Eager to get some miles behind me on the road trip, or just get home on the way back, Malakwa’s The Burner restaurant was on the top of my gotta-stop-there-someday list for a long time.
Owners Nathan and Tamryn Koebel took over the 10-year-old establishment about four years ago, and have been improving and developing the Malakwa landmark ever since.
You can’t miss the building, even if you’re flying down the Malakwa speedway at more than 120 km/h. It’s an old beehive burner, used to burn waste from the former Beaumont Mill. A moratorium meant the burner was done in 1999 when the mill shut down temporarily, so the former owners bought it and shipped it pieced by piece to the new location.
If you’ve never been inside, you’ve got to take a look. Massive Douglas fir posts and beams create an industrial cabin feel, while cedar finishing and a rock masonry fireplace warms it up. Antique chainsaws and logging artefact accents anchor the woodsman theme — a tribute to the forestry industry.
“Everybody looks up,” said Tamryn of first-timers. They’re treated to a fan of beams coming to a peak, covered by Plexiglas, giving the restaurant a full-time skylight.
Tamryn said the restaurant didn’t have a good reputation when they took over. Mystery fried foods, a cook who’d be flipping burgers and running the register in the liquor store at the same time, and rowdy locals who knew they could get away with anything were the main issues.
Tamryn wasn’t content to rely on their status as the only licensed restaurant in Malakwa, bringing her business and marketing background to the front of the house, while Nathan focused on the kitchen as chef. As a former carpenter, he’s also made lots of headway on the building, including new washrooms.
PHOTO: Look up! A detail of The Burner’s ceiling. Aaron Orlando photo
They’ve worked hard to turn things around — introducing a fresh food menu in 2009, becoming licensed for families in 2011 and even bringing in a kids menu.
Other than the highway traffic, their main following is the sledder crowd, and they’ve been honoured two years in a row with SnoRiders Magazine Peoples’ Choice Award for Best Non-Chain Restaurant in B.C.
“We’re very busy once the sun goes down and those boys get off the hill,” Tamryn said. “We’ve got the fireplace going, we’ve got the TVs in there, we’ve got new lighting in there, so it’s a really nice, warm, cozy atmosphere. And the food is is really, really good. It’s all fresh home-made food so we can customize all of our meals.”
The menu is straightforward pub and Western food, with lots of local influences. Tamryn recommends the Jack Daniel’s slow-roasted ribs smothered in home-made barbecue sauce. They’ve just introduced a smoked-on-site pulled pork sandwich. Their fish and chips features haddock battered in a home-made Mt. Begbie Pale Ale beer batter. Tamryn highly recommends the creamy chicken alfredo or the blackened pan-seared Cajun sockeye featuring Ocean Wise wild B.C. salmon.
They do their best to source local and B.C. foods, though not all ingredients are. They order through Sicamous-based Fruit World in the summer, but have to go further afield in the winter. Their meats come through Askews and their dairy is from Sicamous’ D-Dutchmen Dairy. “We do pay for quality food products,” Tamryn said.
PHOTO: The Malakwa landmark, the former beehive burner at the Beaumont Mill, was chopped up and moved and transformed into a bar and restaurant. Photo by Aaron Orlando
On tap, they feature three Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. beers and two from Vernon-based Okanagan Springs, as well as the Backhand of God from Crannóg Ales in Sorrento. All of their wines are B.C. VQA. The java is Kootenay Coffee from Nelson, B.C.
Tamryn said the kitchen loves special requests and modifications, which are no problem when everything’s fresh — they’ve got gluten free and allergy options. And they do take-out for those doing a drive-by past Malakwa.
Tamryn underscores that friendly, quality service is the other key to their success.
The burner is a work in progress — the long-term plan calls for accommodations to make it more of a sledding destination than it already is, with direct access to the Blue Lake trails.
Their hours vary seasonally, but the plan is to move to seven-days-a-week this year. Now it’s a mix of evenings and full days on the weekends and some weekdays. Call ahead for exact hours at 250-836-4600 or check their website at www.theburner.ca.