As I sit here writing the exhaustive list of cafes and eateries in the area, I am realizing that it really is amazing how many quality places we have to nosh! This is not everywhere there is to eat in town, but the ones I am most familiar with. Also it is actually astounding how many of them use local and/or organic foods. I finally stopped bothering to put that because they pretty much all make the best attempt. That may have a great deal to do with why these are my favourites.
All Seasons: Technically this restaurant is the reason I moved to Nelson. I came to visit on a Saturday, had brunch here on the Sunday, went home and packed. I'm actually not kidding.
The Vienna: When you say family run cafe, what you mean here is that you are a part of their family. They will remember your kids names before they remember yours and you are likely to end up with an opportunity to "have a taste" of whatever yummy treat just finished baking. Oh, and the Spatzle Florentine Crepe is scrumptious. Excellent Prices.
Busaba: One of Nelson's newest eateries, this moderately priced venue is like a mini trip to Thailand. If you enjoy spicy, they have a super delish list of appetizers that are just as good for a meal. Everything here is good, including the atmosphere. Wonderful Service too.
Baba's: I have a soft spot in my heart for the couple who started and still run this restaurant. If you are able to go in when they aren't busy, ask them about how they came to leave India. Theirs is a dramatic fairytale love story perfect as accompaniment to their butter chicken. My parents eat here every Friday. Good for the Soul are her words!
Main Street Diner: With possibly the most varied menu in town, and every item worth the wait it takes to get a table in summer. I have most likely eaten here more than any other place in Nelson. Excellent service, ridiculously yummy food, and a great vibe. Greek meets western with the best fries.... try the mushroom burger. Or the fish and chips. Or the chicken caesar salad. Or...
Bite: For those on the run, or not, stop at the bright yellow truck. Bite is ridiculously gourmet, organic and original. And they have The. Best. Fries. In. Town. I know, I just said that about Main Street, but those are restaurant fries and these are the kind you get at a gourmet food truck. I think they have other food too (just kidding, the Paradise Burger makes me weak in the knees) you will have to check the menu on their site by clicking on the Bite highlighted above. They are pricey for a hamburger stand, but this is no hamburger stand.
The Preserved Seed: (turkey reuben + coconut cream pie = heaven, hold the organized religion) The group that runs this restaurant bought a beautiful old Victorian house on the edge of downtown and turned it into a beautiful and warm place to enjoy a meal made from ingredients that come straight from their community garden in the valley. It feels like you are lunching in somebody's living room. It is also the only restaurant where I wholeheartedly enjoy eating just a salad for a meal. It's actually that good.
Dominion Cafe: The BEST muffins and chai in Nelson, possibly on the planet. Pear/White Chocolate, Espresso/Orange/Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Streudel are favourites. Also try the raw food goodies, you would not believe the truffles!A cozy old world charm and friendly service.
Oso Negro: Nelson is famous for three things. One of them is coffee at Oso Negro. Locally roasted (their roastery shares the same building as the brewery. It is a sacred place) and the most divine spot to sit in the sun whilst sipping brew and lunching on the best paninis in town... or try a mountain bar. YUM! Basically, if you want to get to know the people of Nelson, you come and sit at Oso. Don't worry, the line up moves quickly :)
The Kootenay Bakery Cafe: Three words. Organic. Cream. Puff. This Co-operative and organic bakery is one of Nelson's central social locations. This is where you go to down a smoothie and wait for your friend to get back from the hill. Or meet the crew before heading to the beach. There are days where you really just need to take a breather from Oso.
The New Balfour Bakery/Deli: This used to be Darwin's so if you are looking, that is what you ask for, but it was just bought out by an adorable family bakery (that still exists) out by the Osprey Ferry. They have opened this location to make sure that we are fully stocked with the best bread in town and totally HUGE brownies that should probably be illegal for their chocolate content. Their new cafe in back hosts live music and they are a good place to stock up on snacks as well. Super friendly service!
