A good meal can define a destination - and for so many reasons. Perhaps it was the sumptuous introduction to a new ingredient or flavour profile, a creative wine pairing, exceptional service, dining with heartwarming company, or that the meal was framed in a jaw-dropping setting. What's more, an unforgettable meal need not be defined by white linens and silverware. Below, our travellers recount everything from steaming bowls of Vietnamese pho served street-side to a concealed Montreal speakeasy. 

To honour the chefs and restaurants that tantalized our palates, we surveyed our editorial team and freelancers, asking them to describe the best meal they ate in 2017. These are the meals we'll remember long after the dishes have been cleared. 


Best international meals and dining experiences of 2017


Ben’s Chili Bowl,
Washington D.C. 

bens chili bowl

Food for me is as much about place as taste. Given the transitory nature of nosh – a bite and it’s gone – the ambiance of where I’m chowing down is as important as the meal itself.

As such, one of my favourite meals of 2017 was at Ben’s Chili Bowl in a Washington D.C. – a U.S. capital landmark that is synonymous with the American civil rights movement. Such is the stature of the colourful diner – located on what was called “the Black Broadway” in the era of segregation – that Barack Obama made an “out of the blue” visit early in his tenure as president.

Ben’s is a rite of passage for a visitor to the city, and visitors have included notable names ranging from Harry Belafonte to Bono, and Anthony Bourdain to Jimmy Fallon.

Founded in 1958, Ben’s is famous for its chili dogs and milkshakes. One can get a burger or salad, but the signature dish is a “half-smoke” sausage with mustard, onions and specially spiced chili.

The colourful history of the diner is memorialized through hundreds of wall photos and an exterior mural. Ben’s fed both police and protesters during the Washington riots of 1968. Today, besides celebs and politicians, one might just come across a couple celebrating an anniversary (complete with their own tablecloth and flowers) or getting married (once by a rabbi, no less). Or a visitor like me. 

 - Michael Baginski, Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of Canadian Traveller and CT


Astrid and Gaston,
Lima, Peru

Astrid & GastonFacebook/Astrid & GastonIt was hard to choose a favorite from the 10-course feast I was served at one of the world's 50 best restaurants, Astrid and Gaston in Lima, Peru. The Cuy and the scallops served with a basil and apple snow on ice however were sensational. 

 - Fiona Tapp, travel writer; @fionatappdotcom @fionatapptravels


Baan Ma Ying,
Ban Ko Klang, Thailand

Kate RobertsonKate Robertson

Aboard a traditional longtail boat, I took a 10-minute ride from Krabi, Thailand on what seemed like a secret route through the mangroves to Ban Ko Klang island, Kate Robertsona traditional fishing community.  There are no cars on the island, but tuk-tuks will drive you past fields with grazing water buffalo and through tiny villages where houses have birds in cages hanging outside their doors (to denote status). 

The restaurant, called Baan Ma Ying, was part of a floating village. Lunch was a fish and seafood feast with lots of veggies, cooked in a variety of oh-so-yummy spicy Thai sauces and served with their local violet-reddish rice, called sang yod. The whole experience was unforgettable.  

 - Kate Robertson, travel writer; katerobertson.ca 

La Guarida,
Havana, Cuba

Non Stop DestinationNon Stop Destination

If you are visiting Havana, there's one place not to be missed: La Guarida. The restaurant is located in a dilapidated building in Centro Habana, surrounded by once grand mansions.

It is hard to imagine that inside is one of Havana's most coveted Paladars. As I walked up the impressive marble staircase, I couldn't stop marvelling at the run-down entrance, which held such romantic beauty amid its ruins. 

Non Stop DestinationNon Stop Destination

Once inside the restaurant, a myriad of busy rooms awaited me. As I made my way through the corridors, with an occasional gust of wind rustling my dress, I couldn't help but feel like I was on a movie set. My table was outside, so the dim lighting and the sounds of the city in the background, made for an atmospheric experience. The food was excellent: fine Cuban dining, with fabulous rum cocktails!

 - Lies Veldman from nonstopdestination.com 


La Bombeta,
Barcelona, Spain

You can’t go to Barcelona, Spain without doing an evening tapas crawl, and the best place to do that is in Barceloneta near the marina. For those new to tapas: the trick is to only order 1-2 dishes in each restaurant to share, so you have room for tasting other delights in more tapas bars throughout the night. Order carafes of wine to share too, or sangria as most places in this area boast a homemade recipe!

