March 20, 2018
Sometimes in life, we just need a new perspective. That’s exactly what you’ll get exploring BC’s scenery and wildlife from the water—not to mention some…
By Shirley Culpin February 19, 2016 #php comments_number('0 Comment', '1 Comment', '% Comments'); ?> #php echo wpb_get_post_views(get_the_ID()); ?>
For well over a century, the central Vancouver Island communities of Qualicum Beach and Parksville have been prime vacation destinations. The mild climate, beautiful beaches and small town ambiance provide a welcome respite from the hurly burly of everyday life. The area also has a wealth of outstanding dining options. Here are six spots favoured by the locals, ranging from fine dining to extreme casual.
There is no standing on ceremony in this cozy little café, tucked in on a side street near the local liquor store. At French Press, there is always a warm welcome and plenty of good, healthy food on offer. Salads, made-from-scratch soups, hand-crafted sandwiches and a wealth of house-made sweet goods combine to create the most tempting aromas as you walk through the door. A favourite spot for great coffee, healthy and sumptuous lunches, conversation or just a quiet break from the real world. Soups change daily, as do the sweet treats.
The breakfast sandwich (vegetarian version also available) will set you up for the day. And the muffins… well, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Vancouver’s loss is Qualicum Beach’s gain. When Tony and Nancy Szeles pulled up roots and quit their successful bistro in Vancouver’s tony Kitsilano neighbourhood, they were aiming to create a new eatery featuring small town charm with an urban vibe.
The end result is Bistro 694, an intimate casual fine dining restaurant that offers good service and an outstanding and varied menu. There are daily specials to complement the standard offerings that feature global flavours and local ingredients. Service is friendly and efficient, and the staff always seems happy to try to accommodate specific dietary issues for customers. There is a very pretty little patio area for fine weather dining. The Kashmiri butter chicken is one of our favourite menu items, along with the to-die-for seafood crepes. If the chocolate bread pudding is on the menu, it’s worth the extra calories.
Located in the historic Crown Mansion, Butlers at the Mansion surrounds diners with the charm and elegance of yesteryear. The two main downstairs rooms of the stately home built by General Noel Money in 1914 have been converted to spacious dining areas featuring an Italian-inspired menu. Pretty garden views during the day and intimate, fireplace-warmed spaces in the evening are complemented by comfortable upholstered chairs, fine linens and excellent service. Butlers offers a three-course dinner special on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings – a great way to sample some of the best fine dining in the area. We love the Linguine al Pesce and the Amaretto Crème Brule.
Taste Café and Bistro is another one of those tucked-away treasures that takes a little finding, but is worth the trouble. Soft jazz music permeates the café, which has doubled in size since opening a couple of years ago. Taste serves up lunch, coffee and desserts – all with innovative twists and delightful flavour combinations. Different house-made soups are on the menu daily. Friday and Saturday nights are tapas nights at Taste, offering a relaxed and casual evening out. The pretty space is bright and airy, and service is attentive. If you’re looking for something a little different, consider the Cheddar Waffle BLT, and for an almost-guilt-free dessert, try the Mixed Berry Skinny Trifle.
We have been huge fans of the Bread and Honey Food Company since its inception more than six years ago. Farm-to-table has always been the mantra at this little gem, hidden away in a small strip mall. Although the owners, ambiance and menu have changed, there is still delicious food to be had here. The place attracts a somewhat younger clientele now, and always seems to be busy. We arrived at 11:30 one morning, thinking we would be plenty early for lunch. The place was packed and lunch took a while to arrive, so best advice is to go here on days when you have lots of time. It’s worth the wait though! Innovative breakfast and lunch offerings run the gamut, and brunch is served on the weekends. We love the Fried Chicken Sandwich and the Seafood Chowder.
A few minutes north of Qualicum Beach is one of the most surprising and successful dining options anywhere on Vancouver Island. The miniscule Tidal Taco Shack, located in a parking lot on the water side of the Old Island Highway (Highway 19A) has attracted a huge following of locals and visitors, who have the choice of enjoying the taco shack’s huge tacos and burritos either at a picnic table (on fine days) or in their vehicles (on lousy weather days). And don’t kid yourself – even when it’s pouring rain, customers show up to order. There are days when the Tidal Taco Shack runs out of fish and someone has to run up to Courtenay to stock up – the place is that popular. Tidal Taco Shack gets extremely busy during traditional meal times – you can expect a 45-60 minute wait on fine days. In any event, really great value for the money and about as casual a dining experience as you can hope for – with a waterfront view. Our favourites here include the beef and fish burritos.
While we are well aware that there are many more great spots for a meal in Parksville/Qualicum Beach, time and space limitations dictate that we list just a few of our favourites. If you would like to add to the list, please do so in the Comments section below.
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