A rough guide to Vancouver restaurants, cafe’s and more

Since moving away from Vancouver nearly 5 years ago, I keep meeting people on their way to the city who ask me for tips and places to go/eat/see/etc.

I emailed a bunch of tips for eats and such to a friend a few years back; since then, I’ve forwarded it on to a dozen or more people with a few minor edits here and there. I figure that by posting it here, hopefully it will see a few more eyeballs than it will in my inbox.

Keep in mind that these recomendations aren’t totally up to date, and they are very downtown centric. You’ll get different suggestions if you want to stay in the valley, or near UBC or SFU. (Don’t stay near SFU.)

The food suggestions are a mix bag of cost/quality – everything from street meat to Michelin rated restaurants. Out of all of the places on my list, Burgoo is the one that I always make time for when I’m visiting friends. The line is ridiculous on weekends, but the food is really tasty and not bad on price.

For Food…

  • Local: Raincity Grill – specializes in regional cuisine. Most of the food comes from the area. This is the best place I can think of to get a taste of Vancouver and was one of our favourite restaurants, despite several less-than-awesome experiences. It has a nice view of the ocean; see if you can time a sunset seating on the patio for a great night. For a cheaper meal, they do a nice takeaway lunch special out the window on the side of the building.
  • Indian: Vij’s – this is an incredibly good indian restaurant. They serve upper end dishes, and can have a line. Reservations are recommended. There is a side-restaurant to Vij’s that serves slightly less fancy fare at slightly lower prices – it’s another great choice.
  • Steak: The Keg is a great place to have a delicious steak at a good price. There are better (more expensive) steak houses in Vancouver, but I find that the Keg offers a great cut of beef at an OK price. My favorite location is the one on Burrard and Robson.
  • Thai: Simply thai is my favourite place. The lunch specials are a great deal, and they are located in an interesting shopping neighborhood, Yaletown. Sarah prefers the Thai Chili House under the Burrard street bridge. The food is nice here too, more tropical, and the view is better.
  • Japanese: There are better places, but Tsunami sushi is where I take all of my guests for the first sushi experience. Sit at the bar and pick sushi off of boats as they float past. If you’d rather do other japanese, Hapa Izakayi is an amazing place as well, but more expensive.
  • FusionGuu is a very popular fusion restaurant. They have three locations, each is a little different. The gastown location is my favourite, and they will occasionally do Korean/Mexican fusion (read: bulgogi tacos)
  • SeafoodJoe Fortes is supposed to be great, but is expensive in my mind. There is another restaurant, underneath the bridge on Granville island that I think is better, called Bridges.
  • Breakfast: Oh so many choices. I love breakfast. Provence, in Yaletown, does a fantastic brunch and is a little fancy; they are also the only place I know that makes a Dark and Stormy, quite an interesting cocktail (perhaps not for breakfast though). Sophie’s cosmic cafe is pretty good as well, but it’s quite a different experience, very chintzy. For total dive breakfast, you can’t beat Denman street for a $4 special. Finally, some friends have turned us on to The Wallflower Diner – it’s medium/low range in pricing but has a great atmostphere and consistently good food.
  • Canadian/american: By this, I mean Burgers. If you walk down Davie Street towards Denman, and turn right on Denman, you will have passed the three best burger places in the city. Vera’s Meat Shack is my favourite, but there are lots of others that are great.
  • Irish: The Irish Heather is a great place to grab a beer and a delicious meal. It’s in Gastown, which is a pretty intersting neighborhood. It’s historic and touristy by day, it’s the bar district by night. This is one of my favourite places to get a beer.
  • Beer: If I’m not at the Heather, I’d stop by Steamworks, also in Gastown. The Raspberry beer (Frambozen) is superb, as is the Pumpkin Ale in the fall. For those who don’t drink, they have a nice in-house root beer and cream soda. For relaxing hangouts for those who aren’t into Beer, I’d recomend Chill Winston. And, if Gastown doesn’t work for you, I’ve been recommended to Biercraft, the Whip and Alibi Room for tasty drinks. To be honest though, I haven’t been to those last three so ymmv.
  • Veg: There are tons of good options, include most of the places on this list. However, a standoutish location is definitely the Naam.  They’ve been around for about 45 years, and are a local staple.
  • home cookinBurgoo is a restaurant on Main that specializes in ‘Comfort food’. Everything here tastes like it was made by someone’s Mom. And she’s a great cook.
  • Bar-b-qMemphis Blues is the best restaurant. I used to prefer Dix, because they had better music (blues) and beer, but they’ve sadly shut their doors.
  • Street Meat: Japadog is a really great hot dog experience. They have a location downtown on robson, and a food cart near Robson and Burrard, in front of a hotel. The food cart is definitely the most fun. I hear they opened a place up in NYC about two years back. If you don’t like hot dogs, the Falafal stands on Robson just south-east of the Art Gallery are great.
  • Donuts: Until recently, if you’d asked about donuts I would have said Tim Hortons without hesitation. However, on our last trip our friends introduced us to Cartem’s Donuterie in the DTES. The Bacon&Bourbon donuts, and the Salted Caramel are out of this world. They even have Gluten Free donuts for those who need a fix and have trouble at the normal shops.
  • Other: I don’t know what category this falls into, but I couldn’t finish the list without mentioning the Vancouver Art Gallery. This is really a hidden gem. The food here is very good (albeit microwaved), and very reasonably priced. They also have a lovely patio; if you find yourself downtown on a sunny day, it’s hard to beat a trip to the VAG.

