For the longest while, Salt Spring reigned supreme as the one Gulf Island you hit if you’re among those of the foodie persuasion (with the minor exception of Canada Day, when the legendary Saturna Lamb BBQ takes its turn to reign supreme). But five years ago a chef named Jesse McCleery, young in age but long in experience with cooking in high-end resorts, decided he wanted a place of his own. He chose a modest little spot a third of the way up Galiano and suddenly the skinny island best known as the last stop on the ferry back to Vancouver became a “Foodie Destination.” And now—sorry Salt Spring, Pender and Mayne—the competition is not even close. Here are four spots on this idyllic little sliver of land that are worth the ferry trip.
The OG of Gali is not only the best restaurant in the area, on any given night it can also throw its chef’s hat (or at least McCleery’s ever-present black toque) in the ring as the best restaurant in the province. When it’s firing, it’s the stuff of dreams—a chef who seemingly cooks from pure passion and whose $85 nine-ish course tasting menu (hope you like kelp!) is the definition of handcrafted and almost invariably seems underpriced. A goddamn treasure.
Crane and Robin
Not far from the rustic elegance of Pilgrimme is this airy room overlooking Montague Harbour, serving cold craft beer and a predominantly Mexican menu with an energy that suits its maritime perch. The fish tacos come with local catch and are topped with veggies from nearby Cable Bay Farm, and the cod chowder actually reminds you you’re on an island. This season it’s takeout only, but that allows you to take your bounty and head down to the dock and watch as the energy of an active harbour flows over you.
The new kid on the block was just opened this year by the island’s other Jesse, Jesse Keefer, a former competitive cyclist who took over the Bodega Ridge cabins on the island’s north end in 2003. COVID meant that the normal influx of weddings evaporated, so Keefer pivoted into an elevated restaurant that feels nothing like a pivot. Brunch is slain here: the Papa chorizo is worthy of an island named after Spanish explorer Dionisio Alcalá Galiano. The fried chicken is off the charts, too.
I fear including this gem may raise the ire of the locals, who cherish this Sturdies Bay modern café as their own. And, why wouldn’t they? Insanely delicious baked goods, larder boxes full of island produce—and then they’ll drop a daily housemade pasta that’s out of this world... for $14. How do we clone this place, says everybody in Ganges.