Photo Joern Rohde - Alta Bistro
The Rise of Plant-Based Dining in Whistler
Story by Katherine Fawcett
Whistler is consistently recognized for its diverse dining options. Today, most restaurants in this mountain mecca offer delicious, healthy, innovative vegetarian and vegan options. Some even offer completely vegan menus, and many plant-based diners are discovering their new favourite meals here.
Reducing or eliminating animal products from the diet is more than a trend. According to a 2020 Statista dossier, Canada had approximately 850,000 vegans in 2018 — consuming no animal products at all. In addition, roughly 2.3 million Canadians classified themselves as vegetarian, consuming no meat. B.C. has the highest rates of vegetarianism and veganism of all Canadian provinces. A 2020 study by the Angus Reid Institute revealed that almost a quarter of Canadians who regularly eat meat would like to reduce the amount of meat they consume.
Juice Bars, Cafés, Bakeries, and Casual Dining
The Green Moustache Organic Café in Marketplace and Function Junction offers 100 per cent organic, plant-based, whole-food meals, desserts, juices, and smoothies. This local favourite is well known for its breakfast smoothie bowls, wraps made with collard greens, cold-pressed juices, and (my personal favourite) the nut-free, chocolate avocado tart. Natural wellness activist and founder Nicolette Richer says, “Food is medicine.” She is dedicated to spreading a message of optimum health through sharing delicious, wholesome meals and celebrating the amazing flavours of local, organic, plant-based ingredients.
Naked Sprout Café in the Village is another option whose mouth-watering organic, plant-based meals, desserts, juices, and smoothies are popular with vegans and carnivores alike.
There’s nothing like a big slice of “za” after a day on the trails. So, if you are craving pizza, try a locals’ favourite at Creekbread in Creekside. Try their “vegan tree hugger” pizza with organic wood-fired cauldron tomato sauce, B.C.-grown mushrooms, and organic caramelized onions. Or, located in the Village and open late, Fat Tony’s has extensive vegetarian and vegan pizza menus.
Ed’s BReD in Creekside is the place for organic, vegan bread and baked delicacies good for the planet, animals, and your taste buds. Chef Ed Tatton’s sourdough bread has a cult following. His varieties rotate throughout the week to include multi-seed, fruit & nut, porridge, and sprouted. But don’t leave the bakery without treating yourself to a slice of Pemberton carrot cake with toasted walnuts and spices or a gooey vegan sourdough cinnamon bun.
At Nita Lake Lodge in Creekside, Chef Darren Brown’s dedication to local ingredients and delicious plant-based options shines in the lodge’s three restaurants: Fix Café, Cure Lounge and Patio and Lakeside Restaurant. The vegetarian pizza, flatbread, and nachos (with a vegan option available) at Cure Lounge and Patio and vegetarian “modern meatball” sub in the Fix Café are popular with families, while the vegan “cheeze” board pairs beautifully with drinks on their lakeside patio. Contemporary alpine dining at Lakeside Restaurant includes a vegan rigatoni Bolognese made with Du Puy lentils, roasted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sunflower ricotta, and pine nuts. “I know that more and more people are choosing plant-based diets. I see it. I’m immersed in it,” says Brown, whose restaurants are pivoting more in that direction. “It’s all about treating vegetables better,” he says. “When you order vegan, you’re not just gonna get a dish with something taken off.”
Brown’s priority is sourcing local ingredients from producers like North Arm Farm in Pemberton, and he’s especially proud that some of the produce he cooks with is grown even closer to home — on a massive rooftop garden atop the hotel.
At Alta Bistro, a locals’ favourite, Co-owner and Chef Nick Cassettari says offering vegan dishes is “built into what we do.” With a multitude of vegan appetizers, mains, and desserts in his repertoire, diners will always find an innovative selection on his ever-changing seasonal menus. “Our aim is to have 50 per cent of the menu plant-based,” Cassettari says. His cream of celery and garlic soup velouté, with toasted bay leaf oil, walnuts, Japanese silverberry gastrique, young celery leaves, and caraway, is an unctuous bowl of heaven.
If you are craving Japanese, Ohyama Ramen in the Village has a lively and funky vibe, and their creamy vegan ramen is fantastic. It will wow vegans and meat-eaters alike, featuring kale noodles and chock full of tofu, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, corn, onion chips, and garlic oil. Or venture outside the Village to Samurai Sushi at Nesters Plaza and try their signature Buddha roll with avocado, yam bits, shiso, and sesame, or the Zen Combo. Samurai Bowl in Creekside offers veggie bowls and vegan tofu ramen. Sushi Village and Nagomi Sushi also have many vegetarian and a few vegan choices.
Mexican cuisine is versatile and delicious, featuring fresh ingredients including avocado, iceberg lettuce, red and white onions, cilantro, and an array of peppers, accompanied by toppings like Salsa Verde and Pico de Gallo to make your palette tingle. For a taste of authentic Mexican cooking in Whistler, The Mexican Corner Restaurant in the Village and La Cantina Tacos in Marketplace and Nesters Plaza offer a multitude of vegetarian and vegan creations, including fajitas, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, and tacos.
“The secret ingredient to Mexican food is sharing!” says Pepe Barajas, president and CEO of Infinity Enterprises Group. “Having many delicious options that adapt to all lifestyles and dietary choices is vital for our restaurants, keeping the tradition of sharing at the table alive. When you combine tacos, margaritas, and friends, you are destined to have a good time.” themexicancorner.ca | tacoslacantina.ca
To discover more vegan- and vegetarian-friendly dining opportunities in Whistler or wherever you’re travelling, visit happycow.net, or download their app.
La Cantina Tacos