Northerners traditionally lived off the land by hunting and fishing (many still do, to some degree), and Arctic specialties have now worked their way onto many fine-dining menus. Char, buffalo, and musk ox may be available on some menus and offer a different taste and texture for meat eaters. Caribou is delicious but hard to find because of hunting restrictions and federal food-inspection regulations. If you're lucky enough to find it on a menu, good caribou, sometimes dressed in sauces made from local berries (wild blueberries or Saskatoon berries) tastes like mild venison and is usually cheaper than beef or lamb in the North. Musk ox is rather stronger tasting, with a chewy texture, and is often served with wild mushrooms. Arctic char is a mild pink-fleshed fish, rather like salmon but coarser grained and less oily. You won't find the mainstays of the Inuit diet -- seal and whale meat -- on most restaurant menus, but in outlying communities, you won't have to look hard to find someone able to feed you some maktaaq (whale blubber and skin) or igunaq (aged, fermented meat, of walrus or seal). Bannock, a type of baking-powder biscuit, and so-called Eskimo doughnuts, a cousin of Indian fry bread, are popular snacks to feed tourists. You'll have to decide how appetizing you find the delicacy known as Eskimo ice cream (akutuq), a mousse-like concoction made of whipped animal fats (caribou fat and seal oil, for instance) and berries. It is definitely an acquired taste.
Vegetarians aren't going to find much variety in the North. The traditional Arctic diet doesn't include much in the way of fruits or vegetables, and green stuff that's been air-freighted to the smaller communities can be rather sad-looking by the time it reaches the table. However, fresh produce in the capital cities is as good as produce from the south. Bring your own dietary supplements if you have a restricted diet.
No matter what you eat in the North, it's going to be expensive. In towns like Yellowknife or Inuvik, a normal dinner entree at a decent hotel restaurant will cost at least C$25; at outlying communities where hotels offer full board, a sandwich with fries will also often run C$25. Chances are excellent that, for the money, your food will be very pedestrian in quality. In most towns, the grocery-store chain The Northern shelters a few fast-food outlets, usually the only other dining option.
Alcohol flows freely in the Yukon and four communities in the Northwest Territories: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Fort Smith, and Hay River. The rest of the territory and all of Nunavut have liquor restrictions. In some locales, RCMP officers will check the baggage of incoming travelers at the airport and confiscate alcohol. In other communities, alcohol is legal but regulated to such a degree the casual visitor will find it impossible to get hold of a drink. In other communities, alcohol is available in hotel bars or restaurants, but not in stores (or even through room service). Alcohol is a major social problem in the North, so by all means, respect the local laws regulating alcohol consumption. Details can be found at www.fin.gov.nt.ca/liquor/restrictions.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.