Where to eat, drink and sightsee in this west coast city
It’s hard to believe that our beautiful coastal city hosted the Winter Olympics four years ago. While the magic of red and white nationalism has faded from the streets of Vancouver (well, clearly not completely!), the country’s second largest city is still all the better for it.
Aside from showcasing our country over ten days filled with sporting events and festivities, it also encouraged the city to refresh city areas, build new structures and, most importantly, expand their skytrain line. Now, taking only 25 minutes to get from the airport in Richmond to downtown Vancouver, it is a waste of your hard-earned money to consider taking a taxi.
I’m sure most food enthusiasts are already aware of this ‘problem’, but it’s virtually impossible to run out of items to treat your appetite to in Vancouver. If it’s your first time arriving in the city and all things culinary are front of mind for you, then here’s a jumping off point for you and your palate.
Photo courtesy Four Seasons/YEW.
Once arriving downtown, it’s time to head to the hotel! Typically, hotel restaurants are not known for serving fantastic fare, but if you are hoping for some great food just steps from your room, there are more than a few exceptions. Both Market by Jean Georges in the Shangri-La and YEW inside the Four Seasons excel at their prospective refined cuisines in beautiful settings. Even if you’re staying somewhere a bit more economical, these two are both worth a visit. YEW’s executive chef, Ned Bell, spent many years making his mark in Calgary, so he’s always happy to see an Albertan or two come by for a bite!
Now, one could spend a week eating in the Gastown area alone, so you need to be willing to meal plan efficiently in this city. While only really about a 10 block radius, this historic part of the city offers over 40 places to eat, with at least half of them being well worth a stop.
Starting simple, find hipster coffee shop casual at Salty Tongue Cafe (one hell of a meatloaf sandwich) or well-done bistro fare for lunch at The Flying Pig (order the meat and cheese board to start). Then there’s the award-winning L’Abattoir. Being one of the best-designed spaces in the city coupled with an interesting menu and amazing cocktails, this should be at the top of any avid foodie’s hit list. Last, but not least, the elegant Secret Location has arguably the most beautiful and unique desserts in the city. All conceptualised by pastry chef, Kira Desmond, you will find dessert plates that are almost too good to eat.
Speaking of sugar…If your sweet tooth is leading the way, then stopping at Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe is an absolute must. Thierry Busset, a well-known Canadian pastry chef, runs this sleek cafe where it’s all macarons, pain au chocolat and madeleines as far as the eye can see. The chef’s take on desserts like apple tarts and tiramisu are also equally as alluring. Set mostly in glass cases, you’ll feel like you’re perusing the spoils of a jewellery store while selecting some sweets. If you’re feeling winter weather friendly enough, take advantage of the heated patio while you sip on your latte and tear into a croissant (or two).
It’s easy to get sucked into the downtown core and forget about crossing the water to Kitsilano. While Kitsilano is a bit of a better choice during warmer months for the beaches it offers, it’s also breakfast, lunch and dinner-approved! If oysters are your thing, do not overlook Chewie’s Oyster Bar (strapping young men, good food and great oyster selection), The Oakwood (one hell of a burger) or Nook for some well-done wood-fired pizza.
Brunch at Fable Kitchen in Kitsilano.
In the heart of Kitsilano, you’ll find Fable Kitchen; one of my favourite restaurants in the city. When it comes to an excellent dining experience, all factors need to work together to create something special and that happens at Fable. Informed, but unpretentious service, a warm atmosphere that speaks well to the style of food and, of course the dishes themselves. The best seats in the house are right up at the open kitchen where you can watch Chef/owner Trevor Bird and right hand man, Geoff Rogers (both Top Chef Canada alumni) lead the team through service. If you’re a weekend brunch-er, than Fable is also for you. Nothing hits the spot quite like a well-crafted Caesar and Fable Eggs when you’re feeling a tad tired from the previous evening. Like most hotspots in Vancouver, a reservation is highly recommended.
Vancouver has always been the kind of city to offer vegetarians fantastic experiences that don’t solely revolve around tofu and stuffed bell peppers. In recent years, the city has seen many vegetable-forward establishments open up including The Parker, Heirloom, and Acorn, which was named one of the best new restaurants in Canada for 2013 by enRoute Magazine. From Acorn’s Raw Zucchini Tagliatelle with Candied Olives to Chef Curtis Luk’s house-made Dan Dan Noodles, these restaurants are proving that vegetables can be as well received as any slice of meat and just as fulfilling too.
I can’t mention the food and without mentioning the Granville Island Market. Although a tad touristy, is always a fun place to spend an afternoon. Walking around to taste the different vendors in the public market like the popular pie stand, A La Mode, Dussa’s Ham and Cheese and Granville Island Tea Company are just a few of things you can taste and sip on while strolling up and down the aisles. Make sure not to leave without ordering a few freshly made doughnuts at Lee’s Donuts. There’s a vast selection when it comes to these pieces of dough-y goodness.
Some of the stand-alone restaurants on the ‘island’ can be a little generic, offering some nice waterfront views with lacklustre food, so if you’re going to have a sit-down meal, make sure it’s Edible Canada. Originally a stand within the public market, Edible has grown to offer tasty fare (Kasu and Birch Syrup-glazed Sablefish anyone?) in addition to its gourmet food shop with their signature flavoured salts.
Now, onto the Olympic Village! The area that originally housed all competitors for the 2010 games was a bit of a ghost town a few years ago, but that is slowly changing with the introduction of dining destinations going back to that Field of Dreams mentality: If you build it, they will come.
The most recent addition to eateries in the area is Craft Beer Market, with the same extreme offerings of beer and gastro-pub fare, housed in the historic Salt building. Built in 1930, the interior was beautiful to begin with before Craft decided to move in. The wooden beams and skylights on the peaked roof play well with the restaurant’s ‘signature’ exposed draft lines that slide silver throughout the room. Grab a pint and soak up a little bit of Vancouver history.
Did that give you enough to go on for your next adventure to the west coast? Let’s hope so!
Richmond Night Market
Visit the Richmond Night Market with over 300 booths from May to October.
Only 20 minutes from Downtown on the Canada Line, is the acclaimed Asian Night Market, an unforgettable foodie experience!
80 food booths serve up an amazing array; don’t miss Japanese takoyaki and taiyaki, squid pancakes, roasted yams, fresh duck wraps and dragon’s beard candy.
Another 250 booths offer everything you didn’t know you needed – jewellery, clothes, and the hottest accessories for you, your phone and your computer. And with a free shuttle to and from the International Summer Night Market, you can easily do both in one night.
Every weekend from May to October. $2 admission (free under 10 and over 60). facebook.com/ Richmond-Night-Market