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Okanagan Valley, BC

Best Restaurants in the Okanagan ValleyOur favorites include some of this destination's best local restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

By Inspector 86

as told to Greg Weekes

They say there's nothing like fine wine to enhance enjoyment of a meal, and if that's true then the Okanagan Valley is blessed indeed. One of Canada's premier wine-producing areas also is home to a number of restaurants celebrated for fine food. Many of them are located in Kelowna , so if you're basing an Okanagan vacation in town you'll have plenty of choices when deciding where to eat.

Places to Eat in Kelowna

Downtown Kelowna has its share of funky little eateries. Pandosy Street bustles with shoppers, making it easy to overlook The Marmalade Cat Cafe. Locals love this tiny spot for morning coffee or tea and line up at lunchtime for the freshly prepared sandwiches. Check it out before a morning of sightseeing on your trip.

Legend has it that the word “bistro” came from the shouts of “Bystro! Bystro!” (“Hurry! Hurry!”) uttered by Russian soldiers stationed in France who ate at small neighborhood restaurants. But there's no hurry at Bouchons Bistro, which offers classic French regional cuisine in a lovely setting of mustard-colored walls, two-toned cork flooring, dark woods and stained glass. It's the perfect place to savor Provence-style fish and shellfish soup, herb-roasted Cornish hen or a braised rabbit casserole flavored with fresh thyme. The wine list gives equal billing to classic French and regionally produced wines. If you're lucky, Edith Piaf will be playing in the background.

The Okanagan Valley has a sizable Indian community, and if you're in the mood for a spicy chutney or naan, India's distinctive flatbread, you'll probably be led to Dawett Fine Indian Cuisine. This simply decorated restaurant in the downtown core is frequented by nearby office workers who go for reliably prepared standards like tandoori chicken, prawns vindaloo or goat curry. Try mango lassi, a refreshing beverage made with yogurt. The warm, gracious service characteristic of so many Indian restaurants is fully evident at Dawett.

Downtown office workers also head to Yamas Taverna Greek Restaurant. It's a big space with several festively decorated rooms. You can get a good Greek salad, spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese filling baked in layers of flaky phyllo pastry), a steak or a seafood entrée, but the best deal is the lunch buffet, a belt-loosening spread of Greek standards that also includes a couple of Canadian additions. It's a good choice for lunch.

Kelowna Restaurants Worth the Drive

One of Kelowna's scenic highlights is its setting on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, and a good place to take in the lakeside view is from the screened-in outdoor seating area at the Lakeside Dining Room & Bar, in the Hotel Eldorado (the “El” for short). Aged steaks, Fraser Valley chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and caramelized garlic and seafood dishes like paella with risotto, tomatoes and herbs all are reliably prepared, and the restaurant uses fresh produce sourced from nearby orchards and farms. Locals give high marks to the bountiful Sunday brunch.

Summerhill Organic Bistro is a picturesque drive out of town and up a hillside overlooking Okanagan Lake. During summer and fall the rows of grapevines seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. This winery restaurant uses produce and herbs grown on the premises, so such dishes as duck breast with apricots and roasted shallots or halibut wrapped in chard and served with new potatoes and braised garden vegetables practically sing with freshness. Summerhill's own award-winning wines are paired with the menu selections. Service is casual and efficient.

Irrigation has transformed the Okanagan Valley into an agricultural powerhouse. At The Jammery, about 10 minutes north of downtown Kelowna on Hwy. 97 (look for the big yellow building) you can sample the fruits of the valley's booming orchard industry. Tour the facility and watch jam being made, or try some of the varieties at the jam-tasting bar. While nothing fancy, the casual family restaurant—set back from the highway and surrounded by orchards—is a popular local gathering place for tea, breakfast or a light lunch. Sit outside on one of the verandas to fully appreciate the spectacular views.

Places to Eat in Vernon

Kelowna may be the Okanagan's largest city, but there are other Okanagan Valley restaurants where you can dine well. The Med in Vernon is a longtime favorite. Bright light streams through the street-front windows, enticing you to come in; soft muted colors and dripping wax candles set in long, tapered wall sconces create an upscale, romantic feel. The kitchen emphasizes local ingredients, whether it's seasonal produce, organic bison or free-range chicken. You could opt for something light, like a Portobello mushroom burger or a stir-fry of Asian noodles, tiger prawns, peanuts and vegetables in a spicy curry sauce. Heartier choices include Moroccan lamb grilled and served pink on a bed of couscous with a sauté of red onions, mixed peppers, tomatoes, apricots and pine nuts. Service is deft but unobtrusive.

Intermezzo Restaurant may be one of Vernon's best-kept secrets due to its unassuming exterior. Park by the bank on 34th Street and you can't miss it. Both the owners and the exceptionally friendly staff are likely to take you under their collective wing for a tour of the menu. Intermezzo does Italian without unnecessary flash—just honest and comforting standbys like minestrone soup or chicken in a creamy shallot and green grape sauce served with saffron rice and the vegetable of the day. Finish with chocolate mousse or a rich slice of amaretto cheesecake.

Where to Dine in Osoyoos

Osoyoos is just a stone's throw from the U.S. border. Stark desert-like scenery contrasts with the surrounding orchards and vineyards, lending a dramatic backdrop to the Wildfire Grill, a self-styled Canadian bistro located in the heart of downtown. There are no borders when it comes to the menu; salmon is a specialty, salads are big and fresh, and chicken and pasta dishes incorporate seasonal ingredients. Service is relaxed and friendly. The restaurant's Lizard Lounge Bar offers tastes from the area's many wineries.

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Okanagan Valley, BC

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