And now for what you really came here for...
While we have visited a large number of restaurants nestled in Kingston's downtown core (and we will very certainly visit a large number more), it was a nice change from what has become the ordinary during our adventures to head west to Collins Bay this week.
"What's in Collins Bay?", you may ask? Well, outside of the "can-be-expected-'cause-every-town-has-'em" stops like Tim Hortons, a marine store, a legion, an antique shop, a self car wash & vacuum station, gas station and a hair dresser... a wonderful little restaurant called Bella Bistro sits next to the only stop light in Collins Bay on Bath Road. Although it sits near the shore of the Bay, sadly, Bella Bistro does not have a waterfront view for patrons inside... And while parking can be a bit of a pain (for starters, the restaurant shares its lot with a diving store, and additionally, there just don't seem to be enough spaces for this busy spot) there is always the lot across the street, and once you're inside, the hassle doesn't seem so bad in the end.
Bella Bistro is, as stated by their website (found here) a "friendly, casual neighborhood bistro serving pizza, pasta, paninis and more". It is a cozy restaurant that is kind of like a spiffed-up diner (one look at the tables and you will agree). The decor and atmosphere certainly don't "demand anything of you" (perfectly stated by Jordan)... which truly isn't a bad thing. The fact that tables seemed to re-fill as quickly as they'd emptied during our visit and that no matter when I seem to drive by, there is always a full parking lot and a large number of happy patrons inside... I'd bet that ultimately, this restaurant does exactly what it needs to with food alone. Feeling comfortable enough to sit and chat with your friends long after your plates have been cleared while staff start to close up around you is just a bonus. Not that that happened to us... er... no... not us...
There isn't anything overly fancy about the menu at Bella, either. The really nice things about that: it doesn't take a year to read the menu because while it offers a good variety, it isn't too expansive and what they do, they do REALLY well. When they call themselves a "true local gem", they aren't pulling your leg.
What did we order? Check it out:
Carrie: starter caesar salad; classic all-dressed pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, green peppers, onions, olives, tomato sauce, mozzarella). White chocolate raspberry cheesecake for dessert (after all, I can't seem to resist cheesecake!).
Todd: The soup of the day - sweet potato peanut soup; Cubano sandwich (pulled pork shoulder, house made BBQ sauce, avacado, arugula, red onion on a sesame bun) with poutine as a side.
Kendra: calamari fritti to start (deep fried calamari with lemon wedges and lemon pepper aioli), Cubano sandwich with sweet potato peanut soup as a side.
Jordan: curried lamb burger (one of the evening's specials; with a crispy pork topping, lettuce, red onion and caramelized apple aioli) served with fries.
Tonia: starter caesar salad; California pizza (smoked chicken, sliced red onion, basil pesto, sun dried tomato, feta cheese, parmesan cheese and mushrooms - which Tonia asked to have removed). Creme brûlée for dessert.
And here is what we thought about the food and our experience: simply wonderful. Bella Bistro really is great - from the service (we had a very good server who is referred to as "McLovin'" on the receipt, and she was spectacularly attentive and friendly), to the comfort of being there, to the taste of all of the food... things really were great. "local gem"? I certainly think so. And a couple of fun facts about the restaurant that make it even more special? First - there are daily $10 lunch specials as well as "rotating" nightly specials (e.g. 2nd pizza half off on Monday and Tuesday, specialty burger nights etc.). In addition to this, the restaurant prides itself on using local products as often as possible. Local business supporting local business; not too shabby, in my humble opinion.
Carrie: 4.5 forks. The caesar salad was delicious - crisp, fresh lettuce and very bacon-y (and when do I turn down something that bacon-y? Never.). The size of the salad was nice, too... Often, I find that I feel disappointed with how much I pay for a starter salad - it is mostly lettuce after all - but at Bella, I felt like I got my money's worth. The pizza was also delicious - and salty, which I definitely love, but may not be for everyone. The cheesecake? On top of it being baked fresh that day, it had REAL raspberries in it. Not just a raspberry sauce or raspberry drizzle... REAL raspberries. Ultimately, a whole lot of things went right with my meal.
Todd: 4.5 forks. Todd loved the soup of the day, and he said that the Cubano sandwich was "muy delicioso". While the poutine was good, Todd didn't feel that he "needed it" (often an affliction I have with food, too - the ol' want versus need dilemma). Further, Todd thought it was important to state that "McLovin' rocked [my] world in a non-sexual way". I have to agree with you there, Todd.
Kendra: 5 forks. While it may seem by this point that Kendra is just handing out 5's all willy-nilly; she put a lot of thought into this score, and genuinely enjoyed every aspect of it. Her pomegranate tea was nice and sweet (Kendra said it was a good match because she herself is a little fruity... Todd interjected with "I'm fruitier", and suddenly the conversation made the tea even better). The calamari is the best that Kendra has had in Kingston since she moved here and the soup was "awesome". As for the Cubano, Kendra thought it was really tasty - and while she was tempted to take off the red onions, she decided not to, and was really thankful in the end as they added good flavour.
Jordan: 4 forks. Jordan was pretty impressed with Bella. He made special mention of the calamari being really good, and said that based on the burger specials, it was nice to see that the restaurant had "more to offer than the average burger joint" (the fact that there was even a lamb burger being offered was a perk).
Tonia: 4.25 forks. Tonia said the caesar salad was good - she liked the "hefty" size. Tonia said that her score may have been affected by her mood... She couldn't decide between a pizza or a sandwich, and may have been slightly jealous of the fries around the table... but all in all, her pizza was good. The creme brûlée was good, but the score for it suffered slightly as well because the top was a little overdone, so it tasted burnt.
OVERALL SCORE: 4.45 forks.
Pretty darn good. That score leaves me wondering yet again whether or not we will ever be disappointed in the food on our adventure. I certainly hope not... but in the mean time, kudos, Bella Bistro. I will be seeing you again.
|Kendra raiding the candy dish on her way out...|
As for our next adventure, Todd is away in Cuba (jealous) for a week, so we have decided to put a hold on the dining tours... After all, we certainly can't continue without one of our regulars! This is probably also a good thing, as without the break, I would be SIGNIFICANTLY behind in writing. So I guess Todd's trip is a win-win. :)
We will be deciding our next location upon Todd's return (we like to keep the suspense for everyone alive). Until then, dig in and enjoy. Maybe you should pick a restaurant from the adventures thus far!