[I had the chance to visit beautiful Prince Edward Island last month and this story on the provincial capital was published in Vacay.ca in August 2012.]
CHARLOTTETOWN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND — Charlottetown is so immaculate it needed to invent its own mice population. Three years ago, miniature bronze mice began to appear throughout the downtown streets of this tidy provincial capital. Part of a scavenger hunt based on the character Eckhart the Mouse from author David Weale’s “The True Meaning of Crumbfest,” the mice are another cute aspect of a city that’s easy to adore for all of the reasons you might expect — Charlottetown is as friendly and attractive as its reputation — and for some reasons that will surprise you. Despite a population of less than 35,000, Charlottetown has a surprisingly upscale dining scene and lively bar atmosphere.
Victoria Row, a pedestrian-only block of Richmond Street that’s bracketed by iron gates on either end, is home to patio bars and a summertime stage that features local musicians performing during the day. You can hear the music, which is often very good, from blocks away, creating a festive atmosphere in a downtown core that might otherwise seem sleepy on first encounter.
A few blocks from Victoria Row is Lot 30, an outstanding eatery headed by chef Gordon Bailey (formerly of the Inn at Bay Fortune, PEI’s only entry in the 2012 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list). The Lot 30 menu changes daily, although you can expect lots of seafood choices and an excellent steak. It fits perfectly with the generation of modern restaurants that emphasizes flavours from natural, local ingredients rather than thick, heavy sauces. Not surprisingly, the succulent scallops were a highlight of a recent five-course tasting menu that also included baked scallops and a dessert trio with luscious Bailey’s ice cream and chocolate mousse. Just as impressive is the quality of service, which is decidedly big city in its professionalism, a contrast to many other parts of Atlantic Canada where wait staffs tend to be friendly and polite but below-par in performance.