La BombetaMyriah Saulnier 

La Bombeta restaurant in Barcelona, Spain still has me drooling, months later, from the popular Spanish mashed potato ball, filled with sausage and drizzled with garlic aioli. This is the place to fall in love with the “bomba”, the most famous dish of this restaurant, and it should be your priority for trying authentic tapas. A local I met one night told me “if there’s no bomba on the menu, it’s not a real tapas bar!”

La Bombeta is a small tavern, always packed full of patrons seated in cafeteria style rather than private tables to encourage conversation. Even though hardly anyone speaks English here (they say as much in their cheeky motto written on the wall), you leave here feeling more like “family” than tourists. The usual line-up out the door shouldn’t discourage you, it’s your first sign that this place is worth waiting for.

- Myriah Saulnier from feministtravelcorner/myriahsaulnier 

Phở in Vietnam


2017 was a travel-filled year and included two trips to Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, Phở is a typical breakfast offering. The nourishing warm broth filled with noodles, aromatic basil, spicy red peppers, and fresh limes quickly became a favorite way to begin the day, and the most memorable dining experience of 2017.

Nancy Besharah from luxetravelfamily.com 

Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant,
Nassau, Bahamas

On vacation with Sunquest, we visited Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant in Nassau, Bahamas. One of the most storied properties in the Bahamas, it was built in 1740 by a famous pirate of the Caribbean, Captain John Howard Graysmith.

When captured by the Americans in 1776, the property was used as their headquarters and garrisons. Turned into a hotel in 1844, it has been welcoming guests since then and have recently expanded to offer incredible experiences to guests and visitors alike – cooking lessons, wine tasting and blending, chocolate-making lessons, and tours of their own cigar factory on site.

Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant

The restaurant in the main hours was the first five-star restaurant in the Bahamas and the experience of sitting for lunch was one of luxury, sophistication, and incredible tastes. We started with Graycliff’s signature cocktail, and I dined on the heirloom tomato and burrata salad followed by the most tender filet mignon I’ve ever had.

After our meal, we were taken on a tour of the wine cellar in the former garrison – the third largest private collection in the world. Valued near $10 million, the tour took us through narrow passageways with low ceilings and some of the original stone floors. The history was fascinating as was the sampling of celebrity names who have stayed and dined there.

For anyone looking to get off the beach and to steep themselves in old-world glamour, even if only for a day or two, Graycliff absolutely needs to be at the top of the list.

 - Jennifer Prendergast, publisher of Candian Traveller & CT magazines

Cafe Indochine,
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Chloe BergeChloe Berge

A bed of jasmine rice greedily soaks up the steaming golden curry of the fish amok, a whiff of lemongrass and kaffir lime hanging in the air. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Cafe Indochine’s romantic Khmer wooden villa, I savour the bright, spicy sauce with its ribbons of sweet, creamy coconut. I learn from our server that fish amok, a traditional Cambodian dish, is cooked by steaming the fish in banana leaves, leaving the flaky white meat buttery soft and steeped in flavour. A storm lamp casts a warm glow over our table and in that moment, I know whenever I smell lemongrass I’ll always think of Siem Reap.

- Chloe Berge from chloeberge.com 


The Bewildered Pig,
Philo, California

Bewildered PigJennifer Hubbert

I didn't expect to find my best dining experience of 2017 on a lonely backroad in Mendocino County, California. (They're they only restaurant I follow on Facebook.) There on the roadside was a charming little bistro surrounded by a cactus garden and a few Tesla charging stations. A sign over the kitchen read "apothecary" and when I asked Chef Janelle Weaver what that meant, she said, "It's the idea of food as medicine. You'll find a lot of green on our plates." The Bewildered Pig won me over with its rustic-refined fare that was approachable, creative and downright delicious. Read about my meal here.

 - Jenn Hubbert, online editor and Canadian Traveller contributor.


Copa Airlines

Flying from Panama City to Montreal with Copa, I was bumped to business class. Believe it or not, their three-course dinner at 30,000 feet was one of the best I had all year.

 - Alison Karlene Hodgins from aroundtheworldwithalison.com & Canadian Traveller contributor 


Best Canadian meals and dining experiences of 2017


Vancouver, B.C.

While living in Gastown, the historic centre of Vancouver, I was spoiled with a variety of excellent restaurants right outside my doorstep. My favourite, however, was Bauhaus, a restaurant situated in a historic building, serving German-inspired dishes with a modern twist. The six-course tasting menu was delicious and I was lucky enough to be served by the owner, Uwe Boll, who is also a German film director. 

