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May 18, 2007 07:43 PM

why so few 'canadian food' restaurants?

This puzzles me...
When you go to France, many restaurants promote French food.
Same with many countries - Italy, Germany, Jamaica, etc.
Even the US does this - but it's more regional (Southern food, Californian style, etc).

But in Canada, we don't promote 'Canadian' food - and I don't see any inherent reason not to. Native foods could be highlighted, and of course many regional specialties.

In Toronto, a couple of restaurants do this a tiny bit (Canoe comes to mind). Some Niagara wineries (such as Hillebrand) feature some Canadian food.
But tourists coming to Canada would be hard-pressed to find any Canadian foods highlighted at restaurants. Certainly, almost no restaurants openly market themselves this way.


Is it because Canadians are reluctant to promote our culture?
Is it because the food is just undeserving of promotion (which I doubt...)?

If anyone has more insights than I do about this issue, I'd love to hear about it!

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  1. The US and Canada are two peas in a pod here- some regional cuisine and a lot reflecting immigrants' cultures. I completely disagree with what you're arguing. Canada has a food culture in the same sense that other new-world, immigrant-rich countries (like the US, Australia, Argentina..) do. If you were an immigrant I think you'd see that. As one (from the US), I see "Canadian" all over the place. Butter tarts and poutine, back bacon and Nanaimo bars. Montreal bagels are available coast to coast, with Winnipeg-style cream cheese no less. You can get Calgary-style ginger beef at Chinese restos all over Canada, but you won't find it in Chinese resto menues elsewhere. Bloody Caesars, eh? And as to the immigrant impact- some of it is uniquely Canadian too. You take for granted, in Toronto, that every single corner store (it seems) has a little oven with hot Jamaican patties for sale. You see this in other parts of the country too, Jamaican patties for sale at the deli counter at Safeway in the west (including areas with very few actual Jamaicans). Go to Chicago and stop in a convenience store and ask for a patty- can't be done. This is one of many ways that immigrants' dishes have been routinized and transformed here in ways that are distinctly Canadian.

    if you want restaurants that emphasise local ingredients, there are many- in fact I'd say that among ALL high-end restaurants there is a desire to highlight local. Makes for better food. But that's not the same thing as featuring "Canadian food." But if the "local ingredients" angle is you criterion, as I say, there are many many MANY restos across Canada that feature local sources. In Calgary, the best example is River Cafe, but they aren's alone. In BC the idea is almost cliche.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. bw, you raise an interesting question--one I think quite well (extremely well, in my opinion) answered by JM, although there may be more to it.

        In answer to your reply, you don't see "Lebanese Food", "Thai Food", or "French Food" signs in Lebanon, Thailand, and France, respectively, just as you don't see "US food" or "Canadian Food" on the marquees of those restaurants in those countries. The iconic if no longer "Joe's Diner" is a call to you for US food; as is a "Taqueria" sign in Mexico telling you that there is (a type of) Mexican food inside.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          La Binerie, or Pied de Cochon (for higher end), should franchise.

        2. What is Canadian food?

          Is American food =turkey, corn, and squash..oh,and berries?

          1. I actually do see a fair number of 'Canadian' food signs around--usually in the context of 'Specializing in Chinese and Canadian dishes'. By Canadian, though, they generally mean 'any generically westernized dish'.

            I think most of the restaurants that are arguably 'Canadian' in style--using contemporary techniques, generally with immigrant influences and lots of local, in season ingredients where possible (the impossibility of local, in season ingredients for much of the year being a particular problem in Canadian cooking)--are simply not labelled with a nationality. They're not trying to be stereotypically Canadian (a la the Canadian Cafe in Los Angeles), they're just, you know, restaurants. Serving food. In Canada.