“Primal-ish in Whistler” is slightly tongue-in-cheek since it’s not the whirlwind foodie tour that these posts usually are. But you may find the reasoning behind my choices interesting, plus I did check out a few spots like Citta, Lucia Gelato, and Splitz Grill. Read on to find out why I’m underwhelmed by Whistler food scene.
A friend and I were planning on hiking to Cheakamus Lake and then strolling around Whistler afterwards. I figured it’d be pretty easy to find a couple of spots worth checking out for a drink or a bite to eat. Let me cut to the chase. Is it just me or is the food scene in Whistler kind of an expensive “meh”? The only thing worse than mediocre food is expensive mediocre food, which seems to describe the Whistler food options.
At this point, you might be asking, but what about Araxi and Bearfoot Bistro, the Gold and Silver winners of Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Awards? Well, I don’t really doubt that they’re the top restaurants there, but what does that say about the competition? I also don’t doubt that some of the food coming out of those kitchens is tasty. But is it phenomenal enough to justify those type of prices? If you look at Urbanspoon reviews, something is amiss. How can the top rated Bearfoot Bistro get 67%? The reviews were enough to scare me off. Araxi fared a little better at 78%. But I’m typically hesitant when restaurants get rated below 80% on Urbanspoon, especially if they’re in the fine dining category.
I guess my question is, how’s it possible for there to not be a single restaurant there for me to get excited about trying? The one that came closest was Alta Bistro (rated 91%, in case you’re wondering), with a 3 course prix fixe menu for $29. There were two issues though. First, if you’re going to make a prix fixe menu then actually keep the price fixed. Don’t lure me in with a $29 price tag only to then up sell me on a bunch of the options. I noticed the same thing at Bearfoot – you start at $49, with a bunch of the options as “supplements”. I’m definitely not a fan of this marketing strategy – seems misleading. Second, although the menu at Alta Bistro looked pretty great, two of the courses came with grains (bread pudding and pumpernickel). At that price point ($38), I want to be able to eat everything on my plate, so it wasn’t a good fit for me. I will check out their menu next time I’m in town though, as it change somewhat frequently. The other front runner was Pasta Lupino (91%), but that was pretty much all pasta.
Between the poor reviews, high prices, and boring menus, I decided to skip the hype. Lunch was pre-packed and devoured on the hike (mmmm Five Spice Chicken), so my friend and I just grabbed some drinks followed by some burgers, after we checked out the farmers’ market.
Whistler has a lovely farmers’ market. Lots of vendors, nice layout – makes for an enjoyable stroll. Probably helped that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. One
vendor in particular got my attention – Lucia Gelato (go figure).
I had heard that they make natural, artisanal and local gelato. How could I resist trying their cheddar cheese flavor? It tasted more like cheesecake (a good thing). I opted for the choco cherry, which was very good and not overly sweet. It kind of reminded me of ice cream though, more so than gelato (as compared to my favourite gelato at Bella Gelateria). Later in the day, I thought I’d grab some more for the drive home, so I stopped by The Grocery Store which sells it in 500 ml containers. But check out these ingredients for their “Two Tony’s Espresso” gelato:
Carboxymethylcellulose (AKA E466)? Maltodextrin? Flavours? How does that qualify as “natural”??
Haagen-Dazs does a better job of natural, which is what I opted for instead:
Ingredients: Cream, strawberries, concentrated skim milk, sugar, liquid egg yolk.
By the way, how cute are those mini containers? I looks like there’s so little ice cream in there, but there’s actually more than in the Haagen Dazs bar (118 ml vs. 88ml). Also, the ingredients are even better ingredients, and the little container is cheaper ($2.98 vs. $3.99). There’s even a mini spoon in there. It was my first time buying this Haagen-Dazs product, but it won’t be my last.
Citta’s patio appealed to us – a chill yet happening vibe. Not only did they sell Big Rock Brewery’s Rock Creek Cider, it was on special for $4.91/bottle – sign me up. I was very glad we didn’t order food there though (74%). The table next to us got the nachos. They looked like some tortilla chips sprinkled with a bit of cheese and some jalapeños strewn on top, then all popped into the microwave. Price tag: $19. Seriously? And get this, you have to pay extra on top of that to add guacamole ($3) and meat ($4). Wow. Service was friendly but pretty slow. Decent spot for drinks, but go there only for the patio – best to eat elsewhere.
For food, we opted for the #1 ranked spot in Whistler, Splitz Grill: “best burgers in Whistler” according to a few reviews. Hrm. If those were the best burgers in Whistler, I don’t want to know what the others are like. They were pretty average. It was great that buffalo was on the menu, which is what I had. Tasted okay, pretty small patty. I liked how they arranged everything on the plate with the lettuce and all. And the fermented carrots were unique and tasty. My friend had the double patty with fries – also average. Prices were reasonable. Service was… Average. They had yam fries on the menu but they seemed uncertain whether they contained gluten and then decided that they probably did. The regular fries that my friend had were also average. The place itself was kind of dark and unwelcoming. And I worry about the cleanliness – floors were really dirty, and it seemed unkempt. So overall I don’t really have a problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone either.
I wouldn’t go to Whistler solely for the food. Obviously in the winter skiing/snowboarding is the main draw. And in the summer, it’s still nice to walk around the Village and grab a drink at one of the patios. Of course, there’s also the mountain biking, and tons of hiking trails in the area. And the sea to sky highway is an attraction in its own right. There’s so much eye candy along the way, the drive seems much shorter than 2 hours.
So what do you do if you’re an out-of-town tourist, other than checking out some of the restaurant menus to see if something appeals to you? There is one interesting option that I’d consider. If it’s summertime, and you’re going to pay for a Peak 2 Peak gondola ride anyway, I’d tack on the additional $15 per person for the Mountain Top BBQ Series ($61 total). Seems like a pretty decent option, especially if you’re already paying for the gondola.
What’s your take? Did I miss out on any Whistler restaurants? Where do you eat in Whistler?