For Coffee…

For me, Coffee is worth a separate category of it’s own. If you are into that sort of thing, you can find a Starbucks everywhere (we used to even have them across the street from each other). If you’re not a fan of Starbucks, Tim Horton’s is a good place to go as well. I’ve been told they brew coffee in the German style. A bagel, donut and ‘large double double’ from Tim’s is pretty common Canadian fare.
That said, if you’d like really good coffee, try:
  • http://www.caffeartigiano.com/ for fancy latte’s and ridiculously fancy drip coffee. (They advertise that they sell the worlds most expensive beans). If you happen to be Australian, go here, you won’t be disappointed.
  • JJ Bean is another popular chain, with solid drip coffee. It’s somewhere between Starbucks and Timmie’s in terms of strength.
  • The Wicked Cafe makes incredible, life changing, americanos. I would go here for sure. My favourite location is on 7th ave, but there is one downtown near the art gallery as well.
  • www.49thparallelroasters.com is an offshoot of Artigiano, and makes really, really good iced coffee. There used to only be one of these, but they now have a few extra locations.

For Arts…

  • The Art’s Club Theatre is Vancouver’s premiere mid-range theatre company. I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen.
  • The Vancouver Symphony is an incredible orchestra, and tickets are usually very cheap. If you show up within 2 hours of the start of the show you can buy rush seats for <$20.
  • The Vancouver Art Gallery is centrally located downtown. They have a nice general collection of Canadian art on the top floor, and a decent rotating collection as well. A lot of the asian artists they get are very interesting.
  • If you’re into that sort of thing, Ballet BC is really quite good. They’ve always impressed me with their athleticism, and consequently their ability to make difficult moves look graceful.

For Athletics…

Being Sporty:

  • The grouse grind is as Vancouver as you can get. You make your way up to the top of Grouse Mountain (it takes some effort, but it’s doable by almost everyone), have a beer at the top, and take a gondola back down. This is a good way to spend a morning or afternoon.
  • Skiing is great. The top place for skiing is likely Whistler, but Grouse is a solid alternative if you want something close to the city for a little cheaper.
  • If you want to see whistler, but are visiting in the summer, the zipline courses are supposed to be nice. I hear there’s good mountain biking here too, but you’d have to have a bike.
  • The beach in downtown is very nice. I prefer the beach near Stanley Park (that’s my west end bias talking), most people prefer ‘Second beach’ on the kits side of the water.

Watching Sports:

  • The Canucks (Pro Hockey) and Vancouver Giants (Junior hockey) seasons usually start in October.
  • The Vancouver Canadiens (baseball) runs over for the summer.
  • The BC Lions – American Style Football, but with Canadian rules – runs Summer through Fall. If you go to a Lion’s game, buy the tickets from a 7/11, they are very cheap and good enough seats and you get a free slurpee.

Places not to go…

First, it’s worth noting that there’s really no where in the city that’s too unsafe. That said, for first time visitors to Vancouver, I would recommend to avoid the following:
  • Don’t go to China town, it’s really just not that interesting and is a little shady.
  • Stay away from the 2 blocks surrounding the corner of Hasting’s and Main. It’s easy to wander off in that direction if you are down town. There are no unsafe places in Vancouver, but it’s just not a very nice place to be; this is the poorest neighborhood in the country, and there are a lot of addicts hanging out on the corners. Things have gotten a lot better in recent years, but it’s still not a nice place to stroll.

Burrard Bike Lanes are Open

The Burrard Bike lane is open as of today!

Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson, made a promise during his campaign last year to open a single lane of the Burrard bridge to bike traffic. I wasn’t sure that he would actually be able to follow through on that promise, but it sounds like he has. This should be very nice for cyclists that need to get into the downtown core, or out to the UBC Campus.

