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What is your regional food snobbiness?

Hi Chowhounders,

Let me start by saying I travel a lot... I was traveling 3 weeks out of each month from Oct'08 to Aug'09. Having major Canadian regions accessible to me have made me a bit of a food snob. There are certain types of cuisine, dishes, meat, seafood that I will only have in certain parts of the country. I'm wondering if anyone else out there has their favourite places to fulfill their snobby food desires too.

For example, for myself...

I try not to eat sushi unless I'm in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, or Winnipeg (strangely enough)... if I have an bad craving in Calgary I'll go to Shibuya or Wa's

I generally save my beef, steaks, prime rib intake for when I'm in Alberta (duh).

I eat Indian mostly when I'm in Edmonton (New Asian Village, Khazana's) or Lower Mainland (basically Surrey).

I eat Thai food usually only when I'm in Toronto... or Thailand.

Dim sum I try to reserve for Vancouver and Toronto days.

Any regional favourites?

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  1. If you mention Toronto, the caribbean food there is awesome. Calgary is so-so, but you have to really drive long ways to get at it. West coast is lacking in Caribbean options.

    1. I only eat poutine in Montreal, mainly because everywhere else I get mozza instead of real curds (it's not the same). I'll eat smoked meat and bagels elsewhere if it's the same (it usually is). I'll only have uni in Vancouver but I'll eat sushi anywhere if it's fresh (just smell it you can tell). I like Alberta beef but you can get it anywhere in Canada. Lobster in Shediac, NB is hard to beat ($24 for 2lbs!! - plastic bib included) but I'll eat it anywhere if it's alive and reasonably priced. Oysters I fished myself in Malpeque Bay are soooo good but I've had them in restaurants in Calgary that taste just as fresh.

      Re. ethnic foods - I have my favourites and it's not specific to location - I've always thought with ethnic foods it's not really how good it is, just how it compares to what you're used to and like (or how your mother made it). I love Thai food, but I've had food in Bangkok that wasn't as good as Chili Club in Calgary. Same with Indian food, there are huge regional variations and I'll go to any Punjabi restaurant (Taj Mahal in Calgary is my fave) because that's what I prefer (eg. sambal and idli is OK for breakfast in Chennai but I wouldn't go out of my way to get it in Canada). I don't think there's any region in Canada that is better for ethnic than any other region, but generally the bigger cities will have more representation that will have something that I like.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hsk

        Caribbean in TO is a good one... forgot about that. And I second the poutine in Montreal.

        I agree that much of this is because of flavours I personally prefer however I will disagree about the ethnic foods being better in certain parts of Canada - I think Japanese and Chinese cuisine in Vancouver is a good example of that. For fresh sushi and authentic Chinese cuisine, it's really difficult to find the same abundance that resides in Vancouver (or in case of Chinese food - parts of GTA), I think there will be cities that have a few restaurants with good Chinese but not in the same abundance as Vancouver.

      2. I was horrified to find an American who thought Alberta beef tastes 'funny' till I read about the who corn-fed vs grain-fed controversy. It just hadn't occurred to me that anyone could not love our beef.

        On the other hand, crab outside of Maryland is crap. It isn't just freshness, I swear they simply don't export the good stuff. Lumps, not shreds, LUMPS!

        I also used to believe I had found the best butter chicken here in Calgary at the take-out place in Ranchlands, the name escapes me and I don't feel like scaring up the menu. I was wrong, the butter chicken at Punjab sweets and restaurant in Edmonton has it beat. It hurts to say that.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sharonanne

          Sharonanne -
          The restaurant in Ranchlands was called Curry Cafe. It was run by a couple who were recent immigrants from Bombay. I have the recipe for their butter chicken which was published in the Herald, around 1996. I still make it a lot.

          1. re: TSAW

            You have that recipe? I saw it in the Herald and have kicked myself since that I didn't copy it. Maybe post it in the home cooking forum?

            They sold the place to another Indian family supposedly with the butter chicken recipe but it's just not as good.

            1. re: sharonanne

              well give me some time to figure out how... And I will post it.

        2. Poutine isn't rocket science, it's dead easy and as long as somebody has access to the ingredients it's poutine. Many place in Calgary use real cheese curds and among the best poutines I've ever had was at that now-long-gone burger place in Science B at U of C.

          As to Alberta beef- it's an INGREDIENT and is available coast to coast so why in the world would you only CONSUME it in Alberta?

          Sushi places in Calgary get the same product in the same time frame, with some exceptions, as they do in BC. Nobody catches tuna off Stanley Park.

          All that said for me it's not about being a snob but about where some things are simply AVAILABLE. West Indian in Toronto has been noted. But try getting a proper donair in Toronto, or a Calgary version of banh mi, or ginger beef. Try getting an edible donair in Vancouver.

          1. Good topic!
            Caribbean in Toronto has already been mentioned... For me, it's shawarma in Ottawa, donairs in Halifax, plain lobsters in P.E.I., (doh) and Greek food in Vancouver. On the last point, Greek food is really just more bang for your buck and consistently delicious in Van.

