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A foodie’s guide to Vancouver

posted March 22, 2017


Dining in Vancouver

Vancouver is a region that prides itself on the quality and variety of its cuisine, and with good reason. Whether heralding the freshness of their home-grown tomatoes and carrots or delighting in a shared pan of B.C. prawn ramen, the people of Vancouver know good food when they taste it.

While most of us think sampling local dishes is a holiday highlight, in a place like Vancouver, it’s worth planning at least part of your itinerary solely around culinary experiences. From some of the finest hotels in Canada to superb street food, here is our guide to the best food in Vancouver.

Why is Vancouver’s food so good?

Planning your holiday to Vancouver, you will probably come across countless articles proclaiming the amplitude of fine dining and delicious dishes in the area. But you might be wondering, what exactly makes Vancouver’s food so good?

Of course, there are more elements that make up any great food scene than can be listed, but there are a few key features of Vancouver’s culinary sphere that make it so successful:

Superb local seafood

Fishing in Vancouver

The first thing any Vancouverite will tell you about the city is that it is the home of high-quality seafood.

Everything from mussels and oysters to wild salmon and Dungeness crab thrives in the Pacific waters that embrace the west coast, making for some of the freshest and tastiest seafood around. Local restaurants take pride in this, and incorporate marine produce in everything from Asian cuisine to Italian pasta dishes.

The mild climate also nurtures many types of produce, allowing restaurants to offer dishes made with home-grown ingredients such as herbs, salads, cauliflower, radishes, blueberries, squash and many more.

Sustainability

Sustainable food

Another winning ingredient of Vancouver’s food scene is its sustainable ethos. As Tourism Vancouver explains, “Vancouverites don’t just care what’s in their meal, they care where the ingredients come from as well.”

It is more common than not to see menus routinely listing the farms, fisheries or dairies and butchers that are responsible for the ingredients they serve. Of course, almost all of the local seafood is sustainable, as indicated by the Ocean Wise symbol, all cuts of meat are used and vegetables are grown locally to cut food miles.

Diverse dishes

Diverse range of dishes

Perhaps the most-celebrated element of Vancouver’s culinary culture is its diversity. A multicultural city yields a multifaceted and vibrant food scene, making some of the best flavours the world has to offer available in the city.

Sonu Purhar from Tourism Vancouver explains:

“Vancouver’s culinary scene is one of the most varied and vibrant in the world, offering everything from multi-course Chinese feasts and the best sushi outside of Japan, to farm-to-table dining, exotic street food and molecular gastronomy.”

Joyce Chua from Foodie Tours agrees, noting that Vancouver’s pride and joy – seafood – has been taken in directions previously unheard of due to the multiplicity of influences in the area:

“Vancouver’s food scene is filled with multicultural flavours and local ingredients. Here, it’s a seafood paradise at Blue Water Cafe, Miku for sushi, Boulevard for fresh oysters, and Go Fish on Granville Island for fish and chips.”

A well-earned reputation

Chefs

Sonu claims that it is the combination of these elements that has granted Vancouver its high esteem as a culinary centre.

“We have earned a reputation as a “chef’s city” thanks to our close proximity to ocean, forests and rich terroir, all allowing for easy access to seasonal, organic produce and fresh seafood.

“Landmark culinary events like Dine Out Vancouver Festival – the biggest food and drink festival in Canada – are attracting more and more visitors from across the globe, including some of the world’s best chefs who have travelled here to experience this culinary city for themselves.”

Food for all

Street food

Clearly, the area is influencing a much wider culinary context within the dining sphere. Vancouver’s food scene is not only impressive, it is accessible, too.

This is a rare quality in areas so highly regarded for their haute cuisine, but, ever the seat of optimism, Vancouver continues to provide visitors with delectable dishes at every price point. Street food munchers and high end lunchers alike will feel comfortable – and inspired – in Vancouver.

