Dine out in Port Alberni for local Vancouver Island flavour
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Culinary is taking off in the lush inlet of Port Alberni, where island ingredients and coastal style blend. You'll want to make time to tour the food scene when you #ExplorePortAlberni
Port Alberni, BC - Located on the traditional unceded territory of the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations, Port Alberni is known for its picturesque lakes, old-growth forests, high mountain peaks and fantastic fishing opportunities. However, I’m here to share a part of the valley you may have overlooked: the budding food scene.
A revitalization is happening in Port Alberni's food scene, and local restaurants are forging the way. New owners and experienced, well-respected chefs are collaborating to bring tantalising gourmet offerings and experiences here that rival any big city. It’s never been a better time to #ExplorePortAlberni.
I recently met up with two locals, local radio DJ Dalton Derkson from 93.3 The Peak, and Taylor Sullivan, a paramedic for the City, to #ExplorePortAlberni and discover some of the best restaurant finds this beautiful valley offers.
The morning we all met, a wet winter storm was brewing up from the coast. Stepping into the bright and beautiful space of the Wildflower Bakeshop & Cafe was a welcome reprieve.
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, along with a stunning showcase of decadent pastries, is enough to make you want to sit and stay awhile. The many locals who popped in while we were there are a testament to the quality of the menu offerings.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I discovered that Bare Bones Fish House & Smokery serves up the tastiest fried fish. After taking a bite of all that crispy goodness, I was shocked to learn that this restaurant is 100% gluten-free and celiac approved!
The converted church provides a unique atmosphere that only adds to the exceptional service and innovative menu. Showcasing a diverse range of fish and in-house smoked meat, menu options include some of the best classic comfort foods.
With a vegetarian among us, Taylor was happy to report that the roasted carrot dressing, topping the delicious kale salad, should seriously be bottled.
For waterfront dining, head to Port Alberni's only on-the-water restaurant, the Starboard Grill (open 11:00 am - 7:00 pm daily). No matter where you sit in this bright and welcoming spot, you have the best seat in the house with views of the beautiful Alberni Inlet.
The many menu options offer diverse and freshly made fares that please every palate. However, no matter how frequently I visit, my top choice is always the award-winning candied salmon chowder. Add that to the not-to-be-missed coconut onion rings, and you leave completely satisfied.
When searching for fine dining options, eating at a local casino isn’t usually at the top of my list. However, Cypress Restaurant inside the Rimrock Casino changed my bias.
Overlooking the casino and equipped with a large fireplace, a fully stocked bar, and a self-playing piano, the classy rainforest decor of the Cypress Lounge offers a fun yet cozy atmosphere. This time around, we decided to enjoy our meal in the more intimate dining room. And an incredible feast it was.
We indulged in a generous plating of the 6 oz beef tenderloin. While the melt-in-your-mouth steak is the star attraction, the equally delicious sides hold their own. We topped that with a special drink creation for a perfect evening among friends.
During our dining exploration, I discovered the perfect location for an ultimate date night, the Brie & Barrel (open daily 4:00 - 9:00 pm). Leading the kitchen team is Chef Brad, who has spent 14 years working in top restaurants and hotels across the country. And from appetizers to desserts, his experience shines through in each exquisitely plated creation brought to the table.
Whether it’s the extensive wine list, beautiful indoor decor, or the covered patio space, where each table has a personal table-top fire, the evening is worthy of any big-city dining experience.
The few days I spent with newfound friends exploring Port Alberni prove that the valley has transitioned from just a place to go for outdoor adventures to one that also offers a variety of fantastic dining options.
When you go
You can hit up all the spots on our tour, or add more of your own with the help of Alberni Valley Tourism’s restaurant listings:
Info for the Port Alberni restaurants featured above:
Bare Bones Fish House & Smokery
4824 Johnston Rd, Port Alberni
hours: open daily from 11:30 am - 8:30 pm
Brie & Barrel
5059 Argyle St, Port Alberni
hours: open daily 4:00 - 9:00 pm
Cypress Restaurant, Rimrock Casino
4890 Cherry Creek Rd, Port Alberni
hours: open Tuesday to Saturday until 9:00 pm (10:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
5440 Argyle St, Port Alberni
hours: open 11:00 am - 7:00 pm daily
Wildflower Bakeshop & Cafe
5047 Argyle St, Port Alberni
hours: open daily from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm (4:00 pm Fridays to Sundays)
With all the tantalizing culinary experiences to explore, you may want to extend your stay. Check out Alberni Valley Tourism’s info on places to stay, and read more #explorePortAlberni features here.