The Ultimate Guide to Eating Great Food in KW

New to Waterloo? Want to try somewhere to eat that’s not in University Plaza? Are you like me and never really cook? (What, a handful of corn chips and yogurt cup doesn’t count as dinner?) This is the list to you. There are so many amazing things to eat in Waterloo Region, it’s almost excessive. I’m certainly not complaining. If you trust the sole opinion of a fifth-year Waterloo student foodie, take this list with the highest level of respect possible. Here are my top places to eat in Waterloo.

 

For a Casual Bite to Eat

 

 

Need something to grab and go? Want a chill place to supply you with caffeine and carbs so you can study for 7 hours straight? Check out these cool options:

 

1. Vincenzo’s 

Or Vinnie’s, as the locals call it, is an upscale, market-style grocery store located on the Kitchener/Waterloo border. Vincenzo’s carries all your specialty groceries, fresh produce, endless cheeses, and most importantly, a hot counter, sandwich bar, salad bar, café and more - oh my goodness they really do have it all. Venture out to grab supplies to build your craftiest charcuterie board with friends, or grab a scrumptious handmade sandwich to go. Vincenzo’s is always a treat, and worth the LRT ride over. Right across the way from Vincenzo’s is another Waterloo gem, The Bauer Kitchen… but we’ll get to that later.

 

2. Princess Café

Do you love local treats, eats, and deliciously crafted coffee? Of course, you do. Go to Princess Café. One of the coziest cafés in Uptown Waterloo, you won’t be disappointed by their delicious menu offerings or expanded space to study. Just don’t let the wafting scent of fresh movie theatre popcorn make you drop your work and go see an indie film at Princess Cinemas, located in the same building…

 

3. Ethel’s

At first glance, maybe you’d walk right by because it looks slightly divey or houses a typically older crowd. Well girl, let me tell you, this place has a special place in my heart for their Taco Tuesday deal (four beef tacos for $2.86! Wow! You can’t beat that!), affordable drinks, giant outdoor patio, and quirky atmosphere. Give this one a shot. 

 

4. Café Pyrus 

This one is in KITCHENER ladies, which is a great place to be, especially if you want to escape the student bubble for a while, take a walk in the park afterwards to see a swan, and maybe run into a founder of a cool tech company. This vegan café is a favourite of many and is often busy, but it’s usually not hard to find somewhere to sit as there’s plenty of seating available! Hunker down and get some work done at a table or snuggle up with a book on one of the couches. If you’re feeling peckish, grab something to eat here. Not only is their food ethical but it’s delicious!

 

5. PURE Juice Bar & Kitchen 

Another Kitchener gem, I ate here at least once a week while on work term in Kitchener. PURE is the perfect option for a quick lunch that is actually healthy and good for your body. Grab a signature bowl or wrap, fresh smoothie, sandwich, or even a healthy(ish) sweet treat here to fuel your body and mind.

 

For a bougie, fine, time

 

 

Want to try some craft beer? Have a special occasion to celebrate? Need a reason to change out of your sweatpants and get out of the house? Check out these options:

 

1. The Bauer Kitchen

Remember the restaurant located right near Vincenzo’s? Told you we’d get back here for another upscale experience in the city. The Bauer Kitchen features local ingredients through classic dishes and offers a unique menu, on-site bakery, and daily food features. One time my friend's mom took us here and bought us wine and an incredible meal. I felt so special, I almost cried.

 

2. Red House

If you didn’t notice, I’m a big local advocate. This is why I love Red House. Never mind the huge chain restaurant dining rooms you know. Duck into this small-but-cozy dining room instead. Located in a literal house, you will feel right at home in Uptown Waterloo's hottest bistro restaurant and be inspired by their genuine, energetic hospitality. 

 

3. Marbles

Okay, so this one is casual fine dining but still, is a great option for a nice dinner. Marbles food is made from scratch and tastes phenomenal, but let’s talk about the atmosphere. Experience the authentic vintage elements of exposed brick, stained glass and hand-hewn posts & beams that meet modern post-industrial décor including a tin ceiling, barn board and copper countertop bar. Take some time to check this one out for yourself!

