For travellers, food isn’t just about satiating hunger. It often provides an opportunity to connect with local cultures. With First Nations tourism booming in British Columbia, it’s not a surprise to discover Aboriginal-owned restaurants popping up from the Kootenays to the Pacific coast.
These thriving establishments offer locally sourced food, prepared using timeless recipes and sometimes with a twist on traditional fare. Often, these restaurants are decorated with beautiful First Nations art and provide an immersive experience for visitors.
Here are our picks for the Top 5 Aboriginal Restaurants in BC:
1) Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro
This cozy Vancouver restaurant has won numerous awards, including being ranked among the Top Restaurants in Canada. It takes its name from two of the most important foods for Aboriginal communities in BC The Salmon n’ Bannock Burger is a specialty featuring a sage-smoked 6-ounce wild sockeye fillet served with lemon-garlic mayo, pickles and kale. Its served between two pieces of bannock, traditional frybread. Co-owner Inez Cook of the Nuxalt First Nation has helped to create a menu that showcases Aboriginal flavours with culinary creativity and panache.
Address: 1128 West Broadway #7, Vancouver
2) Kekuli Café
Kekuli Café is inspired by the food its owners loved as children. Bannock is among the tastiest of those treats. The restaurant’s website even features a recipe and video tutorial on how to make bannock. Using organic flours and inventive recipes, Kekuli Café serves bannock in numerous ways, including flavours such as Saskatoon berry, maple walnut and cream cheese Skor. The menu also includes Indian tacos, Buffalo bannock burgers, wild smoked salmon and more. Kekuli Café has locations in Merritt and Westbank.
Addresses: 3041 Louie Drive #505, Westbank
2051 Voght Street, Merritt
Telephone: 250-768-3555 (Westbank) and 250-378-3588 (Merritt)
3) Kwisitis Feast House
Visitors to Vancouver Island will want to make sure they stop at the Kwisitis Feast House on Wickaninnish Beach, one of the most stunning locations in the province. Rooted in the history of the Ucluth First Nation, the restaurant on the Pacific coast offers traditional and non-traditional menu options, including fish soup and bannock, Dungeness crab, deer, oysters and more.
Address: 485 Wick Road, Ucluelet
Telephone: 250-726-2628 (no website)
4) lelem’ Arts and Cultural Cafe
Located in the historic village of Fort Langley, the lelem’ Arts and Cultural Cafe is in a lovely setting along the banks of the Fraser River. It was designed to honour and reflect tradition and culture. The café offers First Nations cuisine with a twist. You’ll find bannock pizza, pulled pork Indian tacos and salmon chowder, as well as more mainstream fare. The menu includes locally sourced meats, fresh breads and produce. The establishment also hosts workshops on Aboriginal history, culture and art. For those hoping to hear Aboriginal music, the facility features live performances on the first Saturday of each month.
Address: 100-23285 Billy Brown Road, Langley
5) The Capilano Tea House & Botanical Soda Co.
High tea with wild meats? That’s one of the menu options at this intriguing little spot in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. Operated by the mother-daughter pair of Michelle and Paisley Nahanee, the Capilano Tea House matches local foods such as juniper berries and nettles with a variety of tea options, including rooibos and green teas. The tea house also mixes small-batch sodas with florals and fruits to create delicious beverages. It’s the Aboriginal tea service that’s the highlight, though. Its treats include cold-smoked bison flatbread and maca cacoa brownie, as well as bannock and jam.
Address: 221 Abbott Street, Vancouver