From left to right: Dragon Roll – Nori Sushi; Asteras Greek Taverna; Rice Bowl – Gabriel’s Cafe
One of the best things about travelling is the opportunity to try new restaurants and cuisines. We Vancouver Islanders love our food fresh and local, and we know a good dish when we taste it! So even though Nanaimo may be a smaller-sized city, it has no shortage of fantastic places to eat. We hope you’re hungry… because here is a list of six of our very favourite Harbour City dining establishments.
This family-owned restaurant is a go-to place for fresh and tasty Vietnamese food. Many guests proclaim this to be the best Vietnamese – or even Asian – place on the Island. This place is especially recommended for soup fans! The pho is outstanding, with the savoury broth warming you from inside out, and the won ton soup with its crunchy broccoli, crisp beansprouts and amazing won tons is a must-try. Expect quick, excellent service and a spotlessly clean dining environment.
Won ton soup; spicy hue soup; grilled pork, pork patty, spring rolls & vermicelli noodle combo
Asteras Greek Taverna
Asteras Greek Taverna is widely considered by locals to be one of Nanaimo’s best dining experiences. Enjoy delicious Crete-style Greek food in the cozy, romantic atmosphere of a converted heritage house. A read-through of online reviews will reveal that, food aside, the Taverna’s greatest attraction is its warm and welcoming staff who go out of their way to make you feel at home. Voted “Best Restaurant Overall”, “Best Romantic Restaurant” and “Best Mediterranean Food” in Nanaimo’s 2020 Best of the City Awards, Astera’s is also currently the top-rated Nanaimo restaurant on Trip Advisor. If you’re visiting Nanaimo and you love Greek food, you’d do yourself a disservice if you missed visiting this Nanaimo landmark. Reservations are recommended at peak times.
Avgolemono (creamy lemon chicken soup) dolmades, moussaka, roast lamb
Kim’s Korean BBQ House
If you’re in the mood for something with a spicy kick to wake up your senses, Korean BBQ is always a solid bet. This local favourite is known for serving up authentic Korean favourites in a clean, friendly environment. Their attention to detail is evident in the lack of cheap wooden chopsticks – stainless steel only here. Prices are quite reasonable for the amount of food you get. Meals are served with delicious sides such as kimchi, pickled onions, sweet potato salad and pickled veggies. If you visit Kim’s in the evening, be prepared for a bit of a wait as this place is popular!
Pork bulgogi, pajeon (seafood pancake), doenjang stew, kimchi mandoo (dumplings)
Jalapenos Mexican Food
Fantasizing about a streetside taco stand in Puerto Vallarta? Nanaimo locals know where to go for the most authentic Mexican food in town: Jalapenos. Small and unpretentious, this cheerful, family-owned restaurant offers homestyle Mexican delicacies at great prices. The service is friendly and helpful. If you’re following a special diet, Jalapenos has labelled their menu for dietary restrictions and there are lots of vegetarian options available. Best of all, Saturday and Sunday are all-you-can-eat taco buffet days!
Al pastor burrito, drowned tacos, fresh salsa & chips
Farm to Table
Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe
While Gabriel’s is not the cheapest food option in town, if you’re looking for fresh, local food served fast, Gabriel’s is your place. If you care about where your food comes from, you’ll feel good knowing that all Gabriel’s meats and eggs, and as much produce as possible, are sourced from local, small, sustainable farms. Locals highly recommend Gabriel’s for breakfast, so if you are a lover of excellent bennies and scrambles, definitely give them a try. The rice bowls are delicious, and if you’re watching your carbs you can sub in cauliflower rice for an extra charge. Vegetarians and vegans will be pleased to see a wide array of plant-based options. If you’d like to give something back to the community, you can buy a “Dining With Dignity” token with your meal, which provides a free bowl of soup to a person in need.
The Mt Benny, butter chicken rice bowl, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
Nori Japanese Restaurant
Nanaimo’s most popular sushi restaurant has a well-earned reputation for world-class excellence. The food is not only mouth-wateringly good but beautifully served following the traditional Japanese art of plating. Their attention to detail is second to none, and your teacup will never be empty. The menu is large and unique, with a slight fusion twist – meaning you’ll find dishes here that you wouldn’t find in your average Japanese food place. Lovers of sake will appreciate the drink menu stacked with premium sakes, with a flight of four available for $25. For some extra entertainment, take a seat at the sushi bar and watch them at work. Nori Japanese restaurant is currently rated the #2 restaurant in Nanaimo on Trip Advisor. Expect waits; reservations definitely recommended. Note that this restaurant is on the noisy side, so if you’re sensitive, try takeout.
Lobster tail miso soup, island fever roll, tuna pesto aburi oshi, any of the sashimi