British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies Region boasts humbling mountains and blue-green glacier lakes. As such, it is a place often visited for the adventure, and seldom highlighted for the culinary scene—but it is about time that changed.
Begin one’s journey in Revelstoke, which is often referred to as B.C.’s mountain playground (though it is becoming a food playground, too). “Down in the basement, there’s a speakeasy whisky bar called the Boiler Room,” says Tourism Revelstoke marketing manager Sarah Peterson, sitting in the second-floor loft of Quartermaster Eatery, found within The Explorers Society Hotel. This was once the 1911 McKinnon building, recently refurbished by a Seattle couple and turned into a boutique nine-room hotel. As an ode to the Revelstoke’s origins as a mining and surveyor town, the property takes on an old-world, speakeasy feel; in the 1920s-style foyer, a marvellous chandelier and white subway tiles are sure to impress visitors of all ages.
At Quartermaster, the menu is all about drawing from South American dishes, but using organic ingredients and proteins from local communal gardens and farms. A standout? The salty roasted Peruvian chicken served with a heaping side of avocado salad and smashed yam on a bed of greens, with plantain chips and cilantro. The restaurant’s cozy booths offer quiet nooks in which rest and fuel, the emerald greens and golds rivalling any Ste. Marie restaurant design in Vancouver.
From Revelstoke it’s on to Nelson, but not before a snack break at Nakusp’s The Hut Drive Inn. Onion rings and a thick licorice milkshake should do the trick—the perfect pick-me-up while learning about the area’s Gold Rush days, when old service and truck roads had horse-drawn carriages along their paths.
Nelson is considered the most upscale destination in the Kootenay Rockies, and whether that is due to the summer sailing regatta, the continuous migration of artistic rebels and creatives for the Selkirk College craft and trade program, or the advent of communications and tech companies with freelance offices here, it results in a truly delightful culinary experience. “They always say that Nelson has, per capita, more restaurants than San Francisco or New York,” shares Janneke Guenther, marketing liaison at Nelson Kootenay Lake. For lunch it’s fish tacos and a passion fruit-lime margarita at Cantina Del Centro; for dinner, it’s the cabin-like Pitchfork Eatery, with a large wooden patio and views of the West Arm Kootenay Lake. Sip on a glass of wine, perhaps alongside comforting plates of olives and cheeses. And if in need of a pastry at any point throughout the day, head to Quebecois bakery Au Soleil Levant.
Next the drive heads to Kaslo, known for hosting the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival every August. But while the music enthusiasts come and go, there’s a great sense of community felt in Kaslo throughout winter, spring, and fall. And the best way to mingle is over a drink at the latest watering hole (and craft brewery), the Angry Hen. “Our brewing colleague said if she ever opened her own brewery, she needed to call it the Angry Hen—so we did.” The man behind the counter speaks of owner Shirley Warne, previously of Burnaby’s Steamworks and Surrey’s Big Ridge. A sour raspberry beer is a great way to start the evening before heading across the street to Taqueria el Corazon, a traditional Mexican street food joint. Fresh guacamole and chips are followed by ceviche and then a Hongos Ajilla organic corn taco filled with mushrooms, garlic guajillo pepper sauce, and salsa fresca. It’s a beautiful meal to indulge in before returning to the Kaslo Hotel, overlooking Kootenay Lake, for a good night’s sleep.
Whether a visit to the Kootenay Rockies is for the serenity on the shoreline or for the adventure on the humbling mountains, it is nice to know that a place to replenish—and spark the taste buds—is always nearby.
Read more from destinations throughout British Columbia.