Tonimoes and Shivers at the Mackenzie Hotel – Inuvik, NWT


Tonimoes Restaurant, Shivers Bar @ Mackenzie Hotel
185 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik
Northwest Territories
(867) 777-2861

Sunday Brunch. Nice in theory. Generally over-rated in my personal opinion. You typically pay more than you would pay for breakfast, to eat more than you would, or should, normally eat, with a wider selection of items of a lesser quality. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the “romantic” aspects of brunch. Socialization. A time of gathering. That wonderfully fuzzy time that’s not too early, but still acceptable to be eating breakfast. It’s nice. But the quality can really vary. And then there’s brunch, and there is BRUNCH. At Tonimoes at the MacKenzie Delta Hotel, we’re talking brunch.

The Mackenzie Delta Hotel is the most famous hotel in Inuvik. Which is kind of like saying the Eiffel Tower is the most famous tower in Paris. Not a lot of competition. However, well before venturing to Inuvik, I had heard a lot regarding the Mackenzie. Their “scotch” night. Sunday Brunch. Best meal in Inuvik. Only meal in Inuvik. Really, with a reputation like that, there was only one thing to do – try it myself.

tonimoes_01

Sunday Brunch is a quiet family affair. The room was mostly empty, filled with a few families, and a few couples. It’s a nice room – clean, well appointed if a little spread apart. There is, afterall, spacious, and then there an uncomfortable amount of space between tables.

tonimoes_04

My beef with buffets often comes down to the food. Many dishes  sit around for long periods of time, being gently warmed to well done by the red glow of the heat lamp. Most things lack freshness – or a la minute as many breakfast items (like poached eggs) should be cooked at. At Tonimoes, all my worst buffet nightmares come true. Chafing dishes filled with cooked foods, kept warm for hours. The bacon is crispy-soggy, the eggs, inedible. Most of the hot dishes are in fact barely edible. Hollandaise that has separated. Potatoes that do not taste like potatoes. I tried a little of everything, and ended up sticking to safe things that i would not get sick on. Like bacon and breakfast sausage. Eggs are a bit too adventerous for me.

tonimoes_03

The best thing available? The carrot cake. One of the many previously frozen desserts available, but seemed to withstand freezing much better than some of the other choices. Nothing to write home about, but after biting and spitting out one of the chocolate tarts, this was welcome relief indeed.

tonimoes_02

I didnt go into this experience loving brunch, and i have to admit, this one didnt convert me either. Food? Poor. Price? Average.  If you need a requisite 12,000 calories before heading into the bush, then maybe this is the meal for you. Otherwise? You’d be better off not eating at all. Not really, but pretty close.

Bonus Coverage: Shivers Bar at the Mackenzie Hotel.

So i was told that you’ve not had a true Mackenzie experience until you’ve eaten at Shivers. Im not sure what a Mackenzie experience is, but after my Brunch experience, i should’ve known better. One night, I went in to Shivers to order some food. They have a BBQ half chicken with mashed potatoes and veg as the daily special. Sounds great, so i give it an order. After all, how badly can they mess up roast chicken?

Well, my dining companions order as well. And their food comes. 40 minutes later, still no chicken. Finally, my chicken shows up. A little over zealous in the application of bulls eye (actually, after having looked at the local grocery store, it’s more likely Heinz) BBQ sauce, but looks good. I slice into the chicken. It’s a bit firm. But i manage. Take a bite…and then spit it out. It’s frozen on the inside, and still raw.

Now the service is excellent there. The manager came over and rectified it immediately. Brought me a new order of nachos, which were comped, and quite large and excellent to boot. I feel for the manager. He was not surprised my food was raw. He’s handled this situation before…numerous times i would guess.

So, let me sum it up for you. There is no dining experience like the Mackenzie Hotel. When people tell you this, it really means, it’s generally terrible, but, if you stick to safe elements, you’ll be ok.  Nachos, wings, burgers, beer. These were all quite reasonable, and the only things that should be ordered off the menu. The manager is nice, and a decent guy to talk to. If he isnt spending his evening running around trying to fix raw chicken orders. There really is no where like the Mackenzie Hotel!

