My first visit to Canada started in Victoria and I quickly discovered two things: Canadians are amongst the friendliest people on earth and they know how to eat well. It was here that my love for Canada and Canadian food and drink first blossomed.
On my second visit, I discovered Canadian craft beer on the Sunshine Coast, and a new love affair ignited. A year later I was back, this time to the east coast. I’ve yet to explore everywhere in between, but with the help of my fellow food and travel bloggers who share my love for Canadian hospitality, I’ve gathered together this guide to the best, most interesting, quirky and unique food and drink destinations in this vast country, with links to all my favourite food and drink-related articles around the web and a map at the end, showing all the towns and cities mentioned.
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Join me on an edible journey around Canada from Victoria on the west coast to St John’s in the east, before heading north and back west again through the Northern Territories. Don’t forget your thermals!
The Pacific Coast
My Canadian culinary adventure began along the Pacific Coast. Look out for great seafood, local craft beer and the wine of the Okanagan Valley. Don’t miss the wild British Columbian spot prawns. They’re sustainable and sweet and delicate in flavour.
1. Victoria, British Columbia
From the street food by the Inner Harbour to the chicken with green onion waffles and maple honey at North 48 on Langley Street, everything I ate in Victoria was superb, with the latter being one of my all-time favourite meals. It really was that good. Discover what other tastebud-tantalising goodies I discovered in Victoria by checking out my post Where and what to eat in Victoria.
2. Tofino, British Columbia
People visit Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island for the wildlife and wild waves and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting any culinary highlights here. But boy was I wrong. There were so many wonderful surprises from the fiery Mexican takeouts of Tacofino to the fabulous beers from Tofino Brewing company, not least of which was the unusual Kelp Stout, made with local seaweed.
Learn more about my culinary discoveries, including my favourite car park in the world, in Beers, bears and burritos in Tofino.
3. Vancouver, British Columbia
One of my favourite cities, Vancouver, has so much going for it — green spaces, wildlife, a vast range of food outlets and fabulous craft beer.
I met up with local food and travel writer Johanna Read, the TravelEater, who showed me around her favourite spots for food lovers on Granville Island. From the beer bacon jam at Granville Island Brewing to the cheeses at Benton Brothers, I loved it all. Discover more by reading Three wonderful reasons to visit Vancouver or check out Johanna’s fabulous mini guide to the best things to eat in Vancouver and where to find them, Appetite inducing Vancouver.
If you are after something a little more unusual you could also try afternoon tea in Neverland, which I’ve heard described as the most whimsical teahouse in town!
4. Kelowna, British Columbia
Okanagan Valley is famous for its wines, and on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake lies the city of Kelowna, surrounded by some 20 vineyards offering tours and tastings. My idea of heaven!
The multi award-winning sparkling wine Cipes Brut comes from the Summerhill Pyramid Winery, who produce organic and biodynamic wines. They allow their wines to ferment naturally so that they retain the highest levels of antioxidants. To quote their website “We set out to make the most beautiful wines in the world… finishing the wines in our Pyramid Cellar built with precision Sacred Geometry and aligned to the stars to create a structure of stillness and harmony.” Well that’s a new one on me!
Their many accolades include being named “Canadian Wine Producer of the Year” at the International Wine & Spirit Competition, so they are clearly getting something right. What’s more, they have an on-site restaurant serving excellent food, I’m told.
The Prairie Provinces
If you are an omnivore be sure to try the steaks of the Prairie Provinces. The cows are feed on barley which gives the distinctive flavour, but don’t be mistaken, there is so much more on offer.
5. Calgary, Alberta
Once known as Cowtown, thanks to its reputation for being Canada’s largest producer of beef, Calgary’s culinary scene has expanded vastly in recent years. As Montreal-based food writer Mallory Frayn discovered, there’s plenty of choice to suit everyone’s budget or food preference, from the southern fried chicken of Cluck n Cleaver to the Korean offerings of Anju. If you are looking for local dishes, try The Deane House Restaurant, which showcases Alberta produce on its seasonally-changing menu. Discover more great places to eat in Calgary in Mallory’s article, The 18 Essential Calgary Restaurants.
6. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Last June, Karen Burns-Booth from Lavender and Lovage spent a fabulous week exploring Saskatoon, which she describes as much underrated, especially by Canadians themselves.
“I was treated to some outstanding food whilst in Saskatoon” says Karen “…innovative meals that were right up there with any Michelin Star restaurant in London or elsewhere; local chefs, brewers and restaurant owners were passionate about what they prepared and cooked, with local ingredients featuring heavily in all of the places I went to, which is how it should be.”
From elk carpaccio with pickled walnuts and fried artichokes, to gluten-free carrot cake with coconut cream and sea buckthorn berries, she found many a hidden gem. Check out all her favourite foodie finds in her article, Savour a City Break in Saskatoon.
If you are after the traditional it has to be steak, as Stuart Forster from Go.Eat.Do found at Ayden Kitchen and Bar. “It’s the one dish we’ve never changed since we opened and probably won’t. … You don’t want to screw around with it too much or put anything on top; just a little bit of peppercorn and butter. People want to say they’ve had a steak, especially in Saskatchewan, right?” says Chef Dale MacKay. Read Stuart’s interview with Chef MacKay, Ayden Kitchen and Bar, Sasakatoon.
7. Regina, Saskatchewan
Aleana Young, owner of the Takeaway Gourmet food store in Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, says in her article Regina’s best restaurants of 2017 “There were some exciting restaurant openings and new local food trucks, with unique and authentic flavours.”
For the best ramen, Aleana suggests heading to Wann Izakaya. For a classic breakfast head to Nicky’s Cafe, Mr. Breakfast or The Mercury and for great food at an affordable price, Victoria’s Tavern. Check out her article for the full rundown.
8. Winnipeg, Manitoba
Karen is also a big fan of the food and drink scene in Winnipeg. In an article about Winnipeg’s vibrant winter food scene she sings the praises of the new craft breweries and food tours of the city, as well as a unique pop-up restaurant. And of The Forks Market she says it’s “a must-visit place for any avid foodie. One of Winnipeg’s most diverse culinary destinations, it’s open all year round and is the perfect place to escape to after a session of ice skating on the Red River Mutual Trail…”
For more edible inspiration check out her article Winnipeg’s vibrant winter food scene.
What a spread was laid on for us at lunch today in @theforkswinnipeg #onlyinthepeg Ukrainien Perogies with bacon,onions and sour cream; Fish and Chips with local Pickerel; Sushi and Mini Hiroshimas with spicy chicken, belly pork and sausage all served with local beer and flights of wine #MeetMeAtTheForks #exploremb – perfect global grub for a cold winter’s day in The Peg! @tallgrassprairiebakery @thecommonwpg @kyugrill #perogies #sauerkraut #bacon #hiroshimas #fishnchips #pickerel #winnipeg #pegcitygrub #winnipegeats #manitoba #manisnowba #sushi #beer #wine #fbcuk17 #fbcuk16 #instafoodblogger #instafoodblog #instafoodie #peggrub #theforksmarket #theforks #theforkswinnipeg #huffposttaste
Ontario and Quebec
Home to Canada’s iconic staple, poutine; a messy combination of chips, gravy and curds. Reputedly created in Quebec its popularity has spread across much of Canada. And did you know that 70% of Canada’s maple syrup is produced in Quebec? Also look out for ice wine and ice cider.
9. Toronto, Ontario
Toronto has a overwhelming choice of innovative and exciting restaurants with new ones opening all the time, says local freelance writer Jessica Padykula in her article, 50 Things to eat In Toronto before you die. I’ll be spending just a couple of days here next month so sadly won’t be able to fit all 50 in, but I’ll be keeping a particularly keen eye out for Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery. I’ll then have the dilemma of which of their unique in-house ice cream flavours to try — burnt toffee, London fog, or perhaps cinnamon toast. And I’ll simply have to try the chicken and maple-buttered waffles served with ‘Dirty Sauce’ (the recipe of which is a secret) at The Dirty Bird, to see how it compares with my first delectable chicken-waffle experience in Victoria.
