Monday, October 28, 2013

Adventures in Hub City, Moncton!

Adventure is just bad planning. – Roald Amundsen 

Downtown Moncton. A good adventure, with no planning. Photo: JHikka, Flickr CCL

No recipe today, but thought I would recount our adventures this weekend, mostly culinary. Compare and contrast with my rant about Halifax, posted September 30, 2013 (here.) 

We wanted to do something a bit different than home or Halifax this past weekend. I was thinking a bit like the Annapolis Valley, but my spouse had a different idea – Moncton, New Brunswick. The Hub City, in off-season.

Off-season (or it’s euphemism, “shoulder-season”) can be a crap shoot for tourists, but we thought “it’s a city,” so can’t be too bad. Can it? I am here to tell you it was not. Not at all. We had a great time.

Usually off-season means that much in the way of tourist activities are over. So no outdoor concerts or street markets or the like. But it also means you have the place more to yourselves, and room rates are lower. 

If you like the outside stuff, just make sure you check online to make sure enough is going on to occupy your time. In Moncton you can find it, even in late October.

I want to talk about one place in particular, but before that I want to offer Halifax an object lesson. Downtown Moncton is wifi. Yup. Plop your butt anywhere and you can surf via phone, iPad, laptop, etc. Have a question about what's around? Find an answer.

Why can’t our capital city do that on Spring Garden, the waterfront, Barrington, Quinpool and Gottingen? Lack of will, I would imagine. It is a fantastic idea that helps tourists find activities and businesses – and spend more money.

But back to Moncton. We went there flying by the seat of our pants, except for a 2 night reservation at Midtown Motel and Suites on Weldon. It’s a drive-up old-school motel at one end of Main. Walking distance to all of downtown. Not 4 star for sure, and a little care-worn, but certainly good enough to lay your head for a couple nights. And affordable. $79/night for a "King" room. Downtown.

We asked the front desk for places to eat within walking distance and were given a few. We also checked and off we went.

Do not believe everything tripadvisor tells you. Take it with a grain of salt. We ignored the recommendations from the front desk when we walked past the Tide & Boar Gastropub on Main street and read the menu. It’s ranked 24th on tripadvisor’s list, but has 156 reviews. Soon to be 157...

In contrast, the number 1 rated restaurant (which I’m sure is good) has only 71 reviews. So it’s the average of the reviews, not the number of “excellents” that determine position. T&B had twice as many excellent and very good reviews than the top restaurant had in total reviews. So take it from there.

By the way, disregard reviews that focus on an employee rather than full experience. You never know how the reviewer was interacting with/abusing the employee. They’re usually biased.

Tide & Boar Gastropub 
700 Rue Main Street, Moncton, NB
Mon - Wed 11am-midnight; Thu - Fri 11am-2am; 
Sat 10am-2am; Sun noon-midnight

It was a bustling place, set in a late 1800s building. Their claim to fame is craft beer and boar, plus some seafood to round out the "tide" bit. The menu is full of choices using boar that has been cured, smoked, stewed, you name it – right on site. They have many local NB beers on tap.

We started with two exceptional local micro-brewed beers. A Stout and an IPA. The Stout was deep, smooth and rich, as it should be. It might have been Pumphouse, or we thought it was. We forgot. The IPA (I believe Picaroon Yippi- IPA) was unfiltered, full flavoured, bright, hoppy and amazing. Made mass produced beer taste like dishwater. 

We started with the boar charcuterie platter. I’ll try to remember everything on it. Should have taken a picture, but that’s really annoying for other diners when you’re there. I’m relying on the picture from their web site.

From Tide & Boar's web site. We had a
slightly different platter. Things change.
It consisted of 4 smoked boar belly slices, a meat pâté, some sort of potted meat, 4 cured boar meat slices, a boar sausage, a smooth pâté and foie gras. Beautifully presented on a wooden board, plus bread rounds and grainy mustard. Total cost $16. This made what we got at the Shoe Shop in Halifax (for $17) taste and look like a real mess. Which it kind of was. 

Although all was excellent, the foie gras was nearly enough to make you pee your pants. It was that good. The mains were better than what one would expect from a pub, but I won’t go into them in detail. Check their menu, below. The atmosphere was very comfortable and our server friendly and prompt. 

T&B have live music at least Thurs-Sat. Our night it was located downstairs, which made dining a little more enjoyable. Matt Mayes, Sloan, Wintersleep, Matt Costa, In Flight Safety, plus locals, have all played their stage. T&B also has an attached wine bar, separate from the main gastropub.

Would I go back? Yes. Should you go? Yes. Should you take a special trip to Moncton for them? Maybe... It was a revelation to try the area's craft beers plus the great food. It was eye opening.

The next evening we went to the belly of the beast to experience more craft brewing – Pumphouse Brewery. They serve all their own beers (about 12) as well as good pub-style food. They also sell several of their beers by the 6 and 12 pack, beyond NB Liquor hours, in case you ever find the need. The real standout for us was dessert: Tiramisu Cheesecake. Not to be missed.

You can buy Picaroon and Pumphouse brands in Nova Scotia, but nowhere near enough selection, in my humble opinion. Besides NSLC look in the independent liquor outlets. They may be more “adventurous.”

So if you’re looking for friendly people, good food, good beer and a good time, don’t rule out Moncton. Whatever feelings you have about the Hub City are probably wrong. And it’s less than 3 hours from downtown Halifax.

Check out their site for lunch menu and more.

Feel free to comment. They’re always appreciated. I’ll answer quickly, and as best as I can. If you like this post, feel free to share it. All I ask is if you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

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