Like everyone else, we are vacationing at home this year. I have never been north of Campbell River and this seemed like a good time to make a run to finally see that end of the island. We reserved a spot on the 7:46 Tsawassen to Nanaimo ferry on Sunday morning. We might not have needed a reservation but it's worth the $17 in terms of peace of mind.
Aldergrove to Port Hardy - nax'id' Pub in the Kwa'lilas Hotel
Little did I realize that we would be subsisting on gas station coffee for the next 48 hours (poor us). We love BC Ferries and were happy to wear our masks even before they became mandatory on Monday. We started up the coast and got as far as Courtenay before food became the priority in our lives.
Courtenay doesn't seem like a food Mecca (I'm sure there are decent places) but we did find the Beachwood Cafe where they make homemade Ukrainian food among other things. Mharie has never had a good Ukrainian feast so this seemed like a good idea.
So we ordered one Ukrainian Platter which included a cabbage roll, three perogies, Ukrainian sausage, borscht, sauteed red cabbage, fries and of course, sour cream. This was a delight! Homemade perogies and frozen perogies from the store may contain similar ingredients but the similarity stops there. My late brother-in-law was a master perogie maker and these were comparable. I'd forgotten how tasty Ukrainian sausage can be when sliced up and nicely seared. And we got our vegetables (more difficult when travelling) as the borscht was rich and flavourful as was the cabbage.
The cabbage roll was a work of art. Nothing too fancy, just rice and beef rolled up in cabbage and topped with tomato sauce.
We also ordered a combo plate which was basically more of the delicious same.
A comfortable, family-style of place that we would recommend if you are in or passing through Courtenay, but don't be in a rush as the food was surprisingly slow in arriving at our table. The staff was very friendly but while they did seem to social distance us well, there was no mask-wearing by the staff or contact tracing information taken.
Food 4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort 3 out of 5 ( I think that pandemic handling measures count here)
Service 3 1/2 out of 5 ( slow food is not the fault of your server)
Value 4 1/2 out of 5
After lunch, we took a quick look around Courtenay and Comox, including a little walk on the beach at Goose Spit Park.
Then we carried on, gasing up at Campbell River and then tackling the 250 KM stretch to Port Hardy.
Port Hardy is a picturesque little town with a fishing fleet and forestry being its main concerns. Everyone we met was friendly and helpful.
We stayed at the Glen Lyon Motel which had a couple of things going for it namely mid-range price (I think $170 including taxes) and every room faces the inlet. On the downside, it seems to have been built with extra squeaky and thin grade lumber, meaning that we knew every step our neighbours above us took. Fortunately, there was no nookie taking place up there so we were merely annoyed but not traumatized. Take my advice and spend the $50 or so extra to stay at the Kwa'lilas Hotel, a beautiful relatively new First Nations lodge.
We ended up there for dinner and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. They were conscientious as to social distancing and took our contact information. They have a pretty typical pub menu (the main restaurant remains closed for the moment) but we tried to lean our order to whatever indigenous type dishes were available. Unfortunately, their Salmon plate with a selection of cold and hot smoked salmon was not available so we started with their Salmon Chowder which came with Bannock.
This was a spectacular soup that should not be missed. With a generous amount of salmon and potatoes, it was very rich and enjoyable.
Next up were Bannock Tacos with Spiced Beef. These were not bad but bannock while interesting and tasty enough is something that can fill you up quickly. The beef and salsa were tasty enough. We ended up packing these to go as we ordered a bit too much as usual.
We tried their Rice Bowl with Grilled Salmon which was also worth the price of admission. I may be mistaken but I took this to be sockeye (but didn't ask). I am not a big fish skin guy but this skin was crispy with nice grill marks and yet the fillet was moist and tender. They used basmati rice for the bowl which we both liked.
A little more regular pub foodish was the Calamari which we ordered just because we felt like it. Once again (like the last time we had squid) someone forgot to salt when it came out of the fryer. So we salted it ourselves! The accompanying tzatziki was refreshing.
This is a very nice pub with very friendly staff. You can watch the game or play a game of pool while enjoying your beverages and food!
Food 4 out of 5
Comfort 4 out of 5
Service 4 1/2 out of 5
Value. 3 1/2 out of 5
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