Help! Struggling to find promising options on Salt Spring Island
Howdy All- Headed to SSI for the first time w/my parents this weekend, I'm trying to get meals lined up but struggling to find promising options. It seems like the only places that get rec'd are quite high end (Hastings House, Piccolo...). Are there any chow-worthy mid-range / local / fun / Casual places we can hit on the Island?
There's some history of recs for Market Place Cafe, but they seem to be no more.
Can anyone help out? Is it as dire as it looks?
I had good F&C @ the cafe next to the ferry landing in Vesuvius.
Downtown Ganges has the Treehouse Cafe where I've never had a bad meal-unless I was sitting under a tree but no details since this is a family board.
Also be sure to stop @ The Fishery to see what's on offer
The Bread Lady is still going strong last I heard
My stays on SSI have been low budget, camping at the walk-in provincial park. It's fun to park in downtown Ganges, and browse the shops. It is easy to check menus. Or get something takeout and eat on the docks.
Last time (serveral years back) we were happy with our selections at Auntie Pesto's.
The main grocery in town has good selections, since it caters to sailors as well as locals.
For a place with as much great local food as SSI, the restaurant situation is actually quite dire. It doesn't mean you can't eat really well though. Make sure you go to the market on Saturday...you can easily do brunch or lunch from various stalls on the grass by the water and it's lots of fun. And a trip to the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company's farm is essential. It's a beautiful setting and the tasting room and store are terrific. You can easily get enough there for a picnic if that's your thing. There's also lots of roadside stands with other treats: fresh eggs, produce, locally roasted coffee.
Agree on the Fishery and Treehouse Cafe which has good food in a lovely setting but it's generally busy. Your best bet is stock up on items you can enjoy where you're staying or in any of the many beautiful outdoor locations on the island.
Ya the restaurant situation is dire.
Having lived on SSI on and off since the late sixties ashore and full time on various boats I'd suggest you stock up on your classic picnic fare: baguette/cheeses/dried/cured meats/fruits etc at Thrifty Foods. 10/10 for excellent everything.
Get a map of the island and go visit the sights. Don't make your visit reliant on doing 'foodie' things.
I'm going to share with you a very secret little public beach you can visit and pretty much have all to your own even during the busy tourist season. Plan a picnic there.
If you visit the beach just for fun I'd like to know.
OK, here's how to get there:
Get onto Eagle Ridge Drive. Ask for directions but a free map is available at the tourist information. Follow ERD until you see a left turn onto Harbourside Pl. Follow the road until you see the Right turn onto Beachside Dr. It's a no exit road. At the end of the road park and follow the trail to the beach. About as 'Salt Spring Island' as you'll find. Only the locals know about the beach and use it to launch dinghies to get to their moored out boats.
There's a very simple reason why your basic middle of the road restaurants can never survive for long on SSI.
When the 'tourist season' ends SSI basically shuts down. The 'new-money' locals moved from Calgary are retired and don't tend to be 'foodies' much anymore. They've long ago got that T-shirt. They paid a million bucks for a sea-view property and when they want to eat-out they hop a float plane in Ganges Harbour and in about 20 minutes they are landed in Coal Harbour and a cab takes them to any of a thousand restaurants on the lower mainland........name the cuisine.
The rent and property taxes on SSI for small businesses are astronomical. No customers. No revenue for nine months. No thriving year round restaurant scene.
My in-laws live on Salt Spring so my husband and I get over there regularly. I love the Treehouse but don't get to eat there often because the in-laws prefer Seaside and Barb's Bakery & Bistro (also good places). Also, Penny's Pantry makes huge, amazing sandwiches.
We were just on SSI in July and we found it to be fairly slim pickins, restaurant-wise. We poked our heads into Seaside and it looked like a lot of fun, much more locals-focused than catering to the tourist crowd. Treehouse also looked like a fun time, too. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could try them out.
