We spanned as much of Canada as possible on our road trip from Toronto to Vancouver, eating everything we could find along the way - so below is a countdown of must-try foods for anyone visiting Canada.
That’s right you heard me, no this isn’t a list for New York. But bagels really are something you need to seek out in Canada. Our top find was Wayne’s Bagels in Calgary. They are chewy and made in the ‘Montreal style’, kettle-boiled and baked on long planks of wood in a traditional wood-burning oven. Wayne’s has been making bagels for 22 years, so you’re in safe hands. Pop into the small store to eat breakfast and watch them being made.
4. Beaver Tails
Beaver Tails are pastries which resemble… you guessed it - a beaver tail. Originating in 1978 at a fair in Ontario, many food trucks, shops and franchises later, BeaverTails® is now in 140 locations worldwide and a real staple of Canada. Available with every kind of icecream, sweet and chocolate topping, Beaver Tails are a huge hand stretched flat donut. Just like all fried foods, it’s absolutely delicious - especially covered in chocolate and banana. If you want to kill two birds with one stone and truly embrace the Canadian, go for the Poutail - a savoury construction of a Beaver Tail topped with poutine.
Poutine. The classic Canadian ‘cheesy chips’. Not a very aesthetic pile of food, but hugely comforting, piping hot and very filling. I can see the appeal, just as the Welsh are obsessed with cheesy chips and gravy after one too many beers, poutine sorts you out good and proper. We went to Smoke’s Poutinerie, another popular Canadian franchise, who focus on the loaded element - you can choose any topping from veggie nacho to fried chicken and waffle. With fun scots tartan branding, we really enjoyed our fresh fries and the melting pot of gravy and curd (just don’t look at the curd until it melts, it’s much more appetizing after).
2. Asian Treats - Ramen, Poke Bowls, Japadog
The Asian food offering in Canada was astounding. The quality of cooking and produce was better than anywhere I’d been in Europe and we had the best ramen and poke bowls here. We had creamy indulgent pork ramen at Boku, in the Distillery District in Toronto. Each sip felt even more decadent than the last, all washed down by the craft beer of the month (which came at a discounted price). On the west coast, we had vegan ramen at Danbo, which was definitely the most flavourful vegan version I’d ever tried. The restaurant also operated on the Japanese calling in and out system (lots of shouting by all the staff) which was new for us and added to the experience - a definite find and don’t be put off by the queue - it moves fast!
For the best bao buns in town head to Heritage in Coal Harbour, Vancouver. Ever so moreish and relatively cheap considering the costliness of Vancouver, Heritage was one of those spots where you pat yourself on the back for finding it. The pork bao was covered in the delicious barbecue sauce that so many places leave out now in favour of mayo - I say bring it back!
In Calgary, we were surprised by the concentration of awesome food spots there were on 17th Ave; it was a totally different vibe from the rest of the city. We had fresh and punchy poke bowls at 5 Sense (5s17), which were made with tons of care and accompanied by a killer cocktail by the chef-owner. Out in the sun, this was one of my favourite afternoons of the trip.
Finally, we tried a fusion which has taken Vancouver by storm - the Japadog. A huge success on social media, the slightly grungy fast food restaurant was perhaps best as a take away but the fun and customisable japanese-flavoured hotdogs were definitely worth the hype. The special shaken fries (butter and shoyu flavour was insane) are a real treat too.
What’s a Canadian food countdown without its most famous export? Salmon is the soul food of Canada. And honestly, it’s like no other salmon I’ve ever tried - and I don’t normally like the stuff. T was in heaven, ordering a few different variations. We tried asian style salmon fillet in COO, an adorable and delicious fusion brasserie in Bloor St, Toronto. Next to the Fraser river, we tried a fresh salmon burger in Tete Jaune, Jasper marvelling at the colour - it’s much more intense than in Scottish salmon. And of course, we had fresh raw salmon in a poke bowl in Calgary, tender and salty. If it’s the favourite food of the bears, who can quite literally have any food that they want, it’s definitely worth trying here. In the Fraser river, the migratory salmon travel up to 1000 miles to the gravel beds in the north to spawn. This means that the fish are in prime health, as they have readied their bodies for this long journey - making for some mighty fine food.
Waffles - Nero Belgian Waffle Bar in Vancouver serves fluffy liege Belgian waffles, either plain or topped with some scrumptious flavours. Sit down in the cute little shop with a coffee for a relaxed morning start.
Chinese food in Richmond - A truly surreal experience, we took the train to Richmond which has been effectively absorbed by Vancouver, to explore the huge Chinese mall built there. In the food court you can try everything from shark soup to fresh octopus and chinese omelettes. Not for the faint hearted, this is authentic chinese food rather than the stuff we’re used to in the UK.
Taiyaki - A fried, waffle, pancake type thing, containing either chocolate or red bean paste, these fun pastries are popular in Vancouver but were a little stodgy for me.
Nanaimo Cake - We were staying in the Nanaimo area of Vancouver, so when T spotted these cakes in Granville Island Market he had to try one. It looks a little like Millionaire’s shortbread but has a coconut and nutty base, followed by a layer of custard icing and set on top with a thick layer of cooking chocolate.
Toffee Apples - There seems to be a year-long fondness for posh toffee apples in Vancouver. Try a huge variety of flavours covered in delicious high quality chocolate and have it prepared, ready to eat.