Taste the Town
Charlottetown’s insider hot spots for food lovers.
“Who’s up for a raw oyster out of the shell?” asks Jim Larkin, owner of Lobster on the Wharf, an institution on the Charlottetown waterfront.
“Oh, we’re going to have a bit of fun this morning,” he says, as we, maybe a dozen hungry tourists all told, stand around a large lobster holding tank in the middle of his seafood shop.
We’re here on Experience PEI’s Taste the Town tour, hitting up Charlottetown’s top food spots. Minutes earlier, we had stood at the tour’s start—at Founders Hall, in this historic seaport of about 35,000—with our guide, Bill Dobbin, about to depart for a culinary walking tour that would wind around four blocks of the PEI capital.
From Founders’ Hall, it’s just steps to MacKinnon’s Lobster Pound. The popular market is a perfect place to learn about the wide variety of seafood available on PEI. Visitors may see a fisherman dropping off the morning catch or a local resident picking up dinner. And, for the record, there’s much more than lobster for sale here—folks can pick up almost anything from mussels and clams to tiger shrimp and snow crab. The location is also home to a 350-seat restaurant called Lobster on the Wharf, with an outdoor patio on a wharf that stretches out over the water.
Jim Larkin has been running the lobster pound since 1981, and it shows as he pulls two live lobsters, blue rubber bands on their claws, from the tanks, and begins to talk about all things lobster.
But why is Jim Larkin’s business known as MacKinnon’s? Seems a MacKinnon owned the place many years ago, and though he’s long gone, the name stuck. “That’s the way it is on the Island,” Dobbin says, laughing.
The discussion comes around to oysters, and we’re all invited to slurp one down. Suitably impressed, we continue on to Queen Street.
First up: the Anne of Green Gables Chocolates store. Potato chips made from fresh PEI spuds are dipped in sweet chocolate; let’s just say I’ve found my new love—but we won’t discuss the calories.
Next, it’s a nifty little olive oil and balsamic vinegars tasting bar and store called Liquid Gold (Haligonian food lovers may already be familiar with Liquid Gold in the Hydrostone Market). Taste a drop on a spoon as you make your way around the store. Taste something you like? Bottle it up to take home.
Few would argue with the assertion that the ice cream at COWS is simply delicious. An Island visit is not complete without sampling the legendary, award-winning ice cream at the Queen Street store. The only tricky part is deciding on a flavour.
And for Island mussels practically fresh off the boat, we head to nearby Sydney Street, to the Olde Dublin Pub and Claddagh Oyster House. Owner Liam Dolan came from Ireland, fell in love with Charlottetown, and opened the Claddagh Room in 1983. The building he selected had been burned out and left vacant in what was then considered a bad part of town. For his first three years in business, Dolan had no freezer, so he bought fresh seafood down the street at the market twice a day—a fact that became a key to his success. He expanded upstairs, and the Olde Dublin Pub took off.
After visiting a few more businesses, our tour ends on the waterfront at Prince Edward Distillery’s Spirit Shop, where visitors can sample a unique Island liqueur: artisan-crafted potato vodka.
This summer, Experience PEI is planning to offer a “beverage” version of its downtown Charlottetown tour. To book a spot, contact experiencepei.ca or 1-866-887-3238.