Researching the best Stratford restaurants for your next theatre getaway? We organized a brilliant restaurant binge, hopping around Ontario’s theatre mecca to sample its most impressive sips and nibbles.
Located two hours west of Toronto, the city of Stratford, located in Perth County, has been a hotbed for world renowned theatre for decades. With the surge of art lovers visiting over the years, Stratford’s restaurants can now take their own bow and curtsy on stage.
The city’s diverse restaurant scene features a few local stars of its own. The heart of most Stratford restaurants culinary philosophy is “local first,” sharing a community-driven effort to support the farmers and producers who allow them to put applause-worthy food on the table.
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Stratford Restaurants Boom
First settled in 1832, the townsite of Stratford and the accompanying river were named after Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Incorporated as a city in 1885, Stratford—due to the surrounding farms and the resource-rich farmland—became quickly known as the pork capital of Ontario. It’s a title the community has worn with pride and is marked by an annual meeting from the Pork Congress of Ontario.
From it’s early days as a busy hub for the Grand Trunk Railroad to Thomas Edison living above a now established coffee shop, the history of Stratford and its food has always been full of characters. By the 1920s Stratford was known for its furniture industry, with dozens of industrious woodworkers opening up shop. The general strike of 1933, which got so bad that the Canadian Army had to be called in, marked the beginnings of a significant decline in the industrial sector of Stratford, a narrative found at the heart of playwright James Reaney’s Kingwhistle!
Speaking of plays, by 1953, Tom Patterson, a journalist for Macleans Magazine, opened the first Stratford play with the help of supporters. The Stratford Festival has made tourism a significant industry for the city and today the city boasts a diversified economy which includes manufacturing, finance, and of course, Stratford restaurants.
Stratford Restaurants Fuelled by Chef School
Founded in 1983 by Eleanor Kane and James Morris the Stratford Chefs School serves as a key component to the Stratford restaurants that exist today. Acting as a high-intensity training ground with great work opportunities, the chef school has produced some of Stratford restaurants best chefs as well.
“The Stratford Chefs School was born out of a direct need for trained staff in local restaurants during the summer tourist season when theatre fans actively sought out fine dining experiences before and after shows. For over 35 years the School has focused on training culinary entrepreneurs, not just good cooks,” said Tamara Kucheran of the Chefs School.
The philosophy of “Earth to table” eating has always been at the core of what the chef school teaches and by extension, how the majority of the eateries in Stratford operate as well.
“The rise of ‘foodie tourism’ has also meant that visiting diners are noticeably becoming more invested in the people behind the food, and more discerning about the producers who contributed to the final product. I think locals have always had a connection to the farmers and producers around Stratford, but now you are seeing more and more visitors actively seek out establishments that feature local products,” Kucheran says.
The Stratford Chef School offers a variety of programs for all skill levels, including a preparatory course that teaches the basics of cooking for those interested in culinary career, and a 16-week diploma program for those intending to move into the culinary workforce after graduating. The school also provides an apprenticeship program with a variety of Stratford restaurants in the area, including many that feature below in our list of the best Stratford restaurants.
Best Hotels in Stratford
Stratford is a year-round travel destination with its busiest season correlating to the theatre festival’s performance dates, which run between April and December.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Stratford for those looking to enjoy a restaurant hopping holiday. You’ll find a mix of affordable hotels, luxurious boutique properties and friendly B&Bs.
- Rosehurst Bed and Breakfast 5 STARS: ranked as one of the best B&Bs in Stratford, Ontario, Rosehurst is owned and managed by Food Network personality Theresa Albert. Rosehurst Bed and Breakfast features four well-appointed suites and a tranquil backyard garden where Albert sources fresh produce and herbs for her breakfast menu.
- Mercer Hotel 3.5 STARS: this heritage hotel features rooms attached to one of Stratford’s most celebrated fine dining restaurants. The nearby Plum Suites offer the comfort of home and feature a kitchenette and plush queen bed.
- Queens Inn 3 STARS: this quirky pet-friendly hotel in Stratford is just 3 minutes walk from the Avon Theatre. All 12 rooms boast fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and free WIFI.
Best Stratford Restaurants
Looking for the best things to do in Stratford, Ontario? From sweet smelling bakeries to fancy fine dining, Stratford restaurants offer a colourful collection of locally sourced menus.
64 Wellington St, 519-305-6464
As a worker owned restaurant, Red Rabbit is unique in both its food and overall structure. From Jessie, “the big boss” to Dan the “lead server and storyteller,” everyone that works at Red Rabbit is part owner in some regard.
