The west still wants in: Canadian restaurants

A snapshot of three companies in various stages of eastern, expansion.

Power is shifting in this country. With Stephen Harper's Conservatives ruling the roost in Eastern Canada and energy-rich Alberta leading the country in economic growth, some say the days of western alienation are over. (Western politicians even seem to have mastered supposedly “eastern” political tactics, such as MPs switching parties.)

Almost on cue, some legendary western restaurant chains are also gaining momentum east of Manitoba. Here's a snapshot of three companies in various stages of eastern invasion–er– expansion.

Earls For much of the past decade, both Vancouver Magazine and the Calgary Herald have bestowed “Best Casual Restaurant” honours on Earls. Leroy Earl Fuller opened the first Earls restaurant in Edmonton 24 years ago, and the company now has 51 locations in Western Canada, Arizona and Colorado. Next stop: downtown Toronto, says Taili Coates, marketing manager for the chain. The new locations will be “urban, sleek,” says Coates, nodding to the downtown Vancouver location, which features high ceilings, a giant white stone bar, lots of plasma screen TVs and a very downtown, metropolitan, sleek sort of feel.

Tip to succeed in Toronto: Add sushi, pad thai, butter chicken, shwarma and roti to the menu.

Moxie's Classic Grill Although Moxie's isn't entirely new to Eastern Canada–it opened a restaurant in Toronto in 1996–its roots and focus have mostly been in Western Canada. This year, however, Moxie's is opening seven new restaurants in Ontario.

“We're getting relatively built-up on the prairies now,” says Laurids Skaarup, the company's president. Skaarup says the company makes an effort to tailor its restaurants to the different markets. “If you were in Lethbridge,” he says, “we would have a Cajun chicken salad. But in Toronto, you would have a Mediterranean calamari salad.”

Tip for eastern success: Offer a free Tim Hortons double-double with every calamari salad.

Boston Pizza Few easterners know Boston Pizza has a 42-year history in Western Canada. Its focus now is on eastern expansion, targeting 50 to 75 new restaurants over the next five years, many of those in Quebec.

Tip for success in Quebec: Poutine pizza.