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Everyone is family at Highline Pub and Restaurant

The Seton Portage restaurant will transport customers back to a time where everyone wants to have a chat
The Lopez family outside of their Highline Pub and Restaurant in Seton Portage.

The Highline Pub and Restaurant in Seton Portage offers travellers and locals alike an oasis in the wilderness. The building feels like you have been welcomed into someone’s intimate family kitchen, where owner Rhea Lopez knows everyone by name. Tourists feel instantly at home in a place that has not lost its small-town, Canadian charm as the decades rolled by.

A true one-stop shop, Highline features an onsite pub, restaurant, hotel and store that could be mistaken as a mirage after braving the treacherous Highline Road. There are seven rooms for weary drivers and workers staying in town overnight. Most importantly, Lopez’s spot serves as a community hub for locals who adore her.

Lopez's establishment brings a whole new meaning to the term “family-run.” Her boyfriend oversees supplies, her daughter runs the store, and her eldest son is always ready to help out with the cooking.

The Filipino native also caters events and has even decked out the pub for a local wedding.

As far as the food goes, Highline's mouth-watering ribs are sight to behold. Daily specials include fish and chips, the Filipino staple, chicken adobo, and wings. Tasty appetizers, plenty of pizzas, and the infamous Highline Burger are just a few of the many options on the menu. There also vegetarian dishes to ensure that everyone in the family is catered to. Regular live music and karaoke nights provide entertainment and a chance to meet new friends.

Established in 1984, Lopez and her husband took the reins of the Highline Pub and Restaurant back in 2017. Lopez was working in Grande Prairie, Alta. when she met the Seton Portage man. 

“I met my husband there. He grew up here. We moved back here and bought this place,” says Lopez. "In 2020, he passed away. I have been doing this since then.”

For the pandemic-fuelled years after her husband’s death, Lopez kept the hotel going for the good of the community she loves so much.

"I just love it here,” she said. “If someone is coming in on the road, we keep an eye out in case they need a hand. We always check in with each other.”

The community supported their publican and chef through this heartbreaking time.

“After my husband passed, I thought I would have to move back to my family in the Philippines,” said Lopez. “Everyone was so understanding here. Sometimes when I was grieving, you would be crying at work. Everyone would know to just leave me be because that’s how I preferred it. They treat you like family. That’s what I like about being here.”

The recent arrival of cell service to the area makes running a business a whole lot easier, but the same age-old problems persist. Getting in and out of Seton Portage during a storm is almost impossible. Getting supplies to the restaurant is a similar, almost insurmountable feat.

Over the years, Lopez has gotten used to knowing when the weather is about to wreak havoc.

“We make sure we have everything. This is the one place that helps everyone,” she said. “We make sure we are all stocked up ahead of stormy weather because the community pretty much relies on us. We don’t want to say we don’t have something. Sometimes, we have substitutes. We work it out.”

Lopez admits the team buy in bulk when they can. She was convinced that her entire livelihood would be decimated by forest fires last summer.

“If we have a fire here, both roads are closed,” she said.  “Everyone was evacuated.”

However, Lopez still felt she had a job to do. 

“It was pretty much just me, my boyfriend, my son and one of my friends working here,” she said. “We were feeding over 200 firefighters every day. I always want to help in my own way. I thought I could play my part, stay here and just break even. I just reminded the firefighters not to forget us when it was time to go.” she said. “The fire was crazy and I thought this place would be gone.”

The family behind Highline Pub have similar concerns about the upcoming summer season.  

“You never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Last time, it got really bad just after Canada Day. I didn’t think it was going to get as big as it got."

Lopez's amazing food and hospitality are no longer local secrets. She admits that visitors are now coming from Vancouver to get a taste of small-town life—and maybe an ice cold beer.

You can find out more about the Highline Pub and Restaurant here, or contact the woman behind the whole show at [email protected].