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ISO Recommendations For The Tofino/Ucluelet Region

We are a month away from our annual trek to Tofino. Have been going for quite a number of years so am familiar with most of the spots but was wondering if anyone was up to Long Beach during the summer and can fill me in on any new spots I might not yet have tried.

Last year the Spotted Bear [?] was in the process of opening and someone had recommened a place on the "main drag" in Ucluelet which as just across a vacant lot from the Materson House near the Peninsula Motel but we did not get to try either.

I am more interested in lunch than dinner since the sun sets by about 7:00 p.m. while there and we may as well stay inside and drink as much as wine as we want without the concern with driving and start a fire in the evening.

Have tried the Wick, Long Beach Lodge, SOBO in at least 3 variations, Shelter, the Schooner, and Tough City Sushi on multiple occasions and no doubt we'll visit a few of them this trip as well but looking for some suggested alternatives.


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  1. Hey Bob, this may be redundant for you but I recently read a report here on Tacofino http://www.vancouverslop.com/2010/08/... that made my ears perk up. Is this one of the variations you were referring to?

    6 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      grayelf: thanks very much.

      With the catering truck ...orange instead of purple... and the fish tacos Tacofino appears to be a take-off on the original SOBO concept.

      That parking lot is always active with surprisingly varied foods on hand in the little grocery shop...I know I usually eat several "pounds" of chanterelles during our stay if the pickers have been out and the rain co-operates. Nothing like a nice chanterellle omelette for breakfast watching the surf crash into Chesterman.

      Wish we were heading off tomorrow.....

      1. re: Bob Mac

        Hey Bob,
        I just did a trip to Tofino with some friends. They went one afternoon kayaking...I ate...A lot! I went to Sobo (which you mentioned that you've been to a few times) and also to Shelter. By the time I got to Shelter all I had room for were their oysters which the vinegarette/ mignionette was nice and not overpowering at all (which I find sometimes is a problem) and we ended up sharing a couple chocolate trio platters and chocolate truffle desserts. Enjoy!

        1. re: jedge

          jedge: sound like a person after my own heart ... i.e. they went kayaking, I went eating [smile] ...

          I am sure that we will eat at SOBO on at least one occasion as it is a nice spot to have some wine and decent casual food when you want to stay dry out of the "Tofino sunshine" after a morning of walking the dogs along one of the beaches.

          We have had dinner and lunch at Shelter but last year I only had a pint after walking around the townsite. Will probably pop in again this trip.

          The thread below regarding related topics reminded me that NORWOOD's was the name of the place in Ucluelet I had heard mentioned but was closed during the day by the time we got out there last year. We usually visit the souvenir/gift store down the hill closer to the harbour when out there.

          I noted yesterday, that the Cold Water Surfing Classic is on during the 2nd week we'll be there after Thanksgiving so Chesterman will be busy if they surf there as well as Cox Bay.

          Am looking forward to it.

          1. re: Bob Mac

            Hi again Bob:

            Islandgirl just mentioned this place on the way to Tofino on another thread about diners and thought you might be interested: "In my family, the J&L Drive-in in Port Alberni is a required stop on the way to and from Tofino."

            1. re: grayelf


              I will have to add it to our list. We stayed overnite last year in Port Alberni and could have used a suggestion.

              Pretty quiet given the season. The Harbour Quay was all shut up except for a number of bikers and we ended up eating in our room with food from the hotel bar after spending some time down beside the river off the Marina to the left of the fork in the road that takes you to Tofino watching some juvenile black bears fish before heading back into the forest of the First Nations land.

              Just leafed my way "electronically" through the Fall issue of EAT magazine. Looking forward to the trip. We'll be in Vancouver for a few days visiting friends and family but will probably stay on the north shore most of the time.

              Anything in the area of Edgemont Village you would recommend?

