1809 W. 1st Ave., Kitsilano
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 Luigi
305 Alexander St., Downtown Eastside
Ask for Luigi has all the hallmarks of an old-school Italian joint—no reservations accepted, a cozy, unfussy interior of simple wooden tables and chairs, and the signature checkerboard floor. The pasta has that indescribably fresh flavor that can only be achieved by being hand-made daily, in-house. The mom-and-pop vibe encourages diners to take their time and go for the three full courses. Expect indulgent but classic pairings like oxtail risotto topped with bone marrow, or crab with fennel. Don’t forget to do as the Italians do and have wine with dinner, then grappa and an espresso (or two) to finish.
Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie
163 Keefer St., Downtown
A second offering from revered Kissa Tanto chef Joël Watanabe, 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 friend 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 serving of spicy cucumbers at the bar.
1944 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano
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 perfectly. 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 Bar
898 Homer St., Downtown
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 those sides—potatoes roasted in rotisserie drippings, vinegary coleslaw, smoky cauliflower dusted in chili, and for those who love some extra crisp, the 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, go traditional with a full cheese board showcasing Canadian-made cheeses. A great option for lunch or dinner, the brasserie-like interior is home to an open kitchen, which is elegantly outfitted with traditional French copper fixtures.
263 E. Pender St., Strathcona
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, Japanese-meets-Italian fusion cuisine, and yes, it works. Think 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.
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.
1938 W. 4th Ave., Kitsilano
Thai food with a BC twist, Maenam utilizes the incredible seafood prolific in Pacific Coast Vancouver 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.
780 RIchards St., Downtown
Eggs benedict dripping in lukewarm hollandaise get old, fast—Café Medina, with its Mediterranean-inflected brunch menu is more spiced meatballs and poached egg-topped tagine than skillet potatoes and bacon. Down the street from the Vancouver Art Gallery (stop in after breakfast), the line to get in 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 make for a fun space ideal for a crowd.
200 Granville St., Downtown
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.
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