Not only is the Okanagan Valley one of the world’s most forcefully emerging wine regions. It is also known to be the fruit basket of Canada; the region is indeed at the roots of British Columbia’s farm-to-table movement. And with this prerequisites, it should be no surprise to find the area is attracting many acclaimed chefs from all over the world, slowly turning it into a new culinary hot spot.
Restaurants in the area offer all styles of dining options, from casual to fine dining, and most are located in and around the Valley’s main towns Kelowna, Summerland, Penticton, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos. But those are not the only choices if you want to spoil yourself with fresh local organic food.
Touring the Canadian wine country last summer, I made a point to eat mainly at local wineries as in recent years many of them have added excellent dining options. And they not only serve excellent food but also offer matching combinations with their own wines.
With the majority of Okanagan wineries open to visitors only from mid-April to mid/end-October, most of their restaurants will also close during the rest of the year. Thus take advantage of the summer period which also give you the opportunity of al-fresco dining. Some of the most stunning views over the glistering blue lakes in the Okanagan included.
When eating at the various Okanagan wineries, expect a high focus on locally sourced produce, which often comes directly from the Okanagan or the nearby British Columbia coastline. However, food is usually served with a twist. Expect to find dishes inspired by Mediterranean, Mexican or Asian styles.
The Bistro at Hillside Winery
Voted ‘Best Restaurant Associated with a Winery in the South Okanagan’ and ‘Top 100 Outdoor Restaurant in Canada’ in 2017 (although there is a nice inside seating area as well), The Bistro at Hillside focuses on local produce and has a firm commitment to support ethical and sustainable harvest practices concerning all products on the menu.
The menu itself is not extensive but offers a good choice and food perfectly compliments with Hillside wines.
The upper open-air patio has breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan. Which means it also fills up quickly, as do the remaining of the restaurant’s total 65 places. Thus it’s recommendable to make a reservation.
Climb the observation tower before you eat to work up an appetite, or afterwards to work off the calories. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the rolling vineyards right down to the glistering blue of Lake Okanagan.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, April to mid-December
The Patio Restaurant at Lake Breeze
A beautiful spot surrounded by an enjoyable little garden, offering stunning views over rolling vineyards and Lake Okanagan. Once you have settled in the shade provided by surrounding trees and parasols, you will not want to get up again anytime soon.
The menu is decidedly on the Mediterranean side, in line with the property’s Tuscan-style appearance. However, food is sourced locally, often from small independent farmers and the restaurant also takes part in the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Programme, committing itself to ocean-friendly buying decisions.
Go for the pasta. They couldn’t do the garganelli with braised rabbit much better in Italy. Otherwise, everything else would be a good choice.
There is no inside seating available anywhere on the property, so the restaurant is only open weather permitting. Thankfully, from late Spring to early Autumn this is mostly the case. There are also no reservations possible (unless you are a group of seven or more), it’s first comes, first serves. As the restaurant is quite popular, try to come early to secure your table.
Open daily for lunch, May to mid-October
Liquidity Bistro at Liquidity Vineyards
Sit on the patio if you can. From there, you will have the most beautiful views of Vaseux Lake and the surrounding mountain range. Otherwise, the beautifully styled light and airy inside restaurant will surely make up a lot for not getting that table outside, and still allows for similar views.
The restaurant is a relatively new addition to the Okanagan culinary landscape. Thus it has not yet ramped up any awards. But that’s sure to come. The kitchen is too good not to get noticed quickly.
Food is distinctly farm-to-table, showcasing classic British Columbia wine country cuisine presented in a fresh and simple way. The Wagyu carpaccio starter is an absolute winner.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, April to mid-September; during winter months only Friday to Sunday
Vanilla Pod at Poplar Grove Winery
Vanilla Pod is another award winning winery restaurant in the area, including the Okanagan Life Magazine’s ‘Best of the Best in the Okanagan’ and the 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
The views from the enormous patio are as amazing as is the food that is presented in a Mediterranean style, owing to the chef’s Portuguese roots. Which is perfectly reflected in the feature pasta (changing frequently according to seasonal produce) and paella dishes. Otherwise, go for the fresh British Columbia salmon. Or anything else really.
Vanilla Pod is one of the few winery restaurants in the Okanagan open year round for lunch and dinner
Grapevine Restaurant at Gray Monk Winery
Another beautiful view from the patio over Lake Okanagan and the surrounding mountain ranges, only this time you are sitting at the other side of Kelowna.
Food at Grapevine Restaurant is carefully chosen to complement with Gray Monk wines, British Columbia’s oldest estate winery. The locally sources seasonal produce is perfectly blended into creative fresh dishes. Think Tuscan-style salads, delicious Canadian salmon and a slow-braised beef.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, mid-April to mid-October
Bench 1775 Bistro
Bench bistro likes to keep its menu simple and casual. Think flatbreads (go for the Wagyu, it’s to die for), roasted dishes made in a wood fired oven and seasonal salads. They also had a sashimi salad with line-caught salmon the day we visited that you should not forgo if its on the menu.
No surprise, all produce is locally sources and perfectly pairs with Bench wines.
Alternatively, there is a picnic area on the patio, allowing you to bring your own food. But why would you do that?
Needless to say, the views from the patio over vineyards and Lake Okanagan are breathtaking.
Open daily for lunch, April to November
Have you been at any of these Okanagan winery restaurants or others in the area? What was your experience?