OLD CROW CAFÉ, GABRIOLA ISLAND, B.C.
Two hours from Victoria (including ferry)
Chef Darrin Boyko
To get to this restaurant, you have to drive up-island from Victoria, then get on a little ferry to Gabriola Island. When you’re that hard to get to, your food better be amazing. Old Crow Café delivers with fare that’s Gulf Islands-meets-not-quite-Mexican in flavour and execution.
You Gotta Eat… Halibut Togarashi Tacos
Chef Boyko sprinkles togarashi spice—a Japanese spice mixture of seaweed, cayenne pepper and chili powder—over halibut fillets and sears them in a pan. To ensure extra tenderness, he only cooks the second side of the fish halfway before turning off the burner and placing a lid over the fish to steam. Boyko then adds the fish, a bright and cool mango salsa, and a pile of house coleslaw to a warmed tortilla. And the spicy yogurt is a perfect complement to the delicate fish, crunchy cabbage, fruity lime and mangos.
BIG FEAST BISTRO, MAPLE RIDGE, B.C.
45 minutes from Vancouver
Chef Mike Mulcahy
Go east, Vancouverites! At the Big Feast, chef Mulcahy is doing familiar, classic comfort dishes with a little spin. He’s got Chinese chow mein with Italian flavours, and a bison burger with crab meat on it!
You Gotta Eat… the Wild Fennel Bison Burger
The Big Feast’s most popular burger is named in memory of Wild Fennel, the now-defunct Salt Spring Island restaurant that inspired chef Mulcahy’s fennel-spiced bison burger. Mulcahy toasts and grinds fennel seeds and mixes them into the bison patties for a subtle black licorice flavour. To add a little spice to the dish, he turns to his homemade banana pepper jam—a blend of pickled banana peppers and Granny Smith applesauce. He smears the jam over the burger and adds goat cheese aioli to a toasted Portuguese bun. Add to that a pile of sweet crab meat, a few slices of maple bacon and a slice of havarti, and the burger becomes a perfect blend of bitter yet sweet, creamy yet spicy.
MILE ONE EATING HOUSE, PEMBERTON, B.C.
30 minutes from Whistler
Chef Randy Jones
Whistler has tons of fantastic fine dining, lots of great little cafe’s, and a highway that leads straight to Mile One Eating House. I ate an oyster burger here, which is not something I do every day. But when I’m in B.C. I get a little crazy. Must be the mountain air.
You Gotta Eat… the Wild and Tame Mac and Cheese
Mile One serves six different types of mac and cheese; this one’s a true original with mushrooms, elk chorizo and fresh asparagus. Chef Jones starts with melted butter and simmers full-fat cream until it reduces and thickens. With that rich base established, he then adds two types of cheese: white cheddar for its aged, sharp flavour and mozzarella for the all-important cheesy, stringy factor. From there he tosses in cooked elbow pasta noodles with spicy and gamey local elk chorizo, sautéed mushrooms, and crunchy, bright asparagus (or green rapini, depending on when you visit).