The Vancouver Guide
Vancouver is one of those cities that’s just as good to visitors as it is to permanent residents. The ocean-side location and Stanley Park—a green oasis with miles of trails, trees, and expansive views—enhance the cosmopolitan hub with pockets of nature, making spending time in this corner of British Columbia relaxing and invigorating all at once. A crop of young chefs are taking full advantage of the seafood and fresh-produce abundance, categorically transforming the food scene, while the burgeoning micro-brewery culture draws beer enthusiasts in droves. What’s more, Vancouver’s proximity to the mountains means a wilderness experience is never far. If you’re game, we’ve partnered with our friends at Black Tomato on a four-day itinerary that celebrates the adventure potential of nearby Tofino (hop a seaplane and you’re there).
AnnaLena1809 W. 1st Ave., Kitsilano | 778.379.4052
A bit of a wildcard option décor-wise—kitschy Lego art and Star Wars figurines dot, but don’t dominate, the interior—AnnaLena serves up a concise menu of elevated, modern comfort food. There’s a dish for everyone—fried chicken and maple mustard for the traditionalists, roasted beets and charred labneh for the more adventurous, and an indulgent steak for those seeking something familiar and hearty.
Ask For Luigi305 Alexander St., Downtown Eastside | 604.428.2544
This beloved restaurant has all the hallmarks of an old-school Italian joint—no reservations accepted, an unfussy interior of simple wooden tables and chairs, signature checkerboard floors, plus pasta with a flavor that can only be achieved by being hand-made daily, in-house. Expect indulgent but classic pairings like oxtail risotto topped with bone marrow, or crab with fennel.
Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie163 Keefer St., Downtown | 604.688.0876
This is a second offering from revered Kissa Tanto chef Joël Watanabe, and it doesn't disappoint. Bao Bei swaps Japanese-Italian fusion for Chinese brasserie food, with the odd dash of Gallic flavor. The menu—all Taiwanese and Sichuan influence—is short, with dumplings described as "petits cadeaux" (little gifts in French) and small starters, adorably dubbed "schnaks." The kick-ass fried rice is, as described—a mouthwatering blend of pork belly, squash, and spicy peanuts. The wine list is unusually extensive for an Asian restaurant, and a lot of thought has gone into curating cocktails that compliment the food. We recommend a pre-dinner drink accompanied by a serving of spicy cucumbers at the bar.
Fable1944 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano | 604.732.1322
A former contestant on Top Chef Canada, with a resume that includes a stint at the Shangri-La Hotel, chef Trevor Bird has earned his stripes, and Fable is his first solo venture. Located in cool Kitsilano, the interior feels rustic and barnyard-esque, which suits the strictly farm-to-table cuisine. The menu features classics like flat iron steak, spaghetti-and-meatballs, and smoked duck. Vegetarians will not leave disappointed thanks to meat-free dishes like rutabaga tagliatelle, mushroom gnocchi, and especially good chickpea fritters with curry mayo and pickled onions.
Homer St. Cafe and Bar898 Homer St., Downtown | 604.428.4299
Housed in one of the city’s most historic buildings, Homer St. Café specializes in the most tender, succulent rotisserie chicken you’ll find outside of France, paired with equally sensational sides. Order a half chicken and go heavy on the potatoes roasted in rotisserie drippings, vinegary coleslaw, smoky cauliflower dusted in chili, and baked chicken skins. If you’re only stopping in for a drink, the bar snacks give a real taster of the main menu—wings off the rotisserie birds, chickpea dip and plantain chips, or a full cheese board showcasing Canadian-made cheeses.
Kissa Tanto263 E. Pender St., Strathcona | 778.379.8078
Chef Joel Watanabe (also of acclaimed Chinese brasserie Bao Bei) wanted to combine the clean flavors of Japanese food with the indulgent, comfort element we often associate with Italian dishes. Kissa Tanto is the physical manifestation of that fairly rogue idea. The Japanese-Italian fushion manifests as eggplant fritters with yuzu gribiche, gnocchi with kombu dashi, and sourdough, served with both olive oil and nori butter. The restaurant itself is beautiful—a mix of blue and blush leather banquettes, rich wood tables, and vintage library lamps that cast a soft glow across both the diners and the food. The effect is intimate and chic, but it’s the immaculate presentation of this unusual cuisine that has made Kissa Tanto one of the best restaurants in Vancouver.
