Features & Images » Best of Whistler

Best of Whistler 2012: Food and Drink


Best new restaurant

This past year was a tough year for some in the food service business. It has been the kind of year that saw some places close the doors for good and only a few new places launch. Despite impressive annual visitor numbers, our visitors just haven't been spending their money the way visitors did before the world economy went sideways a few years ago and the Canadian dollar started gaining strength compared to other power currencies around the world.

Despite the tough business climate,  El Furniture Warehouse  turned on the open sign this summer and took the most votes in the Best New Restaurant category. The runner up was the Mexican Corner and the Royal Taste of India polled third. Anyone brave enough to launch a new restaurant in the very competitive Whistler market and this economic climate deserves recognition so a tip of the hat to the two runner-up restaurants and the others who made 2012 their first year of operations.

Dom Boucher and Anthony Leffelaar, two of the people behind El Furniture Warehouse, said the goal from the start was to attract the hard working people employed at resort hot spots.

"Whistler does an outstanding job providing first-class accommodations and dining options, we just want to serve the people making those places tick," said Leffelaar.

Best latte

This is the third year in a row the  Lift Coffee Company  has been voted the best place for a latte. A caffè latte is a coffee drink made with espresso, milk and the most important ingredient of all, love. This appears to be the secret at Lift Coffee Co. Forget about the little white leaf or the heart the baristas weave into drinks. That is not the secret. At the bottom of every Lift Coffee Co. latte the love is found.

Find the love at Mountain Square between 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. or visit one of the other locations at Nesters or Function Junction.

Second this year was Moguls and third spot goes to Alpine Café.

Best hot chocolate

This is a new category and we're happy to announce  Blenz  is the inaugural winner.

There's a little magic that happens each time Belcolade Belgian Chocolate Chips and steamed milk are blended together at the coffee shop by the children's play area at Whistler Marketplace. This vote wasn't even close. Blenz ran away with this award. No other hot chocolate maker came near to the number of votes Blenz received. Sampling one of these is a must-do in dark, milk or white chocolate.

Second in this new category was Moguls and the Lift took third spot.

Best breakfast

Whistler has a clear preference for the first meal of the day and we love to go where we feel at home. So it is no surprise that we enjoy the restaurants that bill themselves as "owned by locals for locals." This year it was a clean sweep for the Wild Wood restaurant group with  Elements  taking first place for the first time and the Wild Wood eateries getting both second and third spot for their Function and Village locations. "We couldn't do it without the locals," said an excited Chris Skene, one of the owners in the eatery group. "It is fantastic. That makes it 10 years in a row we've won this category. We are pretty proud of that." The best part about the Wild Wood group's breakfasts is the generous servings at what most consider a small serving price. And what's not to love about Element's caramelized banana and chocolate stuffed French toast, with its thick sliced French bread stuffed with caramel banana and chocolate chip butter — with or without real Canadian maple syrup, or Wild Wood's Banana Bread French toast for breakfast! Congratulations on a clean sweep!

Best quick lunch

Ingrid's Village Café missed this category last year by just eight votes and according to owner Nancy MacConnachie, a lunch promotion this year was key to putting Ingrid's into the top spot in 2012.

Ingrid's customers were asked what they wanted to see as the daily sandwich special. From the submissions, a free lunch was given to those whose suggestions were used.

"We got lots of ideas for new daily specials," said MacConnachie of the win-win promotion at Ingrid's.

She and her staff know what they like to eat, but it may not be the same as everyone else, so the decision was made to reach out to the customers for new ideas.

MacConnachie noted that: "We're a quick lunch but we're definitely not fast food. Everything is homemade from scratch."

In second spot this year was Gone Bakery in the village and third goes to Samurai sushi, which has locations at both Nesters and Creekside.

Best appetizers/tapas

 21 Steps  is the new tapas leader, bumping Elements out of the top spot and into the second position.

According to Chef Owen Jones, the garlic chili prawns are amazing and he also recommends the fried goat cheese. The tapas menu also includes tiny bacon wrapped fillets and mixed marinated olives.

