BIG Taste & BIG Craft Brew: Gastropubs of North Bay

We’re at the peak of Big Winter in North Bay with Snowmobile, Skiing, Ice Fishing & Battalion OHL Hockey all going on. I can’t think of a better way to spend some warmer hours by wetting your whistle and filling up on some good grub than a visit to one of a couple of the trending food stops in North Bay! In this BIG Bite mission, I set out to discover the changing local landscape in pub food, known to foodies and city dwellers around the world as Gastropubs. 

What makes a great Gastropub? Well, the recipe is that combination of sneaky hop-happy craft beer; authentic pub food, but not your greasy fast food deep fryer kind; and, an atmosphere crossed between Modern Chic & Urban Hipster with black clad T-shirt servers. And of course, your big appetite completes the recipe.  

With the global shift to inner-city revitalization, hip urban dwellers created a demand for craft brew makers and an artisan food. Voila, the Gastropub concept was born. We culinary crusaders have welcomed this trend to casual-but-upscale food and drink and Northeastern Ontario’s North Bay has joined the party with a few such additions to their restaurant scene.

My first stop is Arugula Fresh, established 2013. Hello, did someone say, authentic wood-fired oven pizza? I heard it right and it’s a home run among locals and, as I discovered, it’s becoming a real destination for outside tourists and staycationers. Owner Tracey Kolios says she’s a veteran in the food service business and has made it her gastro mission to offer REAL Naples Pizza, authentic Italian appetizers (the Meatballs Pomodore rock), and an array of panini sandwiches served with Italian fries or salad.  

Their signature Arugula pizza takes only 90 seconds in the 900 degree handmade brick oven!  From my birds-eye seat I take in live pizza tossing theatrics with the gigantic chandelier overhanging the kitchen area and a full view of the pizza oven. But there’s much more to Arugula than pizza. I started off with their Tapas Trio of hummus, tapenade and roasted peppers served with crostini and a crisp tasting Moscato from Movendo, Puglia Italy. Then it was on to the pizza entrée, a Margarita Classic pairs beautifully with a can of Muskoka Mad Tom IPA. This pizza had that authentic blistering crust and delicate char of wood flavour - perfect!

I am a tough food critic, so if you are going to say, FRESH in your name - it better be fresh!  Drum roll…it was FRESH at Arugula! 

Exterior Station Tap

The latest buzz in North Bay is for the Station Tap House and Steak Co., established this January at 603 McIntyre East. Part of the Gastropub movement is urban renewal and this location brings that big-time. Co-owners veteran Chef Steve and restaurateur Chris haven’t left a stone unturned in this new venture.  

Their worldly inspired flavours, chic atmosphere and mouth-watering list of plentiful appetizers, gourmet burgers and grilled steak are literally award winning! There are enough appys on this menu to make it a tapas night, we opted for the Curry Mussels.

Lets’ talk Burgers and Beer! Chef Steve’s gourmet burger with Ale-braised onions & apples piled high on an 8oz. beef patty and topped with melted brie on a brioche is a unique combo sure to impress your palate. You would be remised if you didn’t order this. Lately, we’ve been making our own buffet at the table, we split the burger. That’s the only regret I had on this gastro-mission!!!

Locavores like me will be impressed with the selections at Station Tap House. They proudly choose Ontario corn fed beef for their burgers and steak and Ontario Lamb for divinely prepared lamb chops with roasted root vegetables, sweet potatoes and cranberry jus.

Salivating yet? Seriously, there are some good eats in North Bay with warm and friendly service. Can’t wait to return but it’ll be a battle between the Pizza or Burger. 

About Pamela Hamel

Chef, writer, traveller, and former executive, Pamela explores sustainable lifestyle trends. Aka “Martha Stewart” of the North, Pamela takes this as a compliment, but it’s a little too snobbish for this hometown girl. Born, raised, and career developed in Northeastern Ontario’s Kirkland Lake area, Pamela moved to Toronto to pursue BIG markets for her BIG ideas. With an appetite for adventure, Pamela boasts a biz savvy spirit, an eye for design, and an incredible talent for turning nothing into something. Search #foodsbynature to discover your next inspired living moment.

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