Apparently something similar was tried back in 1996, but it was only scheduled for a one week trial, with a followup trial to be scheduled within the following six months. It seems that after the first trial, so many people complained of the congestion that the second one was scrapped. This time around, the city has decided to run the trial for longer. It will run for a full month with a possible 2 month extension. Hopefully during this time people will have a chance to get used to the altered lanes and it will stick around.

One really strange thing that the CBC mentioned is that the eastern side of the bridge (where the bike lane is) has been shut off to both traffic AND pedestrians. This is probably OK, as I imagine that most of the traffic is along the western side of the bridge, but it does seem odd to me to group the cars and people in one lane, and bikes only in the other. I would have figured that bikes and people would have been lumped together.

If anyone reading this is in Vancouver, I’d be interested to hear what the new lane is like.

Gigantic Turkey Roast in Abbotsford.

CBC is reporting that the cull of 60,000 turkeys at B.C. farm may begin Monday.

So what do you do with 60,000 Turkeys?
The answer’s obvious: Turn that old barn you weren’t using into a giant crockpot.

CFIA officials were preparing to euthanize the birds by sealing the barns and flooding them with carbon dioxide. Workers will then mix the carcasses with organic material in the barn to raise the temperature as high as 50 C during decomposition.

It’s a good thing they are near Cranberry country. Just sayin’.

Almost ready to leave…

In the months, weeks and days leading up to leaving Vancouver, we crammed in a lot of stuff. Most of it involved visiting with friends, family and coworkers, all of whom we hope to see again in Paris.

Towards the end of October, Jo and Keltie popped over from the island for Fright Night at the PNE, and a quick round of Karaoke. I have a video of the singing, but it is not yet time to make my public singing debut.

Allene came to town, twice, during the last month we were here. The first time to show off her new puppy, and the second to show off her Violin playing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

The following weekend, we caught up with some High School friends of Sarah’s at a ‘Forbidden Love Child’ themed Halloween party. My favourite combination was Wolverina, a ballerina crossed with Wolverine. The Gene Simmons / Richard Simmons outfit gets bonus points for name continuity.

We snuck in two Brunches with David, Eddie, Kevin and Sheila, and numerous lunch and coffee visits with coworkers past and present.

On a totally unrelated note, I finally caved and bought some of the freshly roasted chestnuts. They taste like yams.

A week before the big trip, Sarah finished working at Vancity. They gave her quite the send off at Steamworks Brewing Co before she could officially call herself gone. There were two people leaving that day, which was cause for a shin dig, and they each brought an Irish Man with them to liven things up.

We had initially planned to leave at the end of August/September/October. We didn’t, we left mid November and were actually around for one last Remembrance Day, which I was happy to participate in. It rained, of course. Victory square was packed, making it difficult to find a spot to stand. I eventually managed to find a place near the top of the hill where I was able to share an umbrella with a homeless fellow and a drink with a veteran. I caught the tail end of a parade, but didn’t really hear much of the music.

Our final days were busy busy busy. We completely reworked our banking, and moved all of our RRSPs to a new institution, we got rid of all of our possessions in the last 4 days, and said all of our au revoirs and a bientots. Most of the packing was left, in traditional style, to the last minute. On the evening before we left, a bunch of our friends came over to say good bye. They also (much to our relief) did nearly all of the packing of our stuff.

We started the evening with a big pile of stuff on the ground, and a couch that we couldn’t get rid of. Crystal, Kathryn, Bryn and Sarah pulled together and packed about 90% of what we had left. I was in charge of adding to the pile, and making signs to get rid of the couch. About 3 minutes after posting our sign, someone actually called to take it. Nick and Alex turned into movers to get rid of the behemoth (and took out part of the ladies door while doing so). I think that Chris’s job was to chill, which significantly helped the mood of the evening.

We spent our last night in Vancouver the same way we spent our first night. Sleeping on the floor under a pile of coats and towels. At least this time it was carpet, and not hardwood. The morning of the big move, we still had a fair bit to do. I had to return some stuff to Costco, set up mail forwarding, drop some dresses off at the Church and get a hair cut. Sarah had to buy cat food, a harness, and take the cat to the vet. We also had to clean the apartment in order to get some of our deposit back.

Finally, we took a cab to the airport and walked our way through customs where we said our last good byes to the city.

About a month before we left, one of Sarah’s coworkers started to ask where the tears were. He made a point of asking each time he’d see her if she’d cried about leaving the city. She’d swear that she was sad to leave everyone, but if you asked her, she would tell you that she was too stressed to cry. As we sat down on our plane to leave, the first tear appeared, and a few would be shed each hour as we flew away from Vancouver.

Sarah had left her favourite umbrella at the airport.

