Araxi is home to the best cuisine in Whistler. Renowned executive chef James Walt has been celebrating seasonal, locally sourced ingredients for years, drawing upon the rich offerings of the nearby Pacific Ocean, Canadian ranches and the organic farms in the Pemberton area just north of Whistler.
The décor is sleek and upscale, and the menu boasts an astounding selection of oysters, featuring at least a dozen different types from the chilly waters of Washington State and British Columbia. The raw bar and sushi/sashimi offerings, like BC wild sockeye salmon sashimi with ponzu sauce, are equally impressive.
The presentation of such appetizers as butternut squash soup with curry oil is dazzling. Main dishes could include a lightly gingered duck breast or an organic white prawn risotto. Order a side of the truffle fries, and leave room for the sublime desserts. The award-winning wine list tops 50 pages, and features some unforgettable Old and New World classics. Although any Whistler restaurant will have families dining together, Araxi is really better for an adults-only dinner.
If you didn’t get enough excitement out on the mountain, head to the Bearfoot Bistro for a little pomp and circumstance. Begin your evening at the Belvedere Ice Room, adjacent to the restaurant, which boasts the “world’s coldest vodka tasting room” at -25F. Don Nordic explorer-style parkas and get ready to sample from more than 50 vodkas from around the world, distilled from all manner of grains, including rye, potatoes, and hemp. When you are ready to warm up again, head to the dining room where the real action begins.
For a glass of bubbly, head to the wine cellar, resembling a movie set and stocked with over 20,000 bottles, where you can attempt to saber off the champagne cork all on your own. (Success? Take home the sliced-off bottle top and cork in a special box). Afterwards head back to the dining room, where you can order a la carte or opt for the three or five course tasting menu. Imagine a Quebec foie terrine with black truffles and brown butter, followed by tender kobe beef. The show continues as servers clad in black suits, black shirts and colorful ties surround your table to bring the next course. All at once they’ll uncover your plates with a flourish.
The performance extends into dessert, if you order the nitro ice cream prepared at the table. Frankly, the whole show can be a bit much, but the luscious plates created by award winning executive chef Melissa Craig are the real deal.
A gleaming wooden structure with windows extending from the floor to the massive vaulted ceilings, the Glacier Creek Lodge is the favored lunch destination on Blackcomb Mountain. Yes, it is a cafeteria, but a selection of hearty soups, Asian specialties and the usual assortment of grilled burgers, fries and pizzas offer something for everyone in your group. The coffee kiosk inside the spacious modern lodge serves up an excellent espresso.
Located inside the Rendezvous Lodge, Christine’s on Blackcomb is the only place on Blackcomb Mountain where you can get sit-down table service. The service can be slow, so only go when you’re finished skiing for the day. In the summer, Christine's is best for lunch during the daytime, thanks to its incredible views.
The Crystal Hut is a good place to have a late breakfast of homemade waffles topped with fresh fruit and hot maple syrup. Come before 11:00 am, as the tiny space fills up quickly.
Creekbread was born as a progressive idea in the hills of Vermont before making its way to Whistler’s hippie enclave of Creekside. From the spacious wooden structure with a two-story tall ceiling resembling a converted farmhouse, decorated with New Age-y tapestries, to the proudly announced commitment to sustainable farming and equitable working conditions, Creekside’s bohemian leanings and admirable social conscience come through loud and clear.
Also visible from almost everywhere in the restaurant is the massive stone pizza oven and open kitchen manned by several young men in colorful knit tuques (as opposed to chef hats) stretching and tossing the magnificent Creekbread pizza dough. The combination of only the highest quality local ingredients and the cooperative work environment is a winning one. The pizza is superb and, as a result, the large dining room is always packed.
Local, organic ingredients like house-made maple-fennel sausage and farm fresh eggs, pair with imported items like Danish fontina and Italian asiago to create truly memorable pizzas.
At first glance, Crepe Montagne is just a small storefront in a nondescript two-story mall. Inside, the wee wood-paneled space holds a handful of small booths, shelves packed with Asterix & Obelix and Tintin comic books, a cramped kitchen and, in winter, dozens of silver tree ornaments hanging from the ceiling. The heat of the kitchen, the glow of the wood and the small quarters make it especially inviting when it’s snowing outside.
The menu of this self-anointed “authentic French crêperie” is indeed very French. The crepes are delicious, but most, like the chorizo with béchamel sauce, are plenty rich. The cheese fondue and the raclette are hearty and toothsome. In a nod to its customers, Crepe Montagne does offer a vegetarian raclette with brocolli and cauliflower in place of the usual meats. Come early; they don’t take reservations.
