Dining out has always been one of my favourite parts of travel, so it’s only natural I’d worry it would go to the wayside once Jason and I became parents.
Lucky for us, our two girls also love eating out, and have some pretty impressive tastebuds for being only 7 and 9. We recently went on a family getaway to Cowichan on Vancouver Island, and had the opportunity to try all kinds of delicious West Coast-inspired cuisine.
While the following dining establishment are not your typical family restaurants, we discovered that they do dish up some amazing food and atmosphere that both parents and kids will enjoy.
Here are just six family dining destinations to check out the next time you’re in Cowichan.
Located in the North West corner of the Saanich Inlet, in the Cowichan Valley, Mill Bay Marina is home to world class boating amenities and a popular dining spot with locals and visitors from all over ‘the Island’ and beyond called Bridgeman’s Bistro.
Every table enjoys sweeping views of the Stanch Inlet and Mt. Baker — and if you’re lucky, you may spot some swans splashing around like we did. What a beautiful sight it was!
Bridgeman’s thoughtfully crafted menus (including one for kids) is full of locally sourced ingredients and house-made items. From the beautiful view and cozy ambience to the freshly prepared local fare and attentive staff, this islander culinary experience was a hit for everyone in our clan.
740 Handy Rd, Mill Bay
2. Sawmill Taphouse & Grill
Over at Chemainus Village Square is Sawmill Taphouse & Grill — home to a unique selection of Northwest Pacific craft beers, fresh Italian pizzas and slow-cooked smoked meat.
As soon as we stepped inside, we were hit with the tantalizing aroma wafting from the wood-fired pizza oven.
“Mommy, I’m so hungry… that smells really good!” said Zoe, as our hostess led us to an oversized plaid red booth.
It was a Friday night and just about every seat was fully occupied by patrons of all ages, which let us know we were in for a real treat. We were also impressed with the tasteful decor, which seamlessly blended an urban vibe with small town history.
I ordered the Halibut on white bean ragout, served with tomato, onion, garlic, navy beans, prosciutto, vegetable stock, seasonal vegetables and citrus butter. It was light, packed with flavour and perfectly cooked. Jason and the girls ordered burgers and fries — I didn’t hear a single complaint from any of them, which isn’t the usual.
Tip: Do make a reservation if you’re planning a visit here to avoid dissapointment.
Sawmill Tap House
3055 Oak St, Chemainus, BC
3. Prima Strada
Warm, intimate and casual, it was the perfect spot for our family to take a break from exploring Cowichan Bay, relax and refuel.
While I’m not usually much of a pizza gal, it just seemed wrong to dine in B.C.’s first authentic Neapolitan pizzeria and not order their signature fare.
Our waitress brought out actual pizza dough for our girls to play with (such a brilliant idea, hey?), while she offered us a little background on this bustling little pizzeria.
She let us know know that they are passionate for the fire-roasted pizzas born in Naples, Italy, and that they pay homage to their Italian roots with a commitment to simple, fresh ingredients on traditional wood-fired, thin crust pizza.
We also ordered the Insalata d’verdure arrosto– oven roasted seasonal vegetables, fresh herb vinaigrette, house-made ricotta that melts in your mouth and chilis, as well as the Polpette della casa meatballs with shaved parmigiano and house bread.
Pizzeria Prima Strada
4. Merridale Cidery
If you’re on the hunt for sumptuously outstanding food, drink and ambiance, look no further than Merridale Cidery. Overlooking the orchard meadow, this unique island eatery offers casual comfort food and British pub-style counter service.
Their menus feature their own housemade sauces, cider-leavened brick oven bread and farm-fresh local ingredients. That same oven is what they use to prepare delicious, handmade pizzas on their legendary Pizza Nights, held every Sunday in the summer and the Family Farm dinner that our clan recently experienced. Also read Where to Sip, Savour & Stay in Cowichan.
Merridale Cidery & Distillery
1230 Merridale Rd, Cobble Hill, BC
5. Summit Restaurant
Atop the forested heights of the Malahat ridge overlooking the picturesque Saanich Inlet is an incredible West Coast fine dining experience unlike any other on the island. The Summit Restaurant at the Villa Eyrie Resort captures both flavour and inspiration from its European-inspired menu and décor. Their farm-to-table fare is cultivated from ingredients in their own backyard and partnering with local farmers and vineyards.
Our girls kept busy with an activity on the kids menu, leaving Jason and I with some time to relax, enjoy our coffees and take in the incredible picturesque view.
Both Molly and Zoe ordered the sourdough Belgian Waffles with berry compote, while I opted for the Huevos Rancheros with crispy tortillas, refried beans, poached eggs, mole verde and jalapeño salsa. Jason loved his Summit Breakfast of 2 lockwood farm eggs, choice of house-made breakfast sausage, thick cut bacon or kassler ham, rosemary potatoes and sourdough toast.
600 Ebedora Ln, Malahat, BC
6. Playbill Dining Room
We started our Chemainus Theatre experience on a Sunday afternoon at Playbill Dining Room buffet brunch. We were met with great food, warm hospitality, and live music, making our visit a delectable start to seeing the musical, Little Women.
Playbill’s Executive Chef prepares an original menu for every show – as creative as their productions. Most menus feature an impressive hot buffet with a fresh seasonal salad bar, delicious starters, followed by an abundance of delectable desserts, including their famous sticky toffee pudding that we had to try–twice!
9737 Chemainus Road, Chemainus, BC
Certainly, if you choose to visit Cowichan, your whole family will have the chance to eat and drink extremely well! Wineries, cideries and distilleries dot the landscape, all of which supply the growing number of fine restaurants, bistros and bakeries. It’s no wonder Cowichan has been dubbed by renowned foodie James Barber referred as “Canada’s Provence.”
Is there a family hot spot in Cowichan we missed? We’ love to hear all about it in the comment section below!
Don’t forget to also read:
Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. However, our trip and meals were generously sponsored by Tourism Cowichan.