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by Ann Thurlow

If here are now two places in Charlottetown to get cardamom ice cream, which may be all you need to know about the exploding food scene in this town. Every year the number and variety of restaurants has grown but this spring feels like it has yielded a bumper crop. This list is by no means all of them (and I’ll look at some more next month). But it’s a good example of the variety of choices and how sophisticated our palates have become.

Taste of India

It wasn’t that long ago that you had to go to a larger city for Indian food. This interesting and multi-layered cuisine got a boost in popularity in Charlottetown when the Churchill Arms started serving British curry. Authentic aficionados also sought out Indian food at Papa Joes’s on Wednesdays. Now, suddenly, there are three more spots, the latest of which is A Taste of India. The name tells the story. Indian cuisine is varied and composed of many types and combinations of spices and flavours. A Taste of India gives you a chance to try them all—curry, briyani, korma, vindaloo…it’s a good education. You can have your food as mild or as hot as you want; we had medium and found it pretty tame. The naan bread is delicious—blistered and pliant—but the menu is basically gluten free. Indian food leans a lot on vegetables so you could easily have a very tasty meat-free meal. A plus: cardamom ice cream. 129 Kent Street, Charlottetown

Garden Café

This little café on Kent Street has been a number of things over the years—most recently it was Handan’s. New owners Onnie and Samuel have added a light and bright garden décor and have bravely decided to offer some of the Iranian dishes that Handan’s served. There are also some additions; I had a wrap that was so pretty that it was hard to eat it. Glad I did, though. It was tasty and very fresh, full of lovingly treated vegetables. My friend had Handan’s chicken curry, which was delicious. The bright room and the light are lovely The new owners are kind and very eager to please. Just being around that energy makes a person happy; the good food is a bonus. 88 Kent Street, Charlottetown

My Plum, My Duck

Sarah Forrester Wendt (photo: Ann Thurlow)There has been a lot of clamour for a vegan restaurant for a while and now, it’s here. Sarah Forrester Wendt, formerly of the Inn at St. Peter’s, has brought her chef skills to the cuisine she has always loved the best: plant based and macrobiotic food. Maybe you’re thinking “that’s not for me.” I invite you to think again. You like soup, right? You like interesting and unusual salads. Go for lunch and try both. Or go for dinner and check out the vegan charcuterie where you taste buds will be completely fooled (and delighted) by vegan “cheese” and cold cuts.

Chef Sarah also has a way of making simple foods taste rich and special – a plate of roasted vegetables sings in her capable hands. And, if you’d rather, the menu features one meat and one fish dish. A plus: (sometimes) Non-dairy cardamom ice cream. 218 University Avenue, Charlottetown

Sugar Skull

When The Hopyard opened, it was going to be a great bar with good snacks. And it is. But chef Jane Crawford’s creative cooking kind of won the day; lots of people now go for the excellent and ever-changing food menu as well as the good beer. Now, she and her partners have put their considerable skills to a new spot. The Sugar Skull Cantina offers a mix of margaritas and tacos, served outside. You sit at a communal picnic table, under a string of lights and order from the extensive margarita menu and the more modest (but delicious) taco menu. The latter veers invitingly from tradition—think Asian duck or pulled pork. This will probably always be more of a bar than a restaurant, but even if you’re not a drinker it’s a fun place for a bite. Pro tip: street corn appetizer—eat it hot. 83 Water Street

Gallant’s Seafood

On the wharf at Stanley Bridge, chef and seafood purveyor Tyler Gallant has established a fun and delicious spot for all the seafood the Island offers. It used to be Carr’s seafood shop. Gallant still sells fresh fish but has added a few prepared items. Those who know Tyler from the farmer’s market or through his catering company will recognize his crab cakes, lobster quiche and satisfying chowder. He also sells cooked lobsters and is not all averse to cracking one for you to enjoy while you sit outside and watch life go by. There are also some nice side salads; the newly trendy Brussel sprout slaw is made delicious in Gallant’s hands. Table space is limited but it’s there. Everything available can be packed for take out. But if you can, grab some great chowder and a table and eavesdrop on life on the wharf. It’s about as Island as you can get.

Inspired by Tyler Gallant, I’m heading out of Charlottetown for a look at some of the other great eating the Island has to offer.

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