The Most Expensive Fish and Chips in Canada

30 03/2024
Bullocks Bistro in Yellowknife

After years in the ho-hum-drum, Canada’s food scene has blossomed. We’ve got some of the finest restaurants on the continent, operated by rock star chefs of wildly diverse backgrounds. When a restaurant becomes synonymous with a provincial capital, it demands investigation — especially when reports range from “essential” to “avoid at all costs.” Such is the case with Bullocks Bistro, a ramshackle fish shack in Old Town Yellowknife. With a reputation for serving the most expensive fish ’n’ chips in Canada, and an open kitchen run by a legendary local character, it demanded a culinary investigation.

Established by husband and wife Sam and Renata Bullock in 1989, the bistro has grown from a simple wooden fish shack into a larger wooden fish shack, covered in bumper stickers, notices, and the satisfied scrawling left by decades of happy customers. The potato chipper is against the wall, the cold beers are in the fridge, and the place has the feel of a warm, frat-house family kitchen. The menu consists of northern seafood delights — pickerel, whitefish, lake trout, Arctic char — grilled, pan-fried, or deep-fried. For the serious carnivore, there are also grilled caribou, muskox, and bison steaks. No chicken, no beef, only food you can find in the North, all served with a fresh salad and homemade fries. The fish is particularly fresh, with most of it caught in Great Slave Lake just a block away. There’s a wisecracking chef on the other end of the long wooden counter, unhurriedly carving huge hunks of meat, prepping, grilling, frying, and chatting with the customers. It is packed with Japanese tourists and enthusiastic locals.

“Nothing in Yellowknife comes close to this sort of quality,” enthuses a mining consultant. Quality and quantity, for the portions are noticeably large. Slabs of meat cover the dinner plates, while fish fillets are as large as a basketball player’s hands. A patron next to me receives her dish, with the chef adding another large piece of fish because her huge portion didn’t look huge enough.
I order Arctic char sashimi to start, a lovely salmon-like fish best enjoyed up north. Next up is the pan-fried pickerel. It is cooked with so much butter that it isn’t so much fried as poached, and is accompanied by a sweet-spicy garlic herb mix that hits all the right notes. The salad is fresh and simple, with the choice of house-made vinaigrette or a rich, creamy feta cheese dressing. Crispy fries taste like real potatoes. The secret is the cold waters of Great Slave. The colder the water, the sweeter and fresher the fish. With a dozen meals on the go, Renata chats away, somehow finding time to show some tourists where the bath- room light is. The meat is medium rare, the fish melts in your mouth. Enjoying a cold Pilsner from the fridge, I read the bumper stickers:

  • Do you know why divorce is expensive? Because it’s worth it!
  • Mall Wart: Your Choice for Cheap Plastic Crap.
  • Prices Subject to Customer Attitude.


I’d been forewarned about the cost of visiting Bullocks. A meal for two typically costs around $125. Renata shrugs it off. This is Yellowknife, the nearest big city is 1,700 kilometres away. The fish is as fresh as it gets (the Arctic char is flown in daily), and as Renata herself once reminded me, “If you want an experience, it’s gonna cost you!”

An experience is right. Some people might balk at the prices, others at the attitude. The Bullocks retired in 2016, but the sale of the bistro came with conditions: almost nothing can change. New owners Mark Elson and Jo-Ann Martin are fully committed to keep- ing Bullocks Bistro’s unique ambience and legendary quality. A good thing, too. Having eaten in hundreds of restaurants around the country, I can say with confidence that few meals are as synonymous with their city, or as memorable, as Bullocks Bistro.

Great Canadian Bucket List