              Over the course of the years we have seen a number of changes to what was then Pepe's, then The Beach House at Dundarave Pier, The Beach Side Cafe, La Regalade, even the Fish House up Folkestone Way....truth be known, we'll probably end up at the Earl's on Marine Drive [smirk]

              Beach House Cafe
              2775 Island Hwy W, Qualicum Beach, BC V9K2C4, CA

              La Regalade Restaurant
              2232 Marine Dr, West Vancouver, BC V7V1K4, CA

              1. re: Bob Mac

                Argh, Bob, no! There are deffo better options on the North Shore/West Van front. A newish one is Fishworks 91 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver, 778-340-3449. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner daily from 5 p.m. Ate there a couple of weeks ago and it was very good, lovely fish (duh), great service and a nice room without breaking the bank. I had some beautiful sablefish, DCs had perfectly prepared halibut and an oustanding scallop risotto. Mains are in around the $20-25 mark and they even have a couple of plainer pasta dishes if you have youngsters in tow. Very decent wine list too if that is important.

                Other thoughts: Kashcool for Persian, Bistro Chez Michel for French, Tamarind Hill for Malaysian, The District, Jagerhof, Lolo's -- can't personally vouch for these but on good authority and have to be better than Earl's... just sayin'...

                Kashcool Restaurant
                222 Pemberton Ave, North Vancouver, BC V7P2R5, CA

                Jagerhof Restaurant
                71 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver, BC V7M2E5, CA

                Chez Michel Restaurant
                , West Vancouver, BC V7S, CA

    2. I can just say one word about Norwood's. GO! I was lucky enough to be in Ucluelet last month and Norwood's was superb! Not an inexpensive place, to be sure, but my husband and I thought it was worth every penny. There's a great chef's table is at the bar facing the open concept kitchen so you can watch the action if you choose (it was busy when we went there). They have suggested wine pairings with each menu item, and you can get a taster, half glass, or full glass. I love that a half glass is exactly half the price of a full glass, so you can try some different wines without suffering too much the next day. Did I mention that almost everything on the menu was local?
      I started with a Caesar mixed by a bartender who really knew his stuff - it was perfect. Then we had raw oysters and bubbles, the tuna tataki, the fresh greens with chevre, and the roasted Pacific Salmon - all with the wine pairings recommended. A cheese plate for dessert topped off the evening. It really was wonderful and worth the stop. We got there at 6:00 pm because we heard that it fills up, and indeed, by 6:30 - 6:45 it was full with people waiting. I hope you get a chance to go!

      2 Replies
      1. re: moltmonster


        Perhaps it will be the only dinner out that we try since I usually am the "chef" when on holidays in Tofino...of course it helps considerably to be standing in the kitchen watching the surf roll into Chesterman Beach.

        Were they open for lunch? Because of season we usually end up eating lunches due to darkness at the Wick, Sobo, Long Beach Lodge, etc.

        1. re: Bob Mac

          Sadly, Norwood's not open for lunch, dinner only.

      2. We're thinking of heading over to Tofino at some point this fall/winter. Anyone know if these places are typically open year-round?

        3 Replies
        1. re: waver


          I'll post when I get back but that unfortunately will not be until November.

          Breakfast = B, Lunch = L, Supper = S
          Yes = Y, No = N, Unknown = ?

          Wickaninnish Inn B, L, S expensive but good, wondeful wine list, views outstanding but subject to the season - usually not great after 7:00 pm. in the Fall

          Long Beach Lodge Resort B ? , L, S same as the Wick but not as pricey - have only been there for lunch - rolling surf into Cox Bay is different from Chesterman but equally pretty in a different sort of way.

          SOBO B? L, S in town across from the BCLB store comfortable clean lines - intgeresting food along with wines you will usually not find in many of the other spots

          SHELTER B? L, S the old "Crab House" as you come into the town good wine list has connections with the Cactus Club but no similarity with menu or wines and beer have only been there for lunch of late but had a good dinner the first year they were open view of Tofino harbour from one or two of the upper tables

          Spotted Bear D only I think did not try it last year used to be the Rain Forest [?] Cafe have not heard much about it but I am out in Alberta

          Black Rock Resort Ucluelet B? L, S Had a nice lunch last year Was nice to walk around the property and enjoy the view of the rocks, waves and clean lines

          The Schooner B? L, S. Ok, but what used to be the old "standby" during trips to Tofino...we have been going since about '82...has been passed by new spots

          Wickaninnish Restaurant
          485 Wick, Ucluelet, BC V0R, CA

          1. re: Bob Mac

            It looks like we're going in November too, so we'll see who can report back first...
            Thanks so much for the list as I think that eating will be a major focus given the weather, and the only place we really remember from our previous visit (10 yrs ago) is the Wickaninnish: very happy memories, but your point about it being dark at dinner time is well-taken.

