Prince Edward County is back and bustling after COVID-induced slumber, thanks in part to the multitude of Torontonians who moved there during the pandemic and opened new wineries, boutique hotels and restaurants. Nearly half a million visitors will flock to the area by the end of 2023 to see PEC’s newest attractions, including cocktail bars, tapas restaurants and innovative breweries, plus county mainstays like Sandbanks Provincial Park’s pristine stretch of beaches , which are possibly the best in the province. Here’s a selection of the best options, new and old, for drinks and dining during your next trip to PEC.
In 2008, Dave and Joni Gillingham purchased 50 acres of land from the county. Dave, a wine-making hobbyist, wanted to grow his own grapes, but the couple ended up with more vines than they needed. “If you’ve ever wanted to open a winery, now is the time,” Joni said. Six years later, Domaine Darius finally opened its doors. It may be one of the smallest wineries in the county, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality: on average, the Gillinghams only produce 1,000 cases each year, and many varieties sell out before they’re even bottled. Domaine offers a wide range of wines, including ripassos, gewürztraminers, chardonnays, pinot noirs and cuvées, which are unique blends that Dave makes once a year. On the outdoor terrace, Joni often guides visitors through tastings, walking them through the notes of each wine and the creation process. Her guiding philosophy: “Even if you don’t know anything about wine, you know what you like.”
2436 Prince Edward County Highway 1, Bloomfield | terracellowinery.com
Tony Auciello was four years old when his nonna from Calabria, Italy, taught him how to make pizza. In the early 2000s, he moved from Toronto to the county and built one of the area’s first Neapolitan-style outdoor pizza ovens on his property. Since then, he has been serving his guests the best pizza in the county. For a true Neapolitan pie, order the Margherita, which Auciello prepares following strict rules governing the diameter of the dough, how it is stretched (by hand, of course), the height of the crust, and the cooking time: 90 seconds exactly. The Calabrese is equally authentic, topped with mozzarella, Calabrian soppressata, green olives, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and a drizzle of Italian olive oil. Auciello calls it “pure pizza alchemy.”
Flossie’s Sandwich Shop
In 2018, after leaving a high-intensity initial job, Kyle Jones began serving his sandwiches out of a cooler at the Wellington Farmers Market. A few years later, he graduated to a food truck and a low-key outdoor patio at Carson’s Garden + Market. His sandwich shop is one of the county’s cult favorites. Meat lovers will want to try the Hogfather, a bacon-wrapped sausage patty topped with mozzarella, provolone cheese and three house-made sauces: arrabbiata bolognese, hot pepper sauce and pesto. For vegetarians, there’s Jones’ all-time favorite, Eggplant Parmesan, plus hand-cut, twice-blanched French fries seasoned with kosher salt and a flavorful blend of Italian herbs.
To turn off
181 Mowbray Road, Picton | slakebrewing.com
Built on a west-facing limestone hill on a 100-acre farm, Slake Brewing is the ideal place to be at sunset with a cold beer. Eric Portelance and Greg Landucci, who previously opened Halo Brewery in Toronto, launched Slake in 2020 with the goal of brewing easy-drinking beers, clean lagers and innovative barrel-aged beers. Slake’s brewing team, led by co-owner Nick Bobas, brews nearly every batch of beer with 100% Ontario malt. The taps rotate regularly, but any of the brewery’s signature juicy, sour IPAs and pale ales are a safe bet.
343 County Road 22, Picton | base31.ca
Base31 was originally a military base and training site. After its decommissioning in 1969, it was converted into a private airport and later rented out as storage and studio space. Then in 2021, PEC Community Partners took over the site and created Base31. With the help of former estate manager Jacqui Burley, who is credited with saving the site from ruin, they have turned the base into a vibrant cultural center for music, art, entertainment and culinary experiences. Visitors looking to explore Base31’s fall events, including art exhibitions and comedy shows, can also explore galleries and retail shops located in the site’s 22,000-square-foot former mess halls, barracks and gymnasium.
Bocado is the latest endeavor from Australian chef Stuart Cameron, who worked at Mira and Byblos in Toronto before putting down roots in the county in 2020. His tapas-style restaurant has a rotating Spanish-inspired menu; One of his favorite dishes is pan con anchoa, a slice of fresh sourdough topped with cultured butter and marinated white Spanish anchovies. For dessert is Bocado’s spiral churro served with chocolate and dulce de leche sauces.
Once a stop for luxury train travelers, the Royal Hotel fell into disrepair until the Sorbara family purchased it in 2013. After a major renovation, the Royal finally reopened in 2022 with a spa, outdoor pool, 28 rooms and five new suites. in the hotel’s former horse stables (now called The Royal Annex). The star feature: a luxurious restaurant and bar, helmed by chef Albert Ponzo, serving locally inspired seasonal dishes. Rooms start at $299 per night.
The war house
Owners and innkeepers Norah and Christopher Rogers purchased Waring House in 1995, converting the original structure into four guest rooms and the Barley Room Pub. Over the years, they have added new suites to the property, including House Next Door (a restored farmhouse), Heritage and Quaker Lodges (the most modern suites) and Vineyard View Cottage (a private cobblestone building). Each of Waring House’s 49 rooms, which start at $150 a night, are decorated in Victorian-era decor, thanks to Norah’s extensive antique collection and her love of all things Canadian.