I'm just here for the Maple Syrup...
Canada's population of around 38 million people reflects a cultural, ethnic and linguistic mix that is unique in the world.
...and I would like to give you a good culinary overview of this mix, which is also noticeable on the plates of Canadians.
We travelled from Toronto to Edmonton. We continued by car to Calgary. Our final stop: Vancouver.
We travelled across the country, experienced three different time zones and realised how incredibly huge this beautiful country is. During our stay, we only had time for the "big cities". Nevertheless, we got a good food insight.
The lowest common denominator between all the regions is probably the world-famous maple syrup. Typically Canadian and a real cultural heritage... But is that all?
Classics of the local cuisine:
In general, most Canadians eat a largely "western" diet, similar to Americans and Europeans. Nevertheless, there are a few hearty delicacies that I haven't seen anywhere else.
The Quebec region (Montreal) in particular is home to interesting dishes like "poutine" & the largest producer of maple syrup. French juicy influences are also noticeable here. Further west, Edmonton (the capital of Alberta) is home to many people of Eastern European descent - pierogi and kielbasa sausages are staples here, for example, while British Columbia (Vancouver) has a more health-conscious diet with fresh ingredients from the coast.
Here is a small selection of delicacies:
Main dish: Canadian Pizza or "Indian Pizza" in Vancouver, BC Roll (Sushi with rice on the outside), Pacific Wild Salmon, Scalloped Potatoes, Poutine (fries with cheese and gravy) in Quebec and French Canadian Pea Soup, Sandwich, Bagels, Burgers & Hot Dogs or "Japa Dog" in Vancouver, ... Desert: Pancakes, Timbits (deep-fried, round dough balls), Sugar Pie, Syrup Taffy (syrup sticks), S'more (marshmallow between crackers and chocolate), Saskatoon berry pie, ...
Drinks: Coffee, beer, wine, ginger ale, Caesar cocktail (a mixture of vodka, tomato juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce), ...
Pancakes are an incredibly iconic Canadian food, served with an even more iconic product: maple syrup. Traditional Canadian pancakes are thick and doughy. Although they look more like a dessert, they are often eaten for breakfast and the thick syrup is definitely not to be missed on them.
The love for maple syrup is a stereotype about Canadians that is often played on in the media. It is a common joke that Canadians pour the sweetness of the syrup over EVERY food.
Even though Canadians are very proud of their "maple syrup", I could only notice it on standard breakfast dishes like pancakes and waffles. So all too unusual maple syrup rituals do not prevail here.
Aside from the fondness for the thick syrup and the maple leaf symbol that is even featured on franchises like McDonalds, one thing stands out strongly to me in Canada: Eating habits vary extremely from coast to coast. From east to west. While in Montreal we still ate hearty "poutine" (= fries with cheese and gravy), in Vancouver we were beguiled with fresh fish and seafood. With such different climatic and cultural conditions throughout the country, this culinary variety is hardly surprising.
Michaelas-Must-Try: Some dishes are very special and don't quite meet my taste. But I share the love of pancakes. My non-Canadian variation is made without sugar and flour. Here are my delicious and fluffy protein pancakes made with banana, eggs, oatmeal and low-fat quark.
Different climatic and cultural conditions lead back to the wild mix of culinary preferences.
Michaelas Video-Message: In my TikTok video you can see a little summary of the local cuisine.
F&B offer: There is a wide variety of restaurants in the big cities.
Essenszeiten: Breakfast (6:00 - 9:00): Breakfast often includes toast with eggs and bacon. Muesli or pancakes are also served. Brunch (10:00 - 14:00): A sumptuous brunch is particularly popular at the weekend. A la carte dishes - rather than buffets - are the norm. Lunch (11:30 - 13:30): Lunch breaks are short and a quick snack like sandwich, salad, etc. "on the go" is enough. Dinner (from 17:00 - 19:00): Dinner is served as early as 17:00 in some regions, although it can be later in Quebec or in the big cities. It's usually a simple, hearty meal.
Price–performance ratio: Montreal is the third most expensive city in Canada for expatriates, according to a new ranking. Vancouver is still the most expensive city. Prices are in line with European standards. Cappuccino in Amsterdam ca. 4 Eur. Cappuccino in Montreal ca. 4 Eur. Cappuccino in Toronto ca. 4,5 Eur.
Striking on site:
Tim Hortons is THE FASTFOOD par excellence in Canada. A little-known fact about Tim Horton: he was an ice hockey player in the 1950s who died after a traffic accident. Most people know the name in connection with his multi-million dollar coffee and doughnut franchise.
Since Canada is riiiiiight & I only want to give a brief culinary overview in this blog article, I will only focus on the biggest cities in Canada - with the exception of Toronto - for the restaurant and hotel recommendations.
Hospitality in Montreal
Whether you're looking for brunch with friends or a cosy place to start your day, this trendy coffee shop offers cool staff, excellent coffee/latte art & a delicious food menu. This place fills up quickly, reservations are unfortunately not possible.
Fancy some Mexican? The menu here consists of authentic dishes from different regions of Mexico. The tacos were super tasty and the cocktails are also inviting for a social gathering. We had caught a sunny day and could even enjoy the drink on the terrace.
If you like something a little fancier, you should definitely go to Jatoba. In the city's business district, the chef serves exquisitely prepared small dishes inspired by traditional Japanese seafood. The food here tastes as good as it looks. I highly recommend.
Hospitality in Vancouver
In Gastown - a very vibrant and historic area of the city - you are very likely to come across a hippster café. We went to Nelson the Seagull and can only recommend their sourdough bread and coffee. You can peek into the open kitchen and even watch the bread being made. A very special place...
A delicious lunch is guaranteed here. At Pokey Okey you can try great (fish) bowls. A very uncomplicated yet trendy place for a quick & health-conscious bite. The signature bowls are super tasty & I'm a big fan of this small but nice chain.
The restaurant is located directly at the harbour and convinces with delicious, regional (fish) dishes from the coast. We were there for dinner and caught a few rays of sunshine on the outdoor terrace. A treat with a great view & cool ambience. The place fills up pretty quickly - best to book ;)
"OEB Breakfast Co" is THE place to go for a cool brunch. The chain is (currently) exclusive to North America, and although I usually steer clear of franchises, I recommend a visit here. The breakfast offers a mix of familiar classics combined with inimitable dishes. An inspiration! Definitely make a reservation: Our wait was 45 minutes!
I find it very difficult to make recommendations for hotel accommodation in Canada. Many establishments are outdated, suffer from a lack of staff or are just "okay" all in all. Hotel Blu was by far my favourite: the boutique hotel has an excellent location, cool amenities and a warm staff.
My conclusion: I came for the maple syrup. I enjoyed the doughy pancakes and the fresh fish dishes, and as I reminisce, I will think of the friendliness of the Canadians and their beautiful, rugged country.
Note: I paid for my stay on site including accommodation, entrance fees and food myself. This is what my recommendations and tips refer to. This article is not subject to any cooperation.