          2. re: waver

            hey waver,
            i've been there in november and in march and all the restaurants have all been open for business so you should be just fine :)

          3. Just returned and haven;t had time for a full report. For Ucluelet, we had two excellent fish and chips. The Dockside and a small truck on Main Street called Jiggers. I had forgotten how good batter fried fish could be.

            Main Street Cafe
            317 MacKenzie, Revelstoke, BC V0E2S1, CA

            3 Replies
            1. re: gourmaniac

              How about take-out fish&chips in Tofino? Any ideas?
              (so excited about pending trip)

              1. re: waver


                You should have a great time.

                The name currently escapes me but there is a "fish fry" spot right on Campbell street. Not sure if it will be open at this time but was when we were there. Personally, I did not have any fish and chips while visiting.

                We ate lunch at SoBo twice as well as the dining rooms of the Black Rock in Ucluelet and the Wickaninnish Inn.

                I popped into Shelter several times for an ale but for the most part ate at "home" as I "re-discovered" my love of cooking...of course it assists that I was standing up at the kitchen island cutting and preparing watching the surf pound into Chesterman Beach.

                The O'Neill Cold Water Classic was taking place just to the left of us so it was nice to be able to watch the surfers live but at the same time have the close ups provided on the internet feed via Tofino Community television.

                Only 50 weeks or so before we return..............................

                Wickaninnish Restaurant
                485 Wick, Ucluelet, BC V0R, CA

                1. re: Bob Mac

                  The fish and chip place in Tofino is excellent. One of the best in BC IMHO. Good thick very fresh meaty pieces of fish (none of that thin slivers that some places do), crisp but not overly thick batter, and perfect chips (not too crisp and nicely caramelized). I don't know why all fish and chip places can't do fish and chips like this....

            2. On my last trip out there, we tried out Fetch, the restaurant at the Black Rock Inn in Ucluelet. The four of us were impressed with our lunch there. I recall some dishes being a bit too salty, but that was really our only complaint. Service was great and you get a beautiful view from the dining area.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sumashi

                Hi! Enjoyed eating at many Tofino area restaurants this past summer but our favorite was the Spotted Bear. I had halibut and my husband had a steak. Both were very good. The service was friendly and the whole meal enjoyable.

                Also went to Norwoods in Ucluelet. It was good too, but we had such a great time at the Spotted Bear the night before, it seemed a little disappointing. Also, some of the other diners seemed kind of stuck up. A family with teenagers couldn't be bothered to say please or thank-you. Kind of took away from the ambiance of the place. There was kind of a wine bar area near the back of the restaurant that I would try to sit at if we ever went back. The fellow working back there was very knowledgable in regards to b.c. wines, area oysters, etc.

                The fish chowder at Sobo's was very good. Just had a roasted beet and goat cheese salad at Shelter. Was pretty good.

                We had lots of fun at the Weighwest pub. Just had snacks there.(chicken wings and calamari.) The usual pub fair, but o.k. I think the jugs of beer were the special for 10.00. Definitely a great deal!

                Hope you have a wonderful time in Tofino and definitely try the Spotted Bear if you have a chance.

              2. true story. you must go to tacofino. they have great traditional tacos, including the best fish taco ever, as well as awesome and interesting variations such as a japanese influenced tuna taco with wasabi mayo, mango salsa, and seaweed salad. try the spicy chocolate cookies!

