Op-Ed: Importing flavour – The growth of Toronto’s food scene in Saint John

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Saint John’s food scene has been traditionally dominated by a handful of familiar chains and family businesses. With an increase in population, the market is changing to accommodate our city’s new faces.

Wolfgang Düchtel/The Baron

So, what do the owners of one of the new chains here in Saint John have to say about the city and its food market, and what else is coming?

Pizza Pizza

Pizza Pizza is a Canadian chain Pizzeria that originated in Toronto in the 1960s. Since then, it has spread from coast to coast across Canada, and Saint John is the home of its newest locations. They have various menu items, and they serve more than just pizza. They have just launched a new line of chicken sandwiches, which include plant-based options. They also have poutine, breadsticks, panzerotti, and a collection of highly popular dips. Where the company truly shines, however, it’s the ability to buy individual slices, and to truly customize your own pizza that makes them worth the visit

You can customize your pizza on their website, or at the counter, with the option to customize singles, twin pizzas, or party pizzas. They offer various crusts, with regular, thin, and thick crust options, as well as whole grain. Their sauce variety is truly unmatched, featuring more standard sauces like home-style Italian and Texas Barbeque, to more adventurous options like Pesto, Donair, Hot Honey, Butter Chicken, and a personal favourite, the Creamy Garlic.

Additionally, their toppings include a wide arrange of meats and vegetables, that is reminiscent of the level of choice one might receive at a sandwich shop like Subway. If you’re interested in their food, you can order or pose any questions online through their website, or via their number (506) 910-1111.

Wolfgang Düchtel/The Baron

I had the pleasure of interviewing the manager at their first franchise, where he told me more about their goals and what they thought about the city. Saint John’s current Pizza Pizza chains were founded by three friends from Halifax, who wanted to bring a new flavour to the city of Saint John. Their first franchise was opened on December 28, on Landsdowne Avenue.

They chose to open in Saint John because of its social climate; stating that the people are very supportive of new businesses, are very kind, and provide lots of opportunities for business. They see very few barriers to exploring their dreams here in Saint John; they believe that all of the Atlantic provinces are growing and that Saint John’s growth and potential are very similar to that of Halifax.

All three of the owners now live in Saint John, and when asked if they had any particular message that they wanted to convey, they stated that “[they] are a local business, and we would like to live, stay, and grow here [in Saint John.]” They also wanted to thank all of Saint John for their love, respect, and business. They encouraged their customers to review their pizzas, if you enjoy their food, and to let them know how the product was—they are eager for responses, which is what I will dedicate part of this article too, as I ordered a custom pizza right after the interview; and it was definitely a positive experience.

My main objective was to test the quality of their ingredients. So, I decided on a regular all-meat pizza, and I elected to replace the regular pizza sauce with extra creamy garlic sauce. I more typically order a normal pepperoni pizza, with creamy garlic on the side. The pizza came hot, and the order was done in under 15 minutes.

Wolfgang Düchtel/The Baron

The first thing I would like to note about their pizza is the quality of the crust and cheese. It all seemed extremely fresh and tasted great, with the crust seemingly having a saltier profile as opposed to what I would consider a sweeter crust from a place like Pizza Delight. Their thinly sliced pepperoni (which comes in two varieties) was rich with flavour, and their spicy Italian sausage had a kick and was also high quality. The bacon tasted good, but more importantly, all of the toppings blended well with the flavour profile of the creamy garlic. The garlic flavour of the sauce was very strong, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Popeyes

While there are many places that serve chicken, Saint John has long been served by the world’s dominant fast-food chicken establishment, KFC. Its primary competitor in the market has largely been the Canadian company Mary Brown’s, with two stores, one on Fairville Boulevard, and another on Hubert Street. This market is now expanding, however, with the opening of a Popeyes Chicken.

Built on the original property of the locally popular 3Mile, the new building has already begun construction. The 3Mile was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and was later demolished to make room for the new restaurant. The property was purchased by Keel Property Holdings Ltd, which is developing the land.

The Keg

The Keg is a Canadian steakhouse chain that is highly popular in Toronto—though it has chains across Canada and the United States. The first chain in New Brunswick was opened in the Residence Inn in Moncton. Like any good steakhouse, The Keg serves various dishes. It includes seafood appetizers, a plethora of salads and soups, and a wide variety of signature steaks.