Even with gas at nearly four bucks a gallon, it may be worth driving north of the border just for a meal at the Pepperbox Bistro in Salmo, B.C. But, after all, this is the Kootenays, and there are enough year-round outdoor adventures to enjoy within about 30 miles in any direction from downtown Salmo.

Salmo sits just across the border from Metaline Falls but doesn’t have the tourist appeal that Rossland and Nelson do. It could be passed up as another gas and groceries town on the way to somewhere else, but take a little time to look around, and voila, you find the Pepperbox Bistro—an unexpected culinary treat a few blocks off the main drag.

What makes the Pepperbox so good? “We’ve got a unique menu for Salmo or just about anywhere actually,” says owner and chef Steve Ritson. The menu is so full of things that sound so incredibly delicious, that deciding on only one dish is a challenge.

A few items that stick out on the menu include ribs that, according to Steve, “hang over the plate,” bison meat loaf and mashed potatoes, thin crust whole wheat pizzas, locally raised beef burgers and a couple types of homemade veggie burgers, a veggie stuffed portabello mushroom, and, well, too many other wonderful things to list here. Check out the full menu on Steve’s facebook page (search Steve Ritson, Salmo, B.C.) to fully appreciate the depth, breadth and quality of eating options.

The Pepperbox Bistro also mixes things up a couple times a month with themed menu nights, like Chinese on the last Saturday of the month, followed by a Mexican theme 13 days later, and a weekly Sunday brunch spread. Of course, they have a list of local wines and brews from Nelson Brewing Company on tap, as well as appetizers like the poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curd) that will blow your mind.

But it takes more than pulling together a good menu to stand out, and that’s where the Pepperbox really delivers. “We are committed to good for you food with lots of local, organic and homemade ingredients,” says Ritson. “That includes hand made breads, sauces, dressings and desserts. We even make our own ice cream and local orchard fruit toppings.” The quality, care, and thought that goes into each ingredient and dish might make your meal one of the most memorable moments of a Salmo and southern Kootenays roadtrip.

When you’re done with your meal, it’s time to play and burn all that body fuel. Salmo is strategically located a little over a half hour from endless opportunities to work off the previous night’s appetizers, entrées and desserts. To the north, there is Nelson, and everything from a walk around town to a technical mountain bike ride on your choice of area trails. In winter, the Whitewater ski resort just south of Nelson is well known for its powder dumps and excellent lift-assisted terrain, as well as Nordic trails and some of the region’s best backcountry ski spots.

To the west, Rossland is touted as the mountain biking capital of B.C. With such a vast network of bike and foot trails, including the renowned Seven Summits Trail—with over 19 miles of single track (www.imba.com/epics/seven-summits-trail-epic)—there is a pretty strong case for that claim to fat tire fame. Of course Rossland is also home to Red Mountain’s legendary powder skiing. (For information on additional trails, check out www.rosslandtrails.ca.)

Just south and east of Salmo, Highway 3 climbs several thousand feet to the top of the Salmo-Creston Pass (aka Kootenay Pass). It’s no surprise that being the highest maintained pass in Canada makes for some great wintertime backcountry access, but Stagleap Provincial Park at the top of the pass is also an excellent place during the summer to explore sub-alpine peaks and ridges and old-growth forests on foot.

South of the border, hiking trails in the Salmo Priest Wilderness and nearby Abercrombie Mountain—with their wild, rugged trails and steep climbs—or even a more mellow walk along Sullivan Lake’s Lakeshore Trail will certainly work up an appetite for something more than the local burger joints have to offer.

Back in Salmo, there are several nearby camping options and a couple of motels in town. (And if you’re there when the snow is flying, the mom n’ pop Salmo Ski Hill has super cheap night skiing.) If you can’t find something to love in all of that, well then, keep searching because with fewer people and more public land and trails than we have in the states, southeastern B.C. could easily keep you busy chasing new outdoor adventures for the rest of your life.

WHEN YOU GO

To Salmo from Spokane: drive about 3 hours north on the Newport Highway, taking Hwy 211 then Hwy 20 towards Metaline Falls. Cross the border (don’t forget your passport), and then drive Hwy 3 the last dozen or so miles to Salmo.

For more ideas and info, check out www.hellobc.com. The Pepperbox Bistro is open seven days a week, but you should call to check their hours (250-357-9300).