Parksville is a bit of a conundrum to me.
On one side of the highway you’ll find stunning ocean vistas and white sand beaches, while the other side is made up largely of strip malls and a downtown area that can best be described as stark. But, it’s also downtown where you’ll find some of the best eating not just on Vancouver Island, but also in Canada.
Something my husband and I have discovered by visiting Parksville more than once is that while its food scene continues to grow and evolve, the lack of pretension from the owners and staff at these establishments definitely adds to their charm. The same goes for the flourishing craft beer/liquor/wine mom and pop shops we’ve had the opportunity to visit. Of course there’s a lot more going on in Parksville/Qualicum Beach than eating and drinking, but as we move towards the holidays what better subjects to focus on? So if you’re heading to this island community make sure to check out some of these popular spots.
162 Harrison Ave., Parksville
There’s a reason Bread and Honey came in at number 10 in Yelp’s Top 100 places to Eat in Canada in 2017. In that same competition, this hole-in-the-wall was also named the best place to eat in Parksville and ranked number three in all of B.C. During a recent visit we sat at the tiny counter and drank great coffee out of mismatched mugs. The menu is eclectic — think grilled cheese with truffle honey; smoked albacore and avocado toast; and orange Creamsicle French toast served with vanilla bean ice cream — and the pastries are divine. Tip: this popular eatery is only open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
2-180 Craig St., Parksville
I would normally avoid a restaurant that serves “kombucha on tap,” but I had heard nothing but great things about Realm so we enjoyed a recent Sunday brunch there with friends and I’m so glad we did.
In one corner of the room a woman played the guitar and sang as we lined up at the counter to order from a menu offering a lot of healthy choices. But despite all of those healthy ingredients, the team at Realm still managed to pack a whole lot of flavour into our brunch dishes. I had the Cowabunga pan seared carrot loaf (French toast) and it was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious to eat. Their local eats are complimented by an all organic and natural wine list, craft beer, cider, cocktails, smoothies, elixirs, an espresso bar — and — kombucha on tap.
425 Stanford Ave., Parksville
This local brewery was recently named 2017 Brewery of the Year at the B.C. Beer Awards. After more than 15 years of experience, famed brew master David Woodward joined forces with Dan Farrington and Matt Hill to create premium local, handcrafted beer. The tasting room and store on Stanford Avenue provide tasting flights, growler fills, bottle sales and tours through the facility. As well, the award-winning Arrowsmith Blonde recently won best golden ale in the world at the 2018 World Beer Awards held in the United Kingdom.
124 Harlech Rd., Qualicum Beach
I’d written about Island SodaWorks a couple of years ago, but there have been some changes since then. The popular bistro became a co-operative this past April when founder Mandolyn Jonasson teamed up with employees Cathrine Kitchen and Donna Mills Bowman. But besides becoming a combined effort, the café, located in a former fire hall, still offers what’s described as “fine peasant eating.”
And when it comes to a farm-to-table experience, these women aren’t fooling around. They raise a number of farm animals, plants and herbs themselves and their bone broth alone is worth the visit.
Sunrise Ridge Waterfront Resort: shop local and eat at your vacation rental
1175 Resort Dr., Parksville
We stayed at Sunrise Ridge during our last visit to Parksville and the kitchen in our suite was so well equipped — and the modern barbecue on our large deck was so inviting — on our last night we decided to stock up on wine, steak and all the fixings and just stay in and relax.
That turned out to be a great choice. We had a beautiful view from our deck and — with no dinner reservations to worry about — we relaxed with a glass of wine and some decadently rich blue cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks at Morningstar Farm, a short drive off the highway. It was also there we picked up our Mooberry Winery, so it was no surprise the two paired together perfectly as we watched the stunning sunset from our deck. Tip: Little Qualicum is home to Canada's first milk on tap — warm up at the farm with the freshest latte you'll ever get.
As we enjoyed the last rays of sun we tossed up a salad made with fresh ingredients purchased at the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market, including a sweet and spicy locally made dressing that took those already great veggies to a whole other level.
And finally, my husband grilled a couple of steaks we picked up at Eat Fresh Urban Market, which has a real focus on fresh and local ingredients, including the meat sold in its butcher shop.
Because the suites at Sunrise Ridge are designed as vacation rentals and residences, the resort doesn’t have its own restaurant and that’s OK because we really enjoyed making use of our gorgeous kitchen.
But what Sunrise Ridge does have is a great pool — and stand-up paddleboards and mountain bikes available to rent. The resort is set on a bluff overlooking the ocean with trails leading down to a white sand beach. Ongoing plans for expansion will see more units built on the property, which leads towards the beach, meaning even better views.