A Local's Guide On Where To Eat in Stratford, Ontario
Updated: 16 hours ago
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If you’re planning a trip to Stratford, Ontario then chances are you’ll want to know about its food scene. In recent years, Stratford’s culinary prowess has grown tenfold, and it’s now a very popular destination in Ontario for both lovers of the arts and foodies. What’s great about the restaurants in Stratford is that there is a wide variety of cuisines to choose from, so there really is something for everyone. From French bistros to upscale lounges to cozy pubs, restaurants in Stratford come in all forms.
Having not been home to Stratford for a few years, I’ve noticed quite a few changes in terms of the food scene here. Many of the restaurants and cafes that I used to frequent are no longer in operation, but luckily they’ve been replaced by some fantastic alternatives. As you make your way around downtown Stratford, don’t forget to explore the side streets because you may just find some hidden gems there as well. Here are my top tips for where to eat in Stratford, Ontario whether this is your first time here or you’re a frequent visitor.
El Cactus Taco Shop
Have you ever tried Mexican street food before? If not, then you’re in for a treat at El Cactus Taco Shop. I would definitely rank this among the top 10 restaurants in Stratford, with its farm-to-table approach to Mexican takeaway food. El Cactus Taco Shop features traditional Mexican recipes using local and seasonal produce and ingredients as much as possible. The tacos here are delicious, but you can also opt for burritos or a burrito bowl if you prefer. All are equally as tasty so you won’t be disappointed. They also have various flavours of margaritas available so if you want the full experience at El Cactus Taco Shop then you need to order one. If you visit in the summer, there’s a lovely outdoor patio where you can sit and enjoy your food.
At the top of the list of the best takeaway restaurants in Stratford is Sirkel Foods. This isn’t your standard takeaway restaurant though. Sirkel Foods offers freshly prepared meals during the week, including breakfast, lunch, and tasty baked goods. They have their everyday menu that includes all of their most popular options, but they also bring out a daily specials board every morning which can have anything from loaded mac n’ cheese to fancy salads based around seasonal ingredients. With the expansion of the pedestrianized area in Market Square, you can enjoy your Sirkel Foods order on one of the picnic tables across the road (if the weather is nice). If you like a good, hearty sandwich then you can’t go wrong with the Brittlestar!
Bijou Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Stratford, Ontario and is almost always fully booked, especially when the Stratford Festival is on. Luckily we were able to book a much coveted table just before the rush started. Bijou is a French-inspired bistro offering a farm-to-table seasonal menu. It really is a culinary gem in Stratford, and the flavours whipped up by the chef will blow you away.
To begin we started with the Peas and Parmesan which had a bit of a kick to it but was bursting with flavour. We also tried their new Cantaloupe & Succor which was a very refreshing version of a summer salad that included cucumbers, field tomatoes, and soft lemon goat milk cheese. The Mushroom Risotto falls under the shareables part of the menu, but if you’re feeling hungry it’s a good portion for one person. The blue glaze on top of the maitake mushroom was unlike anything I’ve ever tried and has made me want to make that at home in the future!
The Blackview Farms Bavette is another great main dish to order. The meat was cooked to tender perfection and paired beautifully with the accompaniments. For dessert we shared the Chocolate Terrine which was topped with peanuts, and it was the ideal way to finish the meal off. Bijou uses all local suppliers to create their phenomenal dishes, so dining here is a great way to support locals from further afield while tucking in to some incredible food.
When people ask me where to eat in Stratford, Ontario I tend to say Pazzo first. This restaurant is located on Ontario Street and offers the best pizzas in Stratford and the surrounding area. Their menu uses locally sourced ingredients and focuses on producers who support sustainable practices so everything from the delicious starters to their freshly made pizzas and pastas, and even their desserts, are of the highest quality.
Pazzo is located downstairs, with Cafe Bouffon sitting above it, and it offers a tranquil setting away from the noise of the main street. In terms of the menu, the Funghi Crostini is a must-have for a starter and has been a popular option with customers for years. I recently tried their Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup as well which was delicious - you'll be spoiled for choice!
At lunchtime you’ll find that the pizzas are 8” rather than 12” (unless you build your own) which is a good size for this time of the day. There are plenty of fresh pasta options available as well if you’re not in the mood for pizza. For dessert the Lemon Curd Tart and the Tartufo are fantastic options but you won’t find a better Tiramisu in town than at Pazzo. Whether you visit for lunch or dinner you’ll never be disappointed when you eat at Pazzo in downtown Stratford.
Cafe Bouffon is one of Stratford’s most iconic restaurants and is designed like a classic French Cafe (located above Pazzo). We visited for dinner during their 25th anniversary season and ordered from their 3 course prix fixe menu which is $59pp and for an additional $35pp you can add wine pairing to the experience which I would highly recommend. Some of the options on the menu come with an additional supplement such as the Steak Frites and French Onion Soup, but the majority of dishes are included in the set menu price.
Just like Pazzo, Cafe Bouffon has a strong focus on sourcing their produce locally and sustainably so their classically inspired French menu is bursting with seasonal flavours that will elevate your evening dining experience. They have a good selection of dishes for each course, including vegetarian options such as the Warm Lentil Salad, French Onion Soup, and the Basque Omelette for starters - all are equally delicious and worth trying in my opinion.
The Steak Frites is one of Cafe Bouffon’s most popular main dishes and comes served with a large portion of frites and an aioli. Their McIntosh Farm’s Pork Sausage is another good example of a locally sourced meat dish and comes served with pommes puree, brandied prunes, and beurre noisette. Alternatively, the Mushrooms en Croute is a tasty vegetarian choice with a strong flavour profile that I would highly recommend ordering. And if you have room, or have ordered the set menu, Cafe Bouffon doesn’t disappoint with their dessert options either. Don’t forget to book ahead of time - tables are hard to come by in the high season!
