Tiny Tidal Taco Shack earns a big following – for good reason

TTS Sign‘Dining out’ has a whole new meaning when you eat at Qualicum Bay’s Tidal Taco Shack.  There is no other option – you eat at the picnic tables overlooking the sweeping vistas of Georgia Strait and the Coast Mountains, or you can eat in your car.

Tidal Taco Shack at Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Tidal Taco Shack is tiny….

Tidal Taco Shack is one of those secret gems with a humble beginning that has grown into something of a local phenomenon. And, we discovered recently, for very good reason!

The tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery opened in 2014 as a project to keep owner Ashley Martz occupied.  It has certainly done that, and then some – she now has three employees helping out at her operation, and judging by the constant flow of customers she may need more in the future.

Beef burrito at Tidal Taco Shack, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Beef burrito – no lack of good food here!

The Tidal Taco Shack is a tiny built-from-scratch structure located just off Highway 19A (the Old Island Highway) on a leased chunk of waterfront.  But its’ lack of stature belies the wonderful food that comes through the order window on a regular basis.

Picnic at tidal Taco Shack in Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Picnic tables, water and mountain views and great food – it doesn’t get any better

The menu includes both burritos ($7.50) and tacos ($4.50) with a variety of generous fillings ranging from chicken to beef to fish and shellfish.  The burritos are huge – enough to keep anyone going through an active day – and if we order them for a late lunch they get me off the hook for cooking a big dinner.

Fish burrito at Tidal Taco Shack, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The fish burrito combines panko-crusted whitefish with a cornucopia of other flavourful ingredients

We recently took guests from Alberta to the Tidal Taco Shack for lunch, and every burrito that hit the table was consumed with gusto and sighs of contentment. Sitting at a picnic table on a lovely autumn day, taking in the spectacular scenery, provided a quintessential Vancouver Island experience for the drylanders – and for us.

Diners at Tidal Taco Shack, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Taco lovers of all ages flock to Tidal Taco Shack – and it’s dog-friendly, too!

A word of warning – the Tidal Taco Shack is open from noon – 7 p.m., Thursday-Sunday  during autumn, winter and spring, and keeps longer hours during the summer months.If you arrive near ‘traditional’ meal times, be prepared to wait 45 – 60 minutes for your meal. Everything is made fresh, and with the pile-up of customers at lunch and dinner hours you need to be patient.  We usually head there between the rush hours and have never waited more than 15 minutes.

On a recent wind-blown pouring-rain day my husband drove by the place and even then, there were folks sitting in their cars enjoying the fruits of the labours of Ashley and her staff’. The fact that customers drive up to an hour each way to get to the Tidal Taco Shack is further testimony to the excellence of the food that comes out of that miniscule cedar shake-clad edifice.

So, another new ‘dining’ favourite for us – great food in plentiful quantities at good prices, topped off with a spectacular setting.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

            The Tidal Taco Shack doesn’t have a website, but further information can be found on their Facebook page at:


wheelchair-lPrice rating: $

The Tidal Taco Shack is located at 6001 Island Highway, Qualicum Bay

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.402917  Long. -124.626482

 N 49 24.175  W 124 37.589


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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