Food to try and where to find it

clean and tidy public market fruit stand #wheningranville #publicmarket

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As Joyce points out, food is a key foundation of the local culture. She says: “Vancouverites can eat the globe in one day – Kirin Restaurant for A-class dim sum, French pastries at Cafe Thierry, Six Acres for Canadian classics, and of course, the world-famous Japanese hot dog cart: Japadog! For truly authentic Vancouver, go for brunch, eat sushi, check out the food trucks, and try out the craft beer.”

So where do you start in sampling all of these Canadian deliciousness for yourself?

Sampling multicultural dishes in Canada

Chinatown, Vancouver in 1960

Vancouver is home to countless cafes, food markets and restaurants selling various types of cuisine, meaning that you are spoiled for choice when it comes to dining options. Hannah Breucker from the blog Out in Vancouver explains how, here, every single meal of the day can be made special. She says, “Start your day off with breakfast at Yolks, an iconic brunch restaurant that started out as a food truck. Their chicken waffles are insane!”

After treating yourself to a hearty breakfast, Brianna advises, “Depending on your mood, visit one of Vancouver’s foodie neighbourhoods: Chinatown for inventive Asian-fusion dishes and superb traditional bakeries; or Gastown for perfectly-balanced cocktails and cutting-edge gastronomic experiences.”

Seeking out Vancouver’s seafood

Pacific Ocean Seafood platter at Café Pacifica Restaurant, Vancouver

One of the most famous foods in Vancouver is fish and seafood. Travel blogger Arnette from Round the World Girl suggests that Asian cuisine and seafood should be at the top of any foodie’s agenda when visiting Vancouver. She explains; “The city has a large Asian population so there are some really amazing restaurants that work for all budgets. Some of my favourites are Guu, an izakaya or small plates Japanese restaurant, or Kirin for dim sum. Both restaurants have multiple locations around the city.”

She continues, “You will find some of the freshest and budget-friendly sushi around in Vancouver. Some of my favourite sushi eateries are Ajisai in Kerrisdale or Sushi Itoga on Robson Street. Being a coastal city, seafood is always fresh.”

Try a food tour

Gastown

There are many different ways to experience the food in Vancouver, besides simply eating out. Sonu suggests: “First-time visitors might consider one of our many food tours, which lead culinary adventurers to hot spots and local favourites in several of the city’s food-focused neighbourhoods, including Gastown, Chinatown, Main Street and Granville Island. Whatever your tastes, Vancouver’s culinary scene will deliver.”

Food markets in Vancouver

Granville Island Public Market

However, there is more to Vancouver than restaurants – eating in the region is a truly immersive experience for any foodie. Countless markets await, with local produce and dishes ready to sample. Arnette comments that the market is “a great place to go, with restaurants, galleries, a theatre, entertainment as well as a public market. And any travellers who have a sweet tooth should get gelato at Bella or donuts at Cartems.”

Joyce agrees, noting that “the heart and soul of Vancouver’s food scene is the Granville Island Public Market”. She advises that, at this market, you can find “a plethora of artisan cheeses, meats, breads and produce. Here, chefs come to source items for their menus – the best place to taste this for yourself is at Edible Canada Bistro!”

Granville Island is a fantastic day out for any foodie, whether it is seafood or sweet treats that are on your agenda. Hannah suggests:

“Stroll down to Granville Island to find a foodie’s dream: mountains of delicious pastries, cakes and tarts as well as great JJ Bean coffee. If you fancy a cold treat, Earnest Ice Cream has you covered with their incredible Whiskey-Hazelnut ice cream. If you are visiting in the summer, you have to check out the annual food truck festival. For one week, we celebrate all the amazing food trucks in this city and eat our heart out on as many of them as possible!” With so many gastronomic venues, events and activities to choose, from, you can revel in the flavours and textures of Vancouver’s food no matter what your preferences.