Most of our meals were self-catered and eaten outdoors, with food from farm stands and from the Saturday market. Fresh tomato, cheese, lettuce sandwiches were tastier than anything from any restaurant, in my opinion.
When people complain about the offerings on SSI, are they comparing it to Vancouver or Victoria, or to other communities of similar size?
One of the fancier meals that I've had in BC was on nearby Galiano. It was a rainy week (in late August) and we were tent camping. While I was out kayaking, my wife and son found an ad for a French restaurant at the marina, and made reservations for that evening. It was long enough ago that I don't recall the name, but La Berengerie fits my memory.
Not sure "complain" is the right word.
Just pointing out that SSI like some other places have astronomical property values. This includes retail space. Tourism is basically the only show in town. When the tourists are flooding the Island for a few months a small restaurant may be able to pay the unbelievable high rent but when the tourists go home that rent is just too big a nut to pay for 8 months.
Those who own retail property (many from thousands of miles away) are happy to watch the revolving door of hopeful entrepreneurs come and go.
Ironically a retail property owner can write off a lot of taxes when the poor sap can't pay the rent for five months then gets kicked out. So it's no skin off the property owners butt. In some cases it's more profitable in the long run.
I know a guy who owns a retail property in downtown Ganges with a full commercial kitchen. Some years ago he bought the property and started a restaurant. It soon became apparent that it was more profitable and a hell of a lot less work to simply rent out the space to hopeful restaurant start-ups. Every restaurant that opened soon closed.
Today there is another budding GR grinding away getting a bit farther behind every month.
For many years on SSI there were a few small ma&pa restaurants/stores that ticked along and did well during the tourist season and in the off season.
The 'locals' supported these places. No worries.
Then the Calgarians 'discovered' SSI and a sea view property with a little cabin sold for a million bucks!
The original 'hippies' from the sixties who bought 5 acres for 5 grand with beach access pretty much all sold up and drove up to their new ocean access 5 acre property in brand new Land Rovers on Hornby Island........there to continue to pursue a life of leisure only this time with four million bucks in their designer jeans.
As one old hippie told me: "I can't afford to live on Saltspring any more".
And what made SSI SSI is now forever gone.
Lastly a woman I know moved from New York city in the mid eighties. She sold her apartment in Manhattan and could then afford to buy a spectacular 20 acre property/home on SSI. She spent tens of thousands of dollars to buy the latest in everything imaginable to be 'energy independent'. (Which turned out to be junk BTW). When she sold this shangri la she couldn't afford to buy on SSI.
And this is why small restaurants can not survive on SSI.
Hi All- Thanks for all the great responses! Thought I'd update with my Salt Spring Island trip report, for anyone interested-
Overall, I'd say the comments are on-target. Lots of OK places to go, but nothing amazing, especially in the middle price range, which is kind of sad given how much amazing stuff gets produced there! A lot of places trade on their amazing views and good enough food, which isn't the worst thing in the world.
We got in Friday afternoon on the ferry, and had Friday night dinner at the Tree House, which seems to be the most commonly recommended place on the island. I have to say, I could sit out on their patio forever, if only they had an outdoor liquor license! The band was great and I thought the food was pretty good. It took >an hour to get our food, so good thing the atmosphere was so pleasant.
Saturday breakfast was grazed from the market, followed by a mid-afternoon snack at Rock Salt in Fulford. Another nice view, another so-so restaurant. Also, I have a bone to pick with Salt Spring brewery about their "porter", which I'm pretty sure is actually a dark lager. C'mon, guys.
Saturday dinner was Seaside in Vesuvius. Good call, very nice deck with a great sunset view -- if you're headed over in the summer, I strongly recommend reserving to get an outside table. Decent food and good drinks, those at my table who had fish & chips report it was good. Really nice service.
One last meal, breakfast at Dagwoods, which was OK, about what you'd expect, except I'll give a shout out for being the only restaurant I've been to in Canada that serves American-style hash browns. Cake and coffee at Fernwood wrapped it up, nice place to sit out by the beach and watch not much of anything happening.