The food is an eclectic mix of home-style Americana with a dose of East Asian influences – and the dish sizes are perfect for sharing. Chef Jon Naiman lets the food speak for itself, whether it’s delicious fried chicken or the Laotian inspired Nam Khao – his distinctive voice comes through loud and clear.
“Restaurants get in your blood and you can’t shake it off,” said Jessie, one of the head owners of Red Rabbit. “We just wanted to work for ourselves and know that when we put in back to back 14 hour days that we would actually see some return for our efforts.”
The Red Rabbit name stems from a culinary prank between back and front of house – and at this point has become kitchen lore. From the way Red Rabbit interacts with its multitude of local producers, staff and customers – a jovial and friendly atmosphere sits hand in hand with amazing food.
“We have three different menus to appeal to three different demographics depending on the season and time of day. Fried chicken is always number one when it is available. Many other things change seasonally.
Signature Dishes at Red Rabbit:
- Colonel Collins’ Fried Chicken
- Bacon & Foie Gras Paté
- Nam Khao
151 Albert St, 519-271-5052
As one of Stratford’s best restaurants, The Prune offers a great mix of high-brow culinary experimentation via delicious French dishes. It’s a romantic restaurant, perfect for celebrating an anniversary or birthday. With a knowledgeable staff, every course is explained treated with care.
“Chef Jamie’s focus is always on each ingredients flavour. Using the best classical French and modern technique to highlight the flavours of the highest quality products Perth county and Ontario have to offer, Jamie creates deceptively simple and highly impactful dishes. These dishes evoke strong connections and emotions in The Prune’s guests,” said co-owner Shelley Windsor.
The Old Prune was home to the Stratford Chefs School and even after the Stratford Chefs School moved into its new facility two years ago the restaurant and the school maintain a close relationship even to the point of sharing staff.
Featuring a spacious back garden patio, The Prune restaurant offers a quiet culinary getaway in Stratford, Ontario. “Chef Jamie and Restaurant Manager Orielle work together on the beverage list continuously to make sure that the food menu and beverage list are always in sync making for exciting food and wine pairings,” Shelley said.
The Prune menu changes nearly every day as inspiration and seasonal products cycle through the kitchen teams hands. That being said the Chicken Liver Mousse has been on the menu for nearly 20 years and guests come back year after year looking for it.
“Oysters, dynamite devilled eggs and sturgeon caviar are popular from our snack menu and Duck torte, steak frites and Monkfish with shishitos, bok choi and lobster broth are popular fall entrees.”
Signature Dishes at The Prune:
- Roasted Monkfish with Shishito Peppers, Bok Choi and Lobster Sauce
- Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Mousse with Black Currant Relish
- Pork Belly with New Onion, Beans and Gooseberry
70 Brunswick St, 519-273-3424
Opened to the public in June 2015, Revival House an intimate connection to the town of Stratford, since the restaurant itself occupies the Mackenzie Memorial Gospel Church, which closed its doors in the late 1960s.
Having previously housed the Stratford Chefs School in the restaurants off-season, Revival House has trained many great cooks, including Revival House’ resident Chef Andrew Tutt.
“Inspired by his grandfather’s love of simple cooking from the family garden, Andrew is an advocate for the development of Canadian cuisine through cooking with a conscious attitude towards where all of our ingredients come from,” said owner Rob Wigan.
Revival House has done a great job of integrating old church aesthetic into the restaurant’s atmosphere. Stained glass windows provide beautiful natural light and a gigantic chandelier hanging over the bar was created by Frank Holte, the former prop master at the Stratford Festival.
“We are now excited to be Revival House, bringing people together again to celebrate and enjoy each others company,” said Wigan. “We have become a highly sought after wedding venue, and excited to have married so many amazing couples.”
Signature Dishes at Revival House:
- Forest Mushroom Chicken Paillard: herbed gnocchi, spinach, poultry jus
- The Burger: ground brisket, burger sauce, shredded lettuce, onion, tomato, brioche bun
- Spaghetti Carbonara: double smoked bacon, spinach, parmesan, lemon cream, poached egg
74 Wellington St, 519-273-5000
Bringing a fresh perspective to classic French cuisine, Stratford’s Bijou restaurant recently marked its 20th anniversary.
“Perth County is bountiful with local proteins, fruit and vegetables and has become a destination for world class food,” said owner Mark Simone. “The name was inspired by the fact that Bijou translated into French is Gem, therefore it evolved a particle catch phrase, culinary gem. Our cornerstone influence is inspired French cuisine.”
Mark and his wife Linda have owned Bijou for the past six years and in that time, expanded the overall size of the restaurant while adorning its walls with unique Stratford Festival Art pieces, local artist paintings, prints, drawings and photos. A giant chalkboard dominates the centre of the restaurant, but instead of daily specials (Bijou features a slightly different menu everyday) Mark and Linda have listed each of the local suppliers and farmers that the restaurant works with.
