St. Paul Street, St. Catharines, Ontario

15+ Must-Try Restaurants in Downtown St. Catharines

Downtown St. Catharines is one of the best areas for foodies in the Niagara Region.

The culinary scene here has changed a lot over the years. I didn’t realize how different it was until I came back to Niagara in 2021 after travelling and living abroad for several years.

Suddenly, restaurants like oddBird and Pharmacii had popped up alongside the chains and downtown staples I’d been going to for more than a decade. And every year, more awesome and innovative gems keep opening here. 

This list highlights some of the best restaurants in downtown St. Catharines right now (in my opinion, at least). It’s not a definitive list, but it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for great places to eat.

1. oddBird

If I had to choose one favourite restaurant in the Niagara Region, oddBird would be it. The food is crazy delicious, the service is stellar, and the vibe is unmatched. 

I never really know how to describe this restaurant to someone who hasn’t been, though. The best I can do is part French bistro, part trendy gastropub (even though that doesn’t do it justice). 

In other words: it’s the kind of place where you can get a fried chicken sandwich, seared sea scallops, foie gras, and bone marrow all in the same sitting. And every dish somehow manages to be 10/10.

The menu constantly changes, but a few of my go-to staples are beef tartare, blackened octopus, and truffle fries. Their house-ground burgers and fried chicken sandwiches are also super popular.

oddBird is tiny inside; the restaurant only seats roughly 20-ish people (I’m guessing), so the atmosphere is intimate. In the summer, they have a small outdoor patio that adds additional seating.

Oysters on ice at Oddbird in St. Catharines

2. Bistro Mirepoix

Bistro Mirepoix offers one of the best breakfast experiences you’ll have in St. Catharines.

I mean, look at the types of dishes they offer: pork belly benedict; sourdough waffles with maple cream and peaches; duck confit over cheesecake stuffed french toast with blueberries. Basically, everything is the definition of drool-worthy.

The pork belly benedict is a must-try here, and I recommend it if it’s on the menu when you visit. (The menu changes often so you won’t always see the same dishes.)

A few things to know before you go: they don’t take reservations and finding parking is a bit annoying in this area.

3. Dispatch

The owners of Dispatch describe the restaurant as “an elevated culinary experience without the fuss of fine dining.” After eating there, I’d say that description is right on the money. 

The presentation and flavours definitely feel upscale, but the restaurant’s atmosphere is friendly and laid-back. 

One thing I love? The food is inspired by global destinations but made with locally sourced ingredients. Their butter candle (a must-try app) is made with grass-fed butter from St. Brigid’s Creamery—a regenerative dairy farm in Huron County.

Hot tip if you’re gluten-free: the gluten-free bread they served with the butter candle is some of the best gluten-free bread I’ve had anywhere. And it’s made in-house, of course.

Butter candle and bread at Dispatch in St. Catharines

4. Chiang Noi’s

There are several Thai restaurants in downtown St. Catharines, but Chiang Noi’s is my favourite.

Everything is fresh and flavour-packed, the portions are good, and the prices are reasonable. 

I used to live about 30 seconds from this restaurant, so I’ve tried a lot of the menu. My top recommendations are the garden salad rolls, tom yum soup, ginger beef, red curry, authentic pad thai, and spicy herbal magic shrimp.

Technically, Chiang Noi’s is slightly outside of the downtown core, but I think it still deserves a spot on this list.

5. Pharmacii

Instagram-worthy aesthetic, inventive cocktails, outstanding food—this Korean snack bar is the kind of restaurant you’d expect to find in Toronto. 

In terms of taste, quality, and presentation, everything I’ve tried at Pharmacii was fantastic. Kimchi Chahan (kimchi, chorizo, bacon, rice, cheese, sous vide egg, and crispy brussel sprouts) was the standout dish for me. It’s savoury, smoky, creamy, and so, so delicious. 

Their shaker’s fries (fries served in a bag with a side of seasoning and wasabi aioli) and hipsy corn (buttered corn, Korean chili powder, chili aioli, puffed rice, and fresh parmesan cheese) were both great as well.

Kimchi Chahan at Pharmacii in St. Catharines

6. Amakara

For some of the best sushi in St. Catharines, head to Amakara. The food here is extremely fresh and of much higher quality than any of the AYCE restaurants. Prices are a la carte, but still reasonable. 

The restaurant is tiny inside with a cozy and homey atmosphere. Since seating is limited, you may want to call ahead and make a reservation if you’re visiting on the weekend or at a busy time.

Beyond sushi, they have other Japanese favourites, like chicken katsu, taco yaki, and donburi.

7. Fat Rabbit

Fat Rabbit is a combined restaurant and whole-animal butcher shop with a focus on ethically sourced, pasture-raised meat.

It’s one of the few places in Niagara where you can choose a steak from the display case, have it cooked, and then eat it in the restaurant. 