Crystal Hut Fondue Dinner
Ride on a snowmobile or in a snowcat several thousand feet up Blackcomb Mountain to the rustic Crystal Hut Lodge. There enjoy a fondue dinner and wine – but only a half glass, if you are planning on driving the snowmobile back down – and enjoy the serenity of the mountains at night.
Cure Lounge & Patio
Dubh Linn Gate
Even if you don’t normally frequent Irish pubs, you’ll get a kick out of the Dubh Linn Gate. At the base of Whistler Mountain, tucked into the northern end of the plaza where skiers and boarders arrive at day’s end, the Gate is an après ski hot spot. The last rays of sun shine upon a handful of outside tables, crammed with skiers and warmed by heat lamps. If you can’t get a seat there, head into the restaurant, decorated in traditional pub style, but more spacious than you might find back in Dublin. You can opt for a seat at the bar, closest to the live band, or in the calmer room at the back.
You’ll always find duos or trios playing live Irish music here, and the quality of their soulful singing and fiddle strumming never fails to impress. Choose from over a dozen locally brewed ales, lagers and IPAs on tap, or a selection of Irish brews, from Guinness to Kilkenny Cream Ale. There’s a big selection of après appetizers, as well as a full lunch and dinner menu with pub classics like fish and chips and more creative selections like the free range buffalo burger or veggie lentil burger.
Elements Urban Tapas Lounge
This casual restaurant serving up imaginative small plates is a locals’ favorite. Located in Village North, Elements is a good place to stop on your way into the main part of Whistler Village in the evening. Order the lemon meringue martini and a little pre-dinner snack of marinated olives or bruschetta. The many BC wines on offer are also well worth a taste.
If you’d like to have a full meal, plates to share include a tasty porcini gnocchi and slow cooked pork belly. Elements is also a top choice for breakfast, with free-range egg frittatas and such bold menu propositions as the coffee maple bacon French toast.
Fifty Two 80
For a more refined drinking experience, head north of the village to the Four Seasons. Rough cut stone and wood walls frame the stylish collection of plush orange settees and large chocolate leather chairs. A warm fire glows and attentive staff serve up a tantalizing array of cocktails and excellent wines. In summer the heavy French doors open out onto the terrace for drinks under the stars. Despite the swank surroundings, Fifty Two 80 keeps up a relaxed mountain vibe and occasionally features such talented local musicians as the Hair Farmers, who are as comfortable playing in the Four Seasons as at Dusty’s Backside Barbeque.
Garibaldi Lift Company
When it opened a few years back, the GLC, as it’s known for short, almost immediately established itself at the coolest club in Whistler—and, in fact, one of the best après spots in North America. Perched above the Whistler Gondola entrance, the GLC is the ultimate ski-in/ski-out bar; you can ski or ride to within a few feet of the front door. Once there, if the weather is good, you can overlook Skier’s Plaza below. But if it’s too cold to sit outside, the split-level interior beckons with a winning mix of rustic coziness and chic lounge feel. The GLC also apparently rounded up the coolest hipsters in town to serve its beers and such funky apps as the ahi tuna avocado crunch roll or spicy tofu with edamame.
The real secret to the GLC’s ongoing appeal, though, is the music. DJs play the latest electronic beats. After the après families go home, the GLC hosts top DJs from around the world. On New Years Eve, the GLC is the place to be.
Il Caminetto di Umberto
Caminetto hits the right balance: it’s a friendly place you could enjoy equally for a family dinner or, in the later hours, with your grown-up friends. The décor is much brighter than at Trattoria, with blond wood and tones of golden yellow throughout. The open, sunken dining room provides a vibrant counterpoint to some more sedate mountain restaurants, but can get loud late in the evening. The Tuscan kitchen sticks to the classics – think penne arrabiata or herb crusted rack of lamb – but turns out a few true gems like roasted duck with orange, nutmeg and dried cherries.
Mallard Lounge and Terrace
If you’re staying in Blackcomb, this might be your choice for an après ski refresher or a post-dinner digestif. The décor here is traditional and grand, as are many of the drinks on offer. Old-fashioned cocktails and a hefty selection of single malt scotches share the menu with more inventive drinks like a pomegranate and cucumber mojito. With options like the turkey club or prime rib sandwiches, you might think the menu is as dated as the décor, but a number of interesting plates like a mixed dim sum platter are also available to share with friends after a day on the slopes. The view from the Mallard Terrace is fantastic. If the sun is still out, consider heading out to the fire pits to enjoy such toasty cocktails as the “Polar Bear,” a heavenly blend of three liqueurs with hot chocolate, an orange-sugar rim and a dash of whipped cream.