Ice cream is great, but gelato is a little better, which is why I’d recommend stopping at Angela’s Gelato for a break. You’ll find Angela’s Gelato across the street from the Avon Theatre on Downie Street, and in my opinion it’s miles better than Scooper’s Ice Cream. This small gelato shop currently offers 8 flavours of gelato that come from a local supplier, and these flavours change regularly based on what’s available and what’s popular during the season. The mixture of chocolate hazelnut and raspberry is really good! Before leaving, make sure you grab some of their freshly squeezed lemonade too which is made right in front of you.
This one is an obvious choice because if you’ve been to Stratford before then you’ll either have been to Bentley’s or noticed that it’s always very busy. This popular bar in Stratford serves a huge selection of comfort food, and has probably the largest menu in the city. I’ve been coming to Bentley’s since I was a child, and the majority of the menu hasn’t changed much, so my favourites are still on it! Bentley’s isn’t fine dining, but it’s definitely comfort food at its best.
The Livery Yard
A lot of new cafes have popped up around Stratford since I was last home, and one of these is The Livery Yard. It’s a beautiful modern café and coffee bar with a wide selection of coffees, refreshing drinks, and baked goods available. Although I don’t drink coffee, I decided to stop by to see what kind of food they had, and was left pleasantly surprised with their cinnamon bun. The Livery Yard is a nice spot to stop for a short break as you make your way around the downtown area.
If you want a cool place to eat in Stratford then you should head over to The HUB and dine on the only three season rooftop patio in town. Their menu is a slightly more modern twist on pub food, and each of their dishes can be paired with a local craft beer from Heritage Hops Brew Co. located next door. I had a very hard time choosing because there were so many options I liked! We started with their grilled Garlic Cheese Bread and ordered a couple of cocktails from their drinks menu. If you’re in the mood for a burger I would recommend the Crispy Chicken Burger which is loaded with tasty toppings and will definitely fill you up for the rest of the day. For vegetarians, the Falafel Wrap is the perfect lunch option and comes with fries on the side. Check out The HUB the next time you’re in Stratford!
Heritage Hops Brew Co.
For all you beer lovers out there, you can’t miss the opportunity to have a couple of drinks at Heritage Hops Brew Co. in downtown Stratford. This heritage-inspired brewery offers a mixture of traditional beers as well as seasonal flavours that are sure to get your taste buds working. There’s even a sour beer to try out! We sampled two of their beer flights which included 4 of their most popular beers. We also added their Meat and Cheese Platter to our order which is the perfect pairing for the beers. It included various local meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables, as well as some slices of freshly baked bread. It’s a great spot for lunch in Stratford if you fancy some beers and want to chill out in a unique setting.
You won’t want to miss the unique Japanese-Canadian dining experience that Mercer Kitchen has to offer. All of the dishes on their menu are cooked from scratch and support both local and Canadian farmers and producers. Even their takeaway containers are eco-friendly and can be returned to any drop off point around Stratford through the Friendlier app.
Now let’s get down to the food. I can never say no to dumplings and their Vegetable Dumplings are perfectly steamed and tossed with chilli oil and soy for a perfect flavour and texture. Alternatively, the Crispy Fried Rice Balls with a lemon teriyaki sauce and togarashi aioli are a nice sharing option and something a little different than traditional Japanese food.
For the mains they have noodle and rice bowls, burgers, and large plates so there are a lot of great choices. The Striploin Steak is a definite highlight of the menu and is grilled to perfection, served with fries and a delicious aioli. But if you want something a little more Asian-inspired I would highly recommend going for the Bento Box! It consists of a number of single-portion boxes filled with an assortment of food such as crispy chicken, steamed rice, vegetable dumplings, and a peanut crunch salad - plus miso soup on the side. It’s the perfect choice if you want to try different styles of food.
Mercer Kitchen’s desserts are also very popular. We decided to share the Warm Vegan Brownie with salted caramel and cocoa nibs and were pleasantly surprised by the flavours. It’s also not a heavy dessert which is nice to round off the dining experience. And for those of you who enjoy drinking beer, Mercer Kitchen is known for housing the largest craft beer menu in Stratford - and they have some pretty tasty cocktails too like the White Sangria!
There are many more fantastic locally run restaurants and cafes located in and around Stratford to choose from, so hopefully I’ll be able to add more to my list of where to eat in Stratford, Ontario the next time I’m home. Whether you visit Stratford in the summertime and can enjoy sitting out on the various patios, or you visit in the winter, many restaurants work with a seasonal menu so you can expect only the freshest and in-season ingredients in your dishes.
If you run a restaurant and want to attract more customers to your restaurant, you can decorate it with custom neon signs. Neon signs can make your restaurant's interior more gorgeous and upscale. In addition to adding a creative flair to your space, custom neon signs give you unlimited design options to match your branding identity or enhance the overall interior architecture of your space.
Another great way to boost your restaurant business is to give away some promotional items to your guests. Preferably custom promotional items with your restaurant logo on them, such as custom metal keychains, custom lanyards, etc. Send these high-quality promotional items to customers during holidays or special events. I believe they will be more impressed with your restaurant, thereby promoting the business growth of your restaurant!
Have you had the chance to dine in Stratford before? I’d love to hear what you thought about the food and if any more restaurants should be added to my local’s guide on where to eat in Stratford, Ontario. Don't forget to check out my guide on the top things to do in Stratford and free things to do in Stratford too. You can also follow me on Instagram for more local travel tips!