Great Eats

Culinary Road Trip: Great Eats on the Way to Alaska

In between sublime scenery, wonderful wildlife, and heart-racing hikes, the road to Alaska is also famous for fantastic food. Follow the itinerary and see how many eats you can track down and devour. Some of these dishes just might surprise you.



Days One to Three
Lower British Columbia

Highlights: Ethnic edibles, scrumptious seafood, and world class wine.

grilling salmon

Vancouver

If you cross into Vancouver, the city offers one of the most diverse ethnic food cultures on the planet. The fusion of traditional foods with international improvements is as fascinating as it is tasty. Grab a JapaDog at one of many locations and enjoy umami toppings that will make you consider America’s 4th of July hot dog in a whole new light. Still hungry? Grab a slice of Tandoori Chicken Pizza—Vancouver’s Indian food scene is legendary.

For more traditional local specialties, indulge in the region’s bounteous seafood. The BC Roll was invented by Chef Hidekazu Tojo, creator of the California Roll. Unlike its southern counterpart, the BC Roll proudly features local salmon barbecued to perfection and surrounded by cucumber, seaweed, and rice. Dungeness crab is abundant all along the Pacific Northwest coast, as are spot prawns, the local obsession every May. For the elusive prawns, as well as the best Chinese food this side of Asia, make a side trip to Richmond BC.

Wild Pacific salmon is a must-eat for any traveler heading north to Alaska. Taste the five different types—King, sockeye, coho (silver), chum, and pink – and decide which you like best. Smoked salmon lasts forever and makes the perfect gift to bring to friends back home.

Mission Hills winery

Kelowna/Okanagan Valley

Four hours drive east of Vancouver, the stunning Okanagan Lake area is fast becoming one of the world’s premier wine regions. The 84-mile long lake offers practically every climate known to man, from snow-capped peaks to Canada’s only desert. The result is a staggering output of fruits, vegetables, and fermented grapes.

The wineries of the Okanagan are an absolute must. Mission Hill is possibly the most beautiful, opulent winery in North America. Visit Terrace Restaurant for the perfect synthesis of local food and wine. Across the lake CedarCreek is another stunner, their restaurant is called Vineyard Terrace and features more farm-to-fork delights overlooking the lake. Other worthwhile wine stops with epic views include Quails’ Gate and The Hatch.

The area’s largest town is charming Kelowna, an ideal spot for an overnight pit stop or several days of indulgence. Be sure to stock up at the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ markets Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm. Okanagan Grocery is known for its superb bakery, so stop by for some croissants and coffee before you hit the road. Codfathers Seafood Market and Café is a leading purveyor of BC’s enormous array of sustainable seafood. They will make up a picnic to go with just an hour’s notice, so grab a basket and head for the lake.

In Kelowna, the food scene continues to evolve. Visit RauDZ to sample BC-only produce and meats. Smack Dab in Hotel Manteo hosts a vast outdoor deck to sample and sip well into the long summer evenings. Before turning in have a nightcap at Okanagan Distillery or BNA Brewing to sample the excellent concoctions formed by distilling and fermenting the local grains.

Extra Credit: Uber-foodies will be interested to know that Grand Forks, BC is famous for borscht. The delicious Doukhobor style—named for the Russians who moved there around 1900—is vegetarian due to their pacifist beliefs, but also contains unholy amounts of butter and cream.

Days Four through Seven
Alberta

Highlights: Carnivores, delight! Alberta beef is among the finest in the world. Fed local grain with plenty of room to roam, Alberta’s beef grower’s take great pride in their work. Bison is another healthy, sustainable local staple.

Eau Claire Distillery

Longview to Calgary

One hour south of Calgary, Longview, Alberta is the first stop for beef lovers. Longview Steakhouse is widely nominated every year for best of its kind in the province, but anywhere that proudly serves Alberta beef is probably excellent. Nothing says road trip like tasty, salty snacks, so stock up on bison jerky at Longview Jerky Shop.

