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May 11, 2008 06:43 AM

Vancouver-ites: Your Top 5 Value Eats

Hey guys,

Im making a "been too long" trip to Vancouver for the long weekend. Based on previous visits and posts on this board, i feel i have a pretty good grasp on the "upscale" dining scene in Vancouver.

What i don't have, is a good grasp of the best value places to eat. Pouring through previous posts, there are a million posts all speaking about how good X and Y are - but i was wondering, on a relative scale, how do they actually rate overall? Especially in comparison to each other? I know it is a personal thing, but im interested in each of your opinion's.

I was hoping you could provide me with a list (in no particular order) of your 5 or 6 favorite value eats in the GVR. Any kind of food qualifies - from ramen shops, to dumplings, sushi, burgers, moules et frites, Dim Sum, to Korean BBQ.

I can't promise to try them all, but i will do my best to do a big dent on them :) Thanks in advance - it is much appreciated.

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  1. This is going to be a bit of a challenge. Note that I'm a lover of Asian food, so my list would bias to that. Plus, you really can't beat Asian food's value proposition here in Vancouver. My lists will also reflect choices based on commute and transportation access.

    For my own day-to-day sustinence dining where I would spend around $10 or so on a lunch meal:

    Peaceful Noodle for their killer Beef Roll
    Hawker's Delight for Hainan Chicken Rice and other hawker stall fare
    Benkei Ramen
    Fujiya takeout sushi and bento
    Au Petit Cafe for Banh Mi
    Kim Phung for Pho (I can name at least six other Pho joints in my rotation)

    However for a chow visitor, the list changes slightly to turn it more into a Vancouver Asian eating survey:

    Peaceful Noodle
    Hawker's Delight
    Chen's Shanghai Kitchen (for the XLB, and other Shanghai Dim Sum) and a trip to Richmond
    Food Court at Crystal Mall (for noodles and Asian food court fare)
    Guu (orginal) for izakaya

    As I write this, I struggled a bit with sushi...there are a lot in the "value" "lunch sushi" range. And my choices started to reflect my preferences and access...and not necessarily a quality proposition. I know as a visitor, I would visit the "best" sushi in I'll stick with my standard rec - Octopus' Garden. For mid-range sushi - Lime.

    And...are you gravitating towards any particular dine-in food experiences (eg Chinese in Richmond, Izakaya, Sushi, Dim Sum, etc??) We can certainly help you with a list like:

    Value Dim Sum: Red Star
    Value Northern Dim Sum: Chen's
    Value Izakaya: Guu
    Value Sushi: Lime
    Value Northern Chinese: Peaceful Noodle
    Value Indian: Rangoli
    Value Burger: Granville Island's Market Grill
    Value Cantonese: Congee Noodle House
    Value Korean: Insadong (not really "Value" but this seems to be the only Korean I like)
    Value Filipino: Josephine's
    Value Pizza: Lombardo's
    Value Seafood: Almost any top-shelf Chinese place

    6 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      I'll add Saravanaa for Indian lunch vegetarian buffet. I do not like my greens in general, but the curries are amazing.

      1. re: kwailan4

        Good addition...I haven't been yet, so I didn't add it.

      2. re: fmed

        Uh, wow fmed. That's a pretty comprehensive list... certainly nothing im going to be able to accomplish in a weekend. I actually find the more interesting list for me is where you like to eat - i find those kinds of lists very telling. What is, or is not chowish, really depends on the individual. Hawker's (havent had a good Hainanese Chicken since Singapore), Benkei Ramen i feel have made the list. Plus, they are light enough that i can fit them in as a 4th meal in a day, maximizing my eating experience.

        I'll give the XLB a try, but if you've ever eaten at Din Tai Fung (any branch), i'd be interested in hearing a direct comparison.

        Thanks for the effort. This gives me lots of fall back options as well!

        1. re: yen

          I've been to the DTF in Arcadia. Exemplary for sure. You will get that 85% of the way there at Wangs. You won't get that impossibly thin skin that they somehow achieve at DTF....but pretty close. Chen's in Richmond is closer in quality.

