We’re back with a new edition of Restaurant Roundup! The theme? Where To Eat This Weekend. We profile different parts of Canada with a list of great dining recommendations for you to check out — from fancy to hole in the wall and everything in between! If you're planning a trip to Canada's surf capital, Tofino, BC, you're in the right spot. Melissa Hartfiel takes us on a tour of Tofino restaurants. You'll want to check it out whether you're a local or planning a trip — now you'll know where to eat in Tofino!
As a Vancouver Island girl by birth, Tofino's Long Beach and Chesterman Beach are practically in my DNA. My parents have photos and old home movies of me running up and down both beaches as a toddler and, to this day, Tofino's still my favourite place for my annual solo trip to recharge my creative batteries. While I prefer storm watching season in the late fall and winter when it's quieter, Tofino can be full of surfers year round. In summer, it hits full capacity with tourists from all over the world looking for some sun, sand, surf and, of course, good food!
Tofino is a unique little spot on the far west coast of BC's Vancouver Island. A thriving food scene has sprung up in the last 10 years, inspired by the bountiful Pacific and a stunning rainforest backdrop. It just may have the most outstanding lineup of restaurants per capita of any spot in Canada (that's a highly unscientific guess, by the way!). It's also home to the renowned Feast Tofino - an annual three week long culinary festival celebrating sustainable fishing and Tofino's internationally acclaimed food scene.
One thing to note, Tofino is a year round surfing and natural resource based community that's also home to many artisans and sits on the territorial land of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. The vibe is very relaxed and nobody rushes for anything. If you're expecting big city urgency, you're not going to find it here. Take a step back, a deep breath, and let your body slow down and get in sync with your surroundings.
If you're planning a trip to this part of the world, here are just a few of the great places to eat in Tofino. (Tofino is also very vegetarian and vegan friendly!)
Where To Eat Breakfast or Lunch in Tofino
Rhino Coffee House
Located right in the heart of Tofino, Rhino Coffee House is hard to miss! Inside you'll find a welcoming west coast surf vibe and an all day breakfast menu. Breakfast consists mostly of breakfast bagels (house made bagels!) sandwiches and wraps, homemade granola and... the "bro" nut: fried egg, your choice of bacon, ham or sausage, tomato, cheddar lettuce all served on a homemade savoury doughnut. You read that right! A doughnut.
Their lunch menu is mainly sandwiches and wraps and salads. I've sampled many of them and none have disappointed. My favourite is the BBQ Chicken Sandwich. Thin crust pizzas appear on the menu after 5:30 and the Rhino's famous doughnuts (very good doughnuts!) are served all day - but get there early for the best selection because they go fast! And, like most Tofino eateries, there's a heavy emphasis on fresh, in season, local ingredients.
The Tacofino Food Trucks are well known in Vancouver and Victora, as is their brick and mortar location. But, in my opinion, the best Tacofino truck is still the original Tofino truck. Located just off the Pacific Highway a little north of Chesterman Beach, the original truck sits at the very back of a gravel parking lot amidst a collection of surf shops, eateries, a chocolatier and salon. You can almost miss it if you're not careful!
The Tacofino Truck is always my first stop when I arrive and I'll usually revisit it multiple times before leaving. Their menu consists of fresh tacos, tortilla soup, burritos and gringas. My first choice is always the Tuna-Ta-Taco — in fact I usually get two — and a Diablo Cookie (sometimes I get two of those as well!). I'm also a big fan of their Tortilla Soup, especially when it's raining. Their burritos are very hearty and I can usually make two meals out of one.
Is it actually the best truck? I don't know. But there's something about the Pacific air and being outdoors all day by the ocean that makes everything taste that much better!
Be prepared to wait during lunch hours, even in storm season and even in the rain. There's always a lineup so bring your umbrella. Check their site for the day's hours. And like most places in Tofino, well-behaved doggies are welcome. Outdoor communal seating is plentiful and the crowd is eclectic.
Located in the same spot as the Tacofino Truck, Wildside Grill is another outdoor eatery that's open year round. They may just serve the best fish and chips I've ever eaten. And being a west coast girl with a British mother, that's saying something!
The eatery is owned by a local commercial fisherman and a chef. Their salmon, shrimp and prawns all come from their own boats and you can read all about their other suppliers on their website (short story: local, ethical, fresh and delicious).
The fish in their fish and chips is panko crusted making it a little lighter and less greasy than your traditional fish and chips batter, but just as crispy and even more delicious. The chips are perfect: not to think, super crispy and perfectly salted. They also make a pretty delicious poutine with those fries — one of my favourites outside of Montreal. Tacos, burgers, soups and salads round up the menu. I'm not gluten free but their gluten-free buns do seem to get rave reviews!
