In Search of the Great Canadian Pit Stop

Maclean’s is on the hunt for Canada’s best roadside food stands, so it’s time to dish. Pull over and send us your nominations

Getty Images; Shutterstock; Illustration by Taylor Shute

When I was a kid there was this place called–actually, I don’t know what it was called. We always referred to it as The Doggy Place. I think that was because on top of this roadside stand on the outskirts of St. Thomas, Ont., was a 12-foot painted plywood wiener dog dressed up like a footlong.

The Doggy Place, with the railroad tracks out back and a few picnic tables in front, was a summertime staple. I’m talking hot dogs, cheeseburgers, french fries and soft serve, preferably dipped in butterscotch.

It was torn down maybe 20 years ago, but the tall grass and weeds have never grown in over the U-shaped driveway where cars would park.

Canada must be filled with similar off-the-beaten-track roadside gems. I’m talking about chip wagons and deep-fried clam shacks–not fancy restaurants–that are worth pulling the car off the highway. Don’t we owe it to each other, during the height of summer travel, to share where they are?

Here’s what I propose: You send me the names and brief descriptions of your favourite Canadian roadside destinations–you can email them to Macpitstop@gmail.com, tweet them to me here, or comment below–and I’ll compile them and make a map to share the bounty of the best onion rings, milk shakes and deep-fried pickles this country has to offer. And hey, why not send photos or video testimonials while you’re at?

But wait, this map will be AN INTERACTIVE INFOGRAPHICAL WEB MAP THAT WILL PROVIDE KEY INFORMATION ON ALL THESE AMAZING PIT STOPS. For example, when you place your cursor over the virtual map pins, once I build the virtual map, all the information about the pit stop will magically appear. Can you imagine?

I promise to build it by mid-August, just in time to plan what might be your last summer road trip before Labour Day. I just need a little help from you. So please, email, tweet and comment away!

Phase One preliminary plan of infographical web map by Jessica Allen


 

 

 




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In Search of the Great Canadian Pit Stop

  1. Weber’s charcoal BBQ hamburgers on highway 11 Orillia ON been there since 1963 and still is and still using charcoal. Not to mention the Candy Shoppe just up the road from Weber’s selling all the old time candies from the sixties and up.

  2. Hewitts dairy on highway six near hagersville. Basic diner food and the ice cream is delicious, particularly mint choc chip.

    When I was wee lad I thought Hewitts was greatest place on earth – I would have gumball ice cream in summer, what other place in world would be so civilized as to put gum balls in your food?

  3. Salty’s drive inn on Highway 9, Winnipeg Beach, Mb. Best roadside perogies & kolbassa anywhere. Everytime I go back to Manitoba, I have to go to Salty’s.

  4. Well there’s Mastadon Ridge in NS, massive tusks and all!

  5. Thanks all! These are great. Love Hewitts Dairy, Tony, and Weber’s too. And I love the fact that there’s a roadside perogies and kolbassa drive in in MB. Sound hilarious, and delicious.

  6. I love the old picture from the 50s when things were still good.

    • McKay’s Ice Cream in Cochrane, Alberta – world’s best ice cream and a great place to stop after a day in the mountains.

  7. For me the best french fries and hot dogs when I was growing up were at the chip truck under the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia,Ontario.

    • Thanks so much Erin. Funny you mention that place–I had two people from Sarnia suggest it as well on my Facebook page. It’s definitely going on the map!

  8. Tim Hortons, 33 Causley St, Blind River Ontario. Best view ever of the North Channel.

  9. Dairy Freeze in North Ridge, Ont. Best Boston Coolers!!! Yum, and the servers come to your car window when you turn on the head lights, then take your order and bring it to you.

  10. There was a place called Sir Cedrick’s with the best fish’nchips ever in Windsor, Ontario and I still crave it.

  11. Easterbrooks in Hamilton/Burlington, ON. Best foot long hotdogs I’ve ever had, so many varieties and the place has been around forever. A summer rite of passage!

  12. Check out Bear Den outside of Spry, NS. Bestest little road stop I have found in all of Canada. Great food, awesome owner and seafood at the price of pretzels. Nice

  13. Has anyone mentioned the pie at the Chiliwack Airport? Epic.

  14. Here’s some history, courtesy of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce. The spot you remember as “The Doggy Place” was actually named The Polar King and, later, Howie’s when a father/son team bought it. There were 3 decent drive-ins/roadside stands in the area. you might also remember The Food ‘n Foam and The Chuckwagon. Sadly, they’re all gone now.

