Ken Hueston grew up with a penchant for bones. According to the Goldstream News Gazette, he began his formal education in pursuit of paleontology, but he soon found that although his instincts were correct, they were slightly misguided—his place was not among dusty and brittle dinosaurs, but in the steam of a kitchen. There, his commitment to local ingredients, handmade cuisine, and chef education would earn him the B.C. Chamber of Commerce's Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2008, a spot on enRoute's Best New Restaurant list, and a 2012 feature on Food Network Canada's You Gotta Eat Here.
Today at Smoken Bones Cookshack, after a brief absence for medical reasons, Ken is back as head chef, bringing with him a fresh dose of creativity and heeding the traditions of artisanal cooking, forming his menu's burgers, cheeses, and bacon by hand, without additives. Ken and his apprentices prepare everything on site, using scratch cooking techniques, including smoking food with local Vancouver island woods. Featured on You Gotta Eat Here, their pork and beef ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket stake out the spotlight, though the Cookshack has not forgotten seafood, chicken, and stacked sandwiches. The emphasis on all-natural methods also extends past the cuisine and into the smoking process itself, which employs wood from Vancouver fruit and alder trees.
The forest figures heavily into the restaurant's decor too: in between praising the venue's bacon ice cream, Heed the Hedonist recounts "exposed ducts and exposed wood everywhere, including a plywood bar that was fashioned from a Douglas Fir that had blown down during a windstorm." Big-screen televisions augment the natural appeal, broadcasting sports on game nights, and live blues music twangs during special events.
Nautical Nellies Restaurant, celebrating its 17th anniversary in 2014, is no stranger to recognition. The eatery, which overlooks the city's inner harbour, has garnered multiple Open Table Diners' Choice awards in categories including Best Food, Best Seafood, and Best Overall. Fillets of wild Pacific halibut or Vancouver Island ling cod flake beneath forks, and shellfish, lobster, and Dungeness crab claws teeter on multi-tiered seafood towers. Diners can sample 10 varieties of oysters and rolls of fusion sushi. Grass-fed Angus steaks, aged for 35 days, are cooked to any specification, from well done to what chefs term “blue”— seared on the outside, with a cool centre and a scrawled-on frowny face.
Thanks to the work of wine director Betty Furneaux, Nautical Nellies' beverage programs are just as thoughtfully designed as its dining menus. Wine Spectator honoured the eatery's wine list with an Award of Excellence in 2011 and 2013. Cocktails range from beachy mojitos to the savoury double-prawn caesar with vodka, Clamato juice, and two black tiger prawns. The restaurant also dedicates a section of the menu exclusively to scotch.
Since Villages Pizza’s launch in 1974, it has expanded to seven locations and an express pizza truck, all purveying the same wholesome pies. The pizzas are topped with fresh produce and lean cuts of meat, and they can start with a whole-wheat or gluten-free crust if desired. People with dietary restrictions can also find comfort in lactose-free cheese and lower-calorie flatbreads, although more classic ingredients comprise the bulk of the menu.
As a second-generation pizza maker, owner John Papaloukas is responsible for the eatery’s traditional Italian recipes, plus some new inventions with Mexican leanings. The pesto perfect pie is topped with roasted chicken breast, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and feta, and baked pasta dishes highlight the flavours of lean meatballs, marinara, and oven.
Joe's FoodBar pays homage to the traditional wharfside crab shack by fusing stunning oceanfront vistas with fresh seafood feasts and a licensed bar equipped with restrooms. Guests dine on Pacific fish and chips, chowders, specialty hot dogs and sandwiches in the brisk, salty air of a 140-seat patio, drinking in the sights of Inner Harbour as sailboats drift past and seagulls vainly attempt to pick fights with the sunset. This natural beauty inspires Joe's FoodBar to act as a steward for the environment, pledging to use compostable or recycled flatware and cups and to source all food from local fisheries and farms whenever possible.
Palm fronds spill over Baja Surf Grill’s two-tiered dining room, lending the 150-seat eatery a lush, tropical aura. Arched porticoes and columns recall Spanish colonial revival architecture, which designers update with pastel pink and green hues and tropical throw pillows. The ambience reinforces the menu, which highlights the Baja fish taco, a creation pioneered by Japanese fishermen in Baja after their idea for the Munich meat muffin failed to catch on. Chefs pay additional homage to Japan’s culinary influence on the region with southwestern-style sushi peppered with ingredients such as fire-roasted corn and chipotle mayo.
Colleen Barrow has spent her entire lifetime seeking out and memorizing the coordinates of the most scenic sights dotting British Columbia's Southern Gulf Islands. Rather than trapping them in a photo album or enormous snow globe, the local explorer shares her finds with guests through ITT Wilson's Tours. By partnering with Wilson's Transportation, Barrow coordinates luxury bus tours to castles, lighthouses, botanical gardens, and wineries. With many of the tours, guests receive a midday meal such as rustic oven pizza served at an apple-orchard picnic site, or mutton legs aged to perfection in a castle's meat cellars.