 

4. Rich Uncle Tavern

Have you ever wanted to feel like a rich uncle? Wait, have you ever just wanted to feel rich? Me too sis, me too. Here is the perfect location for your fantasy. The Rich Uncle Tavern offers classic, yet inventive fare that “pays homage to the brasseries and taverns of yesteryear.” Grab a gorgeous drink, get treated like royalty by their attentive staff and enjoy the atmosphere for a blissful escape from the reality of being a broke student.

 

5. Gilt 

Owned by two badass women who love food, people, and wine, Gilt is a contemporary restaurant located in the heart of Kitchener's Innovation District. Defined by their creative sharing menu and social atmosphere, Gilt is the perfect place to try something new and treat yourself to a great experience. 

 

For drinks with your girls

 

 

Or a date, or your mom. Let’s talk about drinks. All of these places have great food as well, but I like to visit these particular places for boozin’ and cruisin’.

 

1. White Rabbit

Located in Uptown Waterloo, White Rabbit is a comfortable, fun space to grab a drink. Try their signature crafted cocktails, dangerously delicious punch bowls, and shareable charcuterie boards. (If you didn’t feel like making your own with your Vinnie’s haul).

 

2. Loloan Lobby Bar

For a special treat, dress up and head on over to Loloan (pronounced: low-low-on), a place of calm and refuge in Uptown Waterloo. This lobby bar oozes vibes reminiscent of days of elegance, grace and value. (They’d probably freak if they knew I used the word ‘vibes’ to describe their bougie bar). Loloan offers a unique experience with classic, timeless cocktails and lobby bar inspired South East Asian cuisine in an intimate and cozy setting. 

 

3. The Duke of Wellington 

Whether you want to catch the latest sports game (let’s be real, I haven’t watched sports since the Raptors won) or grab casual drinks with your friends, The Duke is the perfect place to have a low-key night out, and enjoy live music happening every single night!

 

4. Abe Erb

One of my absolute FAVOURITE places to go, Abe Erb (‘beer’ is his middle name - haha, get it?) serves some of the best craft beers, brewed right here in Kitchener-Waterloo. With locations in both communities, this is a great place to go for the beer and a great place to stay for the atmosphere. Not to mention their epic nacho plate… okay, maybe this is still about food.

 

5. Arabella Park Beer Bar

Speaking of Atmosphere, Arabella Park Beer Bar has perfected theirs to a T. With chic decor and tons of plants, this will definitely be a go-to place for me to escape the winter blues or catch up with friends. Try something from their 18-tap rotating roster featuring some of the best beer and cider from the region and beyond, and indulge in their high quality, shareable dishes. And it’s not too late to sit on the patio, just grab a blanket they’ve provided if you get cold!

 

Bonus Eats

 

 

These gems don’t fit in the above categories, but you do not want to miss out on these stellar, satiating selections. 

 

1. Cheesus Murphy’s

Remember Princess Café? Well, they also run this thing called Cheesus Murphy’s. On Friday and Saturday nights, when you just happen to be taking a stroll down King Street and you’re hungry, make sure you bring some cash because Murphy is about to bless you by opening up a window to the street to sell hot, artisan grilled cheese to late-night wanderers like you from midnight to 3 am.

 

2. Apollo Cinema

This is a cinema, how does this fit into an article on food?? Well, every once in awhile, Apollo Cinema hosts an event they call the “All you can eat Cereal and Cartoons Party” where you get to take the whole Saturday morning to be nostalgic as all hell and eat so much cereal you get a sugar rush that’ll make you feel like a kid all over again. Keep an eye out on their events calendar to find out when the next one is!

 

3. The Fritter Co.

Alright, so maybe donuts don’t exactly constitute a meal. But, these fantastic fritters are well worth trying! The Fritter Co., located at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, always has a huge line up of eager patrons, but don’t be discouraged! It’s just a mark of quality. Head to the farmers’ market to see what all the fuss is about, you’ll be sure to leave with more than you came for!

 

 

So, are you overwhelmed with places to eat yet? I hope this guide was helpful or at least inspiring for your next adventure! Now get out there and eat!

 

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4