    • Bob! Thanks so much for this. The Polar King now rings a bell. And I certainly remember the Food ‘n Foam. Every time I pass it now I wonder if anyone will ever use it as a movie location, despite it being a bit run down.

    • Not sure when it was named Howie’s but when it closed in 1989 (I believe), it was called Polar King and was run by a husband/wife. It was closed only due to the fact that a hydro line was coming through on the property and it was forced out.

    • The Polar King was built in 1956, and yes for a time it was known as Howie’s because of the sign on top of the building and the Owner’s son Howie worked there, and went to high school in St. Thomas and all his friends hung out there, however, the Polar King sign was still at the edge of the road but everyone knew it for years as Howies. Ken and Rose-Marie Rutledge bought it in 1973 from Howie, his sister and his parents, and ran it as The Polar King until it closed in 1989 due to a buyout by Ontario Hydro. The big Howie’s sign on the roof of the building blew down around 1978 and was later put up on the opposite side of the parking lot and painted with a dashound dog/hotdog design and was hence known as the doggie place. The London Free Press did a Best of Series for Southwestern Ontario and The Polar King was voted BEST FOOTLONGS, that would have been around 1987/88/89 not exactly sure of the year.
      It was a six month seasonal business and in the summer when the trains would block the highway, people would drive along the edge of the ditch to pass all the waiting cars to drive to the Polar King and order their Soft Ice Cream, and it was real Ice Cream, not ice milk. The lineup on Sundays would start when the restaurant opened and stop 1/2 hour before close, from all the people heading to and home from Port Stanley and their Sunday Drives. People would drive from as far away as West Lorne just to get the Foot Longs.

      I worked there from 1974 – 1984.

  15. Jessica: I used to go to a restaurant called the Short Horn Steak House in London, On back in the early 1970′s. They had the best chopped steak and fries. Never tasted any that good since then. I haven’t been able to find andy info on this past eatery as well. Bonnie Schaap

  16. Another favourite eatery is Shaw’s ice cream on the road to Port Stanley. It was a tradition to stop there on the way back from the beach…. lineups out the door! It was run by the Shaw family for many, many years and they made their own signature ice cream in the factory behind the store. Sadly they sold the entire business (including their variety stores) in 1989 however I believe the ice cream store is still open, owned/ operated as a family business again.
    For interest sake too… Polar King bought their ice cream mixes from Shaw’s… only the best was good for both fantastic eatery’s!

  17. WHEN I WAS MUCH YOUNGER THERE WAS A DRIVE IN CALLED COLEMANS (THE OWNERS LAST NAME) JUST EAST OF AYLMER ON HWY.# 3 WHERE THE MUSCE CARS AND THE FAMILY SEDANS MET IN THE SUMMERS OF THE 60′S . THEY HAD THE BEST FOOTLONGS ( WITH FRIED ONIONS ) HOME CUT FRIES AND PINEAPPLE MILK SHAKES THAT I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED ! THOSE WERE THE GOOD OLD – CAREFREE DAYS, BEFORE MACDONALDS AND ALL OF THE OTHER FAST FOOD PLACES WE HAVE NOW . AS I REMEMBER IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO GET A PLACE TO PARK ON THE WEEKENDS SO WE JUST CUISED THE DRAG IN MY 1965 GTO UNTIL THERE WAS AN OPEN SPOT.
    OH WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO BE BACK IN THOSE SIMPLE TIMES AGAIN !!

  18. Milky Way is the ice cream stand worth checking out when in Regina.

  19. Reid’s dairy in Belleville, Ont. loonie milkshakes, mechanical cow, and a dairy princess on the roof! 2 min off highway 401

  20. Pearle’s in Paradise – Nova Scotia, that is. First time we went there was on a trip in 1977. It was an every summer ritual on holidays and now that we live here – it’s more like once a month. Wonderful burgers and fish. The experience of receiving an unused cow ear tag as a number and eating in the parking lot – lots of picnic tables is a true rural cultural experience!

  21. The Red Boot Drive-Inn on Ness Avenue in Winnipeg. Also around since 1963 and still a winner.

  22. Wendy’s Dairy Bar (no affiliation with the Wendy’s chain), located on Hwy. 36 in Vauxhall, Alberta, has been around as long as I can remember. This tiny roadside drive thru is the home of the best burgers and shakes, not to mention deep fried mushrooms and zucchini sticks and a host of other delights.
    A welcome treat on the long drives through the Alberta outback.

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