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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Casual or fine, winery or brewery, eat-in or to-go — options in Penticton abound.

by Steve MacNaull

We have a dilemma.

There are two wine-pairing suggestions listed with the pulled-pork tacos on the menu at The Bistro at Hillside Winery. Both my wife, Kerry, and I adore Hillside’s Rose and Gewurztraminer, so which do we choose?

Of course, it’s a first-world problem we solve with incredible mental and culinary dexterity. I order the Gewurtz with the tacos and Kerry selects the Rosé to match the caprese salad she has her eye on. After all, the pink wine is also one of salad’s suggested pairings.

Our shared scallops and pork belly entree poses no such crisis. Both the Pinot Noir and the Heritage Pinot Gris are recommended pairings, so we get a glass of each.

Chef Evan Robertson and winemaker Kathy Malone are both doing sensational work at Hillside and as such The Bistro has become a South Okanagan wine country stand out. Whether you happen upon it while wine touring on the Naramata Bench or make a reservation, you can taste wine at the bar or seated outside and also stop for a lunch or dinner of inspired food-and-wine pairings seated inside or al fresco.

A grassy patio area at Poplar Grove Winery is pictured with 4 tables - one table has 5 people sitting at it. 

The grassy area overlooks vineyards and Okanagan Lake beyond the grape vines.

The restaurant at Poplar Grove Winery is also a Naramata Bench hotspot with options to eat and sip indoors with floor-to-ceiling windows, on the patio or lawn — all of which afford panoramic views of vineyards, Okanagan Lake and mountains.

It’s often said that food is the most constant and most important element of a holiday. We all have to eat, so why not nosh local and eat well on your Penticton vacay, whether you’re in the city to hit the beach, ski, wine tour or triathlon?

Your culinary pit stops can be casual or classy, eat-in or take-out or even make-your-own after visiting the Penticton Farmers’ Market on Saturday on Main Street.

“We’re so lucky because we have so many food and drink options in Penticton,” says Stewart Glynes, the chef and owner at The Bench Market. “We were doing farm-to-table before it was a thing and as a result the food and bar scene has exploded.”

A man is pictured in front of the patio at The Bench Market. He is wearing a branded hat and shirt and holding one plate in each hand.

In his right hand is a dish of granola with fruit on top and in his left  hand is a waffle with syrup and fruit on the side. 

In the background, the patio tables in view have customers eating at them.
Stewart the Chef and Co-Owner of The Bench Market showcases breakfast options.

The Bench’s part in all this is “nailing” the coffee, all-day breakfast, brunch and lunch crowd with fresh and organic options such as famous eggs bennie, homemade waffles and trendy avocado toast with a twist.

We have a ‘why-didn’t-I-invent-that’ moment at Pizzeria Tratto in downtown Penticton when our sausage-and-smoke pizza arrives with a pair of scissors with green-and-red handles to mimic the flag of Italy.

A woman is holding a pair of scissors as she cuts her pizza. 
She has a glass of red wine on the table next to her.
In the background the other tables are seated with customers in front of the large glass windows.
Kerry is pictured cutting pizza at Pizzeria Tratto.

“People like to cut their own pizza and these pizza shears are just the ticket,” says Tratto co-owner Christopher Royal.

By the way, the authentic hand-stretched-dough pizza paired magnificently with Foxtrot Foxly Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench.

A chef at Elma restaurant is pictured holding a boat-shaped flatbread. 

He is wearing a white shirt with an apron and is standing in the restaurant. 

The restaurant tables are full and wine is being served. The busy kitchen and bar are also in view.

From Italy to Turkey, the next night we dined at Elma, the Turkish-inspired resto off the Okanagan Lake promenade. The menu is ‘meze’ or share-plate dominated, so we eat our way through burrata cheese with charred eggplant, Turkish bread and dip, grilled swordfish and morel mushroom pide that chef Derek Ingram bakes in the forno oven. By the way, Turkish fare pairs nicely with Okanagan wine, so with our feast we sipped Viognier from Terravista on the Naramata Bench.

