Vancouver is a thoroughly diverse city. Over half the population speak a first language that isn’t English and the city boasts the densest population in Canada. Having that many people has created incredible fusions of cultures, arts and flavours, which is why Vancouver is a thriving foodie town. If you have booked cheap flights to Vancouver, this city will not disappoint as a culinary marvel!
As a seaport, Vancouver not only has a wealth of human history to draw from but the natural bounty of the ocean. As a city influenced by so many different cultures it has come up with some interesting foods and eating experiences. Whether you are looking for a sweet snack or a savoury dish, a top-notch cocktail or a restaurant experience to remember, Vancouver has you covered.
Between beaver tails (sweet pastry snacks) and maple syrup, Canada is not short of sweet treats. These have not been ignored by Vancouverites and many traditional snacks and desserts have been blessed with interesting flavours or innovative cooking techniques.
This doughnut chain is local to Vancouver and prides itself on local ingredients and unusual flavours. The London Fog Stuffie may sound more Victorian than Vancouver, but this popular flavour brings in customers. We spoke to Rags at Cartems Donuterie about its conception:
“It was a very busy day at the doughnut shop, and we needed to make a filling because we had completely run out of all the flavours we currently were offering. All I had left to make something was heavy cream, earl grey tea and vanilla. I mixed the three items quickly, stuffed the doughnuts and sent them to be sold. They sold so quickly, and became very popular! After some refining of the recipe, we made it a part of our day-to-day offering.”
“The London Fog Donut is a stuffed doughnut, with a lightly whipped cream that is infused with London Fog Tea and vanilla. It is topped with an Earl Grey Tea glaze and white chocolate drizzle.”
The Swiss Bakery
This bakery is born and bred in Vancouver but as its name suggests, it takes on European influences. Priding itself on artisan breads and beautifully made pasties, Swiss Bakery is also the home of the Frissant. Somewhere between a fritter and a croissant, it is Canada’s answer to the cronut, but Swiss Bakery makes them in exciting seasonal flavours. With fig and orange jam and lemon mojito flavours on the menu, you will never tire of Swiss Bakery’s offerings.
Earnest Ice Cream
While ice cream may be the speciality of Italians, Vancouverites have done a good job of putting their own stamp on things. Using fresh local ingredients and incredible flavour combinations, even the most hardened gelato connoisseur cannot resist the temptations at Earnest Ice Cream. One flavour, only available for a short time in spring is Spruce Bud. It is so wholly Canadian that it should be on every foodie’s list. We chatted with Erica at Earnest Ice Cream about this rare flavour:
“We first started making this flavour in the spring of 2013. The spruce buds are harvested by a friend of ours, Alexander, who is a local forager. In fact, he might have been the one to originally suggest the flavour. The buds are harvested when they are young, which makes this flavour especially susceptible to the season, weather, etc. It’s a short window of time when we can source them.”
“The flavour is bright and citrusy, not as “woodsy” as you would expect. It has strong lemony notes. We love it as it highlights a truly unique West Coast flavour.”
Vancouver has lots to offer when it comes to savoury dishes. The fresh fish and seafood in the city is the high quality you would expect from a coastal city, while chefs fuse flavours and ingredients with perfect results.
Salmon n’ Bannock
Many things come to mind when you think of Canadian cuisine, but game is rarely one of them. Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro prides itself on being Vancouver’s only First Nations restaurant and keeps many traditions alive while creating new flavour combinations. Salmon n’ Bannock creates dishes from wild fish, free range game such as bison, venison, boar and caribou and also bannock (which is a type of flat bread also found in Scotland). Karen Lee from the restaurant told us some of their favourites and what you should eat if you only get one visit:
“We take indigenous ingredients and serve it with a modern palate. If you are with a few people, you get to try many things. [If not I would suggest that] the game sampler along with our salmon dinner with Ojibway wild rice would be a great introduction.”
If that doesn’t whet your appetite then the salmon sampler and bison ribs are not to be missed.
Whether you are stopping for a breather after a busy day seeing the sights, or want to relax in a chic bar before dinner, the perfect drink is always welcome. Vancouver’s historical Gastown was the city’s first neighbourhood and gets its name thanks to a man called Gassy Jack. After discovering the area in 1867, he built a bar and called it The Globe Saloon, and the city of Vancouver as we know it grew up around the bar. The Globe Saloon may have started Vancouver’s thriving cocktail culture, but the scene has come a long way in the last 150 years or so.
Guilt and Company
As you would expect, the best cocktails in the city are of course in Gastown. Guilt and Company not only has incredible cocktail offerings but is also a great place to spend an evening at as it hosts live music nights. All the cocktails are named after songs, but don’t let your genre preference put you off as they are all delicious. Holy Smoke lives up to its name with ingredients like Bulleit bourbon, Laphroaig Quarter Cask whisky, black tea, lemon, agave and pepper.
If you are not in the mood for something alcoholic, Café Medina is ready to sort you out with a warm and caffeinated alternative. Their speciality lattes have the expected flavours of vanilla, caramel, raspberry and salted caramel, but there is also the option of lavender. The unusual floral flavours are woven throughout their menu with chocolate pistachio rosewater featuring in hot chocolates and milk chocolate lavender as a topping on waffles.
When you are staying in a new city, it just begs for an incredible meal to celebrate. Aside from great quality food, sometimes the dining concept itself is so unique that you feel like you just have to experience it. Sometimes these restaurants are in stunning locations or have an innovative addition to their menu.
Described as blind dining, Dark Table is a concept now spread across several cities. As an introduction into the world of the visually impaired, Dark Table is an experience with an amazing ethos. All the servers are blind or visually impaired and diners eat in the dark. By denying the visitor their sense of sight, it not only improves the other senses but allows an intimacy to the dining experience. All phones, torches and other illuminating devices are switched off so you are able to fully concentrate on the food and the experience of dining in the dark.
Image Credit: Scott Webb, Brigitte Tohm, Cartems, Swiss Bakery, Earnest Ice Cream, Toa Heftiba, Salmon n’ Bannock, Bamusiime Sylvia