10. Ottawa, Ontario
In Ottawa, Zoë Dawes aka The Quirky Traveller, discovered a fabulous food tour. Starting at Art-Is-In Bakery Zoë found “A buzz of chatter hummed round the industrial-chic cafe as customers tucked into wholesome, tasty food in one of the most popular and off-the-beaten trail cafes in Ottawa.” The one thing that caught my attention mostof all were the Bacon Maple Donoughts from Suzie Q.
To get the complete picture check out Zoë’s article, A funky Food Tour of hipsterish Hintonburg.
11. Montreal, Quebec
In Montreal, Zoë heads out on another great food tour where she samples Dragon’s Beard Candy made from white sugardough in Chinatown, potato latkes (shallow-fried grated potato pancakes) and poutine, that infamously-messy mix of chips, gravy and curds. “As food experiences go” Zoë explains, “eating poutine with a plastic fork out of a polystyrene box beside one of Montreal’s busiest streets, rates in my top ten foodie experiences of all time. It’s a sensuously smooth, carbohydrate laden, scrummily divine taste sensation!” There seems to be a carb theme here but to get the full picture check out Zoë’s post, A magical mystery tour of Montreal’s culinary heritage. If that still leaves you hungry for more check this mini guide to food in Montreal.
12. Quebec City, Quebec
“Quebec City has a proud francophone heritage, and the food is certainly influenced by this, but not defined solely by it. Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, and even though summers are short and it can get very cold, there is a new culture of wine-making there, with respected winemakers setting up.” says Niamh, the lady behind the fabulous food and travel blog ‘Eats like a Girl’, in her article Where to Eat & Drink in Quebec City. She continues “In terms of drinks beyond wine, ice wine and ice cider are what you should look for here, as well as the local gins, including a new gin, Radoune, distilled from 4 types of local wild mushrooms.” Now that does sound interesting, if somewhat bizarre. Niamh compiled a tempting list of all the best places to dine in Quebec City, so do check it out and see what might tickle your tastebuds.
The Atlantic Coast
Possibly the dish most associated with the Maritimes is the lobster roll, but there are many wonderful seafood dishes available, including fish and chips, something I associate more with England, my homeland. Dulse, a seaweed I first came across in Northern Ireland, also grows along the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and is eaten dried as a snack or in a sandwich. Look out a canner, a lobster weighing less than a pound. They’re the most succulent of all. And pair it with Novia Scotia white wine.
13. Fredericton, New Brunswick
Alison Cornford-Matheson, the writer behind the delicious blog, CheeseWeb, has written about her favourite 8 places to eat and drink local in Fredericton. She heaps praise on the fine dining seafood restaurant Wolastoq Wharf, which is owned and operated by St Mary’s First Nation. The quirky community kitchen, Isaac’s Way, also caught my eye as an interesting place to visit, and not just for the great food. As Alison explains “Everything possible is sourced in New Brunswick, from the local meats right down to the coffee mugs! In fact, art takes centre stage in the bright and cheery interior. The walls are decorated with works by local artists that are auctioned to raise money for local youth charities.” Check out her article for more edible inspiration.
14. Saint John, New Brunswick
When I visited Saint John earlier this year I had no idea what a gastronomic treat I was in for. As I expected, I found fresh and tasty seafood, but I also discovered delicious curries, excellent craft beers and ciders, and melt-in-the-mouth desserts. I left Canada with no doubt that Saint John’s food scene is flourishing and on the up. There are some fabulous restaurants, such as Port City Royal, putting a new spin on old dishes. And, at Queen’s Square Farmers’ Market, I found cuisines as ethnically diverse as the people of Saint John, with food stalls from Nigeria, Cameroon, Thailand, Mexico, Haiti and Syria.
Discover all my culinary highlights from a week in Saint John, Where and what to eat and drink in Saint John.
15. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
In Jessica Dawdy’s article about the culinary scene in Charlottetown on The Culture Trip, she shares her 10 favourite restaurants from, in her words, “the cultural and culinary capital of Prince Edward Island”. It may be Canada’s smallest province “but it’s one of the richest when it comes to fertile farmland and bountiful oceans.” Check out her post if you want to know just how the town’s restaurants make the most of the fabulous local produce, Where To Eat Out In Charlottetown.
16. Halifax, Newfoundland and Labrador
Many familiar favourites appear in Julia Belittchenko article 10 Must-Try Halifax Foods and Where to Get Them, including poutine, lobster rolls, and donairs, a maritime staple of spicy ground beef served in a Lebanese-style pita topped with sweet donair sauce. Also mentioned are Beaver’s Tails, but I’d never before heard of them before. Check out Julia’s article to find out what they are and where to find the best of all these and other great dishes in Halifax.
17. St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
“Newfoundland cuisine is rooted in making the best of what can be caught, grown, or raised locally. Inventive restaurateurs are using the province’s staple wild game, vegetables, and fish to create a new style of cuisine that is comforting and surprising.” Says Jessica Dawdy in her article 10 best Restaurants in St John’s, which between them offer a fabulous mix of dining styles and innovative dishes, from contemporary bistro cuisine to gourmet comfort food.
If you are after something more traditional look out for moose sausagse, a boil up or cod tongues with scruncheons!
The Northern Territories
Our edible journey around Canada winds up in the Northern Territories where harsh winters, chilly summers and a short growing season hasn’t stopped them serving up some tantalising bites.
18. Iqaluit, Nunavut
Nunavut is the most northerly inhabited place in the world – a place to experience the Inuit cuisine and way of life – and for this reason its capital, Iqaluit, is included in this list.
With such a chilly climate it’s no surprise that the local food is hearty and based on hunting and fishing with caribou, musk ox and Arctic char on the menu. In the short summer, berries abound, including blueberries, blackberries and cranberries as well as the local Baffin berries, which are somewhat like raspberries. Controversially, maktaaq or muktuk (raw whale blubber and skin) is still a highly regarded local speciality, although I’ve heard it is mostly found in the home rather than in restaurants.
19. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
As Sasha Barkans states in his article Your Self-guided Tour To The Best Eats And Drinks In Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories’ only city was renowned for its wilderness, fishing and indigenous culture but in recent years food and beer are also now coming to the fore, including the opening of the Northwest Territories’ first brewery, NWT Brewing Company. In his article, Sasha paints a cosy picture of roaring fires in log cabins, a laid-back atmosphere, the Aurora Borealis and “bison burgers that will change your life.” Check it out to find out where to get your breakfast, lunch and dinner and to see those Northern Lights.
We’ve got another #cask for you this #ThirstyThursday at the pub featuring our #honeybucketnutbrown recipe that’s been #dryhopped with #Willamette Hops! Named after the Willamette river in Oregon, this hop was once the most widely grown aroma variety in North America adding strong floral & spicy characteristics to beer ✨?#casknight #beernorthof60 #thursdaymotivation #pairitwithourcharcutterieboard ?: @angelagzowski GROWLERS: 4-8PM #kicksledcreamale #ambrrrale #winterscomingcascadiandarkale
20. Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Our whistle-stop tour ends in Whitehorse, in the wild and rugged Yukon. Despite its short growing season, it has embraced the local food movement and, as Jessica Dawdy discovered, it has a flourishing restaurant scene with a wide range of cuisines represented, from the authentic Italian offerings of Giorgio’s Cuccina to the eclectic menu of Antoinette’s.
If you are after something more traditionally northern, however, head to Klondike Rib and Salmon in one of the oldest buildings in the city, where nature’s bounty from local hunting and fishing are the key features of the menu.
Read more of Jessica’s recommendations in her article, Top 10 Restaurants & Eats in Whitehorse.
Do you have a favourite Canadian town, city or restaurant that’s a food and drink lover’s dream come true, is in the quirkiest setting or serves something truly unique? What’s missing from the list?
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