For a town of some 2,000 year-round residents, the culinary scene in Tofino has always punched way above its weight
I’d not made that windy road trip through the old-growth forest and Pacific Rim National Park for a couple of years, so storm season felt like a good time to head back to see what’s new to eat and drink in Tofino. Turns out, there’s plenty to check out—and all of it is delicious!
So, what are you waiting for? Get on that ferry/plane/bus right now and grab a slice of West Coast Tofino heaven...
1. The Shed
Welcome to The Shed, your new breakfast-till-late-night-hang-out joint, right in the heart of the action with a killer patio to soak up that summer sun and people-watch to your heart’s content. It’s from the folks at Shelter, so expect that excellent attention to detail, killer service and a gorgeous space.
What to order: If it’s morning, have the Acai yogurt bowl, a freaking delicious piled-high parade of creamy organic yogurt, crunchy almond granola, fresh berries, bananas and chia seeds and hemp hearts. The rest of the day, dive into the Shed burger, keeping it simple with lettuce, tomato and a slice of cheddar, slathered in a wonderfully Big Mac-ish sauce. Yes, please!
2. Lil’ Ronnies BBQ
You’ll find this all-new excellent BBQ shack on the beach at the Mackenzie Campground, where everything from brisket to the veggies is cooked on its impressive outdoor smoker using a maple-alder mix. Check out the interior lovingly created from goodies, such as salvaged wood from local superstar Sarah McLachlan’s deck, and repurposed surfboards.
What to order: The brisket was so good it had me moaning with pleasure thanks to its perfect smoky char and meltingly soft, beautifully integrated fat. The sambal-spiked mac and cheese with a smashed Doritos topping is pretty bad-ass too. Try a board to share with a little bit of everything.
3. The Pointe
Makito InomataThere’s a brand new chef at The Wick. Carmen Ingham has taken over from Warren Barr who’s left to open his own place, Pluvio in Ucluelet. Coming from acclaimed Victoria restaurant, Olo, chef Ingham seems like a great fit and it’ll be fun—and pretty darn delicious—to see him dive into the bounty of this part of beautiful B.C.
What to order: Don’t even think about it. Order the tasting menu. It's five courses of exceptional locavore cuisine with gloriously chef-y touches (I was hard-pressed not to lick the plate and/or ask for seconds of my beef course, which came with tender buttery side stripe shrimp and a divine sunflower jus.) Oh, and definitely start with a Feather George cocktail which pays homage to the Inn’s original carver, made with rye infused with cedar shavings from the carving shed.
4. Summit Bakery
This sourdough-focussed bakery in the up-and-coming industrial area opened last year and has been doing a brisk trade ever since (you’ll find plenty of Summit-baked breads and pastries in restaurants across town) and steady line of locals popping in to get their fix too.
What to order: It’s pretty hard not to walk in, see the counter and bellow, "I'll have everything!" But just in case you have a little self-control, I’d definitely recommend one of the cruffins, (I tried the lemon meringue one, a heavenly mix of croissant, muffin and wobbly meringue pie). Definitely go for one of the sourdough baguettes and load up on cultured butter made in-house to slather on top.
5. Picnic Charcuterie
Paul-LevyIf you love your house-made charcuterie and deli cheeses, then you’ll adore Picnic. I got far too excited at the range of beautiful cured sausages on display, all hand-made in-store, along with cheeses from smaller producers from across Canada and a few international favourites too. Add to that an excellent program of tasty frozen treats to go— and a tempting array of snacks from crackers to jams, jellies and mustards—and you’ll probably find that a 'picnic' is your meal of choice while you’re in town.
What to order: Get a tasting board to go in a takeout box. I’d suggest dealer’s choice, because, damn, everything was great... it's tough to choose! But, if you twist my arm, I’ll vote for the orange and walnut, or sea salami with local Bamfield kelp and Chinese five spice.
6. Tofino Distillery
Tofino Distillery houses a gorgeous little tasting room with an excellent selection of gins and vodkas available for sipping, while their whisky program ages in barrels, ready to be tasted in a few years. Local products such as cedar tips feature, and they offer both filtered and unfiltered spirits for your drinking pleasure.
What to order: I came home with a bottle of Tofino Distillery's espresso vodka. I’m a big fan of a pre-game pick-me-up and an espresso martini never fails to deliver. This baby has no added sweetener and uses local roaster Rhino’s beans to create a perfect low-acid, silky smooth coffee-infused spirit. I’d also recommend the Psychedelic Jellyfish Absinthe which was a beautiful balance of fennel, wormwood, anise, hyssop and lemon balm.
7. Tofino Brewing
Settled in their all-new space at the end of 2017, Tofino’s only brewery sits in a lovely suntrap with plenty of wood and large windows, perfect for settling in for an afternoon’s leisurely tasting through their 10 to 12 beers. You’ll get an authentic taste of Tofino here. The water is from nearby Mears Island, and products such as kelp gathered at Bamfield and spruce tips foraged from local trees are used in the beer-making process.
What to order: I fell crazy in love with their Wonders of Nature sour, but the Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter made with bourbon-soaked vanilla beans and Rhino coffee beans was pretty damn excellent too. Grab a flight and find your new favourite!
8. Tofino Resort and Marina, 1909
Leila KwokWhen I last visited Tofino a few years back, the Marina resort was perfectly serviceable, but really nothing to write home about. All that has changed with huge injection of cash (from amongst others, former Canuck Willie Mitchell) and a hefty slice of talent in the form of Hawksworth Young Scholarship winner from 2013, chef Paul Moran. Expect fine dining but effortlessly casual at 1909, with plenty of Asian flavours and foraged local ingredients blended to a harmonious result.
What to order: Sure, there are five portions of the albacore tuna ‘tacos,’ but do not share—you will want the lot. The fresh crunchy ‘taco’ of daikon with the meltingly perfect local albacore and umami-bomb Bamfield nori alioli is plate-lickingly brilliant. I also got pretty excited by the cedar-plank-roasted, miso-maple-infused black cod which smelt exactly like my version of heaven and tasted terrific. Cocktails here are beautifully balanced and I really dug the wine list too as it’s studded with B.C. gems.
9. Surfside Grill
In the past two years since the Grill opened up at the gorgeous Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay, they’ve expanded from a little hole-in-the-wall to a twinkling-fairy-light-and-firepit-lit surfers’ pit stop with summer salmon barbecues and a soon-to-be-approved drinks license.
What to order: I gotta say the coffee here is great and the cod and chips is totally on point, but do yourself a favour and get an order of their salmon tacos. They are dee-lish and exactly what you want after a morning surfing and/or striding the beach.
If you love the coffee, you can live the Tofitian brand with everything from hats, stickers, sweaters and patches on offer—fortunately, the logo is hella cool and the coffee and baked goods are excellent! I was jazzed to discover everything is baked in-house and the beans come from one of my favourite spots in Victoria, Fernwood. There’s a pretty little patio out front under a shady tangle of trees, and I was excited to discover that they use compostable corn lids for their to-go cups. Extra eco points!
What to order: Beyond your favourite coffee? Try the breakfast croissant which comes with a beautifully peppy slick of pesto in a buttery just-right croissant. I didn’t get to try it, but I’d love to check their fermented dough pizzas—that sounded super tasty.