Sumptuous street food

Street food Vancouver

It’s not just fish markets that you can find on the bustling streets of Vancouver. Brilliant street food from all national cuisines are available for foodies to sample in the city. Dee de los Santos from food and travel blog, Gastrofork, says:

“Vancouver is a foodie city and there are hundreds, if not thousands of options here. If you’re into healthy eats, grabbing a locally made craft beer or want to enjoy some fresh seafood, you’ll find something that will satisfy your taste buds. There are so many different cuisines done well here but I would suggest having Japanese or Chinese food. Kishimoto is one of the city’s hot spots that boasts a large menu of creative Japanese dishes. For Chinese food, venture into Richmond to find cheap eats that will fill your cravings. In the summer time, you can visit the Richmond Night Market for a variety of delicious eats that are very similar to night markets in Asia.”

The top restaurants in Vancouver

Of course, with so many fantastic venues to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down your eating choices while on holiday in Vancouver. Here are five of the top restaurants in the region that are certainly worth a visit:

Edible Canada Bistro, Granville Island

If you’re looking for a place to eat that fuses high-quality cuisine with a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, the Edible Canada Bistro on Granville Island is the perfect choice.

This is a venue that truly celebrates Canadian cuisine, and will give you a real feel for the food of both Vancouver and the wider nation. From locally-caught fish and chips to crispy west coast Humboldt squid with chermoula vinaigrette, white bean hummus and dried olives, there is plenty to try here.

Alannah Johnston of Edible Canada explains: “Across the street from Granville Island’s famous Public Market, you can find Edible Canada’s bright and airy Canadian Bistro and gourmet retail store. They use the best of what is local and seasonal in their dishes, which strive to be an example of modern Canadian cuisine.

“The patio is one of the best spots in Vancouver for happy hour in the summer, with creative cocktails and a gorgeous Canadian wine list. Edible Canada believes Canadian cuisine is so much more than poutine and maple syrup, but they also do both of those things really well, because, after all, who doesn’t love Quebec cheese curds?”

Bauhaus restaurant, Gastown

Smoked monkfish, beets, horse radish #chefdave

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Natalie Boll of Bauhaus restaurant tells us that Chef Stefan Hartmann has become acclaimed internationally for his unique style that has been praised as “new German cuisine.” He has earned a reputation as his flair for transforming heart-warming traditional dishes into new contemporary creations.

Chef Stefan trials a new tasting menu each month, meaning that the restaurant is always keeping one step ahead of culinary trends, bringing something fresh and exciting to your holiday.

At Bauhaus, you can enjoy everything from German classics including geschnetzeltes (veal, spätzle and mushrooms) to slow-roasted chicken with parsnip, olive gnocchi and fennel.

Chef Stefan gives potential visitors a glimpse of the ethos and atmosphere of the Bauhaus restaurant, saying: “Just relax, sit down, and enjoy a great meal. I often see people thinking too much in a restaurant. The happiest customers are always the ones who are relaxed. Just leave it in our hands, and we will take care of you.”

Pidgin, Gastown

quail, roasted, chinese bbq, sprouted lentils, grains, root vegetables / #pidginfood

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Pidgin is the epitome of fine dining, and their plates of food are nothing short of works of art. A world of colour, texture and flavour is brought to you with every dish, all infused with a mouth-watering fusion of world cuisines.

Located in the historic foodie centre of Gastown, this Vancouver restaurant aims to “pay homage to the unique cultures that make up the tapestry of this great city.” Here, try fantastic dishes such as their potato “mentaiko udon” with spicy cod roe, nori butter and furikake, or sockeye salmon with clams, trumpet mushrooms, sesame butter and tobiko.

Brandon Grossutti from Pidgin explains: “Located in historic Gastown, we are a Vancouver restaurant paying homage to the unique cultures that make up the tapestry of this great city, seamlessly using Asian and Pacific Northwest ingredients with current techniques.”

The restaurant was ranked number 5 in the 2013 En Route Best New Restaurants in Canada awards, clear proof in Brandon’s claim that “we continue to strive for excellence in everything we do.”