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15 thoughts on “Tonimoes and Shivers at the Mackenzie Hotel – Inuvik, NWT

  1. Man, the food looks bad. At first, when I saw the picture of the yellow blob, I was not sure if that was the egg or the potatoes – And that’s something you should easily distinguish! I wonder if food is better in summer months…

  2. The first few sentences are a perfect summary for my brunch feelings. I’ve always thought that so many dishes at brunch are exactly that ‘more expensive and lesser quality’. I wonder if a smorgasbord trance sets in at times and people go blind with food choice excitement. Hopefully this doesn’t sound jaded, I don’t do brunch often, but it just makes the choice of restaurant that much more important.

  3. KH – my understanding is there is little appreciable difference. There isnt really any local produce – everything is trucked or flown in. There are two periods where the ferries across the Dempster cannot move, yet the Ice Highway has melted, and those make for tough times. But this was not one of those times.

    Chris – im glad i have some support on that. People are always incredulous when i tell them im not thrilled with brunch. It makes me feel….inferior somehow 🙂 And you definitely don’t sound jaded. I’d say i sound jaded 🙂

  4. I find the remarks about the “MACKEZIE” Hotel totaly offensive especially from somebody who can’t even get the name of the hotel right he is writing about. It seems from the opening remarks that the reviewer had a bad attidude towads brunches from the start, (So why is he even going there?) I frenquently travel to Inuvik and eat at both establishments (Mackenzie Hotel & Eskimo Inn) and had a much better food experience than this self proclaimed food critic.

    • Then you have not eaten down south much ! the food has never been that great the Mackenzie is not the best, they will have to get better cooks! sorry that is a lie the food was great at one point when it was the old Mackenzie and Hans ran it.

  5. Hi MM,

    First off, while i do often misspell words, using that as the opening salvo in a criticism of my review seems awfully weak – especially when you couldn’t be bothered to spell check your own writing with words like “attidude” and “frenquently”. I also fail to see where i have misspelt “Mackenzie” – if you can point that out to me, i will rectify it immediately.

    However, ignoring that, I’m glad you have had much better experiences at both the Mackenzie and the Eskimo Inn. I personally did not have a good experience at the Mackenzie. I also have many friends who have not. I don’t feel I hold a bias against brunches, but that certainly is subject to interpretation. I just feel that many brunches are over-rated, primarily because of the AYCE aspect.

    In terms of frequently travelling there, your IP tells me you’re on Northwestel, internet provider for Inuvik. Interesting….

    And no, I am not a food critic. I’m someone who enjoys eating, and I share my experiences because many people ask me about them, and I get tired of repeating the same stories over and over again. If you don’t agree with me, I welcome anything constructive you can add to our discussion.

  6. A lot of times, people forget when they pop into Inuvik for a visit, review, or business that it’s in the middle of the Arctic. This isn’t a hotel-restaurant on Stephen Avenue. Like a previous posting said, things are flown or trucked in . . . literally thousands of kilometres away. And it’s in a very small isolated town. I think it’s a great place to eat and very exceptional for it’s location.

  7. Henry

    Absolutely, the location needs to be taken into account – but there’s quality of ingredients, and then quality of preparation. Frozen chicken, soggy bacon, poorly cooked eggs have very little to do with the quality of the ingredients, they have everything to do with the preparation. Caribou Cafe, and to a greater degree, Cloud 9, both in Inuvik, do a fantastic job of preparing good food with what is at hand. Cloud 9, especially, does a fantastic job of preparing food that is flown or trucked in combined with some more local ingredients (musk ox for example).

  8. Hi. While you criticize the Mackenzie hotel I ate there sunday and had a marvelous meal.A pork chop with a zesty tomato and feta and toasted bread with what i think was basil.best meal i have had in the north perhaps ever. So perhaps you had a difficult experience but I loved mine.