          If you would like Singapore-grade Hainan Chicken Rice, then go to Prima Taste (the HCR is about $9-$10...still a light and inexpensive meal and it right downtown). I like Hawker's because it is so damned cheap and close to work. Super bang for the buck...the HCR is $4.25.

            1. re: fmed

              aburitoro reported that Wangs will be closed all week this you may have to go to Chen's for XLB. (or...Three other restos that serve up decent XLB - Lin's, The Place, Peaceful)

      3. Here are my favourites. BTW, I'm using ~$10 or less as a definition of "value" - hope that's ok?

        Go Fish outside of Granville Island for fish n chips
        Au Petit Cafe on Main and 33rd for their baguette sandwiches. I like #2 and #4. They sell out really fast, so make sure you get your sandwich before 12:30pm
        The deli at So.cial at Le Magasin. Good sandwiches!
        Fritz for french fries and poutine
        Wang's in the food fair at Crystal Mall ($3.50 for a steamer of XLBs). Wang's is Burnaby, though
        Whole Foods in Park Royal. It's West Van, but they have great pizza slices and sandwiches
        Au Wing Kee in Burnaby and Vancouver for wonton, noodles, congee, etc.

        19 Replies
        1. re: im_hungry

          Great list im_hungry. A couple of those are in my faves.

          1. re: im_hungry

            Been to Go Fish before, it's good.
            Wang's sounds perfect - a friend lives in Burnaby, so i'll be out there for a night for sure. Fritz sounds good too... who doesnt love poutine. Is it a true Quebec-style poutine (curds, demi-glace/gravy)? What sort of frites? And idea how they are prepared?

            Lastly, with the sandwich places, can you help explain what is so good about them? Bake their own bread? Roast their own meats? What makes them so special... unique combinations? Im not the biggest sandwich fan in the world, but a great sandwich is a thing of beauty!


            1. re: yen

              If you are going to be out in Burnaby there is a Hunan place there called Xiang on Imperial St. It was good and blazing hot. It may be the only Hunan left in the GVA.

              4850 Imperial St, Burnaby, BC V5J, CA

              1. re: fmed

                Ahhh... now you're talking! Something that's difficult to get anywhere in Western Canada/Pacific North West. Thanks fmed.

              2. re: yen

                oWang's closes by 7:30pm and I think they are closed on Wednesdays or Mondays (I forget which), and if you don't get there in time, they sell out of XLBs b/c the grandma who makes them only makes them up to a certain point in the afternoon, and then they sell out. Fritz is not as good as Montreal poutine. Nothing is as good as Montreal poutine! I find that the cheese curds in Montreal are of a different quality. I find Vancouver cheese curds not as savoury and strong in flavour as the ones in Montreal. Plus, the texture of the curds is different. In Montreal, the curds squeak slightly (or it could all be in my head)? The frites are freshly made. Not sure if they single fry like New York Fries or if they double fry them the way they do in Belgium? But they offer a whole heap of dips and mayo for the fries, though. So much better than ketchup. As for the sandwiches... Au Petit Cafe has Vietnamese "subs" for lack of a better description. They have great bread (don't know if they make it or buy it, but it's like a French baguette but lighter), and they include a few different cuts of Vietnamese deli meats and a smear of pate. They top this with pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, cucumbers and hot peppers (optional). And they're like $3 or $3.50 a shot. I can't rememember how much, but it's a steal. As for the deli at So.cial, they have good bread, big sandwiches, and a great selection of good meats and they have home made potato chips! It's also fun to see what the butcher has in stock that day, too. You can buy really nice cuts of meat to take home to grill. So.cial is pricier than APC (but APC has like zero ambiance. It's a total hole in the wall), but if you're looking for a good, cheap sandwich, I'd go with the ones at APC.

                1. re: im_hungry

                  so.cial also makes their own charcuterie. They have a smoker in-house, IIRC.

                  Belgian Fries on Commercial Dr does a proper double-fry and has squeaky cheese....but yen should save his Poutine eating for a trip to Montreal!

                  1. re: fmed

                    now that sounds promising. Have any of you ever been to Salumi? If i could get that sort of charcuterie without having to make it myself... yum!

                    As for fries... i'll eat good ones anytime, anywhere.

