice of fresh sourdough topped with cultured butter and marinated Spanish white anchovies. For dessert there’s Bocado’s spiral churro served with chocolate and dulce de leche dips.

 


 

Best Splurge Hotel

The Royal

247 Main Street, Picton | theroyalhotel.ca

The Royal Hotel, once a stop for upscale train travellers, fell into disrepair until the Sorbara family bought it in 2013. After a major renovation, the Royal finally reopened in 2022 with a spa, outdoor pool, 28 guest rooms and five new suites housed in the hotel’s former horse stables (now called The Royal Annex). The star feature: a luxe restaurant and counter bar, headed by chef Albert Ponzo, who serves seasonal, locally inspired dishes. Rooms start at $299 per night.

 


 

Best Budget Hotel

The Waring House

2395 Sandy Hook Road, Picton | waringhouse.com

Owners and innkeepers Norah and Christopher Rogers purchased the Waring House in 1995, converting the original structure into four guest rooms and the Barley Room Pub. Over the years, they’ve added new suites to the property, including the House Next Door (a restored farmhouse), the Heritage and Quaker Lodges (the most modern suites) and the Vineyard View Cottage (a private cobblestone building). Each of the Waring House’s 49 guest rooms, which start at $150 per night, is decked out in Victorian-era decor, thanks to Norah’s extensive antiques collection and love of all things Canadiana.


This article appears in print in the November 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here, or buy the issue online here