Vancouver British Columbia is such a vibrant Canadian city to visit, on approach to the airport you can’t help but notice how the North Shore mountains seem to cup the modern city in its palm. The way the glass high-rises are tiltering over False Creek, but never actually fall in are almost surreal.
Vancouver is the city I call home, and it has a ridiculous amount of places to eat and drink. The choice of establishments is staggering, and the fact that most of us have been to a good chunk of them is impressive. Each Vancouverite has a list of their favorite establishments, where we love to spend our hard-earned cash savoring some of the finest dishes, and glasses of vino the city has to offer.
Coffee! – I love independent coffee shops. My favorite is Delany’s Coffee House in the West End. It’s close to my house, and that is always nice, but a bigger plus is that it’s a 60-second walk to English Bay beach. You can enjoy your latte while looking out at the ocean perched on your choice of logs while you watch the tide roll in. Delany’s also has a warm vibe and friendly barista’s that know how to make an excellent cup of joe. A regular size latte will set you back $4.30.
Restaurant – I am a very fussy person go out to dinner with, all the stars need to align. This means I not only expect excellent food but great service and a certain calming, relaxing ambiance. Lucky for me Central Bistro in the West End of Vancouver ticks all the boxes. The restaurant has a Euro wine bar feel with soft lighting. The friendly attentive staff and a menu chocked full of local dishes are mostly organic and locally sourced. The food is filling, presented with care and tastes fantastic. Central also has an array of Canadian beer and wine available. Dinner features start at $15.00 for the BBQ Lambwich.
Wine Bar – Vancouver has a huge wine scene. Not everyone knows this, but it’s true, our relationship with the grape is huge. It helps that we have dozens of vineyards only a three-hour drive away in the Okanagan. This being said you will notice any self-respecting Vancouverite will be drinking a local wine. My current favourite is the Sumac Ridge 2010 Gewurztraminer. I digress. My favorite wine bar is the trendy UVA Wine Bar. They have an incredible selection of Canadian wine which starts at $8.50 a glass.
Italian Restaurant – I love pizza! Thin crust Italian Pizza, and if you’re looking for somewhere to satisfy your pizza craving then Nook on Denman Street is the place to go. Nook also serves up a variety of house made pasta dishes with specials changing every few weeks. For an appetizer, the Crostini would be my choice. I would recommend the whipped Ricotta with honey, black pepper, and hazelnuts. The menu here is small and so is the space so I recommend arriving before 6 pm, or there will be a wait. If you show up later, put your name on the wait list and pull up a chair at the cozy bar and prop yourself up with a nice glass of Grappa while you wait for your table. Nook opened in 2009 and have recently opened another Italian restaurant just around the corner called Tavola which has a similar menu, but a different feel. They have much more space and bigger tables, but nothing beats the clay oven pizza and atmosphere at Nook. A pizza at Nook will cost between $16 – $20 and they only come in one size that is perfect for one hungry person.
Shwarma – If you are in Vancouver and you visit the West End you will be horrified or maybe pleasantly surprised, by the amount of Shwarma joints we have on one street. What is Shwarma you ask? To explain it simply, it’s a Middle-Eastern Sandwich. The main ingredient is meat, usually lamb or chicken shaved from a hot spinning stick. The sandwich, (you can also ask for it on a plate) is then topped with tabbouleh, (a type of salad) and rice with a few pieces of pita bread on the side.
Shwarma is an excellent filling meal, but please don’t eat it if you want to do any physical activity later in the day. It’s a massive filling meal and it is best to sit and digest for many hours after your meal. My go-to Shwarma joint is Falafel King on Denman Street. The shop has been open for dozens of years, and the owner and usually one of his family members is there every single day. My recommendation would be the Chicken Shwarma on a plate. It comes with tabbouleh salad which they will happily substitute for greek salad. I also get a squirt of tzatziki and hot sauce on top. All this for $8.00. They serve pop and juice for $2.00 and have very limited seating for less than ten people, so it’s best to get your meal to go and head to the beach with a blanket and watch the sunset.
Sushi – I’m not a fish eater, although the majority of sushi restaurants in Vancouver have a vegetarian menu, so I’m usually okay.
I struggled to put this on my list as this restaurant seems to be a well-kept secret and there is always a wait for a table. Ajisai Sushi Bar is like nothing I’ve ever had. The restaurant itself has less than ten tables and on each of my visits I was the only Caucasian, (always a good sign). The story is the chef is a highly respected sushi chef from Japan and after moving to Vancouver decided to open his own restaurant here. Ajisai has no kitchen so you won’t find anything deep fried on the vast menu. My fish eating dinner companion noted the high quality of the seafood. I can only recommend you sample everything on the menu, there was nothing that was a favourite, every bite was flavourful and the presentation was classy and the pieces were average mouth size, no gigantic North American sushi here. I would recommend you go either just as they open to avoid long wait times. Prices are average.
I hope you take heed to my suggestions and try all or just one of my choice spots on your visit to Vancouver, you won’t be disappointed.