160.93 km Thanksgiving

It was Turkey Weekend last weekend, and we were able to host Thanksgiving dinner. Since moving here, we haven’t been able to host Thanksgiving as often as I would like. We originally started hosting an Orphan Dinner in 2000 or 2001. Because of our close proximity to family, we spent the previous 3 Thanksgiving weekends busy at dinners that others are hosting. Which is nice, but it’s good to cook too.

This year, the regional fam packed up their bags, their bikes, and Grandma, and headed out to Spence’s Bridge for Thanksgiving camping and riding. This left us in town with a free weekend, and a couple of hungry friends. So we did up the dinner, but we did it a little different this year.

First, it wasn’t an orphan dinner, most people had family plans on the Saturday or Sunday.

Second, we weren’t technically hosting, just cooking. We don’t really have chairs or a table at the moment, so we actually hosted at Nick’s place in Historic Gastown, where we got to watch a homeless guy get arrested for being homeless.

Third, we decided to forgo the traditional Turkey, Stuffing, Potatoes, etc, and run with a Hundred Mile menu instead.

I had heard of the 100-Mile Diet before, but I hadn’t really given much thought as to what it meant for regular meals. I was introduced fully to the idea earlier in the summer when I attended a 100-Mile Bar-b-q hosted by a friend from work. Her husband was just finishing filming a Documentary on the diet, and their family had been participating (at home only) during the shoot. Meeting other people who were doing it, and hearing about their stories, was incredible and I thought it would be fun to extend the idea into at least one shared meal before we left. Thanksgiving seemed to be the best place, as it’s a time to celebrate the local harvest season, and what better way to celebrate, than to eat! Also, as it’s our last Thanksgiving in this area, we thought it would be nice to have foods from the region.

Some interesting facts about eating 100-Mile in Vancouver.

  • No one in town makes flour. If you want to eat flour, you have to buy wheat from a local farmer, and mill your own. This requires the use of a wheat mill as well.
  • No one in town makes salt. If you want salt, you can head down to the beach, grab some water, and dehydrate until you have homemade sea salt.
  • There is no yeast within 100 miles of here. This means no leavened bread, no beer, and very little wine. (Some wine is made with natural occurring yeast that grows on the grapes.) You can still make flatbreads (with your personally milled flour), and I think you might be able to make sourdough.
  • There is very little naturally occurring oil around here. Hazlenut oil or butter is really the only option.
  • Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, chocolate, coffee, olives, etc. do not grow around these parts.

There is, however, plenty of meat, fish, vegetables, dairy, berries and several fruits. So we don’t really have a shortage of tasty food, but it does take a bit of a mind shift to work within the constraints of the menu.

What we ended up making was as follows:

  • Mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce.
    Sarah and K learned to make this at a cooking class earlier in the week. We grabbed some local mushrooms and milk, and mixed with garlic and other kitchen magic to make a tasty appy. We used some brandy from out-of-region in the sauce.
  • Grilled Sockeye Salmon, with a blueberry/honey reduction, and local herbs.
    Salmon is tasty, and fits better with some dietary restrictions at the dinner. We did the glaze because oil, lemons, pepper, maple, brown sugar and salt (all tasty salmon toppers) are not from around here. Note: Local blueberry juice is crazy expensive.
  • Cucumber salad, in a Creme Fraiche and chive dressing.
    I wanted a crunchy salad to go with the meal, and when I tried this at the bar-b-q it was delicious. Also, I got to make the Creme Fraiche from scratch, which was really cool.
  • Wheat Berry Tabouleh, with Cranberry and Apple dressing.
    Tabouleh is normally made with Cous Cous, but as it’s not a regional grain, we subbed Wheat Berries instead. So good!! Lemons are not regional, so we used cranberries for the sour flavour. Tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, and apples from the farmers market finished it off.
  • Potatoes au Gratin.
    This was a recipe from a French co-worker. Apparently it’s a staple of her family dinners. The potatoes used the home made creme fraiche, some herbs and garlic, and a local cheese. They should have used Swiss, but it’s a long way from here to Switzerland.
  • Pumpkin Pie.
    This was not 100-MIle Pie. But it was tasty!!!

We cut a few corners here and there, but it was true to spirit. We even cut the salt and oil out of most of the dishes (except the cucumber salad, which used salt for drying the cukes).

It actually wasn’t as hard as I would have thought. I think that some of that is because we live in an excellent food producing region. Also, we have been trying to Eat Local, and eat slow, for a while now. The 100-Mile diet fit nicely into both of those systems.

Science World After Dark

Every couple of months, Science World opens their doors to an adults only night called Science World After Dark.
It’s like normal Science World, except swap screaming children for beer.

Science and Beer. Good times.

Friday, January 18
6:30–10pm

Explore, create and discover like a kid again as TELUS World of Science opens its doors for adults only.
19+ (ID required).

Beer and wine bar available.

Admission: $16
Limited tickets available.