This village eatery is located 21 steps above the village in the St. Andrew's House building above the bustle in the heart of the village.

Alta Bistro took third in the category this year.

Best dessert

From this point forward you are going to see the name  Rimrock Café  a lot in this Best of Whistler section. The restaurant on Highway 99 at Creekside picked up a total of five wins this year and Best Dessert was one thanks to its sticky toffee pudding and Crème Brulee. Bob Dawson, one of the restaurant owners, said sticky toffee pudding is very popular at the Rimrock.

"We've had it on now at least 10 years. It was a dessert I found one time on a golf trip to Scotland and then when I was in Australia they seemed to have it at every restaurant," said Dawson. "It is an old British dessert that I thought would work great in a ski resort because it is a warm date pudding with warm caramel sauce."

Second this year goes to Araxi, with 21 Steps picking up third.

Best Martini/Cocktail

This is year four that the  Mix by Ric's  has polled the most votes for Best Martini/Cocktail. Tia Stonier, the mixologist at Ric's, runs a creative bar using unique ingredients. The formula works even when Tia is travelling. She's currently enjoying the weather in Australia. Her co-workers were happy to hear Ric's continues its domination. Second this year is Araxi and 21 Steps took third.

Best Wine List

Establishments like  Araxi Restaurant and Bar  have been around for as long as they have because they are consistently good at what they do best. Offering a diverse wine list to go with the amazing food produced by the kitchen is one of the keys to the success of Araxi.

Said sommelier Samantha Rohn: "We are so thrilled to win Best Wine List. We are committed to building a unique collection for our guests to enjoy ­­— always focusing on offering the best value and quality. It is such a pleasure sharing all our favourite picks with our valued customers!"

Rimrock took second in this category with third going to the Bearfoot Bistro – last year's winner.

Best Beer Selection

Harrison Stoker, the operations manager at the  Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub , has the best mustache in Whistler so it is only fitting that his establishment should take a Best of Whistler category.

Once again, the Dubh Linn Gate was recognized for having the best beer selection in the resort.

"It's been great to see Whistlerites and resort visitors alike responding so excitedly to our commitment to craft and import beers," said "Mr. Mustache." "We're especially passionate about showcasing the incredible talents of Pacific Northwest craft brewers and will certainly continue to do so."

On the topic of craft beers, the Brewhouse and Whistler Brewing Company both got a respectable number of votes in this category.

Best Burger

Of all the food categories this one always produces the most consistent result and the widest margin of victory.  Splitz Grill , Whistler's burger place, ran away with this one, again. This is the 10th straight year Splitz has reigned supreme in the Whistler burger wars.

The telling difference between this burger place and all others is the warning customers get in advance that burgers might take some time to get to you. All the burgers are made to order so unlike most other burger places that are constantly trying to cut the wait times, at Splitz they won't make you wait forever, but it isn't fast food. The quality makes it worth waiting for. Second place this year goes to Dusty's with Best New Business winner El Furniture Warehouse coming in third.

Best Pizza

Much like the burger category, this one has a dominator —  Creekbread  is back on top for best pizza. Creekbread is not just committed to making great organic pizza using as many local ingredients as possible it also helps local community groups fundraise by having a benefit night on Tuesdays. On that night the restaurant donates a portion of profits made selling pizzas to the non-profit organizations.

Being community minded alone isn't enough to poll the kind of numbers Creekbread draws in the Best Of Whistler survey though. The food tastes great because they use fresh ingredients, organic flour, kosher salt, real cake yeast and the pizza is baked in a handmade, wood-fired oven made of clay bricks.

This company dates back to 1998 when George Schenk and Jay Gould met in the hills of Vermont at a small converted barn where Schenk was baking all natural pizzas he sold in supermarkets and natural food stores. They have since expanded, with every restaurant offering an atmosphere that welcomes families while also giving back to the community.

Second place this year goes to Avalanche Pizza with Fat Tony's taking third.

Best Nachos

This category is the battle of the Whistler Blackcomb valley food titans. GLC placed second ahead of Dusty's and  Merlin's   topped the poll again this year.

