Traditional foods such as bannock, freshly caught fish, bison, and muskox are prominently featured on the menus of many Northwest Territories restaurants and homes. Muktuk, or whale blubber, is another common food item in the far north. The fish here is among Canada’s finest, and both dishes from the sea and game meats are often dried or smoked. Although supermarkets contain nearly all the same basic items as their southern Canadian counterparts, they often cost far more because of the distance they must cross to be imported into the isolated locations of most Northwest Territories communities.
Bars and Pubbing in the Northwest Territories
Yellowknife contains the lion’s share of Northwest Territories bars and nightlife, including Canada’s top bartender according to MSN Travel at Twist Resto-Lounge (4915 50th Street, Yellowknife). Twist often serves tapas and live entertainment with its drinks, which can be enjoyed on an outdoor patio all hours of the day during Yellowknife’s surprisingly warm summers. However, many believe the quintessential bar is Bad Sam’s (5010 50th Street, Yellowknife), unofficially known as the ‘Strange Range’ for its often rowdy and rough-around-the-edges clientele.
The selection of watering holes is far thinner outside of Yellowknife, but the most famous spot in the Arctic Ocean port of Inuvik is undoubtedly the Mad Trapper Pub (124 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik), named after an infamous local legend. The Mad Trapper of Rat River is known for sabotaging local traps and successfully staying one step ahead of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1931 before he was finally shot. Photographs of people involved in the Mad Trapper’s story hang on the walls of his namesake, a friendly and informal place where people often dance to live music. The Peppermill Restaurant and Cabin Lounge (288 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik) offers a more relaxed atmosphere inside the Finto Lodge.
Hay River’s main hangout, the Doghouse Sports Bar (10J Gagnier Street, Hay River), serves up generous portions of pub food and shows sporting events on widescreen televisions with its drinks. Those who prefer cocktails and a slightly more high end atmosphere will find themselves at Back Eddy Cocktail Lounge and Restaurant (6 Courtoreille Street, Hay River), whose signature steak spice is sold at several local shops.
Dining and Cuisine in the Northwest Territories
Yellowknife is definitely the Northwest Territories dining capital, with restaurants serving up French, Asian, and South American cuisine. However, few other cities on Earth contain restaurants with both caribou and bison on their menus. Fuego’s Restaurant (50th Street, Yellowknife) puts an international twist on its whitefish, bison, and caribou dishes, which are served on an impressive multilevel patio in summer. Another popular Yellowknife eatery is the Wildcat Café (3904 Wiley Road, Yellowknife), situated inside a vintage log cabin and open only in the summer.
Inuvik’s finest dining experience can be found at Tonimoes (185 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik), which serves up Friday evening prime rib dinners and sumptuous Sunday brunches. Visitors are welcome to join Inuvik village elders and hear their spellbinding stories for free every other Thursday afternoon at Ingamo Hall (20 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik), as long as they call ahead.
Despite its name, Hay River’s Caribou Restaurant (910 Mackenzie Highway, Hay River) also serves a wide variety of Asian dishes in addition to traditional northern Canadian fare. Most other Hay River fine dining establishments are situated within hotels, like the Keys Dining Room at the Ptarmigan Inn (10J Gagnier Street, Hay River), which serves brunch buffets each Sunday.