Au Soliel Levant: A french bakery where you go to pick up your artisanal breads of most every description. You can watch them make it in their stunning kitchen if you wish. This warm and inviting gem is hidden behind the Bank of Montreal in the alley and is a delight to come across, with its tiny garden and stone path. You want to try the fougasse, the minute they come out of the oven... or they probably won't still be there when you arrive. Tres populaire.
El Taco: This adorable Mexican food eatery is home of the best burrito I have ever tasted, inclusive of many trips to Mexico. The family who owns it knows their stuff! A fun atmosphere, decent prices, fresh ingredients and super quick and friendly service, this is a great place for a quick and fun lunch. Licensed
Thor's Pizza: Across the street from El Taco, with a really nifty pizza menu. I can't tell what my favourite pie is because it changes every time I go in. Such good service, and they make a mean calzone!
Sidewinders Rooftop: I used to frequent Sidewinders before they put in their rooftop patio and would have said great things then too, but their rooftop has become one of my favourite places to lunch since they built it a couple of years ago. Anything here is good, but my suggestion is a turkey melt with a smoothie and a stupidly decadent cinnamon bun. Someday I will sell my soul for the recipe.
Outer Clove: I don't even know what to say about this restaurant. Genius? That might approach the menu somewhat. I adore the service here, and we all know garlic makes everything taste better, but did you ever think that garlic in a chocolate chip cookie was worth trying? It is. And so is their garden burger with aioli. Just sayin'. Be forewarned, you do not want to eat here before going to a social gathering where you will have to talk to people at close range.
Fusion: Mixed reviews on this one. There may be issues with the "creativity" of the menu, although I generally applaud that, it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Garlicky beet salad, tempura battered green beans... one friend called the menu "clever" and I think that we will go with that. It does have a great atmosphere, and apparently the staff enjoy working there which always says good things to me. My sister raves. The one consensus? The steak is magical!
BiBO: So many great things are said about this wine bar that I know for a fact that I am not the only one who loves it. I have heard complaints about the seating because it is not traditional. People are seated together in sort of a large booth, but this is done on purpose. It is meant to be a place to enjoy good food and great wine in a cozy and intimate atmosphere. They also have a wonderful patio for warm summer dining, so if you want to sit two to a table, try it during the summer months. I say live a little. Come when they do one of their oyster feasts!
Twisted Tomato: My new favourite pizza place. Really amazing combos and brilliant staff, great atmosphere.
KC's for Sushi: Here I am completely biased because I absolutely love the owners. These are the sweetest people and somehow they seem to find only the most wonderful servers to hire.They could serve complete rubbish and I would probably find something good to say about it, but thankfully they don't. Unreasonably good prices for both a varied and yummi sushi menu and a Chinese/Thai menu. Nice, friendly atmosphere.
Grounded: This one is easy. Organic coffee. Brilliant locally made gelato. 'Nuff said.
Kurama Sushi: Once upon a time, where Fusion now stands, was the best restaurant in Nelson called The Rice Bowl. There you could find really social and generally slow moving people serving the most amazing sushi on dishes made at the art school. The talent behind that delectable artform now creates his masterpieces out of Kurama. I come from Vancouver which is one chopstick away from Japan... I know of which I speak when I tell you that it is good sushi. I do wish they would replace the plates with artschool ones though.
Louie's: My sister and I disagree on this one. I was put off by the service, but she has had nothing but great experiences there. She is cuter than I am. They are supposed to have really great bellini's and I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt here. NOT to be confused with Leo's which is a Greek restaurant.
Max and Irma's: The man who creates wonders in this kitchen is a true foodie. He ADORES what he does and it shows. One word: Bruschetta. Some other words might be: Wood fire pizza is always a good idea.(Thanks Nicole)
Nelson is lucky to have a pretty stellar line up of musicians come through town (we treat our visitors well, they tend to come back). Bigger names that you usually don't see in small towns like to do a side trip here on tour to get a wee bit of Nelson culture before heading back out on the road. Also, we have a ridiculously out of proportion number of well known musicians and DJs, as well as bellydancers, fire spinners, poets, and other things you may not have seen elsewhere. Bars and pubs here are friendly and a good way to see all the different facets of "the scene" in Nelson come together. You will see the fashionistas dancing with the hippies and the mod hipsters dancing with the dubsteppers.
