Intrepid aurora-hunters head to Canada’s Northwest Territories from around the world to chase the northern lights and play in the great outdoors. Feasting on fresh fish from Great Slave Lake is a given, but this city of nearly 20,000 people also has a surprisingly vibrant dining scene filled with multicultural fare.
Signature Restaurant Experiences
Celebrating 19 years in a heritage building in Old Town, one of the city’s most iconic restaurants welcomed new owners two years ago who have kept the wild fish menu and sassy signs such as “No snivelling” and “Nobody’s perfect and I’m nobody.” The fish is served deep-fried, pan-fried or grilled—think seasonal whitefish, lake trout, pickerel, Arctic char and Great Slave cod (burbot). Splurge on fish and hand-cut fries with homemade tartar sauce and salad splashed with feta and dill or herb and garlic dressings. A seat at the counter delivers views of the open kitchen where stellar house breads and cinnamon buns are made from scratch. Bullocks draws lineups, so reservations are recommended if you want to get a table. Don’t leave without signing the wall, if you can find an empty spot.
“We’ve got new restaurants opening and more to come. It’s a busy little town for restaurants and eateries—we have everything from Ethiopian to burgers.” —Bullocks Bistro co-owner Jo-Ann Martin
Dinku Tadesse and his wife, Eline Baye, have run what may be Canada’s most northern Ethiopian restaurant for almost four years. Fresh injera (a crepe-like, sourdough flatbread) from teff and barley flour is made every 12 hours so regulars and newbies can scoop up beef, chicken and vegetable stews by hand. Injera is known as the “edible tablecloth,” which makes sense as Ethiopian meals are meant for sharing. Zehabesha shines with its salads and yetsom beyayantu—a vegan platter that showcases green beans, lentils and spinach. Don’t count on a sweet dessert; instead, opt for the traditional combination of Ethiopian coffee, served in espresso-sized cups and popcorn.facebook.com
More Great Restaurants
Breakfast: Dancing Moose Cafe
Yellowknifers are big fans of the Dancing Moose Cafe in historic Old Town. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch (try the Arctic char eggs Benedict or tofu scramble). The seasonal back deck is perfect for a coffee and cinnamon bun break.
Lunch: The Cliff Café
Take a free guided tour inside the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories before stopping for lunch at The Cliff Café, where chef/owner Chris Zouboules serves up his famous catch-of-the-day lunches and more.
Dinner: Twin Pine Diner
At the Arnica Inn’s Twin Pine Diner, executive chef/owner Robin Wasicuna offers “classic diner fare with a modern perspective.” Try his takes on chicken and waffles, mac ’n’ cheese and burgers. Hours are limited, and brunch is popular.
Sushi North only makes a limited number of grilled Arctic char skin rolls each day, so pre-order takeout to reserve yours, or dine in on Arctic char nigiri like a “true northerner.”
Korea House provides a no-frills fix of bibimbap, kimchi stew and pork-bone soup.
YK Hotpot is fun for build-your-own hotpot combos featuring a choice of more than 30 ingredients, including veggies, lamb, prawns, rice and wontons.
Line up with the locals on Franklin Avenue for a food truck lunch at One of a Thai from May to October, or follow the truck on Instagram or Facebook to track down its off-season pop-up spots.
Beer, Cocktails and Coffee
For Coffee: Javaroma
Javaroma has the lock on the local caffeine crowd and roasts its own coffee and espresso beans. The downtown branch offers free Wi-Fi and baked goods, bagels and sandwiches.
For brews: NWT Brewing Company and The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery
Pop into NWT Brewing Company and grab a growler to go, or settle in at The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery for a bite and wash it all down with a Ragged Pine Pale Ale or Bug Repellent IPA.
For cocktails: Quarry Restaurant + Lounge
Canada’s most patriotic cocktail is the Caesar and Chateau Nova Yellowknife’s Quarry Restaurant + Lounge boasts the Northern Caesar—bison jerky garnish and other variations.
Must-have Foodie Experience
Take a custom wilderness, historical and art tour with heritage interpreter Rosie Strong. Insisting that food tastes better when eaten outdoors, Strong weaves homemade northern snacks (locally harvested cranberry scones, Labrador tea shortbread, birch syrup squares or juniper-dusted brownies paired with forest-inspired tea) into her small-group Strong Interpretation tours.
[This story appears in the September 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]