Award-winning chefs and trail-blazing vintners. Visionary food artisans and medal-fetching craft breweries. Canada has them all – and the world is taking notice.
Indeed, gone are the days when popular Canadian food only meant bacon, beavertails and maple syrup. Sure, you’ll still find those goodies on many menus across the country, but they’re now joined by a plethora of other local, ethnic and globally inspired items as diverse as the landscape itself. And thanks to a rise in the variety of venues, feasting on Canada’s finest is now more accessible than ever. Read on for a coast-to-coast snapshot of what and where to eat at your neighbor to the north.
Vancouver, British Columbia
With access to the Pacific Ocean and the bountiful Fraser Valley, the port city of Vancouver takes pride in serving up locally sourced, seasonal fare. Add in creative culinary experiences and chefs from culturally diverse backgrounds, and you have the perfect ingredients for a Canadian food hot spot. Long appreciated by locavores, Vancouver’s thriving food scene is now making a splash globally with its celebrity-chef-driven restaurants (try Vij’s or Hawksworth), First Nations bistro (Salmon n’ Bannock), close to 100 food trucks, the Dine Out Vancouver Festival (the country’s largest annual dining celebration), and activities like the Gastronomic Gastown Tour – a Canadian Signature Experience (CSE).
Known for its jaw-dropping Rocky Mountain vistas, proximity to teal-blue glacial lakes, and seductive mountain-town charm, Banff also tempts with plenty of culinary offerings. A 1.5-hour drive west of Calgary, this boutique- and bistro-lined hub in the middle of Banff National Park is home to the casual Chuck’s Steakhouse and its grass-fed Alberta beef menu, and the airy Sky Bistro with regionally sourced plates at the top of the Banff Gondola. For a behind-the-brick-wall glimpse of a world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the CSE-certified Eat the Castle tour at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel will delight both the mouth and mind.
Dubbed “Canada’s hottest new foodie destination” by Forbes, the nine-bridge city of Saskatoon beckons with prairie comfort food, elevated ethnic fare, and farm-to-table cuisine. Go to Baba’s Homestyle Perogies for its hand-pinched namesakes and Ukrainian twist on a Canadian food classic – perogy poutine; the tried-and-true Taverna Italian Kitchen for authentic, family-style share plates; Primal and Ayden Kitchen & Bar for Saskatchewan-sourced meat, fish, flora, and fungi – the latter spot owned by original Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay. Can’t decide where to go? Time your summer visit to hit the longstanding annual A Taste of Saskatchewan Festival, showcasing local restaurants, the fast-paced Chef’s Series competition, and live entertainment.
For a toothsome overview of this prairie province’s formidable culinary offerings, take an amble around Winnipeg’s Forks Market. Among the 20-plus food and drink stalls on the main floor, savor Japanese fusion at the KYU Grill; battered cod, halibut or walleye at Fergie’s Fish’n Chips; free-range Manitoba beef patties at Nuburger; and 14 hard ice-cream flavors at Neon Cone. Admittedly, you’ll also find some of the so-called top 10 Canadian foods here (think Mini Donuts Factory). Wash it down with a Fools & Horses latte or pair it up with one of 20 craft beers and 20 wines on tap at the Common. Then head upstairs to peruse locally made goods like Qutie & Co.’s hand-carved jewelry and Coal and Canary Candle Company’s hip, hand-poured creations.
Prince Edward County, Ontario
A three-hour drive east of Toronto will land you at what is known as the “gastronomic capital of Ontario.” An island along the northeast shore of Lake Ontario, Prince Edward County is steeped in farming and agricultural history. Today, some 45-plus wineries, a budding cider scene, and host of farm-to-table restaurants come together to deliver some of the best in Canadian food and drink. Go for the culinary deep dive on the all-day CSE-rated Bounty of the County adventure, where you choose your menu, shop locally, and make lunch at the From the Farm Cooking School. After visiting local wineries, tuck into the cozy Inn at Huff Estates just 10 minutes away from the school’s 1830s farmhouse.