The Royal: Newly renovated, and they did an amazing job, this is one of the places to be come evening. Super yummy food, a new stage and some fun details. I don't know why I have never seen coat hooks beside where you sit before. Brilliant.
Global Underground: This became one of my absolute favourite shops the day it opened. These girls have gone out of their way to find very local, very reasonably priced and extremely funky clothing and accessories. For those looking to take back some gifts from their travels, this is a good place to start. Much of the merch is from Nelson artisan/designers and if not Nelson, then Vancouver or Victoria etc.. Very unique finds, but also a ton of things that would appeal to anyone. Always service with a smile to boot!
Phat Angel: I spend at least an hour every couple weeks just looking at all the crazy fun little things she stocks. She's my go-to spot for cards (including the "drawnby" line by local Marnie Christoffersen) and for-no-reason gifts ... and Knee-socks!!
Made With Love in Canada: A brand new shop opened by jewelry designer extraordinaire, Tara Davis. When I win the lottery I shall buy up all her stunning pieces (especially the filigree maple leaf), and one of the clocks, and a few feather fascinators, and that adorable bunny named Eleanore with the flower hat. Not to say it is expensive, it is absolutely not, it is just that I would have to clear out the store... if you need a gift for somebody who likes nifty things, you will find it here. Almost entirely Nelson (or Winnipeg, where she is from originally) stuff.
Craft Connection: The piece du resistance of shopping in Nelson. This is the place to access a gallery-esque curated collection of Nelson artists in the city. You can't miss the old stone building on the main street, I promise it will have a beautiful window display. The entire shop is a co-operative run by the artists who show there, and there are very unique and beautiful finds.
Maplerose: The most beautiful little craft shop ever. I didn't know what a Waldorf school was before I moved to Nelson, but it is a big part of life in the Koots and this is the shop where you purchase supplies for their crafts. Hand dyed wools, wood-worked pieces, bits to build a dream dollhouse, and the list goes on. They also have a great selection of things in the store already made if you are looking for something beautifully handmade and natural for a gift.
Bia Boro: This is our trendy shop. I'm not kidding. I come from the fashion industry, I know of which I speak. Of course we have tons of other stores in Nelson (OK, not tons, but many,) and we have some true gems. Bia Boro though is guaranteed to have you on style, in fashion, and brilliantly hip. Sourced from here to Argentina, Mav and her fabulously stylin team will have you outfitted from your knickers to your fedora in no time flat. OK, that's not true. You may be in there awhile. In fact, schedule at least the afternoon.
Lilikoi: This boutique has made quite a name for itself outside of Nelson, and we are lucky that this girl needed a place to sew, because that is most likely why she opened up this shop where the pretty silkscreened designs are realized in the back. Natural motifs adorn simple silhouettes with some gorgeous accessories to be had as well. The eco bit is a bonus, but we are talking more yoga fab than granola hip.
The Hive Collective: Oh oh! This place gets me so excited :) Created as a way to show of the wares of some of the most fun Nelsonites, from clothing to artwork, it has evolved into a nifty cafe/boutique where you can play dress up or listen to a resident DJ spin some awesomeness while you down a smoothie. It really is to each their own, but in the best way possible. Look for it upstairs above Busaba, a block up off the main drag.
!!STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION!!
Through the Looking Glass
MUSEUMS / GALLERIES / INSTITUTIONS
Gallery 378: Craft Connection Downstairs
The Climbing Wall
Gyro Park Lookout
The Mountain Inn
Inn the Garden B&B
ARTSY FABULOUS PEOPLE WORTH TRACKING DOWN