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.
350 Carrall St., Downtown Eastside
PiDGiN is a self-described Asian-French restaurant, but it’s the cocktails you should really show up for. As with many restaurants and bars in the city, PiDGiN’s fusion cuisine and eclectic drink menu is an ode the immigrant fabric of the city. There’s a thoughtful wine list, but given that there's an in-house sake sommelier, ordering a few shots—accompanied by some excellent snacks—is the way to go. The interior is an example of Asian restraint, super minimalist with wood acting as the main medium.
Vancouver Urban Winery
55 Dunlevy Ave., Downtown Eastside
Urban Winery is exactly as described—a small-batch winery, producing hand-crafted wine from British Columbian grapes in the heart of Vancouver. The tasting room could not be more atmospheric or warm, with floor-to-ceiling booze barrels, a mix of high leather banquettes and smaller tables for cozy conversation, and soaring high ceilings. There are over thirty-five wines on tap, alongside a list featuring other Canadian producers of equal stature. Choose a glass to taste and order a few of their winter-centric plates—roasted veggies, meatballs, and fondue—all made of ingredients sourced from the finest, and most sustainable local suppliers.
172 Powell St., Downtown Eastside
Pastry chef Eleanor C. Waterfall cut her teeth in several of Vancouver’s best kitchens before going solo with Cadeaux. The display cases are loaded with cakes covered in fairy-tale-looking icing, ice cream sandwiches, cookies, and croissants. Skip the straight chocolate and go for a mocha-pecan cookie or Earl Grey-infused London fog cake.
The Birds & The Beets
55 Powell St., Downtown Eastside
Aside from the coffee, a hyper-healthy menu of sprouted grain salads, pickles, bircher muesli, and house-made kombucha makes this all-wood café more than just a morning drop-in. There's ample seating and free wifi—a godsend for anyone a mission to catch up on some work—plus, to sweeten the deal, front-of-house is devoted to a tight fresh-flower edit, loaves of just-baked bread, and jars of some of the best granola in town.
157 Alexander St., Downtown Eastside
Self-described as a "modern tavern", bar owners Raya Audet and Nigel Springthorpe believe beer is just as versatile as wine and deserves the same, reverential treatment. The Alibi Room’s taps rotate on a regular basis, and include their own exclusively made brews, all served out of their heritage building space. The bar itself is huge with communal tables and minimal fuss, perfect for striking up a conversation with the beer-enthusiastic crowd that packs out the place night after night. Cocktails, wine, and small bar snacks are also available for the pint averse.