The exact origins of the Nanaimo Bar are unclear, but one thing is certain – Nanaimo knows how to throw down when it comes to this chocolate and custard treat. In years past, Nanaimo was the only place you could find this specialty dessert. Today renditions of this bar pop up all across the globe, but this quaint coastal city is still the best place to sample, savor and indulge Nanaimo Bar style.
In large part, we can thank Chelsea Barr for this. (You can find her at Tourism Nanaimo. The office is located in downtown Nanaimo, near the harbour. If you see her, she deserves a huge high five)
Chelsea recognized the numerous Nanaimo Bar versions throughout the city and slowly began bringing the dessert enthusiast together, creating what we now know as the Nanaimo Bar Trail. If ever you needed an excuse to eat your way through glorious dessert after glorious dessert, this is it.
With a chance to hit up the trail again, I joined King 5 Evening Magazine’s Joan Kinsey, her amazing photographer Mike Hays on a Nanaimo Bar Trail adventure.
We hit up a few of the stops I’d already made, including the Bocca Café where specialty Nanaimo Bars include a Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar and Chilli Nanaimo Bar. We stopped by Modern Café, where the folks threw down another round of Nanaimo Bar Martinis that’ll knock your socks off. I popped into Mon Petit Choux and strolled past Pirate Chips. Oh, it was a delightful day indeed.
We also visited some new stops along the trail, some new – mind-blowingly impressive stops including:
Nanaimo Bar Chocolate Truffles from Cherub Chocolate
Cherub Chocolate was opened in 2013 by former advertising guru Veronika Kononova. Switching career paths later in life, Veronika had the life experience to know quality is king, especially when it comes to chocolate. Her small batch chocolates are made with only the finest ingredients, hand crafting and packaging each chocolate.
Heck, when I showed up, she was in the midst of making a new batch of Nanaimo Bar Truffles. She had just finished filling the chocolate shells with cream and was about to start prepping their coconut coating. “These are one of our most popular items,” she told me. Popular they sure are. Veronika only had one left when I showed up!
Beyond her Nanaimo Bar Truffle, she also created a Nanaimo Bar Praline. During the summer, she also scoops up Nanaimo Bar ice cream! (Word to the Wise: If you are worried about finding room for multiple stops along the Nanaimo Bar Trail, Veronika’s treats can easily be taken to-go and savored later.)
Truly Decadent Bacon Topped Nanaimo Bar from Smokin’ George’s BBQ
We’re not going to pretend this dessert doesn’t include fat. It does. And, we’re oh so glad for it.
“People think fat is bad,” said Smokin’ George’s BBQ owner, George Kulai. “But it’s not. Fat is good. It’s great. We all need some of it in our diet.”
And here, at this southern inspired, slow smoked BBQ joint, we dug into bacon so flavorful it made entire tables groan with pleasure. As did the poutine – French fries smothered in house made gravy and cheese curds.
(Insider Gravy Tip: George says the trick to exceptional gravy is rendered chicken fat. Rendering the fat from chicken skin, he thickens his gravy with it rather than with flour.)
The Bacon Topped Nanaimo Bar is one of the newest additions to the Nanaimo Bar Trail. Created by the restaurant’s manager, Darcy, this amazing bite of heaven is coconut free and maple infused. The bacon is locally sourced and smoked for four hours with apple wood. It’s then sliced, diced, pan friend and sprinkled on top of their Nanaimo Bars.
“Bacon and maple just go together,” said George.
And boy do they! If you’re looking to also eat lunch or dinner at Smoin’ George’s BBQ, I highly recommend sharing a bar. (All portions are extremely large.) If you ask, they’ll probably even cut one up into bite-sized pieces.
Explore additional stops on the Nanaimo Bar Trail here.