- Lies Veldman from nonstopdestination.com 

Glass Bar Laitier, 
Rouyn-Noranda, QC

Ice Cream Peanut ChocolateFiona Tapp

At the Glåss Bar Laitier in Rouyn-Noranda, in the beautiful region of Abitibi Temiscamingue, I was treated to the best fleur de sel ice cream. Dipped in thick chocolate and peanuts it was the perfect reward after cycling around Lac Osisko all afternoon.

 - Fiona Tapp, travel writer; @fionatappdotcom @fionatapptravels


Hotel 71,
Quebec City

Remember how it was sweltering hot at the end of September? It was at that time that I visited Quebec City for a chance to stay at the charming Hotel 71, located in the Old Port. Chic and unique accommodations aside, the property is a stone’s throw from an endless choice of restaurants, but none more memorable than Toast. The venison, the truffle, THE FOIE GRAS…I dream about it to this day. Did I mention the wine? The wine!  And of course, no good meal is complete without some quality conversation – big brother, U.S. politics, women’s rights…it was all on the table, so to speak, making the entire dining experience one for the books.

 - Terrilyn Kunopaski, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Traveller and CT magazines



Popcurds are a little bit gooey, a little bit crunchy, and absolutely addictive. The magical process starts with fresh, squeaky cheese curds from St Albert Cheese Cooperative which are lightly coated in breading before they're deep fried until golden brown. The result is what ordinary mozzarella sticks dream of being when they grow up. Popcurds are ridiculously delicious and I love them best with a side of marinara sauce for dipping, but they're also popular on nachos and on poutine as the ultimate cheese curd upgrade. Their roots are in Prescott-Russell, Ontario, just like St Albert, and I had the chance to try them for myself when I toured the Popsilos art instillation, a series of giant murals painted on rural farm silos. It's a beautiful region well worth exploring as a day trip from Ottawa and Popcurds are the perfect fuel for the adventure.

Vanessa Chiasson from turnipseedtravel.com


My Plum, My Duck,
Charlottetown, PEI

my plum my duck prince edward islandKate Robertson

My Plum, My Duck in Charlottetown, where ingredients are local and organic and everything is made in-house. Owner/Chef Sarah Forrester Wendt has a seasonal menu and buys “under-appreciated” produce from farmers and foragers.  I had the macrobiotic platter, a perfectly balanced meal with grains, beans, sea veg, pickles and miso soup, paired with the house cocktail special, a Kimchi Caesar—housemade kimchi, tomato juice and PEI vodka. This experience was memorable, not just because it was delicious, but because I was truly inspired by all of the sustainability initiatives. Even the PEI canola oil used for deep frying is recycled by a motor vehicle bio diesel program. 

 - Kate Robertson, travel writer; katerobertson.ca 


Hawksworth Restaurant,
Vancouver, B.C.

Regarded as one of Canada's best, Hawksworth Restaurant is a favourite dining destination when I'm in Vancouver, British Columbia.  A recent lunch entree of curry pacific cod, side stripe shrimp, cilantro, cashew, and basmati rice was the best domestic dining experience this year. The curry dish was flavourful but not too filling - I could eat it every day. 

 - Nancy Besharah from luxetravelfamily.com


St. Johns, Newfoundland 

Canada I’d been saving all year for an epic seven course wine pairing dinner at Raymonds, one of Canada’s top restaurants, located in downtown St. John’s. So me and my friend Maggie dressed up and headed out for a three-hour feast in December, where the restaurant rolled out plate after plate of creative dishes (seared scallops and urchin butter, for one!) paired with delicious wines from all over the world. My friends think I’m crazy for splurging so much on a meal, but you can’t beat the experience of fine dining in a place like this.

- Candice Walsh from  freecandie.com

Le Speakeasy,
Montreal, QC

From fresh seafood in P.E.I. to immaculately spiced chicken in the Philippines, 2017 overflowed with good eats. My favourite dining experience had to be at Le Speakeasy in Montreal.

We arrived at an inconspicuous ice cream shop (a clever front) and were asked if we had a reservation. We did—so the freezer door, marked “employees only,” swung open to reveal a happening bar and restaurant. We were handed books and told to find our menus, pasted in over the pages somewhere in the middle. Waiters in white collared shirts and suspenders brought us $1 oysters. It’s an experience I’m hoping to relive in 2018 and for years to come.

 - Alison Karlene Hodgins from aroundtheworldwithalison.com & Canadian Traveller contributor


What was your favourite meal of 2017?
Let us know - comment below! 

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