Sip and savour your way around Nanaimo and you might be surprised by the culinary options on offer in a city of this size. You’ll find quirky delights and sophisticated indulgences. These unique locations are a fun place to start.

Seafood at The View Oceanside Grill

At this restaurant in downtown’s Best Western Dorchester Hotel, every seafood dish is artfully plated and infused with interesting flavour combinations. Try the sesame-crusted tuna seared medium-rare with a miso drizzle. It’s served with a tataki Brussels sprout and kale slaw on coconut rice.

Persian lunch at Bees Knees Cafe

Run by a Persian family, this little coffee shop is a hidden gem. Most people pop in for a coffee or cinnamon bun, but the lunch is where the family recipes really shine. The made-from-scratch Persian lentil soup and Buddha bowl salad are miles away from ordinary. Check out either of the cafe’s two locations – north Nanaimo or near the university.

100% vegetarian menu at Eve Olive

Tucked among a charming collection of shops and restaurants on the Rutherford Road hill in north Nanaimo, Eve Olive restaurant uses 100% plant-based ingredients. The creative and diverse menu is a vegetarian’s dream with multiple renditions of non-meat burgers, pizzas, pastas, curries and salads.

Whiskey tasting at Grand Cru

On the shores of Long Lake, The Grand Hotel restaurant’s whiskey lounge is an elegant escape. The display alone is stunning: more than 150 different varieties in gorgeous bottles from around the world. Try a tasting flight and let an expert guide you from the sensory experience into the science of critique.

Gluten-free baking at White Rabbit Coffee Co.

There’s a hipster vibe at this modern minimalist coffee shop downtown. Set in Nanaimo’s historic train station, White Rabbit is a favourite among Celiacs. All of the baked items – donuts, muffins and cookies – are gluten-free, organic and made in-house from scratch. The entire menu is also vegan.

Afternoon tea at Piccadilly Bistro

This gorgeous bistro on Westwood Lake pulls out all the stops for high tea by reservation only. Tiered silver platters burst with all the traditional treats to accompany your tea or champagne: fresh-baked croissants, scones with cream and jam, wild sockeye salmon finger sandwiches, chocolate mousse, macaroons and more.

International cheeses at McLean’s Specialty Foods

Drop in at this old-style deli for a fun international browse. McLean’s is a downtown landmark packed with specialty food items from the UK, Europe and South Africa, but the cheese is the real treasure — more than 150 varieties with flavours as fantastic as their names.

Penny’s Palapa

For true, ‘on the water’ dining, don’t miss a stop at this seasonal floating Mexican restaurant. Famous for their freshly squeezed lime margaritas, fish taco’s and ceviche, a meal at Penny’s Palapa will transport you to the sunny climes of Latin America. Of course, it can also be enjoyed on cooler days thanks to patio heaters and brightly coloured blankets.

Arbutus Distillery

If you’re in the mood for unique cocktails made with house-made spirits and liquors, combined with local botanicals, stop into Arbutus Distillery. Tucked away on Boxwood Road, this little gem of a tasting room is open as a cocktail lounge on Fridays and Saturdays when it offers tasty tidbits to complement the artfully made drinks.