Welcome back! Now that we’ve landed in Vancouver and had a bit of fun exploring the city on foot (see “Beautiful British Columbia: Giving Vancouver the run around“), it’s time to fill our bellies with some goodness, Vancouver style.
There are tons of places to enjoy good food and drink in and around Vancouver. While it might make sense to some to divide this post into “coffee”, “food”, and “drink” (the hard stuff), I’m going to write about my favourite hot-spots as they appeared over the course of my trip… because it’s simply more fun to write it that way. Ready? Here we go!
First up is the best cup of coffee in town! Okay, I lied. It’s actually the best place to grab the best cup of tea in town. In all truth, I’m not a huge coffee drinker – I just like the idea of “grabbing a coffee” which is really giraffe-speak for tea or espresso-based beverage. In pursuit of this caffeinated experience, I discovered (actually, I was introduced to) a wonderful little coffee shop called Our Town where I enjoyed a smooth, creamy, English Fog (tea-misto) more than once. Not only is this cafe the perfect size to share an intimate meeting over your choice of bevvies, it also hosts really interesting activity-nights like “ukulele night” and “documentary night” – how cute is that?
My second favourite place to hang out – and by hang out, I mean work – was Blenz! With free wireless internet available and locations scattered throughout Vancouver, it’s the perfect place to grab a seat, a hot drink and a newspaper and sit down for a solid hour or two. I typed up many an article here and sipped on a number of delicious London Fogs – yes, it appears that was my drink of choice for the entirety of this trip (and I don’t regret it for a second! They’re fabulous).
Cactus Club Cafe
On my second day in town, I headed out for a lunch with a very old friend of mine, a fellow volunteer from my time spent working in Tanzania. We enjoyed a fabulous glass of wine and lunch at the Cactus Club Cafe overlooking English Bay. I had a selbach ’fish’ riesling (mosel, germany) that was to die for – heavily recommended; the wine and the resto!
Salt Tasting Room
The absolute best dinner/drinks we had all week was at an incredible wine tasting bar called Salt Tasting Room, located semi-ironically on a road called “Blood Alley” in East Hastings (considering that that area is known as a sanctuary for the crazies – including thousands of crackheads waiting to pounce – of Vancouver, someone clearly had a sense of humour!). The idea behind Salt is that you come ready to sample a selection of wines that are then paired with a selection of either meats or cheeses (or a blend of both) and condiments to top things off.
The basic fleet comes with three samples of wine, including your choice of red, white, rose, sparkling or sweet (I may have missed one or two categories there). We enjoyed some incredible red wines in particular, from the region and I topped off my fleet with a sample of Tawny Port which has now spiraled into what I’m afraid may become a very, very expensive interest. My favourite meat was definitely the Tuscan Fig (far left – we also had corned beef) while the peppers took first place for favourite condiment (competing with a pear raisin chutney and delectable olives).
What’s unique about the tasting however is the effort the bartender (your server, or ours anyway) put in to pairing your wines with everything else on your plate. That’s where the expertise really kicks in. The gentleman who served us knew exactly what wines would complement which cheese and which condiment would add just the perfect flavour to the existing combination. Our tasting plate hovered around $16, but provided the perfect start to the evening, after which we continued onward to the Steam Works Brew Pub, possibly my favourite bar to frequent downtown Vancouver.
Steam Works Brew Pub
Why is the Steam Works one of my favourite places to go in Vancouver? Because you are guaranteed a good time; fact. I’ve frequented the Steam Works a number of times during my trips out to Vancouver because whether you’re with colleagues, your partner or your best friend, this pub is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. From the atmosphere and the location (located directly downtown, near Canada Place) to the food (we split a pulled pork sandwich this time round, but I can also vouch for their Caesar salads, their sweet potato fries and their fish tacos which are apparently, really, really good – say those around me who eat fish) and the drink. Four Bellinis and one spicy Caesar – each – later, we had become best friends with the waitress (I kid you not) and ended the night on the highest of notes.
* Travelers Tip! Looking for the best Caesars in town? Head to the Keg Steakhouse & Bar over in Yaletown for the best view of the city or Mahoney & Sons Public House, directly on the water, where they garnish your drink with a pepperoni stick and add extra spice to warm you up!
Tap and Barrel
Tap and Barrel, located directly on the waterfront (next to main street on the south bank of the creek) serves wine, on tap. Seriously – does it get better than that? Wait, it kind of does. They have a peanut-butter pie that is to die for. But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself – at least once (you may not be able to afford more than once since prices range from $12-$16/glass.
YEW Restaurant, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
If you’re a morning person who appreciates good food, this ones right up your alley. On the Thursday, I’d scheduled an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver meeting up with the Director of Engineering to discuss the fact that the hotel had recently been awarded a 5-Green Key rating for it’s sustainable efforts. Since we met over breakfast at the YEW Restaurant (read the entire interview here) I had the chance to sample a dish from the famous Chef, Ned Bell, I’d heard so much about. As we spoke, I nibbled on the Quinoa & Honey breakfast and it was fantastic, as was the service. Like I said, if you love mornings and you love good food – head over to the Four Seasons for breakfast or a bite of brunch, you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re looking for lunch, then I definitely advise you take advantage of one of the hundreds (thousands?) of sushi places strewn throughout Vancouver. Even if you’re more a fan of “fake sushi”, like me (that is to say fish-less of course), you’ll find something you love. If you’re looking for a sushi restaurant with a great view for a knockout deal, check out Tanpopo, also located in English Bay! You’ll enjoy all you can eat sushi for a great price and be located centrally so you can carry on with the rest of your day.
If however, you’re strolling around on the weekend and feeling like grabbing a bite on the go, I seriously suggest swinging by Granville Market – the absolute best place to sample some unique treats (like candied salmon – not my favourite but definitely unique to the region), gourmet meats and cheeses, fresh fruits and veg and much, salad and fresh spring rolls (pictured below) and much much more! You can also enjoy your food outside next to the water and bask in the sun while being entertained by the inevitable minstrel playing a tune or two along the shore.
The Boathouse and Cardero’s
During one of my last days in the city, we took a drive out to Horseshoe Bay, where visitors and inhabitants of the area can catch Ferries to Nanaimo or Gibsons – schedule available here. We ended up splitting a scrumptious omelette and grabbing a cup of tea at The Boathouse which had a spectacular menu paralleled only by the magnificent view that was the backdrop for our little lunch. Word on the street has it that this is a goldmine for seafood lovers, especially during Brunching hours.
From the same people who brought us The Boathouse, comes the place where Vancouverites (Vancouer-ians?) flock for one of the most intimate dinners in town: Carderos. With a slogan like “we are fish” you can guess what they specialize in – that being said, it is my personal experience that seafood restaurants also happen to have the best steaks in town! This restaurant didn’t disappoint one bit. In fact, we loved our meal so much that we decided to go for dessert and dessert wine in the form of port. Thanks to Carderos, I know have a full-throttle addiction to this ridiculously good aperitif. Could be worse…