A whole lot of delicious is happening in Tofino, where the rainforest meets the ocean. Why? Tofino has an unusually high density of talented chefs, sommeliers and bartenders, who settle here for the coastal charm, and usually, the surfing. Everything on your plate is hyper fresh, as in wiggling in the ocean earlier that day.
We all know about the usual suspects serving good food in Tofino. The Pointe, Tacofino, and Shelter come to mind. It’s time to pay attention to the new and/or lesser-known crop stand-out Tofino restaurants, breweries, and cafes.
You know, the places that make people get on a ferry and drive for hours. And the spots where the locals grab a coffee and breakfast before riding the waves.
Here are 5 great places to eat and drink in Tofino now.
Upstairs, in a softly glowing reclaimed wood room with giant sunburst built from surf boards, the team at Wolf in the Fog achieves that rare combination of laid-back and extraordinary. You can wear a flannel shirt while you eat one of the most memorable meals of your life.
Chef Nick Nutting, formerly of the Pointe at Wickaninnish Inn, uses complex methods to make the fruits of Tofino’s ocean and forest sing deceptively simple, beautiful songs. Smoked oysters wrapped in shoe string potatoes. Charred humboldt squid with Vietnamese slaw. Spot prawns with heirloom tomato and orange. Talk to bar manager Hailey about your cocktail, wine guy Jorge about a meal pairing, and pastry chef Joel about why you should save room for dessert.
Sister restaurant to Shika Provisions on Bowen Island, Kuma is a new kid on the Tofino block serving Japanese comfort food, sake and craft beer to folks who play hard outside. This is casual Japanese at its best. We’re talking about crunchy chicken karaage, Osaka-style okonomiyaki, spicy kimchi udon with shredded pork shoulder, and deeply flavourful house ramen in shio broth.
In this day and age, it almost goes without saying that they source locally whenever possible. The owners are Rob Leadley and Mitsumi Kawai. The chef is Simon Burch.
Short for sophisticate bohemian, SoBo delivers both. Chef/owner Lisa Ahier and husband Artie started a purple food truck in Tofino in 2003. EnRoute named it one of Canada’s best new restaurants in its first year. Today the Ahiers have a brick and mortar restaurant on Neill Street and are celebrating their new book The Sobo Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the End of the Canadian Road, which has received a lot of media love since it was published in 2014.
Get underway with Lisa’s smoked chowder with spicy wild salmon, and some of that irresistible skillet cornbread. Keep filling up on her fish tacos with fruit salsa and broiled oysters with salmon bacon and miso mayo. If you want to eat this well more often than you find yourself at the end of the Canadian road, get the book.
They had us at Kelp Stout. In addition to this umami-rich seasonal beer, Tofino Brewing Co. excels at highly quaff-able session ales including crisp blonde ale, toasty copper Tuff ale, and a citrus-meets-pine-forest Cretin IPA. Any of these makes for a great thirst-quencher after a session learning to ride cold Pacific waves.
You can pick your favourite by ordering a tasting flight at the brewery. Then buy one of their pretty brown glass growlers and fill it up. You’ll also find six packs at local liquor stores, and many Tofino and Ucluelet restaurants also have their brews on tap.
Yelper tourists rave about the coffee at this little spot with a spoof corsair logo. You know they’re right when you see the steady stream of regulars. With coffee from Victoria’s Discovery and chubby breakfast calzones by RedCan Gourmet, they’ve got your morning input sorted.
315 kilometres west of Victoria on Vancouver Island, Tofino has a population 2,000 except in high summer when the area swells with over 20,000 visitors drawn by the rugged coastal beauty. If you’re planning a trip, here are Vancouver Island vacation rentals. Don’t forget to browse surf gear.
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