  9. Again, as said, one must take into consideration the time of year the visit occurred. Also, understand that being in an isolated community like Inuvik, there are a lot of problems that occur, especially when trying to obtain proper employees that are able to complete their contract with the company, before finding that they can’t live somewhere like that. It’s a huge change for someone who has moved from elsewhere. I’m not saying that the food is 110% all the time, but the good experiences do over-ride the bad ones. I’m sorry for your bad experience and hope that if next time you travel to Inuvik again, it’s much better.

    “There is, afterall, spacious, and then there an uncomfortable amount of space between tables.” By this, I am confused. I’m not sure what it is you’re looking for – space or no space? Would you rather be crammed next to someone, so close you can hear them chew their food, or have some space to be able to have a nice conversation with the person you’re with?

    If you had to wait forty minutes for your food – was it busy? Did you have an appetizer? Yes, it shouldn’t take that long – but I’ve been to the Keg several times where my main dish didn’t arrive until after an hour after I had finished my appetizer. Yes, service can be slow, but it also can be everywhere.

    And, it’s the Mackenzie Hotel, not the Mackenzie Delta Hotel.

    Again, very sorry for your bad experience and I hope next time, if there is, you are satisfied.

  10. Ive lived in inuvik for 19 years and the Mackenzie restaurant is the only ‘fancy’ place to eat in town. I know for a fact that there is one cook there that makes everything PERFECT. Best cook in town. But there is another cook there that should probably be shot. HORRIBLE food. The service is getting better, they finally fired the old hag that was dragging that place under. She was a terrible server. With Tonimoes its a 50/50 chance of having a good dinner, or having a terrible one. With shivers on the other hand, BEST service every time. The service almost makes up for the sometimes terrible food.
    So if your going to the Mackenzie for a meal, go to Shivers.

  11. No excuses. I’m from Inuvik and Tonimoes “not the MacKenzie Hotel” food quality is not consistent and more bad than good. Yes when Hans ran the previous restaurant “The Green Briar” the quality was 100% better. It all comes down to who is cooking. I’m writing this because this evening I ordered out a steak sandwich “medium well” with house salad as a side. The house salad consisted of lettuce and tomato, the steak was overly dry/tasteless and the bread was bland at best. So spare me the drama. Tonimoes has to improve on the quality of their food. Their is no excuse for being served tasteless food just because we’re in the North. We’re not exactly remote any longer!!!!!!

  12. Well being a local in Inuvik I must agree with your blog. We have been there on 5 different occasions and not once did I leave with a good taste in my mouth. They don’t even filter their water which gives their soft drinks a swampy taste when the water is sourced from the lake instead of the river. I get better food and value buying from the local food truck stand outside the local watering hole.

  13. Hello,
    Although I agree the food can be very disappointing at the “Tonimoes” restaurant, I can’t help but feel you could have written a more accurate review. For instance; Tonimoes is not truly apart of the Mackenzie hotel, the space is in reality rented by another individual and decisions regarding the menu and employees are made by said individual. That being said, the food you received from Shivers is also prepared in the same kitchen. Although this might seem like a dimwitted fact, it is important to distinguish your dissatisfaction from either the Mackenzie hotel or the Tonimoes restaurant. It also would have been nice if you were to go to Tonimoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and ask who prepared your food each time, I only suggest this because there are a few cooks there that take pride in their work and actually create wonderful dishes and to harp on them as a whole based one a few bad apples is disrespectful from a visitor to this town. Again I am not disagreeing with you that the food can be unsatisfactory and sometimes questionable, it would just be nice to see a review that reported the source of the problem as opposed to the critiquing front runners who make due with what/ who they have to work with. To add one more point; there is a lot of space in the restaurant because it gets incredibly busy in there, to the point where there are people waiting to be seated. So in retrospect the space is nice when it is a full house.

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