The Carleton’s Food is Music to My Belly

Visited On: March 7, 2011 (plus two occasions in 2010)
Gluten Free Menu: No, but most items are gluten free
Server Knowledge: 1/2
Server Attitude:
Variety of Gluten-Free Options: 1/2
Overall Gluten-Friendly Rating:
Price Range: $10-$30 (plus drinks, tax, and tip)

Mike and I have been to The Carleton three times in the past year. We had the pleasure of seeing Matt Mays last May and David Myles in November. Both occasions were extraordinary in terms of the music, food, drink, and atmosphere. When we had the opportunity to see Matt Andersen there last week, I figured it was high time that I review this gem of Argyle Street.

The Carleton is different than most music places in Halifax. For one, it’s a bit more upscale and offers excellent food. For another, they have strict “listening room” rules after 9 p.m. This basically means keep quiet and listen to the music. The acoustics are so sensitive in there that even whispering is amplified. Now, some people might prefer being able to chat with their buddies while their favorite musician plays, but considering how packed the Carleton is whenever we’ve been there, I’d say that plenty of people also appreciate this different approach.

On this visit to the Carleton, Mike and I arrived super early as we knew that Matt Andersen was playing two back-to-back, sold out shows. We were seated at a small table just around the corner from the kitchen. We ordered a bottle of Michel Torino Malbec ($38) and explored the new menu. I usually get the steak frites ($23.50 for an 8 oz), but I wasn’t feeling the greatest. (I am not sure what I ate earlier in the day, but it sure didn’t like me!) I asked our server if the Caesar salad was gluten-free. He double-checked with the kitchen so I ordered that with grilled chicken on top ($13.50). Mike ordered the stuffed chicken breast with chef’s potato ($18.75).

We sat and enjoyed our wine and chatted and people-watched. In the meantime, our server noticed that our table was a bit wobbly and promptly fixed it with a stack of coasters. (I got quite a giggle out of that.) Our meals arrived promptly and just as we had ordered. When I looked at my salad, I initially thought that they had not added any dressing. However, upon tasting it, I realized that the dressing was actually perfect: light yet flavourful, with just enough tossed in to add flavour to the salad without drowning it. The chicken was delicately seasoned with a mixture of herbs. Add fresh romaine, shaved parmesan, and real bacon, and I was in heaven. It was probably the best Caesar that I have ever had.

Mike’s meal was just as delicious. The chef’s potato was a mashed blend with herbs that Mike proclaimed “yummy” between mouthfuls. The stuffed chicken breast was also delicious, although he found the filling a bit bland. He even ate his vegetables, which were perfectly sautéed and didn’t require seasoning. Needless to say, we both cleaned our plates!

After our server cleared our dishes away, we lingered over our wine as we still had time for the show to start. Our server just let us sit and enjoy ourselves, which I always appreciate. Finally, he asked if we wanted dessert, and brought us menus. Both their vanilla ice cream ($4.25) and bittersweet chocolate marquis ($7.75) are gluten-free. We’ve had the marquis before so we ordered that. It’s simply to die for – almost like a frozen mousse, with raspberry and chocolate drizzle on the side, presented as music notes. It was absolutely heavenly when paired with our wine!

Matt Andersen was on soon after that, and we enjoyed our wine while listening to him play. Our server was attentive throughout the rest of the evening despite the place being filled to the rafters. We always enjoy our nights out at the Carleton, and I’m certainly looking forward to a reason to return soon.

The Carleton
1685 Argyle Street (Halifax)
Web Site:



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