Something familiar and something completely new.
When you pull up a stool at most pubs in the North, you’ll find menus that cater to regulars and tourists alike, with locally harvested flavours enhancing some old classics. Mixing traditional southern pub fare with fresh new dishes and drinks, these popular watering holes are creating homegrown traditions as they go.
Here’s just a taste of what you can expect on the menu.
Dangling caribou antler chandeliers. Mounted polar bear and wolf skins that frame a welcoming fireplace. Giant beer barrels hovering above the long, polished bar.
To a first-time visitor entering Iqaluit’s Storehouse Bar & Grill, it can almost feel like you’ve stumbled upon an old outpost tavern. But then the flash from one of the flat-screen TVs lining the walls of the busy pub reminds you that you’re right in the heart of Nunavut’s capital city.
Like most pubs in the North, the Storehouse is many things to many people—it’s where you get together to shoot some pool or watch the big game, it’s where a visiting foodie adds a notch (or two) in their belt, it’s the place to go to get the skinny on what’s happening in town. On Wednesdays, it just so happens it’s the Storehouse that’s happening.
“Wednesday Wing Night is an institution,” says Stephen Sullivan, general manager of Frobisher Inn, which runs the pub. You won’t find much in the way of Northern fare on the Storehouse’s menu—you’ll have to walk down the hall to the Frob Kitchen & Eatery to sample the Vietnamese Caribou Pho or Arctic char sashimi—but it does feature a nice selection of local beer offerings. So order a pint of Floe Edge Lager, Auqaptuq Red Ale or a new, feature brew—created across town by the Nunavut Brewing Company, Iqaluit’s only craft brewery—as you make some new friends.
To the west, the ever-expanding beer menu at the Woodyard Pub—home of the NWT’s lone brewery—has made Yellowknifers and beer-loving visitors giddy since NWT Brewing Co. first opened the Old Town establishment in 2015. The ambitious food menu will leave you drooling too, as it features an always evolving line-up of burgers, pizzas, mac and cheese, and more. Take its “fancy fries” section: you can choose from truffle and parmesan, to K-town fries with soy ginger pork belly and garlic aioli sauce. The Woodyard also works to incorporate locally harvested ingredients into its offerings, like spruce tips that provide a homespun taste to its small-batch Forager IPA. Try the whitefish tacos with a maple serrano glaze, or a smoked brisket flatbread—a staff favourite.
On the other side of town, the Monkey Tree is a staple of suburban Yellowknife, serving up standards like steak, pizza, wings, and a hearty bison burger. Like some southern pubs, “the Tree” does poutine, but with three kinds on hand: there’s the classic poutine, a smoked brisket poutine and the MT Poutine, which features donair meat. Guests can also order off the “Cuz it’s a pub” section of the menu, which includes fish and chips, battered fish burgers and sweet potato fries.
The Black Knight Pub in downtown Yellowknife is the closest you’ll get to a classic, old-time pub in the Northwest Territories. Walking into the dimly lit bar, patrons will encounter actual knight’s armor near a corner table, and walls decorated with the poetry of Scotland’s Robert Burns, legendary local news clippings, and retro Guinness beer ads. Of course, the pub has U.K. favourites like fish and chips and chicken pot pie, along with a Guinness burger. It’s also the capital’s most popular spot for Wing Wednesday.
In Whitehorse, Polarity Brewing co-owners and brothers Erik and Kai Miller are focused on serving up “casual food with local ingredients.” Most of the meat products on the menu are sourced within 100 miles of the city and much of the produce (including some of the hops used in the craft brewery) is grown locally. You won’t necessarily find a caribou burger on the menu, but there is plenty of Alaskan salmon—whether that’s served up as a burger or on an eggs benny. The food options at Polarity, which opened in summer 2020, are certainly diverse: bangers and mash, oysters, curry and tacos all share space on the menu. “The new North is a really multicultural place,” says Erik. The menu reflects that.
That philosophy is shared all over Whitehorse, as another favourite—the Dirty Northern Public House—has a menu that serves everything from jerk chicken sliders to tuna tataki to a tater tot poutine. They don’t skimp on local dishes either, with Arctic char and Alaskan salmon burgers.
Close by is the Woodcutter’s Blanket. Unlike the 1930s log house it sits in, this cocktail bar features a modern menu. It also teams up with a few local businesses: the Haskap Shrub & Soda cocktail, for example, uses bitters from Whitehorse’s Free Pour Jenny’s. For dessert, you can get a sundae with Yukon Chocolate Company ice cream. And their caramelized pear and almond salad features greens grown onsite, proving that local is the best ingredient.