You’re sitting on a rustic wooden patio with the evening sun warming your legs and a cool drink in your hand. A gentle breeze wafts savoury smells in your direction. Upbeat pop plays at just the right volume to keep conversations private, lending a vibrant energy to the scene. Beyond the rail, nature is displayed in all her glory, rolling at the unhurried speed of the mighty Peace River. And even though every table is soon full, no one feels crowded or unsafe.
No, you’re not in heaven—not quite. This is the patio of Peace River’s newest eatery, Board ’n’ Barrel, a place that is quickly gaining a reputation as a “destination restaurant” in the north.
All Fresh All the Time
That reputation is well earned.
Besides the stunning setting, the made-from-scratch menu is an all-hit parade of selections like steak and burgers combined with more unusual specialty items like duck, lamb, lentil cakes, and even root vegetable fries. Their pasta, desserts, breads, and sauces are all made in-house—no pre-packaged homogeneity here. Even their garlic aioli is homemade, right down to the mayo.
The fun part? Instead of being served on restaurant-standard white porcelain plates, most items are brought out on a wooden cutting board, adding to the air that this was whipped up just for you.
Because it was.
This all combines to create what co-owner Kelly Whalen calls a “flavour forward” experience. His goal, he says, is to “bring back dining with a personal touch.”
“We want you to enjoy the experience instead of just eating food. We have a lot of shareable items on our menu, such as our charcuterie and cheese boards served with homemade pickles, homemade crackers, and fresh focaccia bread—things you can order to share with your family or friends,” says Whalen.
To keep things “fresh” in more ways than one, they change out their menu every four months—though they’ve been known to keep fan favourites, like the beef stroganoff, by request.
They also emphasize supporting local. They use local honey, meat, and produce as much as possible, and they keep craft beers from next-door neighbour Peace River Brewing on tap.
“We want to be the foodie hotspot in the north,” says Whalen.
The restaurant is a family collaboration between Whalen and his wife, Catherine, and their daughter and son-in-law, Courtney and Kane Cartwright, who all own shares.
Kelly has been a Red Seal chef for almost thirty years, and always wanted to open his own restaurant. Head chef Courtney, who runs the kitchen, graduated from culinary school two years ago.
Part of their dedication to providing their guests the best dining experience possible includes supporting and promoting local arts. Through their Artist in Residence program, they feature work by a local artist and even sell pieces directly to customers—so you can take a bit of your experience home with you. The rotating pieces keep their rustic interior as fresh as their menu.
Eventually, they hope to expand that experience to include live music, poetry nights, and cooking lessons on the patio. But even without live entertainment, a night at the Board ’n’ Barrel is something you’ll want to repeat again and again.
Because right now, couldn’t we all use an hour or two in heaven?