The Kitchen Witch: Texmex on the North Shore

The heat yesterday afternoon was punishing, and so once my weekly call with Yankee was over, I rushed home, Catherine and Oliver and I piled into the car, cranked up the AC, and headed out into the countryside with hopes of finding food and cool ocean breezes.

Our first choice, The Pearl, had no room for us, so we continued to head west through Cavendish. We flirted with the idea of Pizza Delight, but decided we had to aim higher. Through Stanley Bridge and New London, we almost stopped at the seafood place on New London Bay, which is where we usually end up when we’re at the end of the line. But we continued onwards ever still to Long River, with hopes that The Kitchen Witch would be open.

Fortunately, it was.

My introduction to The Kitchen Witch came almost a decade ago. A colleague of mine was fond of holding breakfast meetings by driving towards Long River, parking his truck about a mile away, and then “meeting” during a mile-long brisk morning walk that ended with breakfast there.

We’ve been back many times, mostly on family rambles along the north shore. The restaurant was always a reliable place for a good family meal, with the food tending towards the “Island home cooking” style, with chowders, lobster rolls and the like.

And so this was what we were expecting when we pulled the car up last night.

Somebody forgot to tell us, however, that The Kitchen Witch is under new management. And the new management hails from Houston, Texas.

From the outside, much looks the same, save for the sign advertising Strawberry Rhubarb Gelato, which seemed a little out of character for the Witch.

Inside, however, it’s a completely different story: take a look at the menu and you’ll see enchiladas, Texas tamales, taquitos and spicy tortilla soup alongside the more familiar reuben sandwich, French onion soup and spaghetti. The new Texan owners have brought a good amount of their southern U.S. cuisine with them, and it shares the menu with some of the old favourites.

And that’s not all: in a fashion unusual for Island restaurants, the menu points out options for vegetarians, items that are gluten free, and dishes that use local Prince Edward Island ingredients. And the beverage menu is one dear to my heart as it includes house-made iced tea, “teamonade” (highly recommended mixture of iced tea and lemonade) and Dandelion & Burdock soda and an exhaustive menu of hot tea.

Oh, and they make their own gelato, with a constantly changing collection of flavours; last night, for example, they had gingerbread flavour, the result of a fallen gingerbread cake put to good use.

The food is good too. No boil-in-bag enchiladas here: they make their own tortillas. And their own Texas BBQ. And their own bread. And their own potato salad. The service is friendly and completely without pretense. The room is as pleasant as it ever was: old wooden chairs around old wooden tables inside the old Long River school.

Did I mention that the (clean) washrooms have kid-attachments for the toilets, and a complete changing table with supplies?

The Kitchen Witch was always a reliable place to get a solid meal. Now it’s a must-see that I encourage everyone to make a pilgrimage to: you will not be disappointed.

The Kitchen Witch is located about 45 minutes from Charlottetown in the village of Long River. Be sure to drive along the scenic coastal lands from French River to Sea View while you’re in the area, and then make a generous donation to the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust to help preserve them in perpetuity.


Mandy's picture
Mandy on July 29, 2008 - 03:34 Permalink

after seeing your status on facebook about being here, I had to go. I went this evening and LOVED every moment of it. Your name came up in conversation with the owner.. she is super super sweet and truly made the experience. I look forward to going back soon as the tea reader was off the clock. I’m so all over that. When I had it done there back when I was a pre teen I was told I should be a politician. Who knows :-P

Mandy's picture
Mandy on July 29, 2008 - 03:37 Permalink

oh and the owners have come from Texas indeed. However the wife is from Texas, the husband is from Canada, but originally from England. My English boyfriend was THRILLED to find true English dishes on the menu. Having a Scotched egg with enchiladas was odd, but he was very happy…

Paul's picture
Paul on July 31, 2008 - 11:50 Permalink

Long River is a beautiful little treasure (sadly, I read that there is a housing subdivision or cottage subdivision being built there now).

The Kitchen Witch and their famous Witches Sandwiches were always a family favourite when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s here on “da Island”. I assume that the Long River School closed in the late 60s or early 70s when the Comprehensive Development Plan was implemented. It was wonderful to see this building repurposed.

