Thunder Bay Experience: The Food

This is part two of a two-part series on my 6-week stint in Thunder Bay. See the previous entry for the sights of Thunder Bay.

When I learned that I would be heading to Thunder Bay for 6 weeks, I was expecting to experience the feel of a smaller city and some of the outdoor activities available around it. Never did I expect to find a thriving food scene. And yet, Thunder Bay has just that!

While being a student does limit the food scene exploration possibilities, I did try to sample as much as I could. The following are my experiences.

The Persian Pastry

The Persian Man – 899 Tungsten St, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 6H2 (Facebook page)

If you are ever heading to Thunder Bay, you’ll probably hear about the famous Persian pastry. It is a cinnamon pastry with pink icing — a secret recipe that is famously debated as being either raspberry or strawberry flavoured — that was created in Thunder Bay. Being a famous Thunder Bay creation, these are available everywhere, from Shopper’s Drug Mart to the Superstore to the bakeries that actually first created them.

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The famous Persian, a Thunder Bay creation.

Being adventurous, we went to one of the bakeries that makes this pastry to try out the genuine item. Between three of us, we split a single Persian — hedging our bets, I suppose. Despite any doubts we may have been harbouring, the Persian turned out to be surprisingly tasty! I found it incredibly sweet, so I was glad to only be eating part of one, but the flavours worked together quite well.

Sadly, I was not the person to settle the famous icing flavour debate. Strawberry? Raspberry? I couldn’t tell. All I can confirm is that it contained lots and lots of sugar, and a food coma quickly ensued.

Sweet North

10 South Court Street, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 2W3 (Facebook page)

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The Sweet North, where so many of my precious dollars got spent while in Thunder Bay.

The Sweet North is famous for its pretzels and pretzel sandwiches. And yet, I never even ended up ordering either of those. “Why…?” I hear you asking. Well, let me tell you.

It’s because they had a selection of cookies that would drive Cookie Monster’s addiction to new heights. It’s because they had rotating selection of brownies that begged to be tasted (which happened to coincide with a big brownie kick on my part — a perfect storm). And it’s because they had a variety of other sweets that demanded the attention of my taste buds: tarts, cheesecake, and more.

The long and short of it is that I never stood a chance. After all, knowing day after day that such delicious treats were available was bad enough. But when you add in the fact that the Sweet North was located only a couple of blocks from my placement… It was just too much.

Thanks to the Sweet North, I left Thunder Bay with my belly a little heavier and my wallet a little lighter.

Both Hands

297 Park Avenue, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1C4 (Website)

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If I’m being completely honest, Both Hands had me at wood-fired pizza. Luckily, though, it didn’t rest on its laurels; the pizzas on the menu were delicious! And if those aren’t to your taste, you can select your own custom toppings as well. I mean, just look at these incredibly photogenic pizzas:

Both Hands was also conveniently close to my placement. And yet, we only ended up eating there twice, once for our first meal out in Thunder Bay and once for our last meal out in Thunder Bay. It was a great introduction to the city, and a fond farewell.

The Sovereign Room

220 Red River Rd, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1A6 (Website)

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The main things I recall about the Sovereign are that it was quite dark inside, the tables had candles (which we somehow kept on extinguishing), and they always had some old film playing on a TV near the bar.

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One of the rare moments in which we hadn’t yet extinguished the candle flame.

While that might sound a little hokey, it all contributed to a great atmosphere. The Sovereign really feels like a cozy, informal place where you can go to relax, hang out with friends, eat some food, and drink some beer after a hard day’s work. The food was also good and the menu offered some unique items — I had a chicken sandwich, where the chicken was breaded with Doritos, something that I couldn’t NOT try.

The one downside to the Sovereign is that it is frequently busy. We went for lunch to avoid the big evening crowds. However, do note that the lunch and dinner menus are significantly different. So, if you have time, it is worth going for lunch and dinner to get the full Sovereign experience!

In Common

40 Cumberland St S, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 2T5 (Facebook page)

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We went to In Common after hiking Mount McKay on our first weekend in Thunder Bay. While it’s commonly (har har) said that when you’re hungry after working hard, any meal is the best meal you’ve ever had, I still have to say my meal at In Common was pure bliss. The sandwiches were so delicious, but the accompanying soup was just about the best thing I have ever tasted. Nor was it a one time fluke; we returned to In Common later in our stay and were just as impressed with the soups and mains.

The restaurant is laid out very spaciously, which creates a nice, relaxed atmosphere. The service was also great, with the staff being helpful in making recommendations and bringing food out quickly.

If you are in or around Thunder Bay, do yourself a favour and go! Now!

Hoito

314 Bay St, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 1A1 (Facebook page)

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One curious fact about Thunder Bay is that it has the largest population of people of Finnish descent in the world — outside of Finland, of course. So, unsurprisingly, the impacts of Finnish culture can be seen and experienced around the city. One famous example of this is the Hoito – a Finnish restaurant that has been in continuous operation since 1918.

The Hoito is famous for its breakfast — Finnish pancakes, in particular. Finnish pancakes are similar to crepes, but a bit thicker. At the Hoito, they are served with a side of syrup and you can also get a fruit topping (blueberries for me!). They were delicious, though very filling! I seem to recall spending much of that day in a food coma. But at least I wasn’t hungry!


As students with limited budgets and limited time in Thunder Bay, we did our best to sample the available restaurants. However, by no means did we manage to try everything. Some notable absences include Lot 66, which we heard a lot of good things about, and the Tomlin, which is also supposed to be stellar. So, if you’re in Thunder Bay looking to eat, you have some tough choices to make! Bon appetit!

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