Next week from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, is Uptown Saint John Inc.’s annual Chop Chop restaurant week, so this is a good time to take a look at some of the best options for food and drink in the Port City (Uptown is what Saint Johners call their downtown. Don’t ask them to explain. Most don’t really know why it’s called that).
There are so many options now that it is difficult to choose where to go when faced with only one night on the town. Certainly two days is better, but here are some ideas for a night in the Port City.
First, make sure you are not driving afterwards. Leave the car at home and take a cab, or stay at a hotel. The Delta offers convenience, comfort, parking and some great views over the city, as well as Mix restaurant/bar. There is also the waterfront Hilton, with its York Bistro, and smaller hotels and B&Bs.
A good place to start is with a pre-dinner glass of wine at Happinez wine bar on Princess Street, directly underneath the very popular Britt’s Pub. Owned by Peter Smit, a former hotel hospitality professional and instructor originally from Holland, Happinez celebrated 10 years of happiness in 2016. The bar, modelled after Amsterdam’s famous “brown pubs,” is quaint and rustic, dark and moody, but very friendly. Equipped with a preservation system, Happinez has the best (if not the largest at 22) by-the-glass selection of wine in the province, largely anchored on good value European wines, as well as some special cellar wines available only by bottle. Smit chooses his own wines, not relying on arrangements with wine sales agents, and the by-the-glass selections change regularly, including a wine of the month and his special Zip wine, something more rare and special. Wine prices are lower than most restaurants, perhaps because Happinez is not a restaurant. He does offer some New Brunswick cheese and charcuterie, but there’s no kitchen and thus no accompanying overhead.