Siku girl dines out… in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

You might think when you’re in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on Victoria Island, in a community whose population now stands at only about 1,900, that you wouldn’t have a big choice of dining possibilities, but you do.

In fact, your options do run from the typical fast food to bistro fare.

And, depending on your mood they’re all alright, but there’s something similar about them: no alcohol is served—and that’s despite the new cannabis laws that mean some clients are likely to be found smoking weed right outside.

As I stay further away from the Kuugaq Café from other restaurants in town, that’s where I tend to go more when I have time. That’s because the meal also comes along with a good walk. Inside the café, I find an open kitchen, along with a choice of seating options in the large room (wooden tables, bistro tables for two and sofas and chairs.)

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A menu of daily specials is on the blackboard. A typical lunch features Arctic char soup, muskox chilli, muskox burgers, roasted caribou panini, some pulled pork combos and a bowl with roasted cauliflower, squash, lime, avocado and quinoa.

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I opt for the muskox chilli which fills me up for the rest of the day.

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I also end up at the Kuugaq Café for a pre-Thanksgiving meal of turkey, ham, roasted vegetable and mashed potatoes. Wonderful.

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I love the muskox burger always.

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When someone wants to meet me, or I have an interview to schedule, we meet at the Kuugaq Café because it’s quiet, as well. It’s like an extension of my living room or office (if I had one in Cambridge Bay.) To me, anyway,  as well, the prices also seem reasonable compared to most restaurants in Iqaluit which often leave you feeling poor.

Launched in February 2017, the café, owned by Stuart Rostant and Amanda Doiron, is thriving. It’s closed Monday, but open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Weds., from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thurs. and Friday and weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I am never alone there, either: you always find a nice cross-section of the population, from young, pregnant mothers to RCMP officers to high school students and entire families, Inuit and non-Inuit.

Second on my eating list in Cambridge Bay would be the locally-owned Saxifrage which makes a big effort to have its food look appealing. It’s got an Edmonton sports-bar appeal, and if I wanted to watch sports or eat good food close to town, that’s where I’d head.

You can also get homestyle takeout from the Qillaq Lodge (think meatloaf, roasted potatoes, peas, salad and dessert) and fill-you-up fare from the Arctic Lodge or you can head to the Quick stop with its pizza, chips and burgers.

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If you don’t feel like cooking—or simply want a break from facing the high grocery prices in Canada’s North—you at least have some options in Iqaluit. In Nunavut’s capital city, in comparison to other places in the territory,  you can find a fairly large choice of restaurants.

For some reason during the past month, maybe because it was colder than usual ftom May into June, I felt focussed on food. That led me to encourage local chef Sheila Lumsden to prepare a variety of Arctic foods, from muskox to Canada goose,  for a story in the Nunatsiaq News.

Goose prepared by Sheila Lumsden…a beautiful Arctic plate.

But  when the Nunavut legislature went further into its spring sitting, and I was often too tired to think about serious food preparation, I started to sample the various restaurants around town, looking for the best deals at the lowest price possible. I aimed to spend no more than $30.  I found many of these take-out meals were “desk-worthy” as well, that is, easy to eat while I continued to work.

Here are my top finds:

“Mamartuq”- yummy read words under the polar bear on the side of the Nanook Express truck, parked in front of Nanook elementary school.

• Nanook Express food truck: When I stopped off there to buy my take-out meal, it was mainly because the idea of caribou bulgogi with rice and spicy cole slaw along with a turbot taco sounded pretty good. The caribou worked well with the sauce, in case you’re wondering!

At $24 for the two, bulgogi and taco, this was by far the best and cheapest meal I found.

• Yummy Shwarma (as seen below):  The pizza, falafel, humous and stuffed vine leaves I ordered at various times from Yummy Shwarma were so tasty that they disappeared quickly. I didn’t take any photos. When I went in one evening, Khldoun El-Shamaa, who owns and operates Iqaluit’s first (and only) Lebanese restaurant, offered me a huge portion of salad with chicken, so much it lasted me for three meals.

• The Snack: While you can spend a lot of money here on things like poutine and soda pop, one of the best lunch deals in Iqaluit has to be its generous chicken sandwich, made with fresh meat, all for about $10.

• The Iqaluit Country Foods Store: You can buy a piece of dried Arctic char or smoked Arctic char for under $30 and count on eating well for more than one meal.

• Friday night steak at the Legion: Again, for that magic price of $30, you can get a good steak, heaped with onions and mushrooms, served with vegetables and a baked potato  and relax in an unpretentious environment (with a glass or two of wine.)

• Or if you have money you can go to The Discovery Inn and spend several times more than $30 on a meal: It’s expensive but the meal I ate there was great, a beef loin with spicy chimichurri  sauce and vegetables.

If you’ve been wondering about the image of the ice-floe lights which is my featured photo with this post, it’s the ceiling decoration at the Discovery Inn.

If you have input on reasonable and good meals that you’ve had in Iqaluit, please send me a comment!

In writing this post, I don’t want to sidestep the widespread hunger in Iqaluit, where the majority of Inuit don’t have enough to eat.  The city does have a soup kitchen and a food bank, and they need our support: you can read more about the soup kitchen here.

 

Let’s go out to eat…in Iqaluit