Chef Ned Bell from the Naramata Inn is seen in the kitchen standing over 7 plates on the stainless steel counter. 
He is adding a garnish to the dishes.

While he is Penticton born-and-raised, Ned Bell ventured to Vancouver to earn his celebrity chef stripes at Le Crocodile, Lumiere, Yew at the Four Seasons Hotel, as executive chef of Ocean Wise and writing the cookbook Lure: Sustainable Seafood.

But, home drew him back and Bell is now the co-owner of the historic, 12-room Naramata Inn and the chef at the inn’s restaurant and wine bar, which are both earning accolades for their beautiful-British-Columbia approach to food-and-wine pairing.

Dry-aged Fraser Valley Duck with 1 Mill Road 2019 Pinot Noir from the Naramata Bench, anyone?

“I feel I was destined to cook at the Naramata Inn,” says Bell. “It’s my destiny. It’s a dream come true.”

In Grade 4, Luke Walsh was cast as Loki, the Norse god of mischief, in a school play. The name stuck and when it was time for him to open his own restaurant in downtown Penticton he went with Loki’s Garage, a nod also to the location at 52 Front St. previously housing Larsen Brothers Automotive.

The garage doors are still there and open to create an industrial-casual, indoor-outdoor space for devouring chef’s salad, chicken and waffles and the crafty burger with local wine and beer.

The restaurant Lokis Garage is pictured from a raised perspective. 

There are customers at every table eating and the garage doors in the background are bright with sunlight.

Loki’s also happens to be in the downtown brewery district that’s home to seven makers of craft suds — Cannery, Neighbourhood, Highway 97, Slackwater, Bad Tattoo, Tin Whistle and Barley Mill — each of which has their own tasting room, patio and food scene.

Penticton’s eighth and newest microbrewery is Abandoned Rail and as its name implies, it’s located along the abandoned railway that’s now the Kettle Valley Rail Trail for hiking and biking on the Naramata Bench.

Josh from Abandoned Rail Brewing stands on the patio of the brewery wearing a black hat and shirt. He is holding a beer flight with 4 different beers arranged from lightest to darkest.

The patio tables are full with customers and it is sunny.

Abandoned is attracting crowds to sit on its sunny patio to sip the likes of Goldenauer and Bellhop and gobble up beer snacks like warm pretzels, pepperoni and hand pies.

District Wine Village

The District Wine Village in Oliver is pictured.
Four modern buildings are seen with patios in front and patios closest to the entrance of each building.

Game changing wine tourism is on tap just 35 kilometres down Highway 97 from Penticton in Oliver at the new District Wine Village.

“This concept is definitely catching on,” says village general sales manager Darcel Giesbrecht.

“People love that there’s a concentration of 13 wineries, a brewery, a distiller and a restaurant here surrounding a plaza where we regularly have farmers’ markets, art shows and concerts.”

The winery, brewery and distillery buildings that ring the big, tiered, central courtyard all have their own tasting room and patio.

A man holding a beer in one hand and a burger dish and pasta bowl in the other. 

He has a hat and a beard and is wearing a t shirt and jeans. 
He is standing at the District Wine Village.

The Trading Post Restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating, serves the whole village for food and drinks with the a to-go option so you can have a beer or wine in hand to check out the art or farmers’ market.

At the Trading Post, I opted for the voyager burger with Helles Lager (Trading Post is also the brewer at the village) and Kerry the lemon linguine with a glass of Eau Vivre Rose.

A woman is seen sitting next to four bottles of wine - 2 white, 1 rose, 1 red.

In the background the text 'Canter' is seen on the wall next to a cabinet featuring the wines for sale.

We were also drawn to the most recent winery to open at the village — Canter. Canter is the brainchild of village developer Matt Kenyon of Penticton-based Greyback Construction, his wife, Sara, and two other families. It’s so named for the three-beat, relaxed horse gait ‘canter’ and the three equestrian-obsessed families involved with the venture. All of Canter’s wines are fresh, fruit-forward and eminently approachable.


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