L’Abattoir217 Carrall St., Downtown Eastside | 604.568.1701
The aptly named L’Abattoir is housed in what was Vancouver’s first city jail, located in the former meatpacking zone of the city. A modern space with rustic undertones—patterned tiles, brick walls, sculptural light fixtures, and soaked in light thanks to the several glass panels. The food is French-inflected West Coast cuisine—which translates to a fish-centric menu with French flourishes like adding sherry, compound butters, and crème fraîche to dishes. Once a month, Chef Lee Cooper hosts a dining experience for a mere eight guests in the restaurant's private events space, again very aptly named Gaoler’s Mews. If you can’t get in for dinner, try their weekend brunch.
Maenam1938 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano | 604.730.5579
Thai food with a BC twist, Maenam takes the incredible seafood of the Pacific Coast and dresses it up with Thai flavors—ahi tuna with a spicy dressing for example. For those who want to make the most of the menu, Maenam’s tasting menus (with drinks pairings) are a great way to try a sampling of dishes curated by chef Angus An himself. The herringbone wood floors, exposed brick walls, and low lighting make for a seductive, chic space—perfect for a date or intimate dinner.
Medina Cafe780 RIchards St., Downtown | 604.879.3114
Café Medina, with its Mediterranean-inflected brunch menu is not your typical brunch fare: You'll find spiced meatballs and poached egg-topped tagine, for example rather than your typical skillet potatoes and bacon. Down the street from the Vancouver Art Gallery (stop in after breakfast), the line can get long but the mascarpone flatbreads, bourbon-spiked coffee, and homemade kombucha are worth the wait. High ceilings, long communal tables, and spice-flavored craft cocktails only add to the effect.
Miku200 Granville St., Downtown | 604.568.3900
Miku is the more sophisticated, grown-up alternative to sister restaurant Minami. Made even more special by the sweeping views of Coal Harbor, the strictly sustainably sourced menu is centered around the aburi-style flamed sushi owner Nakamura is revered for. What's more, the sake selection is one of the most notable in the city.
Minami1118 Mainland St., Downtown | 604.685.8080
Although owner Nakamura has a small foodie empire in Japan, his Vancouver restaurants are personal passion projects, both named after his daughters Miku and Minami. Nakamura is credited with introducing the now very popular aburi-style flamed sushi to Vancouver’s fish-obsessed food scene in 2008. At Minami, not only is the sushi torched at the last minute, a piece of charcoal is simultaneously lit to impart a deeper, slightly smoky flavor.
Nelson the Seagull315 Carrall St., Downtown Eastside | 604.681.5776
Built into what looks like a former warehouse—all high ceilings and exposed brick—Nelson the Seagull is one of the most satisfying and atmospheric breakfast spots in town. The menu is short, simple, and crafted to celebrate the traditional sourdough bread baked daily by co-owner Jonthan Sneglar. Each dish is cooked to perfection and holds its own—healthy muesli, avocado toast, and soft-poached eggs served atop crunchy, buttery toast, with great coffee on the side.
Oddfish1889 W. 1st Ave., Kitsilano | 604.564.6330
A casual spot to hit up with a crowd, Oddfish is focused on seafood en masse, like big bowls of fragrant shellfish cooked in a wine-y broth, or a whole seabass with charred, crispy skin, drizzled in olive oil and topped with a healthy amount of cilantro. If you’re with friends, go for the seafood hot mess (lobster, squid, mussels, prawns, and scallops grilled a la plancha and served with a punchy salsa verde)—getting dirty is unavoidable but that’s half the fun. Vegetable sides hold their own, too: the cauliflower arrives charred and whole, covered in spicy chermoula and bitter pomegranate molasses, while carrots are deeply roasted and topped with yogurt. Don’t forget to order a side of grilled bread to mop up the sauces.
Osteria Savio Volpe615 Kingsway, Mount Pleasant | 604.428.0072
Savio Volpe takes Italian food back to basics with strictly house-made pasta dishes like potato gnocchi with gorgonzola and whole wheat orecchiette, plus, a small but mighty mains offering (we've heard amazing things about the meatballs). This spot doesn’t try too hard—there are no cocktails available, the wines are Italian-only, the coffee is good, and the gelato is hand-made in small batches to delicious results. The space is all wood—tables, chairs, and walls, with red-tile floors and an open kitchen that's best enjoyed from the bar.
