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If you’ve recently visited Vancouver, chances are you were impressed and maybe even surprised with your dining experiences. Both responses are warranted. While Vancouver has always been known for their outdoor markets and bounty of all-you-can-eat sushi, its transformation into a cuisine epicentre is relatively new. British Columbia has long been known for some of the country’s best agricultural land, a long growing season, and some of the freshest seafood on the planet. But the accessibility to incredible ingredients hasn’t always translated to incredible cuisine. In the last ten years, that’s all changed, and dramatically so.
Today, the beautiful seaside city has more to offer than fresh outdoor markets, incredible sushi, and dozens upon dozens of microbreweries (and that’s nothing to scoff at). Multiculturalism and a rise in visitors from around the globe have brought diverse and exciting chefs who take full advantage of the local ingredients to create unique dishes. If you’re visiting Vancouver, or already live here, our list of must-try restaurants in Van-City will help you understand why Vancouver is increasingly being seen as a culinary destination for foodies across the globe – not just within Canada.
Found on the edge of Vancouver’s historic Gastown, The Birds And Beets has become something of an institution in Vancouver — and in short order. This bright brick-lined space has ample seating and great street views to people watch on Alexander and Powell. All baked goods are made daily in-house, in addition to their on-tap kombucha, sodas, beers, and ciders. Their menu is small but delicious, changing with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Along with great food, if you’re in Vancouver and looking for a spot to read a book, drink a coffee, or get some work done, look no further.
If I ask someone for a list of some of their favourite restaurants in Vancouver, and they don’t include Bao Bei, I become suspicious of their taste. Located in old Chinatown, Bao Bei has revitalised the area offering up some of the most creative and interesting dishes in the city. While the neon sign and arcade game act as an homage to past days in Vancouver’s Chinatown, the menu is anything but dated, charging forward with an eclectic mix of Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, French, and Japanese influences. All of this is done while somehow avoiding the cliched “fusion” label. Chef Joel Watanabe and owner, Tannis Ling, have succeeded in their shared vision of creating a menu that plays a role in evolving traditional dishes while using free-range meats, organic produce, and house-made condiments. One bite will demonstrate the myriad of ways they’ve achieved that goal.
Folks in Vancouver know Yolks for two things: An insanely good breakfast and some pretty long weekend lines. We visited the Hastings and Clarke location, the original (beyond the food truck) and most famous of the three Yolk’s locations. The interior is quirky and features a bounty of visual art featuring gender-blurring comic book superheroes wearing lipstick. The menu is a mix’n’match of organic baked goods, incredible varieties of hashbrowns, bacon, honey ham, a myriad of cheeses, and house-made hollandaise sauce. And if eggs aren’t your thing, Yolk’s chicken n’ waffles, pancakes, and traditional breakfasts will take you on to the breakfast promise land. Fresh squeezed juices and bottomless coffee round things out to make Yolk’s one of Vancouver’s best breakfast stops.
If you’re not familiar with mezcal, imagine something akin to a smoky tequila. By Mexican law, tequila can only be made with one variety of agave plant: the Blue Agave. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made with upwards of 30 varieties of agave and is typically roasted in an underground pit filled with wood and volcanic rock. The result, a much more diverse flavour profile and a myriad of options for getting loose on a Friday evening. La Mezcaleria wants to bring the good message of Mezcal to Vancouver, but also the good message of some tasty traditional Mexican food. With a loaded bar and share plates like cheesy queso fundido, tacos, ceviche, and more, La Mezcaleria is a tough one to beat if you’re on the town and taking back the night.
Vegetarian diners are certainly catered to in Vancouver. But, until recently, those seeking local, vegan, raw, and gluten-free alternatives have been hard pressed to find a restaurant that’s a little more upscale. And then came The Acorn. This restaurant holds a special place in the heart of Vancouver’s vegetarians. While everything is organic and largely sourced from local farmers, the lack of meat shouldn’t deter anyone. Simply put, the food is incredible and easily stands up to the best dishes in the city, vegetarian or otherwise.
Still hungry? Try these other great restaurants.
Ask For Luigi – Pint-size eatery serving large, refined Italian dishes meant for sharing, with gluten-free choices.
Salmon N’ Bannock – Intimate eatery featuring traditional Canadian fare such as wild fish, game meat & bannock.
Fable – TV chef, Trevor Bird’s bistro offering an inventive farm-to-table brunch & dinner menu in a warm, open space.
The Sardine Can – Intimate bistro featuring Spanish tapas including octopus & chorizo, plus wine, sherry & brandy.
Hawksworth – Inventive Pacific Northwest cuisine served in 4 custom-designed rooms in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.
The Oakwood – Canadian cuisine using housemade & local ingredients in a warm, wood-paneled room with a fireplace.
Chambar – Chic exposed-brick space serving creative Belgian cuisine & sustainable seafood plus brews & wine.
Mr. Red Cafe – Homestyle Vietnamese prepared as you order.
Duffin’s Donuts – An East Van staple that’s open 24hrs. You’ll find a variety of foods here like homemade donuts, fried chicken, tamales, and bubble tea.