THERE’S NO PLACE like home. Home is where the heart is and the place where all of our food memories start to grow. I left home in my early 20s to pursue a career in cooking—attending culinary school and busting onto the scene at some of Toronto’s most acclaimed restaurants. As my family started to grow, home started to call, and we moved back to the Bay of Quinte area to continue our life here. We were so happy to come back to old favourites in the region.
I love small family-owned restaurants and diners. Growing up, after soccer practice or church, for a birthday or retirement party or after a night on the town, friends and family always met at a local restaurant. The menus barely change (thank goodness!), your server calls you “hun,” and you can usually get anything you’re craving at any time of day. Your favourite diner is a sort of time capsule, a place for the community to reunite after days, weeks or years. With memories woven into the walls, the food is always homemade and makes you feel welcomed and warm.
Believe it or not, I find so much inspiration in the items on these menu boards that the same comfort foods, rethought with a twist, are on my own menus today. I visited some of my favourites around the area—here are a few gems; I encourage you to get out, give them a try and make your own memories.
470 Dundas St. East, Belleville
Irene’s Diner is a hidden gem tucked into the Bayview Mall. It’s been there since the mall was the Belleville Plaza—it’s part of the architecture, you could say. Small booths and a lunch counter hug the space perfectly for a lunch date or solitary breakfast. Their menu is big—from omelettes to breakfast sandwiches, everything is made with love. Hot tip: try the shepherd’s pie; it’ll rival your mom’s (don’t tell her I said that).
Ten Acre Truck Stop
90 Wallbridge Loyalist Rd., Belleville
A Belleville institution, Ten Acre’s spacious dining room always boasts a cross-section of customers—truckers, locals, and travellers alike. The kitchen is bustling, and food comes out on platters, fast and hot. Whole, beautiful pies and cakes line the pass, and while it’s hard to call out just one favourite, the dark horse at Ten Acre is their hot Rueben sandwich—stacked with smoked meat. It’s a must try.
Deb’s Gas Bar & Restaurant
5475 Old Hwy 2, Shannonville
Located along Hwy 2, on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Deb’s is definitely a local gathering place. Everyone seems to know each other, and servers recognize the regulars by what they order. A little bit of everything makes their menu just right with lots of breakfast, lunch and dinner favourites. The best part is that the fryer never sleeps
at Deb’s—it’s open twenty-four hours a day to curb
your most serious fish-and-chips craving.
47 Dundas St. West, Trenton
You’ll slip back in time when you walk through the doors of the Skyline Tavern, a perfectly preserved spot with a soda fountain and tabletop jukeboxes (for display only) create a nostalgic vibe. The menu hits all of the right notes with classics like steak and mushrooms and breaded pork tenderloin, but I strongly encourage you to try the hot hamburger sandwich. Skip the fries and go for the mashed; you won’t be disappointed.
425 Sidney St., Trenton
This family-friendly joint is at the top of my list when my kids are in tow. The dining room is full of natural light, ample seating, and friendly regulars who love to chat. Breakfast reigns supreme at Momma’s with classic plates of eggs in any denomination, with bacon, hash browns, and baked beans heaped high. Eggs Benny is a winner as is their must-have milkshake— you’ll eat big at Momma’s without breaking the bank!
135 Cannifton Rd., Belleville
Another mainstay in Belleville is the Quinte Restaurant. Established in 1978, the Quinte offers a warm dining experience with the comforts of home. Diner staples are executed brilliantly here—with six styles of omelettes, the perfectly toasted Western and house-made meatloaf. The Greek appetizer and entrees shine—don’t miss the beef and lamb gyros, top notch served with potatoes and a hearty Greek salad.
12 Carrying Place Rd., Trenton
The thing I love about this quaint little diner (besides the poutine made with real gravy and fresh, squeaky cheese curds) is that it’s inconspicuously located in a small strip mall in an industrial area in Trenton (a hidden gem, if you will). Open from 7-2 means there is always a big breakfast ready for those heading into or off of a long shift. If the from-scratch food wasn’t enough, wood wainscoting, chalkboards with daily specials and painted signs will make you feel like you’re about to dig into something homemade. Really, there are no bad choices. Breakfast is tasty, the bacon-and-cheddar cheeseburger is one of my faves, and there is a kids’ menu which means there’s something for everyone.