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Jul 27, 2009 09:37 PM

British Columbia Adventures

I'm a NY hounder who will be making my first trip to British Columbia in a few weeks. I'm driving up from Seattle and spending one day and night in Vancouver then eventually driving to Cranbrook for a wedding. I know this is quite a long drive so I'm splitting it up a bit. I'm staying somewhere near Osoyoos (probably in Grand Forks since it seems cheaper than Osoyoos.) I'm also staying a few days at a friend's lake house in an area called Boswell on the Kootenay Lake. Then finally I will be driving down to Spokane to fly back to NY. Whew!

But the point is I am looking for lots of recommendations as to where to eat along the way. I definitely want to try anything that is unique or authentic for British Columbia.

I've done some research on Vancouver restaurants and am thinking of doing an omakase dinner on my one splurge night. Do you think this is a better option than one of the fancy seafood restaurants and the izkayas? I was looking at Tojo's, (seems like it has had mixed reviews of late), Octopus Garden (seems to be the overwhelming favorite), or Ajisai (but it doesn't seem to be the place for omakase). Also, maybe Cafe Medina for breakfast and Go Fish for lunch? Other suggestions? I'm also a big ice cream connoisseur, so am always looking for great places.

Also, please help with places along the way for my drive from Vancouver to Cranbrook. I think I may stop in Osoyoos for some wine and sightseeing unless you recommend somewhere else.

Thanks so much in advance. And I promise a full report upon my return.

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  1. Your Vancouver choices are solid. I'd be curious to see what others say about ice cream in Vancouver (it's not something I seek, but I do love good ice cream). If gelato counts as ice cream, then Gelato Amore on Commercial Drive makes my favourite gelatos.

    Know that Grand Forks and environs is Doukhobor territory and may be worth seeking that particular cuisine. The one I (and most tourists) know about is the Grand Forks Hotel. It has been a number of years since we drove through that area and I'm sure that there are more current recommendations that that one. I never really found anything good in the town of Osoyoos, but once again, it has been years.

    It's a nice drive (albeit a hot a car with A/C).


    4 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      I happened to be reading another recent New Yorker's comments on a different board and FWIW he loved Fuel and felt that the dimsum he had at Sun Sui Wah and Kirin were superior to any he'd had at home.

      In terms of sushi, it's something Vancouver has in plenty and some of it is very good -- we get a lot of comments about value for money too. If you decide to try Ajisai, just a word of caution: it is very much a neighbourhood place and not a splurge either in cost or in ambiance. Not that it is cheap, but again good value. I don't believe they take reservations and the lineups can be egregious starting right after opening. The other thing is that the only good seats are at the bar -- the other tables (and there are precious few) are weirdly angled and have uncomfortable seats, especially the benchy things. All of this does not change my mind about the quality and value -- I just tend to get takeout :-).

      I don't really feel like Vancouver is an ice cream contendah. Certainly not compared to San Francisco, where it is a contact sport. We do have a number of gelato places that are okay. The two most famous are my least favourite: Mario's and La Casa Gelato. Right now I like the one fmed mentioned and Paradiso Italian Gelato in Kits which has killer sorbets. The lemon just destroys me, with the mango and mixed berry a close second and third. You can get them mixed -- bliss. Not too "thin" like some sorbets, tangy but rich and tasty. SO swears by the more standard gelato fare there and I trust his judgment and the tastes I've had. Rats -- now I want one. It is just a door over from the Kits outpost of Hapa Izakaya if you wanted to combine the two, and it's a stone's throw from Octopus Garden, though it might be closed by the time you finished omakase -- I understand it can be a marathon there :-).

      1. re: grayelf

        Hey Sweeney...I do the drive from Seattle to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Grand Forks almost every here are a few suggestions for you. If you are driving to YVR the same day you fly into Seattle you may not be looking for any stops but if you are getting close to Bellingham and it's still light out and you're hungry I would highly recommend taking a detour off I-5 just north of Mount Vernon and take Chuckanut Drive (Route 11) north to Bellingham where you will rejoin I-5 and continue on to Vancouver. This is an incredibly beautiful scenic drive and there are three great restaurants along the way, it's a little bit slower route, and you will want to stop and take in the views but it if the weather is good and the timing is right it will be the highlight of your drive.

        Rhododendron Cafe: charming and delicious no ocean view tho, it will be first; not long after you exit I- 5

        Chuckanut Manor will be next, oceanside, classic place

        The Oyster Bar: Amazing view and excellent seafood.


        In Bellingham itself there is FlatsTapas Bar a wonderful little place t... .

        and since you were asking about ice cream you should probably get yourselves to Mallards for incredible homemade ice cream...(blackpepper vanilla and Lavender are two of my favorites...)

        I loved my Omakase experience at Tojo's a few years ago but have noted the mixed views here recently so I would probably go to Blue Water Cafe, The Five Sails or do a couple of Izakaya's. Cafe Medina is great for breakfast.

        Driving to Grand Forks with a stop in Osoyoos for lunch will take between 8 and 10 hours depending on how many fruit stands and wineries you stop at! (We try to get on the road between 5:30 and 6:30 am which should be doable for you if you are still operating on East coast time.....leaving late in the morning embroils you in some pretty unpleasant traffic ) we often stop at Manning Park Lodge for breakfast, nothing special just a good quick stop, and then go to either Burrowing Owl or Nk'mip for Lunch...If you choose Borrowing Owl call them from the road once you know and reserve a table on the patio. We have stopped for lunch twice at Nk'mip Cellars in Osoyoos and loved it. The Patio views over the Lake are lovely and the whole feeling of the place is very peaceful. Interesting aboriginal inspired cooking and terrific use of the local produce.

        Burrowing Owl is a short and very worthwhile detour to Oliver. The restaurant is another don't miss experience.... overlooking the vineyards you feel as if you are in Tuscany; the atmosphere, food presentation and preparation here are truly inspiring not to mention the great wine.

        Staying in Grand Forks will be less expensive than Osoyoos but there's not much there, a couple of motels on the river just past the bridge as you leave GF heading east look OK. Fmed was right about the Grand Forks Hotel I haven't been in years (we get our borscht in jars from a farm stand on the road to Christina Lake) but I think it's still a good place to go but If you stay there just ask where you can get good Russian food; somebody will tell you.

        Have a great trip and let me know if there is anything else I can help with on the road trips...I'm heading to Manhattan on Thursday for a week of work combined with theatre and restaurants but will check in once I get home to see how you are doing with your plans.

        1. re: balini

          Thanks so much for all these recommendations. This is most helpful. And let me know if you need any Manhattan help.

      2. re: fmed

        I've passed through Grand Forks a couple of times on camping trips. As camper I was more interested in groceries than restaurants. This is the first place I noticed the German style deli ham. The Freybe brand is available throughout BC, but GF was the only place where I've seen both schenkin speck and baurerschenkin. Both are heavily smoked dry ham.

      3. There are several good choices for winery stops not far from Osoyoos. My favourite is Tin Horn Creek. It may mean a short side trip but is worth. Great reds and they practice sustainable farming.

        1. As you near Osoyoos, the Sonora Room at the Burrowing Owl winery becomes only a short and pleasant detour. If you are on the clock, Passa Tempo, at the Spirit Ridge resort in Osoyoos can also be a good fit. Both feature local B.C. cuisine, which is truly special around this time of the year.

          While driving up to Kelowna from Las Vegas we also had a good meal at Mizuna in Spokane, if you need to do anything more than just head to the airport. You will love the scenery along Lake Roosevelt after you cross the border.

          1. So instead of stopping in Grand Forks, I'm now thinking of spending the night in Princeton and then getting an early start, do some sightseeing in Oliver and Osoyoos and then doing the rest of the drive out to Boswell on the Kootenay Lake. I feel like that might give me the most time to see as much as possible without rushing. What are everybody's thoughts on that?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sweeney856

              Princeton = Grand Forks. Not much in either town. Grand Forks at least has solid borsht.

              I would recommend going farther than Princeton (it's only 3 hours from Vancouver). If you don't want to stay in Osooyos, there is also Keremeos (about 45 minutes before Osooyos) that is just as terrible as Princeton or Grand Forks, except that it has some wineries in the vicinity that you could go to after your drive (I would recommend Orofino).

              FYI, the drive from Vancouver - Grand Forks is 6 hours at most... really closer to 5 (this isn't including stopping at wineries, etc).

              1. re: Sweeney856

                We drove from San Francisco, California to Vancouver, B.C. to Spokane, Washington -
                enjoying a stop for lunch in Osoyoos on July 31 at the Wildfire Grill. Here are photos of our shrimp caesar salad and the salmon wrap - the food is fresh and light and the service, friendly and delightful! Try the Okanogan wines! There's also a lovely patio at
                Wildfire Grill
                8526 Main St
                Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V0, Canada

              2. I was in Bellingham this past weekend and went to Mallard's for the first time. I must agree with balini, it was amazing creamy ice cream. I had the black pepper vanilla and mint oreo. For lunch, we went to Fiamma Burger, just down the block and had awesome burgers!

                I would definitely stop in Bellingham on the way up if you're looking for a good burger and/or ice cream, as those things are not strongly represented in Vancouver. I've heard also that La Fiamma in Bellingham (related to Fiamma Burger) has excellent pizza, although I haven't been and can't personally recommend.

                If you are going to be in the Penticton/Naramata area, I had lunch last year at Lake Breeze winery on the patio and it was excellent.

                Enjoy your trip!