Tofino doesn’t have much of a low season anymore, crashing waves that hit black rocks with the boom of a drum drawing more and more travellers during the wind-whipped storm season that is autumn and winter.
With the rainforest kissing the salty sea, nature is the obvious draw of this breathtaking place. Tuff City’s food scene, however, is remarkable in its own right, and it just keeps growing.
This time last year we told you about newcomers Basic Goodness Pizzeria, Tofino Licks, and Tofino Resort and Marina’s 1909 Kitchen and Hatch Waterfront Pub, those spots joining solid, long-standing must-visits like the original Tacofino and the Pointe Restaurant at Wickininnish Inn.
Here’s what’s making tantalizing news this fall on the edge of the Pacific.
Shed Tofino is a new casual hangout from the same team behind Shelter complete with a big outdoor patio and a couple of hanging wicker chairs. The vibe may be laidback but chef Matty Kane’s menu showcases serious ingredients: local albacore tuna poke, for instance, in a bowl with wakame, avocado, cucumber, crispy rice, pickled ginger, nori, and miso mustard ($16); grilled Pacific salmon with kale and red quinoa, red apple, golden raisins, puffed rice, almond, white cheddar with a caramelized honey vinaigrette. Then there’s Shed’s version of a dirty burger: simple and juicy, made with sustainably sourced Vancouver Island beef and draped in melted orange cheddar ($12). There are snacks like silken crispy tofu with chili, scallion, and toasted almonds ($6) and soft-serve ice cream, too.
Brendan Foell and Cassidy McCaughan, formerly of the Wickaninnish Inn, recently launched Summit Bread Company on Industrial Way (joining Tofino Brewing, Red Can Gourmet, Picnic Charcuterie, and more). The two start work at 2 a.m., crafting high-quality, organic baked goods like baguettes and sourdough loaves, croissants, cruffins, individual bundt cakes, danishes, cookies, squares, and other excellent treats.
Right next door to Summit on one side is Tofino Coffee Roasting Co’s roastery; on the other is the new Tofino Distillery, founded by Adam Warry, John Gilmour, and Neil Campbell, who are also local paramedics and firefighters. Their distinctly West Coast spirits include Old Growth Cedar Gin, which is made with Western red cedar tips along with 10 organic botanicals, while the Small Batch Vodka is ideal for martinis. You can try mini cocktails in their cool tasting room, where used net drums from fishing trawlers make for sturdy tables.
Tofino Distillery spirits can be found a various private liquor stores on Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island. Kudos to the crew for focusing on their craft and not the noise that is Instagram, Facebook, and the like: "In an effort to preserve our traditional approach, we have opted not to brand with social media," the website says. "In lieu of this, we hope to provide a more intimate, personal experience for all."
The Great Room at Long Beach Lodge Resort is more than that; it’s magnificent, with massive floor-to-ceiling windows looking straight out to Japan. There’s no better place to catch the sunset or watch people splashing at Cox Bay, and it’s even better with its Après Surf menu, which runs daily from 3 to 10 p.m.
Mussels and clams in a smoked-tomato broth with shaved fennel and herbs ($17) along with a dish of crispy-chewy pieces of pork belly in a gochujang sauce ($15), plus some polenta-asiago bites with a roast-pepper aioli ($13) make for a toothsome afternoon trio.
The resort recently appointed Shaun Snelling as executive chef, formerly of CRU and Bin 941/942, among other Vancouver spots, and more, recently, the West Coast Fishing Club and Tofino Resort and Marina. He’s introduced a three-course chef’s tasting menu ($50) for the month of November and will host Eat, Drink and Beer Merry, a family-style barbecue feast with craft-beer pairings ($59), on December 1, before the lodge takes a break till mid-month.
Wolf in the Fog continues to kill it, with chef-owner Nick Nutting’s fish-forage-feast menu bringing nearby nature to the plate, from meaty Tofino hedgehog mushrooms to bright green seaweed. Credit to the brave fishers who travel far out in intimidating waters to bring in deep-sea sablefish, here roasted, bathed in chicken jus, and served with fried Brussels sprouts and cabbage ($28).
SoBo is having its end-of-season all-you-can eat buffet ($20) on Sunday (November 25): it starts at 11:30 a.m. and goes till all the food has run out. Chef Lisa Ahier and her family take some well-deserved time off till the New Year from the restaurant, which makes one hell of a key-lime pie. It’s so good in fact, that you can’t even put on one hold by phone for same-day pickup with a credit-card number; it’s fiercely first-come, first-served. Always worth a run into town for that and that alone. The recipe is in the SoBo cookbook for when that fails.
Kuma, which focuses on Japanese-inspired comfort food like ramen, okonomiyaki (Osaka-style cabbage pancake), udon, and tuna tataki, and is taking a pause and will re-open in December.
Meanwhile, the Pointe Restaurant has appointed Annette Rawlinson as restaurant manager. A member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, BC Chapter, she has worked as a restaurant consultant, working with places like Bistro Wagon Rouge and Chambar, and previously held positions at C Restaurant, 900 West, Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Bacchus Restaurant at the Wedgewood Hotel.