Eastern Townships, Quebec
Wine, cheese, beer, and locally driven fare. Quebec’s Eastern Townships checks off all the boxes for a gourmand getaway to sample some of the best food in Canada. A two-hour drive east of Montreal, this fertile region bordering Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine produces more than 60 per cent of the province’s wine. Bike or drive the 87-mile Brome-Missisquoi Wine Route, or the more off-the-beaten-path 106-mile Estrie Wine Route. Then sink your teeth into award-winning bleu bénédictin at Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, sip an Abysse de la Gorge stout at Microbrasserie Coaticook, and savor terroir-driven Quebec cuisine at Manoir Hovey’s Le Hatley Restaurant before padding back to your deluxe room complete with fireplace and view of Lake Massawippi.
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Long known for its seafood, wild game, and off-beat local faves like Figgy Duff and Jiggs Dinner, the maritime province of Newfoundland and Labrador now boasts a burgeoning chef-driven dining scene. Nowhere is this more evident than in the colorful capital of St. John’s, where establishments have been busy forging ties with local farmers and fishers. Sit down to charcuterie boards of artisan meats and cheeses at Chinched Restaurant & Deli or a changing seasonal menu at 18th-century Mallard Cottage in the fishing village of Quidi Vidi just five minutes from downtown. Then duck into the 1725-built stone YellowBelly Brewery & Public House for a Come From Away Islander Pale Ale.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Chefs are causing quite a stir in New Brunswick's culinary landscape too, especially in the capital of Fredericton on the St. John River. Expect modern Canadian food at 11th Mile, where chef Peter Tompkins turns out locally sourced share plates of chicken paillard salad, seared coulotte steak, and roast vegetables and grains alongside creative cocktails like the sake-spiked Pushover. Or make like a chef yourself at the long-running Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market and shop for fiddleheads, blueberries, and other seasonal goodies. Don’t forget to pick up gifts for home like artisan chocolates, local wines, and, if you have room, a quirky lawn sculpture.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
There’s much ado about food in Prince Edward Island’s capital of Charlottetown. Sign up for the CSE Island Flavors Culinary Bootcamp, where you’ll learn how to shop for and cook your own locally inspired creation at the Culinary Institute of Canada. Then watch for food trucks like Truckin’ Roll, dishing up South East Asian-style ice cream in fun P.E.I.-sourced flavors like Banana Rum-public and Mint to Be. Lastly, don’t leave before dropping by the seasonal Salt & Sol Restaurant and Lounge for über-fresh mussels and frites, chipotle tacos, and other tapas; and the Cork & Cast for local seafood in Atlantic Canada’s only floating restaurant.
Province-wide, Nova Scotia
“Hit the trail” takes on different meaning in Nova Scotia, where three culinary-themed routes wind around the province from tip to rugged tip. With Nova Scotia producing one quarter of the country’s seafood, it’s no surprise that two of these trails celebrate the ocean’s harvest. Try the many variations – from rolls to fondue – of the East Coast’s most famous crustacean on the Nova Scotia Lobster Trail. Savor bowl after steaming bowl on the Nova Scotia Chowder Trail. Or sample the land’s liquid bounty on the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail – Canada’s very first wine, beer, cider, and spirits trail.
An up-and-coming culinary hot spot, the Yukon territory serves up much more than its infamous sourtoe cocktail. In the capital of Whitehorse, pop into Antoinette’s for Caribbean-style dishes like lime-basil tiger prawns and curry chicken stew; the seasonal Klondike Rib & Salmon for wild game meatballs, crusted elk tenderloin, and cold-smoked salmon; and G&P on Main for steakhouse classics. A short 34-mile drive south of town, the Inn on the Lake takes care to tap local ingredients like Boreal berries and sockeye salmon – stay for dinner and the night, or splurge for a package like the Yukon Whisky & Wine Weekend Tour.
Come for the scenery, but stay for Canada’s palate-pleasing local and ethnic cuisines.