The Acorn, Main street

The Acorn is a gastronomical heaven headed up by Chef Briand Luptak, nestled in the heart of Vancouver’s Main Street. This award-winning venue is rated by the Daily Meal as providing the second-best vegetarian food in the world.

Owner of the restaurant, Shira Blustein, explains: “The Acorn is an award-winning, vegetable-forward restaurant and bar located at the heart of Vancouver’s Main St. It is a destination for diners seeking the best and most creative meals made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Carefully crafted dishes cater to vegans and gluten free diners while ensuring that even the staunchest meat eaters leave fully satisfied.”

Visit The Acorn to try out their seasonal dishes such as rosemary gnocchi with leek and potato cream, roasted carrots, cultures cream, carrot jus and nutmeg. Alternatively, sample some inventive vegetarian dishes such as their beer battered halloumi with a zucchini and potato pancake, smashed peas, mint yoghurt and lemon balm grown in their very own Acorn Garden.

CinCin Ristorante

On Robson Street in Vancouver’s West End, you will find a building where a grand winding staircase leads you to food heaven. You will arrive at CinCin Ristorante, a venue that defines sophisticated and creative Italian cuisine in Vancouver. This restaurant is warm and welcoming in its decor, yet its food is undeniably chic – clean, rich flavours are created with the freshest of ingredients sourced from the region’s best local suppliers. Craft cocktails, a famous grappa collection and an award-winning wine program all combine to create the perfect choice for any special occasion.

Executive Chef Andrew Richardson says, “CinCin’s wood-fired cooking provides guests with a glimpse into our open kitchen and an opportunity to share our love with fire. I believe in simplicity, and the interaction of absolutely prime ingredients on the plate – less is often more, especially in Italian cookery.”

Here, the food speaks for itself, be it the creamy Nova Scotia lobster linguine, the Alberta rack of lamb cooked over the fire with salsify, cavolo nero and potatoes, or the indulgent desserts such as the amedi chocolate fondant seen above, which you can enjoy with hazelnut and raspberry, plus a milk chocolate caramel gelato.

Further afield: The Araxi

Whilst visiting Vancouver, many people choose to explore more of the surrounding area. This is understandable, considering the impressive landscapes of British Columbia, from the Rockies to the lakes. However, there are also plenty of fantastic dining opportunities in the province, too. A little further afield in Whistler, the Araxi is a restaurant endeavouring to offer guests “the best of nearby fields, pastures and pristine waters”.

The restaurant is led by farm-to-table pioneer chef James Walt, who creates incredible dishes using local, sustainable ingredients. He tells us:

“Whistler’s bounty of produce from nearby farms and ranches in addition to the abundance of fresh catches pulled from local waters is truly a privilege to draw inspiration from for Araxi’s menus. Throughout the seasons, we create dishes that speak of all things local for a taste of British Columbia.”

Dig your fork into mains such as their roasted Yarrow Meadow duck breast cooked with herbs and spices, served with parsnip puree, baby green beans, crispy cauliflower and sesame and soya vinaigrette; or their grilled red tuna with roasted fennel, orange and black olive tapenade, house made gnocchi, toasted coriander seed and gem tomato vinaigrette. The restaurant also offers various small plates including their popular mixed BC seafood ceviche, which consists of mussels, clams, salmon and albacore tuna with cucumber, onion, peppers and crispy chickpeas, and is perfect for a shared treat. Not to mention, of course, their many melt-in-the-mouth desserts!

Brianna Prasloski, communications specialist at Tourism Vancouver, sums up all of the qualities that make Vancouver’s food so special: “From fresh farm-to-table feasts to the best sushi outside of Japan, Vancouver has an exciting and varied culinary scene that is sure to satisfy any craving. With the city’s distinct cultural influences from Asia, India and Canada’s First-Nations, as well as close proximity to fresh and seasonal product, it’s no wonder Vancouver is known as a ‘chef’s city’.” To find out more about the food in this diverse region and its surroundings, check out Hello B.C. to find out about the best restaurants in all of British Columbia.

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