Smaller menu boasts big-time flavour

Bob Gray
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Meghann and Pat Deighan are the new owners of the Trailside Café in Mount Stewart, which serves up great food along with great music in an intimate setting.

So, last Sunday night at the Trailside Café in Mount Stewart, as Ottawa singer Craig Cardiff was wrapping up his set, impromptu slow dancing erupted all over the tiny venue. The Trailside is that kind of place.

And — sure enough — a proposal was extended between a young couple.

The answer was, "Yes," perhaps giving new meaning to the term intimate dining.

The venerable Trailside was rescued this season by new owners Pat and Meghann Deighan, and they have the place totally rocking, which is only fair, since it's essentially a music venue.

You can only get food there when there's a show on, which is a shame, because the sparse menu has some big-time flavour. Minimalist menus are all in vogue now (do a few things great), but the Trailside wins.

There are exactly three items on the menu.

That's right. Three.

We were there last Friday for the release of local harmonizers Paper Lions' new acoustic EP, At Long Creek (a note to those of us who need the term EP explained — it stands for extended play, and it means a CD which has a limited number of songs rather than a CD which has piles of them. Note to those of us who need the term CD explained — stop reading now.).

The shows at the Trailside usually start at 8 p.m., and the kitchen and bar open up at 6:30 p.m. If you're heading there for the music, don't make the mistake of eating before you go.

Oh yes, the three menu items? Fish cakes, the Hellfire Jack burger and a charcuterie plate with local cheeses and cured meats.

It may not read like much, but it's wonderful.

There is usually also a chef's choice to round out the menu. The night we were there, chef Chris Coupland chose appetizers — spring rolls, Thai mussels or bruschetta.

We had the spring rolls, and they were superb. Light, crispy, with a delicate vegetable filling and served with a fresh cherry sauce — they were way above expectations.

The rest of the meal followed suit. The burger was excellent — a startling tangy burger, served on a fresh homemade sesame bun with aged cheddar, lettuce and tomato and optional hot sauce. It would have more than held its own during this spring's Burger Love competition. It came with new potatoes and a great green salad (even including nasturtium greens, much to Earlene's delight).

The fish cakes were sensational. Packed with salmon and haddock, seasoned with fresh green onion and with just enough potato to hold them together, they were the highlight of the meal. The homemade tartar sauce was delicious (and I don't usually like tartar sauce at all). The fish cakes also came with the new potatoes and green salad.

We're saving the charcuterie for next time.

They have a more than decent wine list, with almost 20 labels — all available by the glass or bottle. Actually, glass is a bit of a misnomer as wine is served up in cool specially designed pottery mugs by Michael Stanley. Gahan beers are available on tap, along with a variety of spirits.

Our tab for supper for two, including appetizers, main courses, soft drinks, tea, coffee, taxes and two pieces of (Meghann's mother's) delicious homemade lemon meringue pie, was $62.50.

We'll be back.

Each Friday throughout the summer, Bob Gray points readers to quality Prince Edward Island eating establishments in his Summer Savoury column. Suggestions and comments are welcome at Follow him on Twitter @bgray5.

Geographic location: Mount Stewart, Ottawa, Long Creek Prince Edward Island

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