            5 Replies
            1. re: alau2

              Points to highlight: they do actually fish tuna off of Vancouver it is called albacore. And your comment regarding a "Calgary version of Banh mi or ginger beef" is illogical, why would you look for a calgary version of something outside of calgary? ginger beef is a calgary dish not a "place x" dish.

              Sushi places do not get fish in the same time frame as vancouver as the port of entry for the vast majority of fresh fish used in sushi from Japanese markets is Vancouver.

              1. re: 300rwhp

                but doesn't all fish used for sushi in Canada have to be frozen first to kill bacteria?

                1. re: 300rwhp

                  Sushi Facts: All sushi to be consumed raw in the US with the exception of tuna must be deeply flash frozen to kill parasites. Note that that freezing may inhibit but does not kill bacteria. Ontario has the same basic rules, but I believe that tuna must also be frozen. As as result, most raw sushi consumed in Canada is also frozen, despite the province. So port of entry is almost wholly irrelevant, the quality of sushi you eat is dependent on the post thawed freshness of the seafood, the quality of the seafood, and the skill of the sushi preparer, some of whom train for up to two years.

                  The best I have ever had is in the Toronto area. There are several exceptional places. I have not eaten sushi in Vancouver though I understand there are some excellent sushi preparers there. I have not been to any of the most recommended places in Calgary-yet.

                  1. re: Scary Bill

                    There are times of the year when living out here on the west coast does have its advantages - we can get rock-bottom prices for fresh spotted prawns, oysters, uni, dungeness, and king crab. All these items are best never-frozen and pristine-fresh.

                  2. re: 300rwhp

                    Really? Right there in Burrard Inlet? I wouldn't want to eat sushi from there. But boy would it be fresh! I think the point was that it's still *at least* several hours from catching the fish to getting to harbour, so the extra hour on a plane to get to Calgary probably wouldn't make that much difference.

                2. Outside of Calgary I have not had a good ginger beef (Victoria, Winnipeg). I'm sorry but beef slices with chopped ginger is NOT ginger beef to a Calgarian. However, I did have 'calgary style' ginger beef in Vancouver and it was good.

                  Seafood and fish in Calgary is crap. Once you've ate fresh shrimp on the coast there is no going back to 'prairie fish'. When I travel to west or east coast, I make of point of having fish or seafood every day.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TSAW

                    Wow, you really need to get out more. The trout I had a couple of weeks ago at Petite- MMM MMM! Amazing! And I've had scallops, spot prawn and monkfish at Chef's Table that I'd put up against Vancouver ANY DAY.

                  2. Those lovely huge fat sea scallops that melt in your mouth - west coast. I'll eat scallops and mussels in Alberta, but it's often hit and miss, and certainly never encounter the king sized scallops in land-locked regions.

                    Although Alberta beef is found everywhere and its inclusion is debatable on this list, I would prefer to eat Spring Creek ranch beef, which is found primarily in Alberta restaurants and stores (although it can be found in a few places in BC and fewer places in Ontario). The taste reminds me of what beef tasted like back in the 60's and 70's.

                    I tend to stick to Ukrainian cuisine in central Alberta, but that may just be my perception that you can't find good perogies/vareneka in areas where Ukrainians didn't migrate in large groups to.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Libertycafe

                      I love the point about regions where groups immigrate to and I think that is one of the basic reasons for me when starting this post - absolutely agree seafood is shipped all across Canada from same origins and that we ship Alberta beef to other parts of Canada, however the preparation, freshness, and value of those foods aren't all equal. It's already been stated that seafood is generally more accessible and inexpensive in regions closer to the coast - completely agree! For me, having a bouillabaisse on Vancouver Island (freshly caught) one day and two days later having one in Alberta is a very different experience.

                      At the same time I think one of the reasons why Chinese/Sushi is successful in Vancouver and Toronto primarily because of the large Chinese population and demand/competition in the city. Same as Mexican food in LA. I also find Korean dishes in LA much cheaper, more authentic, and more variety than most of Canada.

                      Agreed about Donair in Alberta (such a Donair phenomenon here). Also think Vietnamese dishes in Alberta is superior to places like Winnipeg.

                      I do believe there are the few restaurants in an uncommon area (ex. a good sushi place in Calgary), however for myself because I have the luxury of traveling across the country each month I'd prefer to get the dish in the region where that ingredient is freshest and best value.

                    2. Having moved from Toronto about a year ago I can add a few suggestions for the GTA:


                      Italian, the large Italian population means a lot of Italian options from casual to break-the bank. Some of the best pizza, veal, fresh pasta around. Special mention, great veal sandwiches from California Sandwiches (they are Italian-go to the original hole-in-the-wall location downtown. This is probably what I miss most about Toronto food, there is no one even close here.
                      Japanese: Kaiseki by Hashimoto in Mississauga to Sushi by Hiro and Kaji.
                      Portuguese: Churrasco chicken joints and some good seafood spots.
                      South American: Humita and pupusa joints in Kensington Market and a coiple of regional south american malls.
                      Fusion places. Lots.
                      Chinese: Many regional cuisines given the large population, cheap but good dim sum up to the best, Lai Wah Heen.
                      Michael Statlander: Canadian. Special mention. All local, much grown by him. If you haven't heard of him he is IMO one of the best on the planet (OK I've never been to El Bulli or Fat Duck!) He is up near Collingwood.
                      Via Allegro: Special Mention: Best wine and Scotch cellars in North America-and the owner doesn't drink

