Barbecue joints, breweries, butter tart factories and more of the best places to eat and drink in Muskoka this summer

Barbecue joints, breweries, butter tart factories and more of the best places to eat and drink in Muskoka this summer

Muskoka’s culinary landscape has changed quite a bit since charbroiled roadside burgers and chip-truck fries were the standout options—not that there’s anything wrong with them. The area’s six regions—Muskoka Lakes, Huntsville, Gravenhurst, Lake of Bays, Georgian Bay, Bracebridge—are now home to family friendly kitchens, live-fire barbecue joints, award-winning breweries and seasonal pop-ups. As cottage season approaches, here are some of this summer’s must-visit restaurants, bars and food shops.


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The Oar and Paddle

With its spacious dog-friendly patio, this Gravenhurst favourite feels like an extension of a cottage. Chef Brett Martin collaborates with local suppliers to offer crowd-pleasers like beer-battered fish and chips, or mac-and-cheese tossed with plump shrimp. Weekends mean slightly more inventive dishes, such as seared salmon with crème fraîche and wasabi mashed potatoes, or stuffed portobello mushrooms with avocado chimichurri. 530 Muskoka Rd. N., Gravenhurst, 705-687-8618,, @oarandpaddle

Belly Ice Cream

Owner and chef Shelley Westgarth’s award-winning ice cream clocks in with an indulgent 16-per-cent butterfat—in other words, it’s supremely rich and velvety. Her 40-plus flavours include signatures like cafe brûlée and the refreshing lemon white chocolate, and seasonal hits including concord grape. Her ice cream isn’t the only thing made from scratch: everything from the cones to the brownies are house-made. Pro tip: to avoid the long wait times, go at supper time. Who says you can’t have dessert before dinner? 88-90 West Rd., Huntsville, 705-571-5258,, @bellyicecreamcompany


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Smokin’ Birds

Last summer, Wahta Mohawk Territory was blazing with barbecue thanks to chef-owners Jennifer Dewasha (formerly of Café Boulud) and Jane MacDonald (formerly of the Chase Hospitality Group and ICONINK). The roadside pop-up was so successful that they’ve gotten a permanent place in Bala, scheduled to open May 20. Their greatest hits include brisket sandwiches with pineapple slaw, smoked brisket burgers and smoked beet salad with horseradish sour cream, dill and mustard. To drink, try the wildberry sumac lemonade for a tart and cheery thirst quencher. 3142 Muskoka District Road 169, Bala,, @thesmokinbirds


Housed inside a renovated 1900s Salvation Army church, Relish is a passion project founded by mother-daughter duo Emily and Jess Dursely. Their jack-of-all-trades shop is a thriving community hub. Come in the morning for a tea latte or superfood smoothie and one of their famous baked goods (early risers get to enjoy just fresh-from-the-oven everything cookies and chocolate beet muffins). Lunchtime brings hearty gluten-free and vegan wraps (the falafel is a favourite), sandwiches, salads and other healthy bowls, including the must-try pakora bowl with mango chutney. It all makes for perfectly portable snacking at a picnic or in the car. 240 Muskoka Rd. N., Gravenhurst, 705-826-3968,, @relishmuskoka

Cliffside Restaurant

Executive chef Brian Norrish (North 44, Rosewater Room) helms the kitchen at Cliffside Restaurant, located inside Muskoka Bay Resort. You’ll find recognizable yet refined food here, like chicken wings with house-made hot sauce (serrano-ginger-pineapple or habañero-mango-peach), wild mushroom ravioli with scallion cream sauce and beef tenderloin with sweet potato purée and açai mustard. About the hot sauce: it takes at least two months to make, so it’s worth grabbing a jar to take home. 1217 N. Muldrew Lake Rd., Gravenhurst, 705-687-4900,, @muskokabayresort


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Mornin’ Babe Cafe and Shoppe

Jenna Dyer’s Gravenhurst cafe is cozy, comforting and familiar. A visit here is like popping in to a friend’s house—if that friend baked goods as tasty as the homemade ones supplied by Dyer’s mama, Rosemary. Situated inside Rustix Designs, a custom furniture and design shop, the dog-friendly space with a nest of seats also sells local pantry goods, art, skincare products and, of course, food. Grab an organic plant-based blended beverage or one of their best-selling vanilla lattes, paired with Rosemary’s seasonal gluten-free or vegan treats, like her brown-butter cookies or flaky blueberry scones. 115 Muskoka Rd. S., Gravenhurst, 705-706-4034, @mornin_babe

Sawdust City Brewery

When in doubt, look for the ginormous yellow Muskoka chair to find this Gravenhurst brewery. Sawdust offers a hopping spacious patio, live music and 18 taps pouring the good stuff. Pair your pint with appropriately salty snacks—soft pretzels, cheese platters, spicy duck wings, and more—courtesy of chef Rebecca Eiger. 397 Muskoka Rd. N., Gravenhurst, 705-681-1100,, @sawdustcitybeer

Humble Pie Butter Tart Factory and Pizzeria

A beloved Baysville business for over a decade, Michelle MacIsaac’s eatery offers a variety of sweets and savouries: fruit pies, buttermilk scones, chelsea buns, cheese bread, meat pies, and more. But as the name would imply, the goods to get here are the butter tarts: gooey and unabashedly decadent. Also popular are her pizzas, which she sells frozen, par-baked and hot out of the oven. 6 Bay St., Baysville, 705-224-8278, @humblepiemuskoka

Muskoka Lakes Farm and Winery

Three generations of Johnstons have been caring for their cranberry marshes since 1952. Take a hike on a trail to explore the berry marshes, then relax on the patio with a flight of oak-aged cranberry wine and some cheese to pair it with. This summer, guests can look forward to chef Chris Donovan Trottier’s new seasonal specials like a cranberry brie panini and a sweet potato cranberry salsa flatbread. To-go goodies include the signature cranberry juice, maple bacon dip and cranberry brie quiche. 1074 Cranberry Rd., Bala, 705-762-3203,, @johnstons_cranberries

Bracebridge Barrelhouse

Longtime Baysville brewery Lake of Bays opened its new Bracebridge brewpub during the first summer of the pandemic (there’s another one in Huntsville, FYI) . Go for a flight of craft beer and some classic pub grub (fish and chips, burgers, mac and cheese with pulled pork) then grab some cans and growlers to bring to the cottage. #15-295 Wellington St., Bracebridge, 705-645-2122,, @lb_bracebridge

The Hook and Ladder

This family-run restaurant, open for over two decades now, is decked out in firefighter paraphernalia. Owner Nicole Richard wanted to pay tribute to all of the hardworking first responders from near and far, and the walls continue to be lined with donated badges from visitors around the world. Three generations of Richards work both the front and back of house, bringing out homey comfort food that includes scrambles and sandwiches, soups and wings. Some fan favourites include the First Alarm, a stack of corned beef with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on rye; and the Captain, a pan-style pizza topped with the trifecta of pepperoni, mushrooms and bacon that’s perfect for feeding a crowd. 3119 Muskoka Road, Bala, 705-762-0707,, @thehook75