Merlin's markets itself as the home of Whistler's best nachos. We're happy to announce they don't need to change their marketing strategy for 2013.

The home of the best nachos is found in the Upper Village.

Best Steak

It's another win for  Hy's Steakhouse  in this category – that's nine years in a row now.

Richard Baker, the general manager, was pleased when he got the news that Hy's is Whistler's favourite place for steak.

"We're overjoyed to be in this position again and work very hard to keep up our commitment to excellence and our dedication to local community," said Baker.

The luxurious setting can be found on Main Street and steaks are served seven days a week.

Second in this category was The Keg with Sidecut at the Four Seasons Whistler taking third.

Best Sushi

 Sushi Village  in the Sundial Hotel wins this very competitive category again against tough competition from Sachi Sushi, Nagomi Sushi and Samurai Sushi.

Sushi Village is the granddaddy of super sushi in Whistler and has been in operation since 1985. Over the years it has become a social icon, a place where you are guaranteed to find great food, great service and friendly faces you know. It imports fish from around the globe — famous B.C. salmon and local tuna from Canada's West Coast, octopus from Japan and sometimes South Africa or India, hirame from the East Coast of Canada, and fresh snapper and prawns from Vancouver. It is brought up to Whistler twice a week to ensure inventories are fresh, and more often when demand dictates (or something extra special has been caught). The sushi chefs even make regular visits to Vancouver to inspect the imported fish.

Second spot this year goes to Sachi Sushi with Nagomi Sushi taking third.

Best Place to get Vegetarian Food

Nancy MacConnachie and her staff at  Ingrid's Village Café  pay close attention to the needs of those with special dietary needs.

"We've got three different veggie burgers and then we always have a vegetarian soup available and we always have vegetarian pastries," said MacConnachie after learning the result of the vote from vegetarian diners.

She said customers often ask about vegan and gluten-free food items.

"We've got a whole range of gluten-free modified recipes," MacConnachie said.

Gone Bakery and the Royal Taste of India both polled well. This is the first year readers were asked to vote on vegetarian offerings.

Best Takeout

With three locations now,  Samurai Sushi  is no stranger to the Best Of Whistler program. Every year this sushi restaurant chain wins at least one category. Sushi is available to eat in or take out at Nesters, Creekside and at Garibaldi Village in Squamish.

In addition to offering great takeout the folks at Samurai Sushi are doing all they can to go as easy as possible on the environment. Samurai Sushi containers are made from sugarcane, each outlet composts and there's a recycling program at each restaurant.

This year second spot goes to Pasta Lupino with The Royal Taste of India coming in third.

Best Place to get food after the Bars and Pubs Close

At 2 a.m. there isn't quite as much food choice in Whistler as there is at 7 p.m. When the party is over and the munchies set in the party set has two clear favourites.  Fat Tony's  is the first choice and Zogs is the second.

With two locations, Fat Tony's has two high-traffic areas of Whistler covered. Pizza at 2 a.m. is always waiting at either spot.

The two locations are also open at times for those who prefer to eat their pizza when the sun is up.

You can't miss Zogs right at the bottom of Whistler Mountain, nor can you escape the aroma of its mouthwatering poutine or maple Beaver Tails. Mmmmm.

Quintessential Whistler Dish

French fries, gravy and curd cheese. These are the base ingredients of Whistler's quintessential dish. Yes,  poutine  has once again run away with this vote.

Truly adventurous eaters experiment with additional ingredients like beef, pulled pork, lamb, lobster, shrimp, caviar and truffles. Don't look for a low-fat, calorie reduced or otherwise healthy version of this Quebec classic. Poutine is one of those dishes that unapologetically can only be offered up as a dish that shouldn't be consumed on a regular basis due to its lack of nutritional value. And this is why we love you so much, poutine.

Best Restaurant for Value

 El Furniture Warehouse  picks up its second top finish. With almost all of its dishes ringing in at just $5 this new venture across the street from the Whistler Library is easy on the wallet and purse while pleasing the palette.

The voters were decisively on the side of El Furniture Warehouse with the restaurant taking well beyond a clear majority of the votes.