                    1. re: yen

                      Salumi in Seattle...yes a few years ago now. They were on the cutting edge of this whole in-house salumi thing. So.cial is doing it on a similar scale. They do a good job.

                      If you are into salumi, Oyama on Granville Island and JN&Z on Commercial Dr do some of their own great charcuterie.

                      JN&Z are run by a Bosnian immigrant family - they have a killer smoked beef - suho meso, I believe it is called. Salt Tasting Room features many of their products, including this one. Very good value here.

                      1. re: fmed

                        If you go to JN&Z, do it on Saturday morning before 11am. From Sept-June(ish), they have hot bacon roll and suckling pig. So good! Full of greasy, flavourful goodness. They also sell home made meatloaf. Once the weather gets warm, they stop roasting things and then all the addicts go into withdrawal until mid-September.

                        1. re: im_hungry

                          Mmmmm, suckling pig. Im sold now!

                        2. re: fmed

                          JN&Z is run by Serbs...Bosnian Serbs....great took rest of Vancouver almost 20 years to find out...Oyama is way over priced and by now too much a commercial operation....Salumi in Seattle was good at the begining now it's too pricey and the notoriety has gone to their heads....their sandwitches are just plain bad!....and their location is just nasty....surprising health department has not shut them down!

                          In NorCal there is Fatted Calf, Boccalone and Fra'Mani...all three have good far but they will go main stream soon which usually means loss of quality. Vancouver needs another charcuterie provider....the market is there.....

                    2. re: im_hungry

                      Not to go too wildly off topic but the reason curds squeak is freshness, according to a Qualicum Beach curd purveyor whose curds are excellent, esp "hot off the press." Also the flavour degrades the further out from production they are, apparently...

                      1. re: grayelf

                        So all this time, these french fry places have been using stale curds and covering up the staleness with a ladle of gravy? :)

                        That explanation makes sense though. I had super good, super squeaky curds, also "hot off the press" at the Tillamook Cheese factory in Oregon.

                        1. re: im_hungry

                          Since I've never had poutine that was worthy of the name in Van, you may be right :-).

                      2. re: im_hungry

                        Au Petite Cafe does make their own bread in-house. They tend to run out around 1pm, so beware. Their sandwiches are wildly popular. I think they cost a smidge more than most Vietnamese sub places but definitely worth it.

                        1. re: twinkienic

                          just a quick correction: Au Petit Cafe buys their bread from La Baguette on Granville Island. This was from the owner the first time I ate there. In any case, the sandwiches are delicious.

                          1. re: wueric

                            Oh! Thanks for the correction... I didn't realize.

                        2. re: im_hungry

                          I like Banh Mi, but i'll pass on something i can actually get in Calgary.
                          Thanks for the tip on Wang's - i guess i'll aim for a weekend lunch/brunch.

                    3. au petit cafe for vietnamese sandwiches
                      toshi for sushi
                      nats new york pizzeria, subs, pizza, etc....(cold chicken parm sub)
                      phnom penh......fried squid (or wings) same batter and dip, just depends your preference

                      1 Reply
                      1. Sushi Garden across the street from Metrotown offers great bang-for-the-buck sushi. Get your fill of salmon and toro sashimi and/or nigiri, which are exceptional values and extremely fresh. I haven't bothered to try the western-style rolls there (rainbow, dragon, etc), as I generally don't care for these much.

                        I believe it's a Korean-operated restaurant, but don't let that stop you.

                        By the way, their salmon is likely farmed Atlantic, and toro comes from bluefin tuna. While I enjoy the taste of both, I'd just like to state that we should minimize consumption of these fishes for reasons which I hope are common knowledge to everyone here. If not, read here:

                        Sorry if I sound like a hypocrite!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: aburitoro

                          under ten bucks for one person visits

                          Yoshoko ya - katsu curry -denman
                          Dona Cata - Tacos - Victoria
                          Au Petit Cafe - main
                          Cameo Cafe / Lions Den - Cheap Jamaican food - 2nd
                          Hawkers Delight - main
                          Congee Noodle House - main st
                          Zipang - pretty good sushi but bad cooked food. - main street
                          Toshis - good cooked food not so good sushi -main street
                          Nats Pizza - denman
                          Zakkushi - chicken teriyaki bowl with the special sauce - 4th or denman
                          Raga for lunch - broadway
                          La Galleria - edgemont village
                          Guu Lunch - thurlow
                          Spices pho - add the premium meat - cambie

                          I ll try and get to most of these places on my blog

                          1. re: tom_edo

                            tom_edo, does Lion's Den still do okonomiyaki? I've been meaning to head out's been quite a while since I have indulged.

