The sous chef/husband and I visit Tofino a few times a year. He is a surf junkie who eagerly plans trips multiple times a year. Tofino isn’t exactly the most easy and convenient trip. To get to Tofino from our home in East Van requires an approx 2 hour ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and an approx 3 hour island drive.
It takes a lot of effort to get there, but every time we make the trek, it is SOOOO worth it. The beaches. The waves. The hikes. The fresh air. Tofino is also well known for beautiful resorts and hotels and an assortment of gourmet options for dining.
We are lucky to have good friends that live in Tofino so we have convenient local accommodations and most of our meals in Tofino are home cooked (usually featuring delicious local seafood).
Over our many Tofino trips, I haven’t tried that many of Tofino’s dining options but I do have a favourite spot that I look forward to grabbing a meal at every time. The Wildside Grill. This casual eatery is a concession-style shack located in the Live to Surf retail area about 10 minutes outside of the main town. It serves up a wide range of casual beachside favourites (most dishes featuring fresh, local seafood).There is usually a bit of a line up and crowd because this place has become a go-to for hungry local Tofitians and tourists alike. It’s nothing fancy; with picnic table seating (watch out for hungry crows!) and counter service. This place is run by a commercial fisherman and a chef and they describe their food as “Fish and chips with an upscale twist….featuring local ingredients year round, delivering the best flavors the west coast has to offer.”
On a recent trip to Tofino in January, we went for a lunch at the WIldside Grill and sitting in the warm sunshine, about to chow down on some delicious food, grinning from ear to ear thought to myself, “This place, this lunch makes me very very happy.”
We split an order of their fish tacos and full order of seafood gumbo.
Fish Tacos (3 tacos for $13 or 1 for $5); ling cod, cabbage, avotillo, fresh salsa, cilantro, green onion.
I love me some fish tacos and whenever I see them on a menu, I tend to gravitate in their direction. For me, these Baja style Wildside fish tacos are some of the best I’ve had. The fish is so fresh and perfectly cooked with a light layer of crisp batter, then served in a fresh warm tortilla and covered with bright fresh salsa, lime and crunchy cabbage topping that compliment the beautiful piece of fish….I’m drooling just thinking about it. We are talking texture perfection here.
Gumbo (Half order $6, Full order $10); Louisiana style chowder, brown rice, pink shrimp, cilantro, green onion.
This hearty dish is the equivalent of a warm hug on a chilly Tofino day. It’s comforting and envelops you with hearty, rich flavour. Eating this chowder is a fun experience because with every bite you come across something different…a chunk of fresh salmon, a pink shrimp all in perfect harmony with the thick, strongly flavoured roux that has a warming kick to it, rather than a tonne of spice. The sprinkle of green onion on top adds a nice texture and flavour element.