"Our plan is to keep improving," said Anthony Leffelaar. "We want to provide the best service in Whistler at the best price. If we can do that long term then we will have achieved our goal."

The outlet is now open for breakfast at 7 a.m. seven days a week in addition to serving lunch and dinner.

Pasta Lupino takes second spot in this category with 21 Steps coming in third.

Best When Someone Else Pays

The  Rimrock Café  takes this category again this year. When the last thing on your mind is the final tally on the bill the first choice is the Rimrock at Creekside.

Araxi rang in as the second choice again this year and as was the case in 2011 the Bearfoot Bistro polled third.

Best Atmosphere

Rolf Gunther, Bob Dawson and the entire staff make the  Rimrock Café  an inviting and welcoming space so it's little wonder this eatery wins the category. The abundant use of wood finishing inside the restaurant give it a distinct west coast feel. Our friends at the Rimrock call it "elegantly rustic." The atmosphere is as enjoyable as the food served.

According to co-owner Bob Dawson, the building is one of, if not the, oldest commercial building in Whistler.

"It was somebody's home. It has that feeling of (being) someone's house," said Dawson.

"I think our atmosphere is very calming and relaxed. It feels like a cabin in a ski resort."

Honourable mentions this year go to Sushi Village and Araxi for polling second and third respectively.

Best On-mountain Dining

This is another classic face-off featuring Whistler Blackcomb properties.

But it was  Christine's , which came out on top followed by the Crystal Hut with its Belgian waffles and Glacier Creek Lodge. All three are on Blackcomb Mountain

Sebastien Vickers, the chef at Christine's, was happy to learn of the acknowledgement for his eatery.  

 "We are all extremely honoured by the vote," he said. "We put a lot of love and effort into our food to make it fresh and from scratch. This is very encouraging and we are going to keep striving to make our food better every season. I'm looking forward to seeing new faces in the restaurant this season."

Best Server

Being a server is just one of those gigs. Sometimes, people are nice, generous and easy to please. Other times, they treat you like a sounding board for all their life's misery. Occasionally, they do neither. It takes a solid sort of person to persevere in the face of customers in various moods, to hold high the chin and turn cold the shoulder, all the better to serve the smiley set in the next booth.

This year,  Nicole Weiss  from Sushi Village got the highest number of votes for best server. You can sample her superior service Friday through Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. at the sushi favourite above Mountain Square.

Honourable mention goes to Mike Birkett from The Keg at the Mountain for his second place showing in this very competitive category.

Best Chef

 Melissa Craig  of the Bearfoot Bistro takes the honour of best chef for 2012.

"I am thrilled to receive this award – it really means a lot to me," she said. "Nothing feels better than to know that the people of Whistler enjoy what I do. I love to feed people, and I want every meal at the Bearfoot Bistro to feel special."

Craig is the executive chef at the high-end restaurant found in the Listel Hotel. She serves up modern Canadian cuisine in a restaurant that features a vodka sampling ice room and a massive wine cellar complete with a bobsled, a reminder of Whistler's Olympic Games.

Second spot goes to RD Stewart, executive sous chef at Araxi, and third is Owen Jones at 21 Steps.

Best Service

This vote reflects 26 years of service in Whistler at the  Rimrock Café . Before the Rimrock opened, owner and chef Rolf Gunther operated the Creekhouse so the math will show nearly 35 years of serving Whistler and its visitors.

The Rimrock Best of Whistler accolades include Best Dessert, Best When Someone Else Pays, Best Atmosphere, Best Service and one more. The last one is the big one.

Best Overall Restaurant

Whistler's favourite restaurant is the  Rimrock Café . This brings to five the total number of honours in the Best of Whistler polling for the Rimrock.

Rolf Gunther and Bob Dawson opened their Whistler landmark 1987. Pique voters have made it clear that the Rimrock has put all the components of a great restaurant together under one roof.

With its two stone fireplaces and wood finishing, Dawson said the Rimrock is a casual place where people relax and enjoy the feeling of dining in a Whistler ski cabin.

Congratulations to everyone at the Rimrock!

Araxi polled second while Sushi Village rounded out the top three.