Signature Dishes at Bijou:
- Mushroom Escargot Tart: 63.5-degree egg, gouda, parmesan crumbs
- Seared Trout: sesame rice cake, soy ginger butter sauce, kimchi slaw
- Braised Beef Cheek: crispy polenta, wilted greens, BBQ demi-glace
89 Parkview Dr, 519-508-7100
First opened in May of 2014, The Bruce Hotel and Restaurant is named after owner Jen Birmingham’s father. As one of Stratford’s most well-respected establishments, The Bruce adheres to a “New Canadiana” approach when it comes to food. For the head chef, Arron Carley, that means only using ingredients sourced locally and grown naturally in Canada.
The interior design and overall atmosphere at The Bruce, screams decadence and the food matches it at every turn. The 85-seat dining room room features floor to ceiling windows that provide ample natural light, not to mention a pretty view of a landscaped lawn. In the warm summer months arrive at The Lounge early for a pre-theatre cocktail, best sipped on The Bruce’s outdoor patio.
When it comes to culinary philosophy, The Bruce shares in the common Stratford theme of “local first” and “fresh is best” that every entry on this list subscribes. Expect Chef Arron Carley’s menu to constantly be changing, with appetizers and entrees evolving with what’s fresh at the farmers market.
Signature Dishes at The Bruce:
- Pesto Tagliolini
- Great Lakes Grilled Pickerel
- Sprouted Legume Burger
104 Ontario St, 519-271-9202
The Izakaya meets gastropub concept of the Mercer Kitchen + Beer Hall was inspired by Executive Chef Ryan O’Donnell’s time spent living in Japan.
Bill, Shelley and management team wanted to create a restaurant that they would want to hang out with their friends. Mercer Kitchen provides interesting food options on an all-day menu paired with an extensive Ontario craft beer list.
A local-centric philosophy for both the food and drink allow Mercer Kitchen’s team to create an ever-changing lineup of unique flavours and dishes. By using the best Perth County producers have to offer, the Stratford restaurant maintains a little of the exotic while still having a strong sense of place.
For many years, the building served as the home of Stratford’s newspaper The Beacon Herald and there are still parts of the printing press built into the basement.
Signature Dishes at Mercer Kitchen:
- Grilled Halloumi Salad
- Karaage Chicken with Togarashi Aioli
- Steamed Pork Dumplings with Chili Soy
46 Ontario Street, 519-275-1396
Buffy & Greg both have a long food history in Stratford, but it was Buffy’s background in Design and Holistic Nutrition that inspired them to open a cafe.
The name of Edison’s Cafe stems from Thomas Edison who once lived within the building, directly above the cafe.
Buffy’s vision was to create a chic and stylish atmosphere and really maximize the small space. Lighting was important for the cafe and originally Buffy was searching for lights that would reflect those of Thomas Edison’s “Menlo Park” laboratory.
Open daily from 8am-5pm, guests are treated to a unique breakfast and lunch menu. All of their baked goods are prepared lovingly in-house without the use of grains, dairy or refined sugars. Local beer and wine share the stage with unique beverages such as beet, turmeric, moringa and charcoal lattes.
They also offer a lovely selection of nourishing teas and cold pressed organic juices from local businesses. As a designer and food lover, Buffy has created a beautiful environment where people can feel good about what they eat and drink.
377 Huron St, 519-273-5296
Opening on October 10, 1985, Madelyn’s Diner was Run by Rob and Madelyn McGorman before being taken over by their daughter Krista and her husband Peter in 2012.
As a family that has always loved good food and good friends, Krista and Peter believe there’s no better inspiration than to share that love with the community around you.
The food philosophy of Madelyn’s Diner is simple – use as many local products possible to create fast, delicious food for their customers. They aim to provide home-style cooked meals at a reasonable price done quickly.
Known for their delicious butter tarts in a variety of distinct flavours, Madelyn’s Diner sold 64,277 butter tarts in 2018, using Krista’s family recipe.
2019 marks Madelyn’s Diner 34th year in business. Krista, along with Peter and their five daughters, hope to see the legacy her mother built, continue for years to come.
98 Wellington St, 519-497-5167
The name Soup Surreal and inspiration to open the restaurant are intertwined. Chef and co-owner Derek Denny spent much of his career watching other chefs see “soup of the Day” as just another job on the prep list.
