Winter Dining on The Cabot Trail



Temperatures may be falling and the hustle and bustle of summertime is now a distant memory, but a whole new season of adventure, gorgeous views and enticing eats await in winter here on the Cabot Trail. Whether its apres ski, a quick bite while out sledding, a romantic, candle lit evening or hunkering down to watch winter storms pounding our shores - there are plenty of opportunities to eat well when on the Cabot Trail this winter.

The debate over driving the Trail clockwise versus counter clockwise is a debate that almost predates the infamous chicken and egg question and was already addressed at some length in a previous blog! So, with a flip of the coin and leaving it to chance, were are going to journey around the Trail counter clockwise, starting in Baddeck.

Breakfast in Baddeck on the Cabot Trail

The start of any great journey must of course begin with a hearty breakfast to fuel you for the adventures that lay ahead. And in Baddeck the very best breakfast is to be had at the Freight Shed.

The Freight Shed (note the new winter location at 22 Water Street, 1 block away from their original location). Breakfast is served from  8am to 11am Monday to Friday and till 1pm on weekends).

After you've filled up on gas and breakfast in Baddeck, you'll be taking the Trans Canada north toward the ferry at Englishtown, or if you prefer the more circuitous route, you can go inland past the Gaelic College and St. Ann's Bay. Soon after disembarking the ferry, you'll be driving along the North Shore region of the Cabot Trail and as you pass Indian Brook and the North Shore Fire Department, you will find the Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort.

Vegetarian and Vegan dining on the Cabot Trail

 The Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort (30 Buchanan Drive). Note: Dining in the winter here is by 24 hours advance reservation. While Cape Breton is known for its fabulous seafood, herbivores will not go hungry here and if you want to linger a bit there's upscale glamping, yurts, a sauna and a hot tub all on offer as well.

Pancakes aren't just for breakfast anymore! Dutch Pancakes on the Cabot Trail

A short 15 minute drive later we find ourselves at the Dancing Moose Cafe and Cottages (42691 Cabot Trail, open for breakfast and lunch, Saturday and Sundays). In addition to all the usual breakfast fare, the real highlight here are the specialty of the house, Dutch pancakes, or Pannekoek. Whether in a sweet style, with chocolates, raisins, nuts, syrup and whipped cream, or in a savoury style with green onions, bacon, eggs, mushrooms and cheese, there is a pannekoek that is just right for you.

Culinary ground zero. Dining in Ingonish on the Cabot Trail

In the next thirty minutes of our drive we're going to go from sea level, up to almost a thousand feet and then back down to sea level. Needless to say the views on this stretch of the trip are pretty impressive, just keep your eyes on the road! The first stop as we descend back down the hill in Atlantic Canada's best ski resort, Cape Smokey (38696 Cabot Trail), with the highest vertical in the Maritimes. If your looking for a bite to keep going while you tear up the slopes, or some more relaxed apres ski, you will be set at Cape Smokey.

If you need some quick snacks, drinks, grab and go sandwiches or some sweets, Doucette's Market and Eatery (37867 Cabot Trail) is the place to be. But if you need some hardier fare you'd be well advised to seek out Stevenson and Son Family Kitchen (25 Pattis Lane, Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 7pm). They have an eclectic mix of everyday favourites, like burgers and chicken pot pies, but they also have some more exotic offerings like perogies, pad thai and butter chicken - plenty of choices for even the choosiest diner.  

Sweet tooth satisfaction. Gelato on the Cabot Trail

 After visiting all of these wonderful savoury dining spots, your sweet tooth may have a hankering for something more. Something sweeter. Something more Italian. Something sweeter and Italian. Something like gelato?  Perhaps gelato from goats milk you say? Why yes, proceed directly to the Groovy Goat Farm (36028 Cabot Trail, check on Facebook, as hours may be affected by renovations). In addition to goat soaps and goat cremes and goat lotions, they also have some very, very tasty goat gelatos.

Filling food on four wheels. Food truck on the Cabot Trail 

 If some good old fashioned Maritime fish and chips are what your looking for (and some great burgers to boot) then you best head to one of the most popular food trucks in these parts;  Hot on the Trail Mobile Foods (33 Smith's Hill Road, usually Saturdays and Sundays in the winter - confirm opening times on Facebook).

Francophone food finds. Dining in Cheticamp on the Cabot Trail

Hopefully you are well-fed as we start the longest leg of our journey. In just over 90 minutes will pop over the top of Cape Breton and over the high boreal plateau, to make our way over to the West Coast. The West Coast of Cape Breton that is! This West Coast comes with a hefty dose of Acadian culture and French language, as we come to stop in Cheticamp.

Two unique, but equally wonderful dining establishments await us here in Cheticamp; we have L' Abri Cafe et Bar (15559 Cabot Trail), with its dramatic cliff side location and elegant modern fare, served by young locals that honed their skills in the kitchens of Montreal and Toronto and we have Le Gabriel Restaurant and Lounge (15424 Cabot Trail), which specializes in traditional, hearty Acadian cuisine.

More goats. Baked treats and more on the Cabot Trail

 Well, so far we've visited the Dancing Moose and the Groovy Goat, now we make our way to the Dancing Goat (6289 Cabot Trail, Monday to Sunday, 7:30am to 4:00pm). Leaving Cheticamp, heading southwards for about half and hour we make or way to Margaree Harbour, where the Cabot Trail turns inland for its final stretch. After about fifteen minutes on from the coast we come to the Dancing Goat, where even in the dead of winter folks are clamouring to get in for first-rate soups, sandwiches and mouthwatering cakes and baked treats and if you are pressed for time you can get it to go.

A sledders paradise. Swiss food and remote scenery on the Cabot Trail

If you really want to get way of the beaten path, but still have all your creature comforts, look no further that the Big Intervale Lodge (3719 Big Intervale Road, breakfast from 7am to 10am and dinner from 5pm to 9pm - call for reservations). Nestled deep in the Margaree River watershed, a 45 minute or so drive from the Dancing Goat will get you to the Lodge, though in the Winter most of their customers arrive by snowmobile! If you can't bear to leave this remote wonderland, there is a number of cottages for rent and rooms in the main lodge as well.

Tasty treats and live music on the Cabot Trail

 Returning back to the Cabot Trail from our little detour to Big Intervale, we find our selves on the final leg of our journey, back to Baddeck where our culinary journey began. Forty five minutes south will bring us to the Narrows Cafe at the Inverary Resort in Baddeck (368 Shore Road, breakfast 8am to 11am Saturday and Sunday and dinner 4:30pm to 9:00pm Friday and Saturday AND live music Friday and Saturday nights from 7 to 10pm). In addition to enjoying some good tunes with your dinner the Inverary has the only indoor heated pool in these parts and the by appointment spa has some tempting offerings as well.

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