The menu is mostly small and larger plates meant for sharing. When I visited, I tried a selection of charcuterie meats (which they make in-house), beef tartare, and a few different veggie dishes. A standout was the broccolini with ajo blanco, sunchokes, and fermented chili.

Everyone I know who’s tried their sandwiches says they’re dynamite—especially the breakfast sandwich and the porchetta sandwich (with eggplant, bomba, salsa verde, and garlic mayo).

Plate of broccolini with ajo blanco, sunchokes, and fermented chili at Fat Rabbit in St. Catharines

8. oddBar

oddBar is oddBird’s casual sister restaurant. The menu is approachable bar food, but don’t be fooled: you’ll still get the same quality and creativity you’d expect from oddBird.

You can’t really talk about oddBar without mentioning pizza. They’re known for making some of the best pizza in the Niagara Region, including thick and fluffy Detroit-style pizza (along with classic round 12” pies).

For toppings, they offer everything from pepperoni to Hawaiian and haggard—basically a Big Mac pizza with mozzarella, American cheese, ground beef, lettuce, haggard sauce, shallots, pickles, and sesame crust.

9. Ma

When it comes to authentic Chinese food in St. Catharines, Ma is the real deal.

The menu is massive; it’s essentially a magazine with 50-odd pages divided into different categories like Szechuan cuisine, seafood, and dim sum. 

The number of options can be a bit overwhelming, but here are a few can’t-miss items: the melt-in-your-mouth traditional braised pork belly, anything on the dim sum menu, and the Hong Kong-style lobster (sauteed with peanuts and crispy fried garlic).

Hong Kong style lobster at Ma in St. Catharines, Ontario

10. Di’s Pizza Pies

Newly opened in June, this little pizza joint serves up perfectly cooked pies made from scratch daily.

Their pizza is on the pricier side, but worth it given the quality and freshness. The di-ablo (cup and char pepperoni, pickled jalapeno, hot honey, red sauce, mozzarella) and the vodka sauce (creamy vodka sauce, mozzarella, oregano, pecorino, chili oil) both stood out when I looked at the menu.

They also make cherry cola and all dipping sauces in-house.

11. Merchant Ale House

Merchant Ale House has been a downtown staple for decades—and for good reason. 

In terms of food, they have all your typical pub-style options—from nachos to wings to burgers and fish and chips. 

The menu may seem somewhat basic, but they know how to put an inventive spin on classic dishes. Everything is delicious, and much better quality than your average bar or pub. 

If you’re a beer drinker, you’ll love the selection here. Their blueberry beer is always a favourite.

Street view of Merchant Ale House in St. Catharines, Ontario

12. Ludology Board Game Cafe

Ludology is best known for their board game selection, but their food is awesome, too. The menu isn’t huge; it’s mainly burgers, wraps, salads, and a few different appetizers. 

I’d recommend trying the spinach dip if you just want an app or something to share. They’ve got plenty of drink options as well, including coffee, tea, cocktails, beer, and wine.

While you’re eating, you can choose from over 400 games to play—from Catan to Trivial Pursuit and just about any other game you can think of. There’s a $5 charge per person for games, as an FYI.

13. Fiesta Empanada

This little shop on St. Paul Street sells the perfect budget-friendly, grab-and-go lunch: empanadas. 

The owners of Fiesta Empanada hail from the Philippines, so these savoury pastries are made Filipino-style. Filling options include beef, chicken, spinach and feta, queso, pepperoni and cheese, and veggies.

They also make sweet Filipino baked goods like ensaimada—a fluffy brioche pastry topped with icing and cheese.

Street view of Fiesta Empanada in St. Catharines, Ontario

14. East Izakaya

If you’re looking for all-you-can-eat sushi in St. Catharines, East is always a reliable choice.

Is it the best sushi in the city? Definitely not. But, after coming here more times than I can count over the years, I will say: the quality is always consistent. It’s also decent value for money considering the size of the menu. 

The torched sushi is my favourite thing on the menu, followed by their tom yum soup and hand rolls.

15. Rise Above

Rise Above is one of the top vegan restaurants in St. Catharines. Everything on the menu is 100% plant-based, from the burgers to the mac and cheese and the eggplant parm. 

I’m not plant-based, but I’ve eaten here quite a few times over the years with two of my vegan friends. The food is surprisingly hearty and flavourful.

More must-try places to eat in downtown St. Catharines

A few more notable restaurants—some of which are still on my personal must-try list—include:

  • The District (tapas bar)
  • Wellington Court (upscale spot with a focus on local ingredients)
  • Twenty (wine bar)
  • Eh José Taqueria (Mexican)
  • Huong’s Kitchen (Vietnamese)
  • 1954 Bourbon & Smoke (BBQ)

Read more Niagara Food Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *