Although re:place may not be the first site one would turn to when looking for a dining guide, there is no doubt that going out to restaurants or other spots to grab a drink or a quick bite are an important aspect of city life. Therefore, for the first installment of The Urbanist’s Guide to Vancouver, we present a list of some of the most interesting, unique and delicious spots to beat your hunger in Vancouver as chosen by you, our readers.
By the re:place team and re:place readers
When we put the call out for suggestions of great places to see in the city, most of the comments and e-mails seemed to focus around food. As Vancouver is renowned for having some great cuisine – and much of it at least somewhat affordable – it seemed appropriate that our first installment of The Urbanist’s Guide to Vancouver would focus on places to dine and drink.
The following recommendations are a combination of some of our own favourites, mixed with dozens of suggestions from readers who took the time to e-mail us or comment on our original post. We felt ranking these establishments wasn’t necessary, as the point of this guide is to recommend any place that’s worthy of a visit and so we’ve decided to split the list up based on location.
So no matter what part of the city you want to explore, we’re sure that any of these places listed below will provide a great spot to satiate your hunger pains or wet your whistle. The text below in quotations are direct quotes from our readers.
Part of the hope in launching this project is that this will be a guide that can be easily updated and improved. Please feel free to add your suggestions to the comments section below to suggest places we have forgotten, or add your opinion to the choices made. As you’ll see, there are definitely some big gaps in the information we’ve collected. Responses tended to favour downtown, Main and Commercial. We need more suggestions for places like Kits, the north shore and outside Vancouver.
But for now, this should be enough to get any foodie interested in checking out something new. Bon appetit!
You can pretty much find any type of cuisine you can think of downtown, and here is a sampling of some of the better options that the city has to offer. Our readers picked plenty of asian destinations plus some perfect spots to grab a hearty breakfast, quick lunch or a frosty pint. If your wallet is feeling a bit fat, then scroll down to the bottom of the list for a couple pricier picks.
Finches Tea & Coffee House, 353 West Pender Street
“Ah Finches – best soup and sandwich shop downtown. They pride themselves on fresh ingredients and make your sandwich fresh. Plan to wait 10-15 mins unless you call ahead, but well worth the wait if you don’t.”
Central Bistro, 1072 Denman Street
“By far the best breakfast joint I’ve come across.” They feature free run eggs in their yummy scrambles, but also worth a visit on Sunday nights for live jazz.
Medina Cafe, 556 Beatty Street
“For coffee, lunch, and interesting breakfast options you won’t find elsewhere.”
Brioche Urban Baking & Catering, 401 West Cordova Street
“Reward yourself to lunch or dinner (they close 7pm). My favourite dish is the Eggplant Parmesan; take a window seat and watch an intersection entirely pedestrian powered! (3 crosswalks; no traffic lights!).”
So.cial Gastown – Custom Deli, 381 West Cordova
Not exactly a budget lunch, but big and delicious sandwiches are on offer here served on fresh baked focaccia.
Cupcakes, 1116 Denman Street
“You have to go there.” These frosted treats come in different sizes and lots of creative flavour combinations. This is one of six locations.
La Belle Patate, 1215 Davie Street
“If you want to eat like a Montrealer, go here. You will not be dissapointed. Poutine, smoked meat, steamies (hot dogs, but the ones here are bit too big. Montreal has the perfect small hot dogs) – ask for all dressed, and great micro breweries.”
Alibi Room, 157 Alexander Street
The food is good, but it’s worth coming here just to taste some great brews from probably the best (and ever-changing) tap list in the city. No big-name beers on tap here, mostly local, smaller breweries on offer featuring both traditional and more adventurous styles.
The Irish Heather, 212 Carrall Street
A great Irish bar in gastown. The curry chips are a must! Check out their long table series that includes a delicious dinner with a perfect pint or glass of wine for $15.
Elephant and Castle Pub & Restaurant,385 Burrard Street
“Perfect pub with lots of beer selection.” It’s also in a great spot – at the base of the amazing art deco Marine Building, built in 1930. Read more about this landmark in the 1930 year of our A Year in Five Minutes series.
Legendary Noodle House, 1074 Denman Street
Maybe ‘legendary’ is a bit much, but still very delicious. Noodles are made on site and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It won’t break the bank either.
Kintaro Ramen Noodle, 788 Denman Street
“Provides an authentic Japanese noodle house feel, and fresh, low cost yet filling portions of quality ramen noodles.”
Hapa Izakaya, 1479 Robson Street
Guu, 838 Thurlow Street
“Izakaya houses offer japanese forms of Tapas bars.” There are the usual treats like Edamame, but be more adventurous and go for tuna carpaccio or Chinese pork belly.
The Gyoza King, 1508 Robson Street
Known, of course, for the gyozas, but plenty of other asian specialties on offer at this popular spot.
Great Wall Mongolia Barbecue Restaurant, 717 Denman Street
Davie Mongolian Grill, 1161 Davie Street
Cheaper versions of the popular mongolian grill restaurants – of which there are a handful throughout Vancouver.
Phnom Penh Restaurant, 244 East Georgia Street
Vietnamese/Cambodian spot in Chinatown. Huge menu features noodle dishes and deep fried goodies.
Japa Dog, 899 Burrard Street
“The best street dog in Vancouver!!” Also probably the most unique street dog with toppings like seaweed, plum sauce and edamame. The street dog will be moving indoors very soon at their new restaurant on 530 Robson St.
Cloud 9 Revolving Restaurant at Empire Landmark Hotel, 1400 Robson Street
“Food is good ($15 – $40 an entree), decor is 1970’s but you’re not there for the decor. The view is amazing! Time it one hour before sunset. You’ll see the city in light and then in darkness. One thing most people don’t know is that you can go up there for the lounge. Buy a beer for $6 or $7 and have the same view as everyone else.”
Raincity Grill, 1193 Denman Street
Pricier than most of the options in our guide, but features delicious West Coast food and they tend to feature local, fresh ingredients. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic dinner followed by a walk along English Bay.
Yoshi Japanese Restaurant, 689 Denman Street
One reader chose this along with Tojo’s (see below) as two of the best finer dining Japanese restaurants in the city. There are some pricey multiple course dinners here plus plenty of sushi options, in this restaurant situated right by the entrance to Stanley Park.
CAMBIE AND WEST OF CAMBIE
Areas like the Cambie strip and Kits have endless options for eating and drinking, but these were the top choices for our readers and editors.
The Eatery, 3431 West Broadway
“There are tons of sushi places. But this one stands out for originality.” We definitely agree. We’re not sure where else you can get sushi with bacon. Bacon! It may not be authentic, but did we mention they have bacon?
Tropika, 2975 Cambie Street
Banana Leaf, 820 West Broadway and
Banana Leaf, 3005 West Broadway
“Tropika and Banana Leaf restaurants have awesome selections and are great places to share meals as a group.” These Malaysian restaurants have lots of delicious noodle and rice dishes.
Sha Lin Noodle House, 548 West Broadway
“Best and most authentic hand drawn noodle house in the city.”
Patisserie Bordeaux at West 10th and Alma
For all things baked and delicious, check out this bakery that features baguettes, sausage rolls and incredible croissants.
Maria’s Taverna, 2324 West 4th Avenue
This was the only Greek restaurant mentioned by our readers, despite plenty to choose from (including plenty of mediocre ones). One reader recommended the roast lamb shoulder.
Benny’s Bagels, 2505 West Broadway
There are, of course, bagels, but there is also good coffee, soup and cheap beer. Definitely one of the more inexpensive places to grab a bite and a drink in Kits.
The Red Onion Restaurant, 2028 West 41st Avenue
“If your gang are real walkers, get them to do the old rail line from Shaughnessy through to 41st and Arbutus – can’t miss by ending up at the Red Onion for a double dog!” Also worth a visit for burger fans.
Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, 1999 West 4th Avenue
There are a few Mexican restaurants in Vancouver, but unfortunately Mexican food is not something this city really excels in. Probably the best on offer is Las Margaritas, and judging by the line-ups, it’s not exactly a secret. The fajita burrito is a winner.
Nevermind, 3293 West 4th Avenue
This is a great place to hang out with friends and have a few drinks. The pizzas (from Hell’s Kitchen restaurant) are some of the best menu options here.
The Cellar Jazz Club, 3611 West Broadway
This is one of the better spots for jazz fans, and there are a lot of tasty appies to share with friends as you sip some wine and listen to some sweet tunes.
Transylvania Flavour Restaurant, 2120 West Broadway
This is one of the few spots where you can gorge on good Eastern European home cooking. It’s on the pricier side, but although your wallet will be lighter when you leave, you definitely won’t be. Especially if you go for the “Knight’s Platter” that features perogies, sausages, cabbage rolls, meatballs and more. Food is good, but the decor is a little hurting.
Tojo’s Restaurant, 777 West Broadway
This is one of the most popular restaurants in the city, and a visit will set you back a bit of coin. But sushi fans love to praise Tojo, who we can thank for inventing the California roll, among others.
Memphis Blues Barbeque House, 1465 West Broadway
“For the best meat eating food money can buy!” This is definitely not a spot for faint-hearted vegetarians. There’s pulled pork, ribs, brisket, sausage and probably some fries and coleslaw on the side, if you still have room.
Bin 942, 1521 West Broadway
“Small, sexy, great food, sweet tunes.” There are a lot of local ingredients used here in this tapas joint. The food is great, but a little pricey.
MAIN STREET AND AREA
A trio of sushi spots, perogies in a church, and a place where food meets yoga are just some of the top picks for this funky area.
Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 154 E. 10th Ave
“A total institution, and a cultural experience in itself. Go early and be prepared to queue, watch as you’re passed from cute baba to cute baba as you progress through a packed and lively hall and are finally rewarded with a steaming plate of delicious perogies.” Unfortunately, only on the first Friday of every month.
Rootdown Cafe, 128 East Broadway
Amazing breakfast sandwich with egg, pesto, ham, cheese and all kinds of yumminess! There is a lot of competition among coffee spots near Main and Broadway, but the owner here is incredibly friendly, brews a great cup of joe and makes killer sandwiches that make this our top coffee pick in the area.