Merlin's Bar & Grill
Locals vote Merlin’s their favorite après destination. That’s probably because locals get to ski and ride not just over the winter holidays, but well into the spring, when the terrace at Merlin’s, at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, is simply the best place to enjoy the late afternoon sun. It’s not as polished as the Mallard Terrace, nor as hip as the GLC, but Merlin’s does serve up possibly the largest platter of nachos you’ll ever witness, and the pitchers of beer – and hot chocolate for the kids – are always served with a smile.
Kids can’t resist the opportunity to hold a big metal bowl themselves, and choose which meats, fish, veggies, noodles and sauces they want to put together. Then you watch as young ski bums dressed as cooks prepare your dinner on an extremely hot round grill, twirling spatulas in the air for dramatic effect. The result is tasty enough. You have to arrive very early to get a table.
RimRock is just the type of restaurant you’d expect to find at a world-class ski resort. Located a short drive away from the bustle of the village, RimRock is the paradigm of mountain elegance, welcoming you into a hushed, dimly-lit dining room enriched by heavy wood beams and roaring fireplaces that cast a warm aura over the scene. Knowledgeable servers are on hand to tell you about the fresh fish or game of the day, such as wild BC salmon or succulent caribou. Appetizers like sautéed wild mushroom salad and venison wellington complement the mountain cuisine, but lighter options like an heirloom lettuce salad are also available. This is the kind of place you’ll want to linger over your meal, staying to sip a glass of port or cognac after dinner.
Of the half-dozen sushi restaurants in Whistler, Sachi Sushi is by far the favorite. The brightly lit dining room is not particularly stylish, but the large sushi bar located squarely in the middle lets you know that they have their priorities straight. The fish is simply the freshest you’ll find in Whistler and the sushi chefs the most capable.
Most of the sushi rolls are straightforward, with a few originals like the vegetarian cupcake roll (avocado, sweet potato tempura, edamame and spicy mayo), and tempura, udon noodles, and teriyaki meats will sate the appetites of any non-sushi lovers. If you are seated at the sushi bar, ignore the request to order from the server and ask the sushi chef directly about the freshest fish of the day. Let him surprise you—you won’t regret it.
Sidecut is a cut above your average steakhouse. With its location in Whistler’s most luxurious hotel, innovatively and expertly executed steakhouse classics, several seafood dishes and a few vegetarian options as well, Sidecut leaves diners little to beef about.
The contemporary dining room, decorated in wood, stone and rich hues of chocolate and burnt orange, is inviting. Before you dine, you might be tempted to first sip a martini at the Fifty Two 80 Bar next door. When you sit at the restaurant, start with a half dozen locally sourced oysters or such memorable appetizers like house made raviolis stuffed with wild mushrooms. Classic steakhouse offerings like iceberg salad share the menu with more inspiring alternatives like a chicory salad with local goat cheese. Even typical side dishes like creamed spinach are given lighter, more complex notes by executive chef Scott Dolbee.
Choose from several cuts of beef, or such wild options as venison, deer and bison. Fresh fish is always on the menu, as well as an unforgettably tender lobster tail. The meats and fishes are brought to the table with an assortment of saucesbottled to look like tiny potions from an old-time apothecary.
If the meat isn’t rich enough for you, after the main meal you can choose from a dizzying assortment of local cheeses and such decadent desserts as a s’mores brownie sundae.
Chic Pea is one the best spots on Whistler Mountain. You have to stand in line to order your food, but the petite space has more charm than the larger lodges. In spring, tables and music spill outside the little log cabin. The Moroccan chickpea soup and grilled panini sandwiches are favorites.
You’ll build up an appetite on your way to Dusty’s Backside Barbeque, seeing as it’s located at the base of the 2010 Winter Olympics alpine racecourse. You can avoid some of the steeper stretches of the course on your way here, but you still have to ski or ride all the way to Creekside, nearly a mile down from the peak of Whistler Mountain. Once here, you can grab a seat at one of the large picnic-style tables and order a pulled pork sandwich or other BBQ specialty from the server. Don’t forget the side of yam fries.
Like its Christine’s counterpart on Blackcomb Mountain, Steep’s Grill inside the Roundhouse Lodge offers table service at the top of the gondola. When non-skiing visitors want to have lunch with you on the mountain, this is the place to go. Just note that the service can be lethargic.