Downtown Eastside Restaurants
611 Gore Ave., Downtown Eastside
Katie Ruddell was in charge of brand strategy and marketing at Lululemon before opening Kokomo in the heart of Chinatown—essentially to cater to her own health food cravings. The vegan fare is gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free, accommodating all dietary restrictions but without compromising on taste. The modern décor creates a pleasant lunch setting, but be sure to come early, as Kokomo fills up fast. Order the Coastal Macro Bowl (the vegan spot’s most popular dish, and for good reason), which includes brown rice, roasted squash, and edamame hummus.
Nelson the Seagull
315 Carrall St., Downtown Eastside
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.
217 Carrall St., Downtown Eastside
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.
Ask For Luigi
305 Alexander St., Downtown Eastside
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.