Long journeys by road make for hungry travellers: here are tips on where to refuel with crispy clams, hot dogs, house-made bison burgers and more.
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Canada is a big country—really big—that stretches more than 5,500 km (3,418 mi) from east to west. There are plenty of highways crisscrossing the landscape. Even better, they are dotted with legendary diners that make for excellent eating stops on road trips, long or short. They may not feature in fancy dining guides, but they have earned a loyal following for many delicious reasons.
Blarney Stone Restaurant, Hebbs Cross, NS
This cheap and cheerful spot off Highway 103 is a favourite for locals and repeat visitors who come mainly for the seafood. Think crispy fried clams, scallops, shrimp and haddock served alongside a mountain of perfectly cooked golden fries. The portions are gigantic, so bring friends and an appetite.
The Cabin Restaurant, Fredericton, NB
The old-school diner lives! No retro wannabe, this diner is the real deal and has been open since the 1950s. A vintage jukebox pumps out tunes to chew by. No foams or fancy garnish here— just chunks of meat slathered in gravy or a fabulous lobster club sandwich. Go light on the mayo to save room for the famous bread pudding.
Skinners, Lockport, MB
This place has nailed the art of a perfect hot dog. Skinners opened in 1929 and remains Canada’s oldest hot-dog outlet in continuous operation. The walls are covered with signed photos of legendary hockey players and hot-dog lovers such as Gordie Howe. Although the menu also has burgers, chili and perogies, dogs reign supreme. Additional locations on Highway 44 and at The Forks in Winnipeg help spread the love.
Ernie’s Coffee Shop, Sault Ste. Marie, ON
This classic greasy spoon has menu items, such as fried bologna and eggs for breakfast, that have not changed since Ernie’s opened in 1950. At suppertime the locals come for the one-pound burgers and chicken parmigiana. The décor is authentically retro and the service is snappy so you can get back on the road in a beat. Expect a waitress to call you “hon” at least once.
Jim’s Lunch, Princeton, ON
If you take the 401, you’ll miss the pretty countryside going west to Windsor and this small, neighbourhood diner. Jim’s Lunch is like a time capsule, with its décor unchanged from the 1960s. Everyone seems to know one another here—it’s that kind of place. Endless cups of coffee, pickle spears served alongside Reuben sandwiches and giant slices of sky-high, homemade lemon meringue pie await hungry travellers.
Mag’s 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina, Squamish, BC
Stop here on your way to Whistler on Highway 99. Mag’s 99 boasts super crispy fried chicken and good Mexican food, especially the fish tacos and pulled pork quesadillas. The spice level is mild, but there is homemade hot sauce to add heat. Take-out service is available, ideal for those who want to do a picnic lunch at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola, just a short hop away.
Frosty Freeze, Haines Junction, YT
It might not look like much, but after a day of backpacking in nearby Kluane National Park, you won’t care. The menu has a true north feel, which includes caribou sausage plus buffalo and bison burgers made from scratch. Drivers order homemade milkshakes to go and happily sip them for miles. Or keep the kids quiet in the back seat with some ice cream cones.
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