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Voyages: Riot Snack Bar

Voyages: Riot Snack Bar

The latest addition to Quinpool Road is a story of love: for food, community, and the finest ingredients Nova Scotia has to offer. The brainchild of Nicole Tufts and Sonia Mota, Riot Snack Bar was first envisioned as the answer to a local food scene that had gone stagnant from a lack of creativity. With this in mind, they decided to create a truly mind-boggling concept: a farm to table fast food restaurant. Similar to another 902 hotspot that opened earlier this summer, Gottingen St’s The 244, Riot brings to the table a commitment to local, ethical sourcing and a sense of respect for homestyle classics that appeal to everyone.

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One of the most humbling aspects of this fresh snack bar is that both Tufts and Mota left their high-paying jobs to pursue their passion, and you see that same level of thought and care put into every little detail. Riot’s staffing philosophy is rooted in hiring chefs with experience in fine-dining to help create high-end takeout that is affordable to the average person. What is the result of such careful planning, you may ask? Selling out every day, sometimes even twice. While working with small local farms requires careful planning when it comes to supply and demand, there is no doubt in my mind that much of their success can be attributed to feeding their patrons food that not only tastes good, but also makes them feel good.

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There are three things that Riot does not hesitate to let you know before you enter its doors: it serves craft beer, its ingredients go straight from the farm to your table, and everything is ethically sourced. Upon entering, a short staircase descends into the dining area with the counter pressed to the back wall where a mural reads “make food not war,” the first of many glimpses into Riot’s personality that you’ll find. The interior consists of a clever yet minimalist combination of wood, marble, and stone textures. Throw in a splash of red paint on the walls, and the themes of riot and revolution are more than evident.

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Before I get to eating, there’s a few super cool things about their approach that you should know: all sauces are vegan and are made with unprocessed ingredients – even down to the pink Himalayan salt that they use instead of highly processed table salt. And it doesn’t stop there – there are plenty more concoctions in the works, “stuff that you can’t find here,” they tell me (think fermented ketchups and handmade soda recipes).

First up today is the Twisted Sister, a tangle of spiralized veggie pasta, sun-dried tomato, local valley mushrooms, cashew parmesan, and brown rice topped with a fresh homemade basil pesto. As I take a bite, there’s a burst of earthy sundried tomato. The combination of the rice with the spiralized veggie noodles tag team my palette to draw the attention back to the pesto.

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The second of the two hot boxes is the Drop the Beet Salad. This one’s a more colourful dish with lemon herb dressing, spiralized beets, fresh kale, carrots, local feta cheese, and local free-range chicken thighs grilled over charcoal. It’s sweet and zesty and the chicken is cooked to perfection – it’s just a dense jungle of flavour. You’ve got the kale providing crunch while the juicy chicken bits fuse with it, and then the feta cheese steers it in a completely new direction. This dish is light and refreshing, a quick pick-me-up for lunch, and will leave you full and satisfied.

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Next up are the house french fries – crispy fried potatoes riddled in special seasoning that just invigorate the taste buds. There’s a twist to the flavour, and I don’t use that word lightly. You have your classic fry flavour (a subtle crunch followed by a dense chewiness) but then boom, out of nowhere there is a quick crescendo of spice and citrus.

Of course, fries should never be served without a burger to accompany them and that’s where the Free Bird sandwich comes in. This crispy seasoned free-range chicken breast from Windy View Farm on an organic house-made bun is topped with homemade garlic aioli, pickles, and fresh sprouts. The chicken has a crunch so nice, I want to demolish the whole thing before I’ve even finished my first bite. First my teeth hit the pickles (juicy and sour, mmmm) and crispy chicken, and then all those flavours mix into one and I feel as if I’ve attained nirvana. The chicken makes for a more delicate alternative to a straight up burger, so this feels like a light dish – especially when you bite in to the batter, which has an airy quality to it. Most importantly, the pickles make the sandwich by balancing out the flavour profile with a little extra zing. I think all of our team can agree that it’s the best chicken burger we have had in awhile. If this dish were a girl, it would be one I would proudly take home to my mother (and she doesn’t mess around when it comes to her future daughters-in-law).

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Finally, the Storm Chip – a twisted, skewered potato chip seasoned with cinnamon sugar and a dash of lemon juice – is the concluding dish to my meal. A beautiful combination of salty and sweet, this badboy is kinda like if potato chips came in churro flavour. Anyone who lives in this city knows that Maritimers love their storm chips, and this one takes that concept to a whole new level. Gone are the days of cuddling up to a bag of salt n’ vinegar lays. Out with the old and in with the new – Riot Snack Bar is on to bigger and better things. There’s a lot they’ve got planned and they’re just getting started.

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