Published Sep 03, 2014In our annual Hangout Handbook, Exclaim! asks some of our favourite artists to discuss the hidden gems in their hometowns. Here, Spencer Burton outlines his favourite spots throughout the Niagara Region.
There is a place in the small town of Welland, ON. A dying chain of breakfast pop-ins. Once scattered across the Niagara region, the last remaining Donut Diner (947 Niagara, Welland ON) sits close to my heart and close to my home in Ridgeville.
There's also De La Terre Bakery in Vineland (3451 King St., Lincoln ON). This place is insane. Eating their bread is like putting a piece of history in your mouth. I travel back to 100 years ago when bread was bread.
I've never been too much of a "go out to the bar" type of fellow but if I do, I go to Iggy's in Fonthill (115 Regional Road 20, Fonthill ON). Right there on HWY 20, this place is new. I usually judge a place like this on their nachos. And boy oh boy, these nachos got bite. They also have a great selection of craft beer on hand and make a mean Caesar. However I did ask the waitress once about what type of bourbons they had in stock and her response was "uhm well the craft beer selection is written right there on the wall." So I have a feeling they'll probably be going through some staff changes soon. Bourbon is not beer, lady.
(If I were writing this about London, Ontario I'd tell you to go to Rock Au Taco – 353 Talbot St. — eat your heart out and have literally the best Caesar I've ever had in my life. And I've had a lot of Caesars. But this is about Niagara isn't it?)
When I'm in Niagara I like to keep things simple with my activities. I'm a homeward bound type. Always wanting for my comfy bed, clean kitchen and squabbling chickens. There are times when the chickens get to be a little loud and I find myself wanting a little bit of peace and quiet. I usually go to Decew Falls. It's right on the edge of St. Catharines and it's full of peace (at the right time of the day, which I'll keep to myself so you don't bug me while I'm there). Niagara is one of the most beautiful places in Ontario and this spot is a perfect example of it. Swimming holes, waterfalls, abandoned mining caves. It's a little piece of paradise right around the corner.
There are tons of great places to go in the evening as well. Say you feel like taking your lover on a romantic date. There's always the drive in. Again on HWY 20, leaving Fonthill, on the way to Niagara Falls. It's never too busy and they serve hamburgers and pickled eggs. How come no other movie theaters have thought of this? I don't go to too many movie theaters. This place is great though.
There's tons of really great musical interaction happening in Niagara as well. Every year St. Catharines hosts a music festival called S.C.E.N.E Fest (www.scenemusicfestival.com), which has been growing more and more every year. This year was enormous and they had some really great acts. There is also a smaller more folk and arts based festival called In The Soil that happens in St. Catharines. I could tell you all about them but I'll just let you research them on your own.
There are many great venues in the Niagara region but I just recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with a band called Wilderness of Manitoba in Grimsby, Ontario. The venue was called Station 1 Coffee House (28 Main St. E., Grimsby) probably one of the friendliest and warmest concerts I was able to be a part of in a long time. I highly suggest going to every and all music events that happen at that place.
As for purchasing actual hard copies of music in Niagara, record stores are dropping like flies. I don't think I can even name more than one record store that still remains standing to this day. That one store is called Niagara Records (377 St. Paul St., St. Catharines). They sell records... That's about all I got to say on that front. I did find a copy of Neil Young's Harvest Moon there after years and years of searching.
I was also asked to write about my favorite place to dance. That place, unfortunately, is not open to the public. It's my bedroom, with the lights down low. I put on some soft rock, strip down to my skivvies and perform something I like to call "shakin' out the day."
Don't tell anybody that.
After the day is all done I usually find myself at the old Welland canal. Nothing but me, my skin and the cool water. It's the best after hours place to spend time. The booze is free (because it's brought from home) it's quiet, the stars are usually shining and the light of the moon keeps me feeling safe, even though I have no idea what sits beneath the surface. Try not to swim there too much though, ok guys? There's the odd chance you might dive too deep and hit your forehead on an old rusted bicycle.
Spencer Burton's new album, Don't Let the World See Your Love, will be out on September 16 through Dine Alone Records.