The territories may not be famous for their dining scenes (yet!), but there’s no question each region has found the sweet spot when combining Northern comfort with an upscale experience.
With diverse menus, sassy drinks or rustic charm, these restaurants showcase our history while also providing a succulent taste of things to come.
ELEGANTLY YUKON: Edgewater Hotel’s Belly of the Bison
At less than a year old, Whitehorse’s Belly of the Bison is already making waves. Inside the Edgewater Hotel, guests are welcomed into a spot that manager Katja Schmidt describes as mixing elegance with an “earthy and Yukony” vibe. Guests can choose a table with scenic views of the Yukon River or pull up a leather chair at the Belly of the Bison’s custom-made stone bar. Meanwhile, chef Jeremy Kujansuu takes simple comfort food and adds his own flair. Popular choices on the menu include a bison short rib, seared sea scallops and sea bass with eggplant caviar. Kujansuu sources many ingredients from local farms and butchers, while other fish and meat are flown in from farms in B.C. and Calgary, ensuring customers get only the best. The Belly of the Bison also serves up special drink selections. “We do different cocktails and have quite the nice wine program,” says Schmidt. “We bring in wines you can’t find at liquor store here.”
CLASS WITH SASS: Bombay Peggy’s
Step inside the quaint, restored Victorian house and take a seat on one of the wooden stool tops at Bombay Peggy’s. Look up toward the old piano and paintings on burgundy walls and get transported to another time—back when the old Dawson City bar and hotel was home to bootlegging and a brothel. And, given the names of some of the drinks on the menu (the Bloomer Remover, Blueballer, the Tempter), it’s clear the owners are happy to commemorate the city’s Klondike days—both the gritty and glamorous side of it all.
WINDOW TO THE WINTER WORLD: Explorer Hotel’s Trader’s Grill
The floor-to-ceiling windows at the Trader’s Grill give diners the impression they’re having a feast in their own winter wonderland. Cozying up near the giant copper fireplace, guests gaze out at the boreal forest, where layers of sparkling snow blanket the trees, and select game is harvested from these same landscapes.
“Dinner is focused on higher-end items and we use as many local products as possible,” says Jean Paquette, food and beverage manager. Many guests, he adds, will stop in for a drink at the Trapline Lounge, also located in the hotel, before settling in for dinner at Trader’s Grill. “It’s not just for special occasions, but people come here all the time. It’s a special place. There’s no other place like it in Yellowknife.”
LIKE GRANDMA’S HOUSE: Bucket List Tours
About 15 miles outside Yellowknife, a lit pathway off the side of the road leads to a small cabin nestled among the trees. It may seem a tad rustic from the outside— just a one-room building, an outhouse and a fire pit in front—but it’s where many visitors experience their coziest night in Yellowknife, under the Northern Lights.
Tracy Therrien of Bucket List Tours offers aurora viewings from her cabin, accompanied by a bowl of local fish chowder and bannock that she describes as “hot, fresh from the oven and flaky, with butter melting off of it.”
Dubbed the Cozy Cabin by her guests, Therrien says a visit is like “going to your grandma’s house for tea and soup.” That is made evident from the cabin’s décor—the natural wood walls are decorated with old maps, and shelves are crammed with tea pots and cups. Long wooden tables line the cabin in rows, so people can gather together and eat like a family.
Between the aurora, comforting food and a homely cabin, how can you say no?
GO LOCAL OR GLOBAL: The Discovery’s Granite Room
Combining local ingredients and French cuisine, the Discovery Hotel’s Granite Room restaurant offers fine dining in the centre of Iqaluit. With marble table tops and stone veneer walls, locals and tourists go to the Granite Room to celebrate special occasions, a date night or simply a delicious meal out. The restaurant often works with Nunavut hunters and fishers to source local game and seafood, giving guests a taste of Arctic Char, muskox, and turbot. The restaurant also goes further afield, with a menu that features escargot, braised lamb and the delectable Cornish hen with a Portobello crust and shallots in a red wine sauce.
CAMBRIDGE BAY HOME-COOKIN’: Kuugaq Cafe
If you’ve spent any time in Cambridge Bay, you quickly understand why Kuugaq Café is the go-to spot. Here, the cooks are always busy coming up with new takes on traditional Inuit and western standards. It’s home-cookin’ Cambridge Bay-style, with hearty muskox stews, Arctic char chowders and caribou burgers on the rotating menu. That’s along with other favourites, like klik mac and cheese; fried rice; honey garlic ribs and spring rolls, and more. There’s so much to try on the menu, including desserts and what the owners refer to as their own KFC —Kuugaq Fried Chicken.