The Westwood in Black Diamond is a famous food truck turned beloved local restaurant. They feature live music, local brews, and one of the best bison burgers you’ll ever have. Eau Claire Distillery in nearby Turner Valley is known for their gin, which includes 15 local botanicals in the recipe. By a bottle or two to practice your mixology.

Calgary

Stampede City is ground zero for the local beef trade. Check out Charcut and sister restaurant Charbar for innovative takes on carnivore classics in a hip, casual setting. Calgary also has one of the most eclectic ethnic food scenes in the country so vegetarians and gastronauts can indulge—from Lebanaese to Indonesian to Ethiopian.

Calgarians love their beer: this is not only a fact, it’s practically a mantra. Craft beer has exploded in the province since government regulations were changed in 2013. The Craft Beer Market is ideally located downtown and offers over 100 taps so travelers can sip, sample, and fill their growlers for the drive ahead.

Tea is another key drink, a remnant of their proud British heritage. The Dove’s Nest has a prime location on the Elbow River and serves high tea that would make Prince Albert himself happy—scones, finger sandwiches, and a proper cuppa. Totalitea in the Calgary Farmer’s Market is a family-run tea stall so support the locals and pick up some leaves to go.

It’s not all tea and barley, Canada’s national cocktail is also outstanding. Take a Bloody Mary, add Clamato, and voila!—the Bloody Caesar. It might sound weird at first but the clam juice adds a savoriness lacking in its southern counterpart. The cocktail was invented by Walter Chell at the Owl’s Nest Calgary Inn—now the Westin-in 1969. As they say, when in Rome… The 50th anniversary celebration next year of “Canada’s favourite cocktail” will be reason alone to visit.

Northern Alberta

Valbella gourmet foods in Canmore is a locals’ go-to for picnic provisions. With the spectacular sights that await—Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper—be sure to fill your vehicle for the drive ahead.

RGE RD in Edmonton routinely wins best restaurant in town for its “untamed cuisine”, specializing in the beef and bison from small local producers. Brewsters has been making top-notch microbrews for almost 30 years and offers both cozy fireplaces and sun-drenched patios at their multiple locations.

Days Seven to 10
North to Yukon

Highlights: Northern specialties, from boreal berries and mushrooms to reindeer and Arctic char.

Whitehorse

Sourdough bread is an icon in Yukon, a part of its hard-scrabble Klondike Gold Rush past as well as its culinary present. Some locals even guard starters that are over 100 years old. The Alpine Bakery in Whitehorse has been making organic, artisanal breads and pastries since 1984. Or stop in at The Claim Café & Food Co. to take morning coffee with sourdough cinnamon buns. Other breakfast joints like the Burnt Toast Café serve sourdough waffles and pancakes Yukon-style with local blueberries or cranberries, or elk and blueberry sausage.

Two of the oldest restaurants in Whitehorse make it easy to round up all the Northern delicacies at once. They are both seasonal so be sure to check times and dates. The Wheelhouse is modeled after the Yukon River’s favorite mode of transport, the sternwheeler. Northern specialties include grilled arctic char, bison shepherd’s pie, and elk Bolognese. Not to be outdone in the game department, Klondike Rib & Salmon offers smoked meatballs made from elk, bison, and boar, then seasoned with Yukon Jack barbecue sauce, as well as wild elk stroganoff.

It wouldn’t be Canada without strong immigrant communities cooking up ethnic treats from home, and Yukon is no exception. Antoinette Hanneke was born in Trinidad, grew in Toronto, and cooks up Caribbean specialties conceived over 5000 miles away. Sanchez Cantina offers excellent Mexican food for those who can’t travel south for a quick dinner.

Days 10 and Beyond
Alaska

Just because you’ve made it to Alaska doesn’t mean hunger takes a break. Dine on legendary Alaska Copper River salmon, caribou, reindeer, Kachemak Bay oysters, moose, elk, King crab, Alaska halibut fish and chips, and jumbo scallops. The frigid waters and vast open spaces insure that travelers will eat mouthwatering vittles unlike any other.