                      Grocers Butchers and Bakers:

                      Italian: Again, lots of veal cuts, barese sausage, real Italian style Calabrese bread, fresh warm ricotta made that morning, zeppole, sfogliatelle, gelato, simple espresso
                      Farms: Sweet corn (sorry Taber), Niagara soft fruits like peaches and plums, strawberries,
                      Butchers: Berkshire pork,
                      Wineries: IMO world class reislings (different from German though), some world class chards, baco noir, icewines like no other place on the planet, Stratus wines for bringing european blending techniques to Niagara and not sticking with varietals.

                      I just had to add to the Toronto list since, after all, snobbishness was in the title!

                      Oh and for those missing Montreal smoked meat, Costco here in Calgary carries Dunns.

                      1. Lobster, more than where is when are you eating it. I am on the West Coast and we have a lobster fisherman's daughter working for us. We have learned that lobster season is late November (early December) until later May.

                        If you buy lobster June through early November it may have been in the Lobster Pound for months with out food. If the live lobsters in the tank at your local store are missing their antennas they have been eaten off by the other lobsters.

                        Also flying live lobsters across the country results in very stressed fish that are not at their peak. But if you have the fish cooked and chilled immediately after the boat lands, flown across the country, reheated and eaten within 24 hours you are in for a treat.

                        I have to admit that I wonder why anyone would order raw oysters anywhere but the Coast. I am not fond of oysters, but each one I have eaten (raw or cooked)was on a beach an hour before consumption.

                        The flavour of extremely fresh raw salmon is incredible. A freshly landed salmon is a very tasty treat. Not available in a restaurant, but one of the benefits of living on the coast.

                        So I would not consider ordering seafood away from the Coast.

                        We buy locally raised beef, bison, pork, lamb, and poultry as much as possible.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mlgagnon

                          Some of your understandings need correcting. The lobster season depends on the area and there are over three dozen designated lobster fishing areas on Canada's east coast. The offshore fisheries-off the Nova Scotia shore- are open all year long. The inshore fisheries are open at varying times. I am most familiar with PEI seasons and know that the north season is May 1 to June 30, the south season is mid August to mid October. Any time other than that in PEI and you are getting pound lobsters. Also even during the season you are likely be getting pound lobsters, not fresh off the wharf.

                          Reheated lobster? Reheated seafood of any kind is not as good as freshly cooked. Make yourself a lobster roll.

                          When in PEI I buy oysters from Raspberry Point, waters just over from Malpeque. Same oyster genus as Malpeque, just slightly different waters. I was surprised to be told by the owner that oysters can sit outside on a wharf in temperate weather for up to three days with no change in quality. Never tried it, but I would gather from that oysters can be sent across Canada, and with proper storage can be as good as "off the wharf". Personal experience has been that I have had great oysters in many places, inland and in maritime areas, and tossed out bad ones in both, though none that I have bought direct from the Raspberry Point boys.

                          1. re: mlgagnon

                            Flying stresses lobsters significantly more than being caught? Really, wouldn't they already be about as stressed out as they were going to get, having found themselves trapped in a lobster trap with a bunch of other lobsters, dragged up from the sea floor, thrown on a boat, taken to shore, thrown off a boat, put in a truck, driven across town, taken off truck, thrown in a lobster tank, plucked from a lobster tank, thrown in a pot of boiling water?

                          2. I now live in Toronto, and the pizza here sucks! I really miss the thicker-crusted, heavily topped, cheesy prairie pizzas of my memories. I miss donairs too, it's all shawarmas here and I long for the spicing of the donair meat and the distinctive sweet sauce.

                            1. Don't forget prairie oysters, only consumable on the prairies!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: williej

                                I found them spongy, tasteless and gross. Only interesting as a novelty, in the I-can-say-I tried-it way. But yes, only available on the praries in the summer.

                                1. re: williej

                                  Hahaha...I almost spat out my coffee when I read your post. The farm kids in my elementary school used to joke about eating prairie oysters, and I had no idea what they were talking about!

                                2. My opinion:

                                  Generally any ethnic food or unique dining experience = Toronto
                                  Japanese = Vancouver
                                  Beef = Agree with JM you can get them anywhere so long as they ship from AB
                                  Bagels = Montreal (oh sooo good!)

                                  1. Fresh forest picked golden Chanterelle mushrooms - in Victoria and surrounds around Vancouver Island's temperate rain forests in mid October, simply has a distinctive fragrance unmatched by chanterelles from ANY other location or less freshly picked.

                                    Dimsum in Vancouver almost a given, unless you're in Guangzhou or Hong Kong and, I have had worse dimsum than Vancouver's in HK.

                                    Will post as more comes to mind.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Pixiette

                                      Pixiette, you should be posting this in the B.C. board. The old Western Canada board is closed.