For Derek, it was always a chance to shine, show off the flavours he craved or wanted to experiment with. The goal was always to leave the diner thinking about the soup after leaving the restaurant rather than the main or dessert. Creating a Surreal Soup experience for the guest to appreciate is often forgotten about. But for Derek the most important show of skill in flavour building. Soup Surreal was built on a love aromatics, seasoning, and textures.
Starting from humble beginnings co-owner Ashley Stewart wanted the shop to feel like home. Ashley and Derek decided to let the natural wood tones flow into our paint choices. As they grew into the shop, they were able to begin carrying other local complimentary products, choosing to incorporate them almost as décor elements.
From the baguette basket atop the cheese fridge, to the bread rack hugging the counter, the food decorates their very simple and but soup themed space.
Signature Dishes at Soup Surreal:
- Beef Barley
- Jamaican Jerk Chicken
- Creamy Smoked Cheddar Mushroom
80 Wellington St, 519-271-0999
Chef and owner Tim Otsuki’s inspiration for the common comes from his experience abroad enjoying the comfort food of a variety of countries.
After graduating from the Stratford Chef School, TimO (as he’s affectionately known) honed his skills in Hong Kong, South East Asia and the Caribbean, while also expanding his trips and palate to other destinations.
Chef TimO has described his cuisine as “Eating without borders” and the food served at The Common an eclectic mix of comfort food from around the world and cultural fusion of freely adapted recipes from TimO’s own experiences.
The Common infuses their own liqueurs, syrups and even make their own sodas and tea-based drinks in-house.
Signature Dishes at The Common:
- The Common bowl
- South Indian Aloo Curry
- Laap Gai
30 Ontario St, 519-273-5886
The Mill Stone Restaurant is a family-owned business – Jackie Hayton is at the helm and her son, Jeremy, takes care of the kitchen and the day-to-day.
The name is inspired by the history of the area; the section of Ontario St. the restaurant is located is historically referred to as “The Mill Block”. This name stems from the proximity to the city’s first mills and the resulting purpose of the stores that popped up on the block. From the back window, you can also see the Millstone Monument; a plaque dedicated to the site of the city’s first mill.
Though he started his restaurant career behind the bar, Jeremy’s heart led him to the kitchen (although he still runs the cocktail program). He loves to incorporate flavours from all around the world, but has a particular penchant for Mexican cuisine.
This means there are always an array of delicious tacos on the menu, ranging from traditional pork pastor to more “fusion” creations with curries or confit. Aside from tacos he enjoys making more “tapas style” small plates; where people can enjoy a variety of interesting and bold flavours and not have to leave feeling uncomfortably full.
Signature Dishes at The Mill Stone Restaurant:
- Pork Pastor and Duck Confit Tacos
- Chicken sandwich with kimchi, cucumber, slaw, KBBQ, pickled onions, & a poached egg
- Lavender Trout. Seared and finished with lavender honey butter
37 Market Pl, 519-305-1600
Not wanting to see Stratford lose an espresso bar committed to Direct Trade Coffee, long-time customer Anne Campion bought revel after the cafe went up for sale in 2010.
Built in the mid-1800s after the market fire in the original Market Place the revel was built between two existing buildings, and one of its walls was the outside wall of Stratford’s first General Store. Known as, E.G. Budd & Sons. The space was closed for 17 years before the landlord purchased the building.
Anne maintained the revel’s philosophy on Direct Trade coffee and expanded on partnerships with local roasters, introducing transcend coffee & roastery out of Edmonton, to revel’s a lineup of beans.
Known for their variety of pastries, everything is created in-house by Chef Sarah – utilizing locally sourced ingredients for a delicious treat paired with three different types of cold brew coffee.
118 Downie St, 519-305-5888
Opened in April 2018, owners Dee & Suzi Christensen have always had a love for diners. The ambiance, the food, the diverse demographic of guests – everyone enjoys a diner. The duo had an idea to create a space that captured the diversity of diner culture by creating a menu where people of all dietary backgrounds could share a meal together while sticking to traditional diner food menu.
“I wanted “Betty Page meets 50’s diner. The polka dot wallpaper with the white wash wainscoting, the original candy apple red booths with the locally sourced barn wood bar. Our walls have become a gallery where local pop artists sell their works. It’s mid-century modern with elements of Worhol and a dash of smart ass,” Dee said.
Both Dee and Suzi have been cooking for over twenty years and the recipes were created over a decade of trying to perfect comfort food dishes with a restricted diet in mind. The pair believes eating is a communal experience and created a space where families of all tastes can share a stellar meal at the same table.
Signature Dishes at The Planet Diner:
- Buffalo Chick’un Burger, usually paired with Queso Fries
- The Planet Burger
- Southern Combo featuring our Mac & Cheeze
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