Whip Gallery Restaurant, 209 East 6th Avenue
“Probably the best pub within walking distance of the Olympic Village.” Some good, smaller brews featured on tap and plenty of tasty appies make this a great place to hang with friends.
The Cascade Room, 2616 Main Street
Named after a beer that was once brewed nearby (I like it already!) this place is actually really popular for their killer cocktails. They also make a mean veggie burger and it’s worth popping in for their Sunday roast.
Toshi Sushi,181 East 16th Avenue
Be prepared to wait in line to get a table in this very tiny and incredibly popular sushi spot.
Zipang Sushi, 3710 Main Street
“Affordable sushi beautifully presented with an architectural theme, reminds me of a restaurant you’d find in tokyo.”
Jiro Japanese Restaurant, 208-333 East Broadway
There are a lot of all-you-can-eat sushi places in the city – many of them are dreadful. This is one of the better ones. For $12 at lunch be sure to take advantage of their generous sashimi serving and even grab some dim sum.
Radha Yoga & Eatery, 728 Main Street
“Yoga during the day. Organic vegetarian food at night. How Vancouver.”
Apparently there are three things that people head to The Drive for – coffee, booze and pizza. Throw in a walk to nearby Trout Lake (to burn some calories) and you have the perfect day!
Cafe Calabria, 1745 Commercial Drive
Cafe Roma, 1510 Commercial Drive
Continental Coffee, 1806 Commercial Drive
Abruzzo Cappuccino Bar, 1321 Commercial Drive
Caffe Napoli, 1670 Commercial Drive
Turks Coffee, 1276 Commercial Drive
We’re sure if you asked a dozen people on The Drive where the best place is to grab a coffee you would get a dozen different answers. All of the places listed above were picked by a handful of readers as the best of the best. Most of them are Italian spots (obvious by the names) and reflect the heritage of the area, which was primarily Italian immigrants. There is also a Tim Horton’s and three Starbuck’s in the area (if you count the one in Safeway), but we’re hoping you’ll hit one of these independent spots for something a bit different.
WaaZuBee Cafe and Bar, 1622 Commercial Drive
Charlatan, 1447 Commercial Drive
Falconetti’s, 1812 Commercial Drive
Stella’s Tap & Tapas Bar, 1191 Commercial Drive
If you’re in the mood for something a bit harder than a latte, then any of these popular spots is a good choice to wet your whistle. Perhaps a pub crawl is in order? All have decent food, but nothing will leave you more satisfied for such a low price as an in-house made sausage (try the Yucatan Chicken, served fajita style) at Falconetti’s.
Uncle Fatih’s Pizza, 1685 East Broadway
Urban Grain Pizza, 1914 Commercial Drive
There are lots and lots and LOTS of cheap pizza places in Vancouver and The Drive has its fair share, but these two are probably the best. The multigrain crust at Urban Grain is a nice change from what you usually get at a cheap slice place, but we don’t think anyone can compete with Uncle Fatih’s for best slice on The Drive. One of our editors knows people who make the drive from Surrey just to grab a couple slices of Fatih’s.
Bandidas Taqueria, 2781 Commercial Drive
Great Mexican food, run by bike-loving owners, who serve up only delicious vegetarian fare. Take-out or eat-in and enjoy a cold beer with your Ronny Russel (a delicious burrito that includes roasted yam, black beans and pumpkin seeds).
MORE EAST VAN
A couple places for some very cheap eats and a famous ice cream destination are some of the highlights in East Van beyond Main and Commercial.
Union Food Market, 810 Union Street
Near Strathcona Park and in the heart of a residential area, this coffe shop and store seems to be a popular spot with the locals and also cyclists who make a point of dropping by on their ride.
La Casa Gelato, 1033 Venables Street
At all times there are 218 flavours on offer (out of more than 500 that they’ve concocted), so please be more adventurous than vanilla. The best thing is that they have tasting spoons (and the servers seem to have a lot of patience!) so feel free to try the bizarre flavours with hot peppers, ginger or cheese, before settling on a flavour that lives somewhere between dullsville and crazytown.
Master Chef Cafe, 2481 East Hastings
“It’s a ramshackle diner with the cheapest grill cheese and fries in the country ($1.90!). The front two booths are always filled with old squabbling Italian men. The waiter is an eccentric Chinese man who always wears the same red blazer. Menu sample: “Coffee. $0.85. Brewed by no other than the master TONY.”
Bon’s Off Broadway, 2451 Nanaimo Street
“You’re bound to find plenty of locals, often hungover, on a weekend morning at this little breakfast place at Broadway and Nanaimo. Extraordinarily cheap and tasty breakfast.”
Fujiya Japanese Foods, 912 Clark Drive
A fun Japanese market that has plenty of inexpensive sushi to go, plus lots of other snacks and treats. If you like pocky, there’s no better place to go than here.
Check back next week when The Urbanist’s Guide to Vancouver continues with top picks for great outdoor spaces.