How do you get to know the land where you live? Walking in the wild is a good first step; eating local foods is another. When you travel to Italy you’ll be excited to eat pasta, when you travel to India you’ll fill up on curry. What meals and ingredients help you get to know the land in BC?
The flavours of the West Coast are endless, as cultures from around the world continue to converge in cities and small towns. But when you want to taste the land’s wild-grown ingredients, it’s probably best to consult with the cultures that have been living here for thousands of years.
In the last decade an increasing number of Indigenous chefs have opened restaurants, sharing traditional recipes with a modern twist. If you’d like to taste the flavours of BC, pull up a chair and try a meal from each of these Indigenous-owned restaurants!
Before you go: check with restaurants for updated opening hours, and ask for their preferred ordering method. Pandemic protocols continue to change.
Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro
Growing up, Inez Cook always knew she would own a restaurant — a space where diners could travel to a different place, but also feel at home. Her dream came true with Salmon’ n’ Bannock Bistro in Vancouver, where current staff represent Carrier-Sekani, Haida, Long Plain, Muskoday, Nuxalk, Ojibway, Pinaymootang, Quw’utsun, Squamish and Tsimshian First Nations. Try the pemmican mousse — smoked and dried bison hand-ground with sage-blueberries and cream cheese — or the Ojibway wild rice risotto. You may have to come back more than once to taste all your favourites!
Sometimes we can let good habits slip when we’re on the road, but the Kekuli Cafe makes it easy to support local entrepreneurs. The owners make a point of helping everyone feel welcome, their two locations in Merritt and West Kelowna make for convenient pitstops, and the food is the perfect mix of comfort and creative cuisine. Grab a wild smoked salmon breakfast bannock-wich, try a venison frybread taco seasoned with sage, blueberry and Saskatoon BBQ sauce, or treat yourself to an afternoon pick-me-up of Spirit Bear organic espresso and a bannock berry scone.
FURTHER READING: Okanagan community lifts up Indigenous food truck dream
Introducing North America’s first Indigenous-owned winery, Nk’Mip Cellars, in Osoyoos, BC. It’s owned by the more than 500 band members of Osoyoos Indian Band, and shares the fruits of the land they call home. Qwam Qwmt (pronounced kw-em kw-empt) means ‘achieving excellence’ in the Syilx language, and the Qwam Qwmt estate wines certainly live up to the name. They’re produced in limited quantities from the fine grapes grown on the 40-year-old Inkameep Vineyards, and are the perfect way to experience the extremes of the desert where they’re grown.
If you’re looking to taste the splendours of the sea, you can’t get much better than Nax’id Pub in Port Hardy, a seaside town at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Chow down on a plate of Port Hardy prawn tacos, or savour the house-smoked wild salmon and crispy cod. Find the pub in the Kwa’lilas Hotel, and check out Chef Gord’s sister restaurant ha’me’ when it reopens later in the year.
FURTHER READING: Explore and experience Indigenous culture in BC
Please note that current Provincial Health Protocols currently advise against travelling outside your region to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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