Great Okanagan places to eat, Part 2: Penticton gain, Vancouver drain

The small Okanagan city of Penticton’s restaurant scene is getting more interesting with Vancouver chefs coming to town

Article content

Penticton is named after the Interior Salish word snpintktn, meaning a place where people live year-round. Vancouver chefs and restaurateurs are taking that to heart, leading a culinary brain drain to the Okanagan and shaking up the region’s edible culture in the process.


Article content

Consider Elma, a chic and airy Turkish-inspired restaurant on the Penticton lakeshore. Michael and Ayse Barluk left their Vancouver jobs at the ministry of social development and real estate development, respectively, to start a family and gain a work-life balance, not to mention a bigger bang for their real-estate buck. They opened Elma next door to the Black Sea Motel, which her parents have operated for over 40 years.

Same story with their chef, Derek Ingram, who was lured away from Vancouver when he was about to become a parent. Ayse says that in 2015, when they decided to go for it, Penticton was “sleepy” with a restaurant scene that had hardly changed over 30 to 40 years. By opening date in November 2019, several other Vancouverites were opening restaurants, coffee bars and breweries.


Article content

“We were all doing the same thing, thinking this was a great place to bring ideas to life,” she says.

So here are some of my picks of restaurants in Penticton, many of them owned by Vancouver ex-pats. Next week, in Part 3 of this series, I visit the Restaurant at Naramata Inn and Row Fourteen in Cawston.

The Bench Market

368 Vancouver Ave., Penticton.


Grab a quick, casual breakfast or lunch or just a coffee. Emphasis on local ingredients. All-day breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, baked goods and weekend brunch.

Brasserie Provisions

66 Front St., Penticton.


Sadly, Front Street Brasserie closed its table service, pivoting to Brasserie at Home.Chef John Burke (cooked at Pastis, Cru, Wedgewood Hotel) cooks up a changing roster of French bistro-style meals for pick-up or delivery every Tuesday and Friday. It’s popular with locals, but vacationers with a kitchen have discovered it, too. This is a recent meal example: Red pepper chilled gazpacho with almond, basil and Calabrian chili; Peace River lamb and Fraser Valley pork meatballs with lemon and ricotta with marinara sauce, kale cabbage salad and Turkish loaf; lime cheesecake with strawberry compote. Local wines to match sold at winery prices.


Article content

The pide and its toppings are to die for at Elma.
The pide and its toppings are to die for at Elma. Photo by Mia Stainsby


994 Lakeshore Dr. West, Penticton.


Lots of buzz around this casually upscale Turkish-inspired restaurant on the Okanagan lakefront. Elma is the Turkish word for apple, a nod to the fruit-growing Okanagan. Chef Derek Ingram was formerly sous chef at Blue Water Grill and Fable. His lamb shoulder was lovely and I did backflips over the softly chewy pide (Turkish flatbread) with morels, bechamel, dukka and a jammy egg on top. Next time, pide with Turkish cheese, roasted garlic and spiced honey! There’s a solid list of Okanagan wines and craft beers, and some cocktails are Turkish-inspired with ingredients like pomegranate and raki, an anise-flavoured spirit.

Joy Road Pop Up Bakery

557 Main St., Penticton.


Article content


A pop-up while a permanent bakery-cafe-store-catering company and guest-suite complex is being built in the same neighbourhood. The baking is insanely good, especially the tarts and galettes. There’s also a rotating selection of light lunches or grab-and-go meals. Recently, they had Cornish game hens with barbecue sauce, hanger steak with tamari and lime, and chicken supreme. Owners Brett Turner and Olivia Fobert bought Joy Road in 2019 and had operated Cocktails and Canapes catering in Vancouver until 2020. Joy Road also does pop-up dinners at farms and wineries or on their patio. For the summer lineup, check the website.

The Kitchen at Da Silva Vineyards

375 Upper Bench Rd. North, Penticton.


Article content


You can imagine yourself at a Douro Valley winery dining here with chef Abul Adame’s Portuguese menu that also includes some Mexican dishes. Paella takes centre stage with a supporting cast that includes clams and beans, pork belly slow-braised in port and brandy, fire-grilled prawns piri piri and braised goat meat in adobo of guajillo chiles, an authentic birria. And save room for one of his Portuguese custard tarts. The best!

