2009 has been a tough year, financially and otherwise, for a lot of folks around the world and Whistler is no exception. Ski bums are among the many people who are watching their pennies closer than ever these days. So to wrap up for the New Year, I'm throwing out a few of my personal "best ofs" for those on a budget.
Quick lunch - Soup is one of those foods that, in theory, anyone should be able to make. Throw some ingredients in a pot and voila - right? Hm. Not so much. But the folks at Gone Village Eatery have the art of soup/stew/chili-making down to a sweet science, brewing up an assortment of warm and filling concoctions to warm the tummies of skiers, riders, workers and just about anyone who wanders through their doors. For just $7, hungry customers get a big ol' bowl of veggie or meat soup served with a hunk of their choice of bread (my personal fave is the jalapeno cheddar). Scratch the bread and the price goes down to just $6.50.
Place to take a date - For some reason, we have omitted this category in the "Best Of" voting for 2009. But I personally believe that in the world of dating, much like real estate, location is everything; it can definitely make or break an experience. Showing a gal (or guy) a good time in this town doesn't have to be expensive, either. For a casual après-ski date, snag one of the cozy spots by the fireplace in the BrewHouse's pub, where you can sample a flight of their beers for $14.50. Along with the seven six-ounce glasses of their finest beer, you'll also receive a description of each of the brews from the server, so it's a bit of a conversation starter, as well.
Dessert - I have a serious sweet tooth - an inherited genetic trait - which means that I take this often-overlooked course very seriously. So seriously that I will happily forgo dinner just to have a killer dessert and coffee. The folks at 21 Steps must understand the plight of dessert lovers. They offer a range of desserts priced between $4 and $7 - Crème Brule, Pot du Crème, Belgian Chocolate Brownie, Rubin's Cheesecake, and Caramelized Apple Crumble Sundae - all of which can (and should) be enjoyed in The Attic, the laidback, loungy nook that's tucked away on the top floor.
International eats - My one serious beef with Whistler's culinary scene is the lack of affordable ethnic food options. Sure, we have loads of Japanese offerings, plus a few Chinese, Korean and Indian options, but where are the Caribbean flavours, or the authentic Thai and takeaway that you find in Vancouver and other big cities for just a few bucks? Oh yeah, that's right! Business owners can't afford the overhead costs of running a restaurant here! If you're looking for a bit of international flavour that won't break the bank, a solid performer is Dups Burritos. They offer burritos (of course) and other Mexican meals that are packed with fresh ingredients and flavour, and you never have to worry about walking away still hungry (portion sizes are huge). Most of their options hover around $8.75 except for the "Phatty," a $16 monstrosity that few can say they have successfully conquered.
Place to take visitors - What our parents told us was true - sharing is good. It's even better if you happen to be sharing tapas; you know, those plates of little appetizers that give you a chance to sample a bit of everything without having to commit to just one main dish. It also helps if said tapas are accompanied by a few drinks (which is when things can get a bit pricey). But if you have a few friends visiting from out of town and want to take them somewhere effortlessly hip and laidback, head to Elements. Their food is consistent, the menu offers something for just about any taste bud, and prices are reasonable, ranging from $5 for mixed and marinated Mediterranean olives up to $15 for steamed mussels. You can also snag a great breakfast here for anywhere from $5 to $14.
Coffee - Ah, caffeine: the writer's fuel. Hell, Whistler runs on this stuff, but getting that daily cup (especially if it's a fancy latte or mocha) can be a pricey habit. I recently invested in an espresso maker to cut back on my $5-a-day addiction and am now churning out mugs of the good stuff at a somewhat unhealthy rate. But if I'm looking for a quality coffee in the village, I'm heading to the new Lift Coffee Company (in the former home of Behind the Grind). Drip coffee is just $1.85 for a small or $2.10 for a large and their large espresso-based bevvys (like their lattes and mochas) are all made with JJ Bean organic espresso, and are $4.20 and $4.75 respectively. Throw in some free WiFi and a mountainside view, and I'm happy and ready to go!