Story by Katie Marti
Let me begin by saying that I love pub food. I’ll take a pile of nachos or a basket of wings over just about anything after a day of skiing or while watching hockey in surround sound. I grew up on shepherd’s pie and fresh, white dinner rolls, and don’t even get me started on my mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce. But sometimes, even in a place as unpretentious and easy to please as Fredericton, the classics can get a bit old.
Enter: The Blue Door.
Owners Chris and Debbie Black have worked hard for more than a decade to bring a modern feel to the restaurant’s historic brick building that is on one of the busiest corners in downtown Fredericton. “We gutted it, essentially,” Chris Black recalls. “We painted and peeled back walls to expose brick and basically transformed it from being a dark, old space to having a bright, west-coast vibe.”
Fredericton’s Favourite Spot Is the Blue Door
That vibe comes from years spent working in the hospitality industry in Vancouver and Whistler before the couple decided New Brunswick would be home. Debbie Black is from Fredericton but, somewhat surprisingly, it was her husband who made the call to pack up the U-Haul and move their growing family to his wife’s hometown. “Most people assume Debbie brought us back here,” he says with a laugh, “but it was actually my idea. Vancouver is just crazy right now — so cutthroat and expensive. Here, you can buy a house, raise a family. The quality of life out east makes the move a no-brainer.”
Having both worked in such high-end hot spots as Whistler’s Araxi and the Westin Hotel, the Blacks know a thing or two about modern fine dining. The goal with the Blue Door is to blend elements of west-coast style and cuisine with the charms of New Brunswick’s capital city.
“The main challenge is perception,” Chris Black says. “People around here don’t always think of us as a place to go unless it’s some sort of special occasion. Really, though, there’s no pretention in what we’re doing here. We wear black jeans and a black T-shirt, and we’ve got main-course meals on our menu that are comparable in price to some of the nicer pubs in town.”
While the prices may be comparable, the quality is pretty tough to match in Fredericton. Duck Confit Poutine ($11) dresses up a regional favourite, for example, while Thai Chile Fish Cakes ($9) take Atlantic Canada’s world-class seafood and infuses it with trendy flavours from across the Pacific. And those are just the appetizers.
One of the main points of focus for the Blue Door is creating and maintaining partnerships with farmers and suppliers in southern New Brunswick. The art on their walls comes from a small gallery in town and they collaborate regularly with community upstart Real Food Connections, an organization whose mission it is to act as the middle man between suppliers and consumers in the increasingly popular farm-to-table movement.
Black also credits his experience in British Columbia with giving him the connections and insight to keep a finger on the pulse of Canada’s food industry. Take Ocean Wise, for example. Black is proud to own the only restaurant in New Brunswick to partner with the seafood sustainability program through the Vancouver Aquarium. (Other Ocean Wise restaurants include Toronto’s Canoe and Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn, both of which made last year’s Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide.)
“Because we’re small, we’re able to be very hands-on,” explains Black. “If someone has an idea about what we can do to make the place better, it doesn’t have to go through a hundred people. It’s just us. We make the call and get the ball rolling.”
After 10 years of success in a market known for being fickle and slow to adapt to new ideas, it’s safe to say the Blue Door has generated plenty of forward momentum. It was an early leader for the People’s Choice award in public voting for the 2013 Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants. Although it has slipped out of the top 10 in recent weeks, it remains one of the most well-supported establishments in the Maritimes in the national poll.
“Chris and Debbie Black have brought upscalish, west-coast style and flavour to the Maritimes and — unlike many others before them — they’ve made it work,” writes Vacay.ca follower Natasha Ashfield, who entered the Canadian Foodie of the Year Contest with her vote for the Blue Door. “The restaurant celebrated its 10-year anniversary this past year and it has been and continues to be our family and friends’ favourite spot.”
The restaurant is busier than ever, Chris Black says, especially right now as it participates in the popular Dine Around Freddy promotion, which runs until March 30, 2013. (The Blue Door’s three-course menu, which includes curry-steamed mussels and Arctic char, is a steal at $29.) The Blacks also have plans to launch new lunch and dinner menus in the coming months, once the snow melts and patio season heats up.
While said menus will likely not include shepherd’s pie or my mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, I will still head straight for the Blue Door next time I’m in town — and so should you.
More About the Blue Door
Location: 100 Regent Street, Fredericton, NB (see map below)
Reservations: 506.455.2583 (BLUE) or via the restaurant’s website.
Hours: Monday: 5-9 pm; Tuesday-Thursday: 11:30 am-2 pm, 5-9 pm; Friday: 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 5-10 pm; Saturday: 5-10 pm; Sunday: closed
On Twitter: @theblue_door
Menu Prices: Dinner entrees range from $17-$29; lunch prices range from $9-$13.
More About Fredericton: Visit Katie Marti’s travel blog for more trip-planning ideas when in New Brunswick’s capital.
More About the 2013 Vacay.ca Canadian Foodie of the Year Contest
Vacay.ca’s 2013 Foodie of the Year Contest features a Grand Prize of Dinner for Two at the restaurant of the winner’s choice on the 2013 list, round-trip airfare to that restaurant’s destination city and a luxury hotel stay!
To be eligible for the 2013 Canadian Foodie of the Year Contest, simply follow these steps:
- Vote for your favourite restaurant by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Follow Vacay.ca on Twitter (@VacayCanada)
- Friend Vacay.ca on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Vacay.ca)
- Tell our editors about your great culinary experiences and why you should be Foodie of the Year!
Votes from the public will be added to those of the Vacay.ca academy of judges and will be used to determine the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada List, which will include a second annual People’s Choice winner (won last year by Ottawa’s Atelier).
Winners will be announced in April 2013, in conjunction with the unveiling of the 2013 Top 50 Restaurants in Canada List. In April 2012, Vacay.ca was the first publication to ever compile a list of Canada’s 50 best restaurants — and it was a huge success thanks to our audience members like those voting for the Blue Door!
View Larger Map