Again, this is an outdoor spot and like may spots in Tofino, it has quirky charm. There are some covered areas to get out of the sun or the rain but you can expect a lineup in summer and at peak times in storm season. I usually take my food to go. Doggies are welcome.
Where To Eat Dinner in Tofino
The Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn
If you want to experience fine dining at it's best then The Pointe Restaurant at the world renowned Wickaninnish Inn is a must. Featuring elegant, innovative west coast cuisine with one of the most spectacular views of the Pacific along the coast, you'll be wowed.
Like virtually all Tofino restaurants, the focus is on local ingredients and a farm-to-table approach. While there's a very strong focus on west coast seafood, you'll find other options too. Dessert is a must. Seasonal tasting menus are also available and the wine list showcases BC and Pacific Northwest wines.
This may also be the only restaurant in the area with a dress code. However, it's still the wild west coast so "smart casual" is as fancy as they get (in other words, leave the wetsuit and the flip-flops at the hotel!). They also serve brunch and lunch but you gotta leave the doggies at home or at the hotel for this one!
Most of Canada knows SoBo through their award-winning cookbook that's gotten rave reviews for Chef Lisa Ahier and Tofino surf photographer Jeremy Koreski, whose refreshing photography perfectly captures the spirit of the food and the region!
But SoBo actually started out as a purple food truck (my mom's favourite food truck back in the day!) run by Lisa and her husband Artie. They featured fresh, local food and found themselves named one of EnRoute's top 10 Canadian restaurants. A few years later they settled into a brick and mortar location in downtown Tofino.
The menu is a mix of small and large plates with a heavy emphasis on seafood. Their famous pizzas are still available for dinner and lunch.
Wolf in the Fog
Wolf in the Fog may have the name that evokes Tofino to me more than any other — maybe because I go in storm season so often. EnRoute named them Canada's best new restaurant in 2014 and like all the restaurants we've featured here, they value fresh, local food inspired by this part of the world.
The menu is seasonal and offers unique twists on Pacific seafood as well as locally foraged ingredients but, if seafood isn't for you, there are many other fresh options including a daily vegetarian special. Everything is beautifully prepared. Add to that a creative cocktail menu and wine list that heavily features BC Wines and you will have a truly west coast dining experience.
Where To Eat or Drink Something Special in Tofino
Tucked away in the same complex as Wildside Grill and Tacofino, is a little weathered, wooden sided building that houses a gem in Chocolate Tofino. They craft homemade chocolates and gelato - once again made with organic and mostly local ingredients. The chocolates are sold individually or in collections and my personal favourites are the masala chai, basil ganache and the chocolate dipped candied orange peel. If gelato is your thing then you must try the Lavender Honey made with local lavender and honey!
Want a charcuterie board to enjoy on the patio of your hotel room or down on the beach? Then Picnic Charcuterie is the place to go. They create their own charcuterie in house from locally sourced and ethically raised animals. All their producers are listed on their website so you can see exactly where your food is coming from. You can drop by their shop and pick out some tasty meats, cheeses and preserves yourself or, you can even order a platter on-line to pick up later. Just tell them how many it's for and any special instructions and you're good to go (we'd also recommend picking up a bottle of wine to go with it).
Common Loaf Bake Shop
Common Loaf Bakery is one of my long standing favourites in Tofino. Whether I want a latte, a crusty loaf of bread, a scone, or a slice of one their delicious pizzas, they have never failed me. They actually do a pretty wide range of food outside of their own baked goods including breakfast, sandwiches (made on their own bread of course!) and daily hot food specials. But the rustic baked goods are what they're known for They're always happy to pack things up to go - in fact, I've never actually eaten IN the cafe! They have a good selection of gluten free baked goods and vegetarian and vegan offerings. Word of warning though - it's cash only! But there is a CIBC ATM right next door.
This is just a sample of the many great dining spots to check out in Tofino. Be sure to check out the Tourism Tofino website for even more places to check out. RedCan Gourmet and Shelter Restaurant are on my list for my next visit!
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Melissa Hartfiel is a co-founder and editor of Food Bloggers of Canada. Melissa also owns her own web and graphic design studio, Fine Lime Designs and is the author of the blog Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach where she writes about food, photography and her creative life. She's the owner of two restless feet and a goofy yellow lab, SamTheDog. She drinks a lot of tea, eats a moderate amount of chocolate, and watches too many cheesy British mystery shows. Follow Melissa on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.