                1 Reply
                1. re: eator

                  happy eats/eator:

                  Well the clock is definitely "ticking down" ... van got serviced on Tuesday and we are searching for the "rain gear" packed away when we returned last year so we will be "Tofino bound" is less than two weeks.

                  happyeats...if we do go out for a dinner this trip, it will likely be to The Spotted Bear on the basis of what I have read to date and the fact I do not want to drive to and back from Ucluelet in the evening as otherwise we would try to slip Norwoods into the mix.

                  eator...tacofino will definitely be on my radar as its location is not too far from where we will be staying and I frequent the Beaches store there to hopefully acquire some more chanterelles which we have consumed in abundance during past trips if the rains co-operate and the pickers are active...I love a good fish taco...in fact here in "landlocked" Edmonton there are a couple of spots that do a not too bad job but nothing I am sure in comparison with what I can try in the Pacific Rim region...so looking forward to this trip.

                  Thanks to all for your input.

                  Will report upon our return when the money runs out..................

                2. Thanks in part to all the inspiration here, we had a great time in Tofino! Love it. We tried quite a few of the recs but also saved some for another day (and older kids).
                  We had 2 great dinners at Shelter - its a great grown-up place, but there was plenty there for both Pizza Boy and the Calamari Kid (plus they loved watching the endless surfing shows on the tvs on the pub side). Us parents loved the dark coziness and the good beer and great mussels and fries, oysters too. Didn't love the fish burger. Actually we dined there twice because lunch at Sobo didn't quite warrant a dinner follow-up.
                  Brunch at the Pointe (that "e" always gives me a laugh) at the Wick was totally excellent and, contrary to expectations, quite a few kids, all on their best behavoiur. They have crayons and a kids' menu which is nice from a price perspective, but the entertainment is hardly necessary when there are waves and surfers to watch. Despite kid-friendliness it still had a elegant vibe.
                  The highlight of it all though was the crab dinner at the Middle Beach Lodge which is served on Fridays (salmon on Saturdays). Call ahead to make reservations (as we did) if you're not staying there. We had a drink and a game of chess in front of the fire while we had our appetizers (smoked cod cakes) and then piled our plates with 1/2 a crab and several salads. Headed off to the dining room and ordered a great bottle of Viognier. And got to work with the critter (even Pizza Boy, hooray, a food breakthrough for the lad). After a while they brought the other 1/2 crabs, steaming hot. And eventually dessert. And then a coffee back in front of the fire. It was a perfect night, well-paced, delicious and not hideously expensive. There was zero choice in the menu (unless, like some people I know, you chose NOT to eat salad), but we didn't need any. Not exactly kid friendly, but not unfriendly either, so that's good enough for us.

                  Overall amazed that everything was open and, by the looks of it, thriving. The only disappointment was that Tacofino was closed when we drove by. Unclear whether that was seasonal or just the day.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: waver

                    I too just got back the area (stayed in Ucluelet at the Black Rock - fantastic hotel by the way) and wanted to give another plug for Norwoods! One of the best dinners of my life for sure!

                    I am still in amazement that such as a small town can have such a great restaurant!

                    We started with a hendricks martini for me and a caesar for the SO - both were expertly made by the talented bartender - no shortcuts here.

                    We started with the scallop appetizer with a truffle potato puree and a spicy (?) sauce. Best potato puree ever, amazing texture, perfectly cooked scallop. I have never done this before, but as soon as we finished the first one, we ordered another one right away (one scallop per dish). Well paired with Road 13 Chenin Blanc, and inspired choice.

                    We then shared the spaghetteni vongole that came towering with a flurry of reggiano. Great simple pasta dish, everything cooked perfectly. Paired with Laughing Stock Viognier, a fantastic wine (hard to find) that I must buy a case of.

                    For mains, the SO had the seared tuna with pappadam crust, and I had the suckling pig five ways. WOW, usually in my opinion smaller fine dining restaurants like this do appy's really well and go downhill for mains, but not Norwoods.

                    The tuna was excellent (I tried to steal as much as I could from the SO...but she was playing pretty good defense) and the pork dishes were great. There was one preparation (mushroom sausage encased in belly) that was a little too heavy, but the rest was great. The green peppercorn sausage should be packaged and sold everywhere!

                    Too full for dessert, but next time...

                    Highly recommended, great service. Total bill was $165 after tax and tip. Good value.

                    Also had a great lunch at the Pointe (seafood chowder and beef/chanterelle pasta) and better than average breakfasts at the Black Rock.

                    Can't wait to go back!