12 Essential Things to Eat and Drink in the Fraser, Similkameen, and Okanagan Valleys

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It’s not just the abundance of farm-fresh produce, although just about everything from apples to zucchini grows in the Fraser, Similkameen, and Okanagan valleys. It’s the people. Passionate chefs, winemakers, brewers, bakers, and cheesemakers want to feed you and quench your thirst. They bring their cultures to the table, too: South Asian spices, Mexican chilies, Chinese dumplings, European cheeses, Indigenous traditions, whatever you’re hungry for, someone is surely cooking it in these 12 quintessential food and drink experiences.

The aburi sushi at Miku Restaurant | Miku Restaurant

Sushi in Vancouver

In 1963, a single counter on the stretch of Powell Street that was then known as Japantown served a snack of sliced fish on seasoned rice. Ever since then, Vancouver has been smitten with sushi. This city now has an estimated 600 sushi bars, takeout joints, and fine-dining restaurants such as Tojo’s, where the famous Dungeness-crab-stuffed California roll was invented in the 1970s.

The best combine classic technique with innovative flavours and sustainable local ingredients. Among them are: the elegant Yuwa, Masayoshi‘s epic omakase, glamorous Blue Water Café, and the sister restaurants Miku and Minami, famous for the flame-seared “aburi” style of sushi. Or visit one of the casual izakayas, like Guu or Hapa, where you might find off-beat selections such as edamame-and-hummus rolls.

Dim Sum in Richmond

The carts may be gone in most restaurants, but the dim sum game is stronger than ever in this predominantly Chinese gateway city. This mid-day meal of small bites typically includes an array of steamed and fried dumplings, including savoury pork shu mai, crispy shrimp spring rolls, and soup-filled xiao long bao. But when you have more than 400 Asian restaurants to choose from, where do you start? The Dumpling Trail is a good introduction to what’s on the menu here.

Graze-ables in Fort Langley

If you have kids, you’ve probably visited Fort Langley National Historic Site, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading fort that dates back to 1827. Beyond the site, the Village of Fort Langley is an utterly charming destination unto itself, its streets lined with unique boutiques and restaurants. Spend the day browsing through the antiques mall, then fortify yourself with the fried bannock taco at lelem’ (a local Indigenous-owned cafe) or the bountiful hummus bowl and a glass of Rosé at Sabà Café and Bistro.

Field House Brewing in Abbotsford | Field House Brewing

Pizza and Beer in Abbotsford

Thirsty? Then follow the BC Ale Trail to the Fraser Valley, once the world’s biggest producer of hops, now an epicentre of quality craft brewing. Abbotsford alone is home to four breweries: Loudmouth Brewing Co., Ravens Brewing Co., Old Abbey Ales, and Field House Brewing.

Historic Downtown Abbotsford, which has been thoughtfully updated, also has some terrific eats to go with all that ale. Indeed, there might be no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting on the lawn at Field House, enjoying a pint of hazy IPA and a slice of ’za.

Smits and Co.w | Tourism Chilliwack

Cheese, Please, in the Fraser Valley

Venture off the highway and spend an idyllic day following the country roads to the Fraser Valley’s exceptional cheesemakers.

Bring a cooler and load up on the luxurious triple-cream brie-style Lady Jane at Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, the fresh Chèvre at Milner Valley Cheese in Langley, the gorgeous aged cheddar at Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, or the savoury flavoured goudas at Smits & Co.w Farm Cheese in Chilliwack. In a rush? Hit a country market (like Lepp Farm Market in Abbotsford) to find them all in one place.

Fresh Fruit in Keremeos

The hot, dry, and bountiful farm country of the Similkameen Valley is the organic capital of Canada, with acres and acres of vines and countless orchards and vegetable farms. Much of that ripe produce ends up at the family-run fruit stands that line the highway between Keremeos and Cawston. Depending on the season, you can pick up cherries, cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes, or squashes to enjoy now or preserve for later. Bring a cooler (or two) and plan to dust off your canning pot.

Indigenous Fare in the Okanagan

From the sun-drenched desert in the south to the forested lakes of the north, the Okanagan Valley has long been home to Indigenous peoples who thrived on the wild ingredients that grow in such profusion here. Now talented chefs are reviving their centuries-old culinary customs, among them: Murray MacDonald at The Bear, the Fish, the Root and the Berry in Osoyoos and Chris Whittaker at Quaaout Lodge in Little Shuswap. By bringing new techniques to old traditions, they are cooking up some of the most exciting dishes in the valley.

Kismet Winery in Oliver | @lisa_ritchat

Samosas in the South Okanagan

South Asian food, with its punchy heat and intense spices, is notoriously challenging to pair with wine—but not when the people producing the wine are also the people cooking the food. That’s what makes a handful of South Asian winery bistros around Oliver so appealing. Masala Bistro and Black Sage Bistro (at, respectively, Kismet and Desert Hills estate wineries) are redefining wine country cuisine with the flavours of cumin, chili, cardamom, and turmeric, which they match boldly with big, fruit-driven reds and lush, aromatic whites.

El Sabor de Marina in Oliver | @nomnomyvr, Instagram

Tacos in Oliver

Historically, dozens of Mexican farm workers arrive in the Okanagan in spring to work in the vineyards, and their influence can be found in the vast selection of fresh and dried chilies at the fruit stands around Oliver. More conveniently, there’s also a growing number of eateries serving authentic Mexican tacos and other fare. Drop by Casa Luna, TacoRiendo, and the bright blue shack with the long lineup on the highway, El Sabor de Marina, and don’t even try to resist the tacos al pastor.

Frosty Treats in the Okanagan

As a long-time sunshine destination, the Okanagan knows just what you’re craving on a hot summer day: ice cream, and plenty of it. Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls is the classic, with 72 flavours of ice cream, as well as chocolate-covered berries and a whimsical selection of crafts. Roberto’s Gelato in Osoyoos dishes out grownup flavours like blackberry-Merlot, rose petal, and Aztec chocolate. Parlour Ice Cream in Kelowna promises variety, with offerings like bergamot lavender and birthday cake. And at the elegant QB Gelato, also in Kelowna, the flavours range from sweet basil to the “perfect friend,” peanut butter and chocolate with dark chocolate peanut clusters. Two scoops, please.

Plant-Based in Kelowna

Perhaps it’s being surrounded by so much great produce that has made Kelowna such an exceptional destination for plant-based dining. Every restaurant here offers vegetable-forward fare so good you’ll never miss the meat, but two stand out above the rest. At Frankie We Salute You, Brian and Christina Skinner bring fine-dining skills to casual dishes like bowls, burgers, and vegan sushi. And Renegade Kitchen & Craft Bar’s chef Shaun Sanders dishes up vegan comfort fare including handhelds, fries, and “salads that don’t suck.”

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek | Joann Pai

Winery Dining in the Okanagan

There are some 185 licensed wineries in the Okanagan, so wine-tasting should definitely be on your agenda. And no visit is complete without at least one gloriously indulgent feast overlooking the vines at one of the valley’s numerous winery restaurants.

From Block One at 50th Parallel Estate Winery in Lake Country to the brand-new Kelowna offerings at Modest Butcher at Mt. Boucherie and Home Block Restaurant at CedarCreek Winery, the luxe Restaurant at Poplar Grove in Penticton, and stylish Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek on the Golden Mile Bench, every region has someplace special where you can pull up a seat and savour the very best of wine country.

Header image: CedarCreek Estate Winery | Andrew Strain

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