Growing up in Port Alberni, Chad says, he was "just as likely to meet a 30-pound salmon as a 300-pound logger." So his standard for fresh seafood is pretty high. To curate a menu that reached his lofty expectations, he hired a Red Seal chef and stocks the kitchens of both locations?in Courtenay and in Port Coquitlam?with sea-fresh ingredients. But fish tacos, lobster mac and cheese, and saffron salmon aren't the only dishes on the menu. Diners also order gourmet burgers, meatball hoagies, ribs, salads, and bacon-chorizo flatbread pizzas that are tossed to tables like Frisbees.
The Wild Fig is a rare breed of restaurant?the kind where the kitchen whips up about as many desserts as entrees. Even the pickiest sweet tooth can find satisfaction on the menu, which features a grilled banana with ice cream and caramel sauce, an Okanagan apple tart, and a molten chocolate cake drizzled in raspberry coulis. Before dessert, diners whet their appetites with a cosmopolitan array of dinners, ranging from Indian-style butter chicken to the pure Americana of Angus steaks.
White-water raft down the Thompson River and you’ll likely encounter a famous rock formation dubbed The Frog—the inspiration behind Todd and Shari Pratt’s eatery, The Frogstone Grill. Just as the boulder's unique shape has stood the test of time, the Pratt's wanted to create a reliable and unique restaurant, distinguished by memorable dishes. And with a menu of Mexican, Italian, and Southwest-inspired contemporary fare, they've managed to do just that.
An open kitchen showcases the chefs' flair for culinary invention, giving patrons front-row seats to watch as they pull homemade breads and margarita pizzas fresh from the brick oven, and brush slow-smoked ribs with cranberry barbecue sauce. To the delight of their late-rising customers, the kitchen team makes breakfast until 3 p.m. on weekends, serving up generous helpings of blueberry-mango french toast and sizzling steak skillets. The kitchen staff also happily serves up gluten-free options throughout the day. Guests who aren't seated near the action still get a show of their own, thanks to guacamole made tableside from fresh avocados, cilantro, and jalapenos. And while patrons dine, they can also enjoy the eatery's aquatic-themed decor, including frog statues, fish tanks, and even the arcade classic Frogger.
A cozy picture of Tudor revivalist design, the lakeside Hart House Restaurant purveys creative menus full of exquisite dinner, lunch, and brunch delicacies lauded for their casual elegance. Sophisticated dishes include seared salmon with saffron fennel puree and beef tenderloin. During warmer months, guests can enjoy creative fare on the patio with a Pimm's Cup or a local wine before cracking into a vanilla bean cr?me br?l?e.
Seasonal events celebrate fresh, local fare. Hart House's glass-walled lakeside cottage, sprawling green backyard, and second-storey private rooms also make it an ideal location for business meetings, weddings, and reenactments of The English Patient.
Up a long, wooded road in Burnaby Mountain Park, Horizons Restaurant waits, its towering wraparound windows granting spectacular views of budding rose gardens, stately Japanese totem poles, and Vancouver below. These surroundings absorb visitors so completely that only when their dishes arrive—wafting up the garlic and herbs of Executive Chef John Garrett’s innovative West Coast–inspired dishes—can they tear their eyes away. Chef Garrett grills BC seafood and steaks on an alder-wood barbecue, pairing the meats with locally sourced produce and accentuating sauces. When discussing his food philosophy with reporters from Dine Out Vancouver, the culinary artist put it plainly: "start with freshest ingredients, prepare them simply to enhance their natural flavors, and let those flavors shine through."
Once plates have been cleared and glasses have been drained, satisfied guests stroll past the gardens and pristine lakeshores of Burnaby Mountain Park. Forests of lush trees and winding trails make the park an ideal landscape for taking long nature hikes or burying leftover crème brûlée in the ground for later.
Among the lively chatter of friends and the glow of 11 HDTVs, Rusty’s offers a home away from home where patrons can relax and beer spills are not a big deal. Bartenders pour tall, frosty glasses of Canadian and import brews and shake up martinis and cocktails. The menu offers eclectic dishes, such as perogies and chorizo, butter-chicken rice bowls, and Big Kahuna flatbread. Patrons can pop in to catch the Canucks, BC Lions, and Whitecaps or stop by on Mondays to flex their golden pipes or practice their duck calls during karaoke. As a part of the community, the team at Rusty’s looks to help their patrons drink responsibly and offers a complimentary pickup-and-drop-off shuttle service from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.