Sadly I cannot say that I have found the new Kitchen Witch to be an improvement. I think that this is not related to the quality of the food or the efforts of the new owners. This is entirely related to my memories that have prevented me from embracing it. I just can’t help but feel a tinge of regret for the Kitchen Witch of the 80s in the same way that I get a tinge of regret with every new cottage or mobile home that I see dotting the landscape, with every century farmhouse that gets torn down, every country church that closes, every building in Charlottetown or Summerside or Montague that is gutted and transformed. Everytime I see the abandoned railway lines or the now-razed ferry dock at Borden and the Roman viaduct connecting us to the rest of the world.

I have gone to the new Kitchen Witch twice since the changeover and still am not comfortable with it. Perhaps it is the foreigness of TexMex fare or perhaps it has to do with the “yuppiness” or attempt to go up-scale that is the problem. Or it could be the change in prices. Or it could be that the Witches Sandwiches just didn’t seem to be quite the same.

I will try to embrace the new and plan to return again this summer.

Momma's picture
Momma on August 13, 2008 - 02:49 Permalink

I’m sad at the way the previous poster is slightly bashing the “New” Kitchen Witch. I wish people would understand that times change everything. You can’t always dwell on the past! I found the “New” Kitchen Witch to be just as it should be, comfortable to its owners. While it is not the same as it may have been, it is a great place to go. I find nothing wrong with bringing Tex-Mex to the menu, that is their comfort food. Also, the prices are great! You get a lot of value for your buck! Do you ever eat out in Cavendish? Prices out there, not that is something to complain about! Open your mind to new things my fellow reader, enjoy every moment you have on earth, don’t dwell on your past.

bankuba gai's picture
bankuba gai on January 6, 2009 - 12:50 Permalink

I vacationed just around the corner from there in Long River in July 2008 and stayed away from there simply because I had heard that there were new owners/operators and a new menu.
I’m from Long River, live in Vancouver, and have lived and traveled in Asia and elsewhere and am a wannabe “foodie”. I am also, admittedly, now somewhat off-put by the recent atmosphere of people in the tourism industry on PEI trying ot “out-quaint” one another or be “folksier” than the rest. Having said that, I really do wish the new owners had stuck with the tried, tested and true menus.
What is the point of serving enchiladas and refried beans in an historic PEI schoolhouse with “tea room” in its name? I commend the owners for trying to offer a rural alternative to Pat and Willy’s. But for Pete’s sake, please either change the name to reflect what’s being served inside, or change the menu back to match the name outside.
What kind of “tea room” had 20 or more teas on its menu but (apparently) no cakes or pies?
My suggestion would be to adopt an Edwardian theme in decor and menu, serve proper high teas in the afternoons, have periodic lectures on 19th century topics, crouquet and badminton on the lawn, and so on.

Gracie's picture
Gracie on January 13, 2009 - 03:29 Permalink

I just happened across this blog. I was so glad to see the review too, because I agree with you in the experience that I had at the new Kitchen Witch. The new owners have such a love for food, and enjoy sharing with people who come from all over. I think it is very neat that they have something different than all the rest. And the other places that try to have Tex Mex on their menu don’t even do it justice! The Kitchen Witch offers a great variety of food choices, anything from scones and jam, to a HUGE serving of Spaghetti! There are ALWAYS lots of deserts to choose from, one of my favorites being the pineapple cake, YUMMY! Some may think that their menu is not suitable for the name and location, but honestly, who are you to say what is suitable to be served anywhere? I think it is FAB! 5 stars!

Jim's picture
Jim on March 28, 2009 - 21:38 Permalink

I think Bankuba Gai missed out on a lovely place. I’m not quite sure exactly what they meant by avoiding it *just because* there are new owners and the menu is a bit different. She/he did mention wannabe foodie..’nuff said. I started going there on a regular basis over 15 years ago when I moved to PEI from away. The new owners are wonderful people, and the food is wonderful too. “Tex-Mex” doesn’t quite fit, nor does a comparison to (YIKES!!) Pat & Willy’s. No blooming onions here!! One of the few places that I like going out to again and again and again. Sure, I miss the old place’s rhubarb pie—but there is little else about the old place that I ‘miss’ because then new owners have it. Their roast turkey dinner with Texas cornbread stuffing and all the trimmings is ‘traditional’ enough for me—as is their excellent Christmas fruit cake. It isn’t the owners being “cutesy” or menu by design by what’s hot this month on HGTV the Tex part is Deb’s own background and quite real, including the pecan squares and pie. (lets not forget the wonderful attention to detail, such as making gluten-free and vegan fare that is both reasonable in price and exquisite to the tastebuds.) Prices are very good too. Don’t compare prices to back in the 80s—compare them right now!