Discover the Food & Drinks Nelson Has to Offer

-- Contributed by Site Reader Susie Hill

It’s equally as hard to define British Columbian cuisine as it is Canadian cuisine. Like Canada, British Columbia is composed of many different cultures and Nelson is no exception. Our local cuisine is heavily influenced by the diverse cultures that have shaped our country. In fact, Nelson’s ethnic diversity when it comes to dining options sets it apart from other mountain towns of British Columbia.

British Columbia itself is home to an array of local ingredients including fresh salmon, fruits, organic lamb, farmstead cheese and even world-class wine. Much of the cuisine is a fusion of ethnic inspired dishes, from the Europeans that first settled here to new immigrants that have arrived from Asia. As Frommer’s highlights, western Canada is known for its continually evolving regional cuisine that showcases local produce, farm-raised game and freshly caught seafood.

While a general theme for British Columbian cuisine is challenging to define, what does distinguish the province is the passion for using fresh, local ingredients. Chefs throughout British Columbia are notorious for sourcing fresh ingredients directly from local farms and fishing boats. Nelson boasts a number of organic vegetable farms that supply local restaurants. Pair that with a delicious British Columbian wine and you’ve got all of the ingredients for a memorable evening out.

No matter what you crave, the more than forty dining options in Nelson offer a taste to suit every palette. As the Seattle Times reports, visitors can enjoy a great dinner at Nelson’s top restaurant, the All Seasons Café. From ethnic dining in local restaurants to leisurely lunches at a local café, Nelson has it all. In the evening, the city’s pubs and bars boast one of the best live music scenes in British Columbia.

Restaurants
One of the best characteristics of Nelson is its size, which makes finding a suitable dining option even easier as everything is within walking distance of each other. Whether you would like Greek, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Japanese, or Italian, there are plenty of choices available.

  • All Seasons Café: The Frommer's travel guide described this local hotspot as “British Columbia’s best restaurant east of Vancouver.” This back-alley bistro features a seasonal menu showcasing fresh, local, and organic ingredients in what is considered "inland cuisine."
  • BiBO Nelson: This tiny wine bar features an upscale menu of Asian inspired comfort foods and modern bistro fare using local organic and in-season ingredients.
  • Sage Tapas & Wine Bar: Overlooking Kootenay Lake, this intimate restaurant offers a selection of sophisticated Asian and Western inspired tapa dishes, paired with BC wines.
  • Scholar’s Dining Room at Selkirk College: This is the most affordable way to enjoy a multi-course gourmet meal as you savour the talents of local culinary students .
  • Baker Street Grill: This casual dining option offers a little bit of everything for the entire family from steaks to pastas. Try the delicious barbecue sauce and the local Nelson honey ale .

Cafés & Bistros
If you are seeking a leisurely place to lunch or relax, Nelson has a café on practically every corner. Enjoy delicious soups in local bistros or fresh sandwiches from local bakeries. These are some of the best places to interact with locals and enjoy summer weather as you relax on the countless patios.

  • Max & Irma’s Kitchen: This is a local institution and an ideal place for lunch featuring soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and pizza. It gets very busy so you may need to wait for a bit.
  • Oso Negro: This is one of the most popular of the local coffee shops. The shop embodies your typical contemporary coffee scene complete with local artwork and locally roasted coffee.
  • Starbird Bakehouse: This eclectic menu features everything from traditional afternoon tea to home-made gelato and delicious crepes. Choose from a large selection of teas and smoothies.
  • Kootenay Bakery Café Co-op: Quite simply, this place has it all, from a bakery to a coffee shop and a juice bar. You can also enjoy soups, sandwiches, salads, pizzas and desserts.

Bars & Pubs
For a small mountain town, Nelson has an incredibly impressive night scene. Compared to any other place its size, Nelson attracts a large number of big name musical acts. The performances are as diverse as the venues offering a selection of comedy, ballet, and symphonies among others genres. As the Nelson Star explains, the city is also adding a number of small music venues.

  • Spiritbar: This is one of the hottest entertainment venues in town featuring both local and international DJ’s, live music, and other performing arts.
  • Mike’s Place: If you want to sample the local brews, Mike’s Place is the place to be, featuring all five of the ales produced by the Nelson Brewing Company.
  • Finley’s Irish Bar & Grill: In addition to its extensive pub menu featuring fresh ingredients, Finley’s is the only pub with a patio that offers a 180 degree view of Kootenay Lake.
  • Uptown Sportsbar: This premium gastropub offers fresh, local food prepared by an award-winning chef. It’s also a great place to enjoy major sporting events.
  • Dock ‘n’ Duck Pub & Grill: Enjoy delicious pub food including hamburgers, pizza, as well as fish and chips in a spectacular lakefront dining venue on the beachfront patio.

Know Before You Go
If you are from out of town, it is important to know that many of the local eateries in Nelson can get extremely busy. If you are planning to eat a dinner out on a weekend, reservations are highly recommended. For those travelling from abroad, tipping is a common practice in Canada. Waiters and waitresses are generally tipped between 15-20 percent of the before tax bill. If you are at a bar or night club, 10-20 percent is usually tipped to the bartender or a “keep the change” policy. With all of the diverse ethnic cuisine available in Nelson, foreigners that suffer from food allergies are also advised to take extra precautions when ordering from the menu. Keeping a list of food allergies on hand for restaurant staff is worth the effort as an allergic reaction while on holiday can be costly. As money.co.uk explains, suffering an allergic reaction can be made worse when insurance won’t pay for the treatment. However, there are ways to ensure that it does not happen to you.

Although Nelson is small, it is still wise to keep a local map in order to ensure that you do not get lost while heading to your restaurant of choice. For fast-food lovers, if you happen to be craving a Big Mac, don’t expect to see the “Golden Arches” in Nelson anytime soon and don’t expect a “double-double” either. The city does not have a McDonald’s or a Tim Horton’s and locals like it that way.