Pizzeria Farina915 Main St., Downtown | 604.681.9334
Pizzeria Farina looks like a modern, almost Scandinavian café with white painted brick walls, a menu written on parchment paper that's suspended from the ceiling, and seating that's a mix of one long communal table and a few smaller ones with high stools. The pizza dough itself goes through a three-day ferment, and once cooked is thin, crispy, and blistered in all the right places. Chef J.C Poirier is making Neapolitan style pizzas with just a few topping options—ratatouille, mushrooms, fennel sausage, and salami, with the requisite mozzarella and tangy tomato sauce.
Ramen Danbo1833 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano | 778.379.8977
If you feel like you’re approaching sushi-saturation point, go for Ramen. Serving traditional Tonkotsu, cooked Fukuoka-style (a city in Japan), the noodles are super skinny and the cloudy broth packs a punch. The space is tiny, and intentionally so, as the size of the bar is part of the experience. (The Japanese typically order their ramen, eat, and leave—no lingering for hours over dinner and drinks, an experience we have come to expect when eating out.) There's a second outpost on Robson Street.
Rodney’s Oyster House1228 Hamilton St., Downtown | 604.609.0080
Classic port-city seafood chowders, steamed shellfish, and hearty mains like pan-fried oysters, garlic shrimp, and Atlantic lobster, are the claim to fame at this low-key seafood restaurant. One of the few spots where you can actually see your catch before it’s cooked, Rodney’s is truly a from-the-line-to-your-plate kind of place. Come with a crowd, order a few dishes to share, and expect big portions and lots of flavor. There's a second location in Gastown.
Sushi Bar Maumi1226 Bute St., West End | 604.609.2286
Maumi's eight seats bring the authenticity of the thousands of teeny sushi bars found throughout Japan to Vancouver. Chef Maumi Ozaki presides over his establishment nightly and his rules are clear—no kids, no booze, and a hard-and-fast seating schedule. However, despite the seemingly strict parameters, the seafood—imported daily from Japan—is so spectacular in freshness, preparation, presentation, and price, all is forgiven. The ten-course omakase menu, priced at approximately $35 a person, is the best deal in town.
The Farmer’s Apprentice1535 W. 6th Ave., Fairview | 604.620.2070
As the name suggests, this is a laid-back, relaxed spot for a casual farm-fresh meal. Committed to serving only organic produce, The Farmer's Apprentice has three set menus to choose from for dinner based on whether you’re an herbivore, an omnivore, or going with the chef’s menu, which features a mix of both. Plates could be winter greens with quince and pear, or crab, salsify, and leek. For a little more selection try their excellent weekend brunch. The fish cakes with salsa verde and perfectly poached eggs or the za’atar dusted rice bowl with eggs and cauliflower are flavorful and filling. Get the buttermilk biscuits on the side to keep you going all day.
Tojo’s1133 W. Broadway, Fairview | 604.872.8050
Tojo is one of the longest standing restaurants in this sushi-happy city. Chef Tojo himself is approaching seventy, but still mans the sushi bar almost nightly, experimenting with new flavors like his ode to Canada: smoky eulachon fish and vegetables wrapped in quinoa. The menu is primarily omakase-based and represents the OG gold standard in a city with a sushi bar on every corner.
Torafuku958 Main St., Downtown | 778.903.2006
The restaurant incarnation of a former food truck, Torafuku serves modern Asian food designed for sharing. Taking inspiration from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam, expect bold flavors in a range dishes from ramen to spicy calamari. While the main body of the restaurant is super minimalist, with a mix of booth-style and stool seating, a polished stone floor, and zero ornamentation, all the action happens in the back. There, you'll find a commissary and the original Le Tigre food truck that started it all for owners Clement Chan and Steve Kuan.
Wildebeest120 W. Hastings St., Gastown | 604.687.6880
Wildebeest is intent on defining contemporary Canadian cuisine using the best the land has to offer. The menu is protein-heavy, but scant on chicken and beef. Expect bison steak, braised goat, and venison lasagna, and a re-imagined surf and turf of tender pork belly with seared scallop and pickled daikon. Canadian die-hards will appreciate the Wildebeest iteration of poutine—duck sausage, chicken gravy, and cheese curds. The cavernous space is dark, moody, and romantic, softly lit with tea candles and a few candelabras in the same vein as nearby Diamond Bar.
YEW Seafood + Bar791 W. Georgia St., Downtown | 604.692.4939
Yew is an upscale fish restaurant committed to sustainability, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a stellar weekend brunch. Chef Weimar Gomez prepares fish in every possible iteration—lobster bisque, crab salad, seafood risotto, roasted salmon, and tuna tartar to name a few. The restaurant itself is grand and elegant with sky-high ceilings, and a heavy use of wood.