Queen Street Commons Café
Queen Street Commons Café is a unique community gathering place based on the philosophy of offering a space where all people are welcome. The cafe is a project of the Working Centre, a local non-profit organization. It is one of the city’s few vegetarian restaurants, with home-style dips, pizzas, soups, salads, and daily lunch specials prepared by a staff of volunteers. Everything is affordable and visitors don’t even need to buy anything, all in the spirit of allowing people of all income levels to enjoy the environment. A large inviting space, the Queen Street Commons Café also hosts live music nights and English conversation practice sessions.
Public Kitchen & Bar
Public began as a private catering company run by chef Ryan Murphy and his partner Carly Blasutti. They eventually began offering ‘walk-up Wednesday’ lunches out of their home, attracting a strong following of customers and in turn, prompting the two to finally open a restaurant. With minimalist decor, charmingly mismatched plates, and low lighting, the atmosphere at Public is intimate and personable. The restaurant specializes in tapas and shared family-style dishes. In addition to the regular tapas menu, the restaurant also offers fresh oysters on Tuesdays and wings on Wednesdays.
271 West offers an Italian-focused menu of fresh pastas and other made-from-scratch dishes. The restaurant’s bread is baked on-site, and both AAA Canadian beef burgers and Atlantic salmon are cut in-house. The decor is simple and understated with friendly, attentive service and a warm atmosphere. Go for the signature ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and a cambazola cream sauce topped with parmesan cheese, and served with garlic bread; or one of the crispy, thin-crust pizzas made with a craft-beer dough and grilled over an open flame.
271 West, 271 King Street West, Kitchener, ON, Canada, +1 519 954 8821
Stonegate Bistro specializes in ‘continental fusion cuisine,’ drawing inspiration from culinary cultures from around the world. The menu is a mix of soups, salads, flat breads, couscous dishes, sandwiches, pastas, and grilled entrées. Go for the Mediterranean chicken breast stuffed with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese; or the shrimp and salmon sautéed in lemon-ginger soy sauce. The thoughtful wine list focuses on wines from Ontario, France, Italy, and California. The restaurant’s atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, with comfortable seating and a warm color palate.
Stonegate Bistro, 15 Scott Street, Kitchener, ON, Canada, +1 519 954 7300
Charcoal Steak House
Charcoal Steak House is an independent steak house that serves up a menu of slow roasted prime rib, Oxford County AAA steaks, ribs, Conestoga pig tails and fresh seafood. The menu pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s extensive wine selection. Be sure to save room for dessert, with maple ginger cheesecake and charcoal carrot cake crafted by the restaurant’s pastry team. With relaxed seating and a laid-back ambiance, the restaurant is a long-time local favorite for date nights and special occasions.
Charcoal Steak House, 2980 King Street East, Kitchener, ON, Canada, +1 519 893 6570
The Lancaster Smokehouse
Featured on FoodNetwork Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here, the Lancaster Smokehouse is a Southern BBQ restaurant with a menu that features a variety of homemade po’boys, smoked meat entrées, and other Southern classics, along with daily and weekly specials. The restaurant sources their meat and produce from Ontario farms, while other ingredients are brought from suppliers across the southern USA to keep the flavours authentic and rich. Set in the 19th-century Lancaster public house, the restaurant is enormous, but the atmosphere is friendly and inviting. Live blues music blares on Fridays and Saturdays, and there are even special concerts often hosted in the hall upstairs.
The Bent Elbow
The Bent Elbow is a laid-back pub with a larger-than-average commitment to good beer. The restaurant features 23 taps, the only cask engine in the region, and an excellent selection of bottles. Diners choose their brew from the thick ‘Beer Companion,’ or the knowledgeable servers can help non-aficionados choose a glass based on their preferences. The decor is simple with comfortable chairs and plenty of wood. The menu includes selections such as ‘From the Garden’ or ‘Knife and Fork’ choices, including the Bent Elbow burger, melted smoked swiss cheese, grilled onions, and crispy bacon.
The Bent Elbow, 2880 King Street East, Kitchener, ON, Canada, +1 519 208 0202
JLB: Janet Lynn’s Bistro
JLB is low-key and rustic with an open-plan room that allows diners to see the action taking place inside the kitchen. The contemporary menu focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients, most of which are sourced from local farmers’ markets. Diners can choose from salads, small plates, or big plates, with dishes like the turkey burger with apples, avocado, feta cheese, and house-made crispy fries; and the Vegetarian, a potato roll filled with black beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, and drizzled with a cauliflower cream.
The Guanaquita Restaurant
The Guanaquita Restaurant is a charming family-owned restaurant that serves a menu of home-style Salvadoran cuisine. Although the menu also includes ‘Mexican with a Salvadoran touch’ dishes, the traditional Salvadoran options are the highlight. The Guanaquita Platter is the perfect option for first-timers, a platter of four traditional dishes: a pork and cheese pupusa, a beef and vegetable pastelito, a beef enchilada, and a chicken tamal. Diners can eat in the airy dining hall, or out on the King Street patio. The restaurant also hosts tango dancing and lessons on the first Friday and third Saturday of every month.