Desperate for a drink and some grub after getting to the ferry just slightly too late for the last one and significantly too early for the next one, so we took a chance. Road signs of the type LAST BEER BEFORE THE FERRY are not generally heralds of bacchanalian joy or Gastbyesque elegance, but like I said, we were desperate. So we followed the sign which didn’t quite say that but close enough in implication, the last turnoff before you get on the boat.
And thus we found ourselves at one of the best little pubs on the peninsula.
I, at least, knowing the pub was in a marina that has at least a certain percentage of active fishing boats, was expecting something in a quonset hut, something smelling faintly of gasoline, lit by utility lamps you’d find in a garage, and offering beer that tasted as if it had been freshly drained from a transmission. Instead, we found this.
This is the Stonehouse Restaurant and Pub at Canoe Cove Marina just outside of Sidney, BC. That’s one of the exceptionally friendly and helpful staff members behind the wall of local craft brews. Well, and Old Milwaukee, Kilkenny, and Strongbow for the tourists.
We seemed to be the only non-regulars in the place; clearly everyone who works at the Canoe Cove Marina has a second home here, and we overheard several of the regulars and some of the staff discussing the health of the artist-in-residence with the concern you show a dear friend. And god help me, but they have a shuttle. Okay, the next time I come over on the ferry and have an hour or two to kill before my friends get around to picking me up, I know what I’m doing!
The building was a family home until 1985, when it was bought and converted to a pub. After closing for renovations in 2012, it’s reopened with several beautifully designed and demarcated spaces. There’s the pub, a cosy place with no more than perhaps ten barstools and four or five tables. There’s the patio, which is where you’d be looking to book a wedding, if you had a groom and a chequebook handy. There’s the whachamacallit, proper dining room where proper dining takes place; I expected to be turfed out on my ear, as I’m not the least bit proper, but that didn’t happen.
I’ve been there twice now, and both times we stuck to the pub side, as we are generally pubby people except on special occasions, and my traveling ensemble doesn’t extend much past “wear the bulkiest things you own all at once so you don’t have to pack them.” And both times, the food and service were excellent. I mean, the food is really good, but the service is above and beyond. Not that we had any esoteric requests, but the staff gave us the feeling they were not just genuinely happy to see us, but specifically happy to see us.
The first time I had (predictably) the Stonehouse Burger, which is your basic pub burger done very nicely. The house made barbeque sauce wasn’t as smoky as I like it, but then I’ve been living in an 8×8 cabin with a woodstove and NOTHING is as smoky as that. Still, it was tangy and the burger was juicy and generous, with a bun that could stand up to it. The seasoned fries were savory, crispy, not over-salted, and generously cut, which is good, because I’ve had it with bad fries. Where do they get those stubby little potato thumbs at some places?
Vera’s Burgers, I’m looking at you.
Anyhoodle…the second time I had the fish tacos, not expecting too much. My expectations were, to say the least, exceeded. The fish itself was beyond fresh (when they say “catch of the day” they mean that day) and the slaw was terrifically tangy, peppery and vinegared to perfection but not overwhelming the delicate fish. The sparing dab of salsa on top added a touch of contrast, without turning the whole into “salsa plus substrate” with which we are all too familiar. The tortillas could have been thinner, or warmed, I will say that. Otherwise, definitely the best fish tacos I’ve had yet.
Mind you, haven’t been to Baja. YET.
From the reviews at Tripadvisor it looks like I’m far from the first person to discover, and love, this place. And wow, the things you learn at Tripadvisor: it’s a ten minute walk from the ferry, so provided I’m not weighed down with luggage, I may try that next time.