La Petite Abeille

1085 Fleet Rd., Penticton.


French style ciders, French country aesthetic. The cidery is housed in an old pickers shack where fruit pickers once bunked, upgraded into shabby chic. Sparkling ciders are made with pears and apples from the Blue Beer Orchard that surrounds the tasting room. “Everything we make here is focused on making the fruit shine with as minimal interventions as possible,” co-owner Kimberley Wish says of the ciders. “We realized cider was having a moment and wanted to create something as appealing as wine to drink.”  The sparkling rosé with 10 per cent blackberries was juicy, jammy and very wine-like. Another leaned towards a prosecco.


Article content

Ricotta, fior di latte, rocket, olives and dates pizza at Pizzeria Tratto Napoletana.
Ricotta, fior di latte, rocket, olives and dates pizza at Pizzeria Tratto Napoletana. Photo by Mia Stainsby

Pizzeria Tratto Napoletana

256 Westminster Ave. West, Penticton.


If youre a fan of Via Tevere or its affiliates in Vancouver, youll like Pizzeria Trattos Napoletana pizzas. Theres an ownership connection and head pizzaiolo Tage Deagan used to work there as well as at Straight Outta Brooklyn. The hand-stretched Neapolitan pizzas are flavourful, light, blistered with char marks and have a nice chew. Loved the burrata ‘bomb’ appy with beautiful burrata, prosciutto and ciabatta as well as my pizza with ricotta, fior di latte, rocket, olives and dates. But I found a pizza special withpeas, prosciutto, fior di latte and peaches a tad sweet. The wine list really overdelivers with great selections from Italy and the Okanagan.


Article content

Slackwater Brewing

218 Martin St., Penticton.


Ambitiously dubbed “Canada’s craft beer capital” by Lonely Planet travel guides, Penticton is home to no fewer than seven craft breweries. Slackwater is housed in a cavernous former nightclub. Owner Liam Peyton was involved in organizing beer-related events in Whistler and and managedLonghorn Saloon. Co-owner Chris Vandenberg previously worked at Postmark Brewing. As well as its kickass beer, Slackwater takes its food seriously, with chef Bryson McLaughlin elevating typical pub grub. The poutine is studded with Two Rivers maple bacon and drizzled with a porter demi-glace that takes two days to make. They like to collaborate with local businesses — take the beer made with Joy Road sourdough bread and a dessert made with beer and a local ice cream. With the pandemic easing, live music will soon return.


Article content

The room at Wayne & Freda in Penticton, which has welcoming country look courtesy of co-owner Jen Hawk, who has a background in interior design.
The room at Wayne & Freda in Penticton, which has welcoming country look courtesy of co-owner Jen Hawk, who has a background in interior design. Photo by Mia Stainsby

Wayne & Freda

249 Westminster Ave. West, Penticton.


Wayne & Freda is named after the grandfather and grandmother of owners Ryan and Jen Hawk, respectively. “They were both in a care home in Summerland and when they found out we were dating, they became fast friends,” says Ryan, who previously was a partner at One Under (food + virtual golf) in Vancouver. The food’s bright, healthy, homey and fresh. Lots of toast with toppings, sandwiches and bowl food and house-made baking at the counter. Jen’s background in interior design helped with the welcoming country look, centred around a 20-foot vintage counter on loan from the Summerland museum.


Article content

Checking out the produce at the Salt Spring Farmers’ Market.
Checking out the produce at the Salt Spring Farmers’ Market. Photo by Stasia Garraway


Guide to B.C. Farmers’ Markets

The B.C. Farmers’ Market Association produced a handy dandy guide to over 145 of their member markets in various regions of province with some 4,000 vendors. The B.C. Farmers’ Market Trail guide is a useful tool for B.C. travels and locals alike this summer. Check it out at The association points out the markets add about $150 million to the provincial economy and, of course, you’ll meet local growers, artisans, bakers and discover the specialties in a community. What better way of knowing where your food comes and, of course, supporting local farmers, so important to food security in our communities.


Article content

Please check with individual venues and restaurants prior to travel due to the ongoing state of emergency in B.C. 

Subscribe to West Coast Table and start planning for your weekend with expert recommendations from our team of writers on what to cook, where to dine, and the perfect wine pairing delivered straight to your inbox on Thursday at noon.

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.