OK...at the risk of sounding like frail wimps, let me start by saying we're from NY...we roam various sketchy parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, etc w/ regularity, often at 3am...we're used to the more than occassional junkie...i've worked on law-enforcement-related projects that have led me to hang out in crack dens and such at odd hours...you get the idea...
But tonight we were given a list of four restaurants in Gastown: Salt, Boneta, Chill Winston, and Irish Heather...it's Saturday...about 7pm...we walked there from Robson...
We couldn't find any of the restaurants...there were literally zero tourists...there were literally zero people heading to restaurants on foot...we took this route: Hastings most of the way w/ a loop around Columbia/Carrall...there was literally not a soul whom we could ask for directions because 100% of the people on the street (maybe 75+ in the general neighborhood) were either shooting up or vomiting or passed out...
The directions i had to Salt seemed to indicate that we should head down an alley that was full of mattresses and syringes, and was devoid of patrons...
i walked through Gastown on my previous trip to Vancouver and didn't remember it being quite as much of a wasteland, and with several hyped restaurants and the BC real estate boom i'd expected it'd be even easier to navigate...
Where the hell are these restaurants and where were their patrons?...should we have trolled more on Cordova?...we were craving the cured ham we'd heard we could get at Salt and the scallops rumored to be at Chill Winston...we ended up leaving and having a bland meal in Yaletown...
Gastown is a touristy dump, in my opinion, and becomes a ghost town by evening. One block off in the wrong direction and you have an entirely different situation on your hands, as happened here. Hastings is pretty much a no-go area once you head east of Richards Street. This is where you were. Where you should have been on was Water Street, which was 2 blocks north of Hastings (the next block north of Cordova). This is where all the tourists stay.
Chill Winston is on Water Street. The Irish Heather's on Carrall, between Water and Cordova. Salt exists in "Blood Alley" next to the Irish Heather - the ugly syringe-infested alley. I haven't been to Boneta yet.
I generally tell people to stray away from Gastown in the evening unless they absolutely know where they're going, and only once they know what they're getting themselves into. Water Street is the heart of Gastown and some of these newer restaurants exist on the side streets like Carrall, but they don't stray far from Water Street. You, unfortunately, had the pleasure of having an intimate evening stroll through the infamous Downtown Eastside (aka: cracktown). You saw rock bottom Vancouver at its worst. At least it can only go up from here. ;)
Hi. Thanks for the Gastown primer. I guess i chose to walk down Hastings because it was a street i'd heard of (and i'd forgotten the reasons why). We'll return and explore via Water St. by day and check out Chill Winston and Salt. I actually think the syringe&mattress alley we went down last night wasn't the correct one for Salt -- i think we explored a different alley that was closer to Hastings.
Don't worry, the Downtown Eastside promenade didn't detract from our visit as a whole -- we love Vancouver.
Better to walk down any street but Hastings. Cordova and Water are the best.
This is the best route:
Walk to the water! And take the seawall all the way to Water Street and you'll be there. There are plenty of great restaurants in Gastown so do not miss on account of appearances. Our home less are pretty friendly and harmless.
We did find them and went to all three and loved all three. The problem was that on our first attempt we were given poor directions and went down Hastings (instead of Water) and through an alley that makes the relatively fine Blood Alley look like Disneyland. If we'd had our bearings we would have realized that we were only two blocks away from the good stuff. If we'd gone down Water instead Hastings, all would have been simple.
I'll post more about Boneta later: it was easily the one of the two or three best meals i've had in the last year: the other two being a place in Fukuoka, Japan and breakfast at my fav street food stand in Chiang Mai, Thailand.