Canada for Foodies: Must Try Treats & Street Eats

Aside from maple syrup, poutine, and Nanaimo bars, is there such a thing as Canadian food? Our insider Lindsay finds out.

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Photo © iStock/Boogich

Like the country itself, Canada’s food is so mind-bogglingly diverse that it’s difficult to define.

Here’s a guide to finding the very best foodie destinations and must-try dishes in Canada.

Food on Canada’s West Coast

On the west coast, British Columbia is famous for its outstanding seafood, wine, and Japanese food.

In Vancouver, check out Granville Island’s public market for delicacies like smoked salmon and spot prawns, or Kishimoto for sushi.

On Vancouver Island, Tofino’s Tacofino food truck has pioneered Pacific Northwest Mexican for the post-surf crowd.

A BBQ squid stall at the Richmond Summer Night Market, near Vancouver. Photo credit: iStock

Must-try Foods in the Prairie Provinces

Canada’s prairie provinces sit centrally and have a history of Eastern European immigration and the food that came with it. Places like Regina’s Bushwakker Brewpub offer “perogie plates” laden with perogies (dumplings stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese), garlic sausage, and cabbage rolls.

Other must-visits include Calgary’s CharCut for a good Alberta steak, Sidewalk Citizen for Red Fife sourdough, and Neechi Commons in Winnipeg for First Nations’ foods like freshly-baked bannock (bread leavened with baking powder instead of yeast).

Eating in Canada’s East

Heading east to Ontario, Toronto is as diverse as it is large when it comes to the edible. Restaurants like Canoe celebrate the very best of Canadian ingredients including birch syrup and camelina.

In the summer and fall, more rural areas like Prince Edward County show off the province’s wine and agricultural scene – try Norman Hardie Winery for a wine and pizza picnic.

Quebec is a must-visit for wandering gastronomes. In Montreal, try both St. Viateur and Fairmont wood-fired bagels, then debate your favorites.

Get a late-night poutine fix at La Banquise. Attend one of the city’s public markets for seasonal produce, cheese, sugar pie, and tourtiere (meat pie originating from Quebec). And join the queue for a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s Deli. 

Other great areas to explore include Quebec City and Charlevoix. For the maple syrup tourist, book in for a wintery, maple-drenched meal at a “Sugar Shack” – the places where they harvest sap and turn it into syrup.

Boiling the sap in the process of making Maple Syrup. Photo credit: iStock

Go Even Further East for Seafood

In Canada’s far east, Lobster rolls (preferably from Saint John Ale House in New Brunswick) are a must, along with comforts like oatcakes, seafood chowder, and wild blueberry desserts.

On Prince Edward Island, try the Avonlea cheddar, or sample Raspberry Point’s salty/sweet oysters.

Remote as it is, Newfoundland is a national highlight. Reserve a table at Mallard Cottage to taste classics like cod tongues, baked beans, and headcheese, or try Raymond’s for refined cuisine from ‘The Rock.’

More rural restaurants like The Twine Loft or Bonavista Social Club are great places to try other favorites, like bottled moose or toutons (traditional pancake made by frying bread on a pan and served with molasses).

Foraging for Food in the North

Finally, up north in the Yukon, Klondike Kate’s of Dawson City serves up Boreal ingredients in the style of the American south (think BBQ’d elk and wild blueberry sausages), and every bakery has its own version of the beloved cinnamon bun.

In the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife’s Bullock’s Bistro does fish fries with whitefish, pickerel, and other locally-caught species.

Nunavut is home to “country food,” Inuit ‘food from the land’ including Arctic char, whale, elk, and foraged berries. If you can get yourself invited to a community feast, you’ll have access to all kinds of delicacies, otherwise buy from processing companies like Kivalliq Arctic Foods or Nunavut Country Food.

Want to know more about Canada? Check out our podcast. We discuss when a traveler becomes a snack; the perils of wilderness adventure, a culinary tour of the provinces for foodies, and we speak to World Nomads photography scholarship mentor Richard I'Anson.

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1 Comment

  • Mikey said

    Nice article, but you forgot the Halifax Donair!

    Granted, I'm not from the Maritimes or even Canada. But I visited NS for a week and the Halifax Donair was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There was nothing like it when I lived in NYC, and nothing I've seen elsewhere beyond the Maritimes. I even found a recipe when I got home, but like most street food at home - it was close but not quite the same.

    Tony's Famous vs. King of Donair...it's a fascinating history.

    And the spin-offs are everywhere - donair eggrolls, etc. I even bought a donair pizza in Baddeck. It's all about that sweet sauce.

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