                        2. Oh, value doesnt have to mean less than ~$10. I didnt want to put a price tag on it... all it means to me is a place where you leave thinking "ahhh... that was well worth it! I must go back. Soon."

                          For example, Masa (NYC) had great food but poor value. I would not go back. Ever.

                          21 Replies
                          1. re: yen

                            That changes things a bit...but my list will probably not change much. I might add some mid-to-higher-end places like Aurora Bistro, Boneta, Chambar, Hapa and Kingyo.

                            1. re: fmed

                              I owe a friend a report on Hapa - so im already heading there. Chambar holds a little appeal to me as well, but im running out of meals :) Probably save those for another day.

                              1. re: yen

                                If we're throwing the price point out and just talking value, you might want to look at any of the Durbach Italianate restos: Parkside (for a value splurge if that's not an oxymoron) or La Buca (one of my faves, just don't order the chicken liver app).

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Just tried the prix fixe at Chow restaurant - great deal at $38, IMO. I forgot my phone! No pics.

                                  1. re: fmed

                                    are any of these places near the park inn and suites on broadway? the cross street is Laurel. i'm also coming for a weekend soon and i won't have much time to travel around, nor will i have a car, so something close would be great. i've been told about two places that nobody has mentioned so i'm a bit nervous - the eatery, and sofie's cosmic cafe. are those good?

                                    1. re: ihatepickyeaters

                                      Sophie's Cosmic CAfe is a sinkhole for suckers who elect to stand in the rain for blatantly mediocre breakfast food that is somehow elevated in these people's minds by the affectedly anti-trendy decor and the aforementioned lineup. It also smells bad in there.

                                      1. re: toutefrite

                                        Totally agree with toutefrite on Sophie's.

                                        The food at The Eatery isn't bad at all....but I don't like going there. The food is much too Japa-fusiony for my tastes..and the atmosphere is sophomoric. I do like a their okonomiyaki the time I had it.

                                        1. re: fmed

                                          Agree about both Sophie's and The Eatery. Also, neither of those places are near your hotel.

                                          I like going to The Eatery but only if I'm out with certain people because the atmosphere would definitely not be enjoyed by all. I've described it as fusion sushi for frat houses. Expect loud music, and lots of tipsy college kids. Admittedly, I like their okonomiyaki better than the okonomiyaki specialty place (Modern Restaurant).

                                          Close to your place are Peaceful Noodle, Saravanaa Bhavan, with Pied-a-Terre further up Cambie.

                                          1. re: twinkienic

                                            Thanks for the heads up on the Eatery's okonomiyaki. We gave up on Modern Club because of the too-slow-even-for-this-kind-of-food service, and the only other place I've had them was the one on 2nd Ave whose name escapes me, where they were good but not great. The Eatery is very close for us, so we may brave it (haven't been there since I was actually a sophomore!).

                                            Agree with your Cambie area recs, twinkienic and i'm hungry, with the caveat that I'm not sure I'd walk too far for either Toshi's (lineups!!) or Shiro (not tops for sushi for me).

                                            If you're really feeling mellow one night, ihpeater, call the Firewood Cafe and order one of their pizzas in...

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              Forgive the minor hijack: grayelf, what style of pizza do they do?

                                              1. re: toutefrite

                                                A hijack on a hijack LOL. I'm not exactly a pizza aficionado but here goes: they have a wood-fired oven (hence the name) which can sometimes result in almost black bits on the crusts which I would characterize as medium-thin and not oily at all, which is how I like 'em. Toppings have always been fresh and high quality in my experience, and they do some creative stuff without getting too whacky. My personal fave: pineapple, ham, cheddar cheese and sliced almonds. Close second: the Asiago.

                                                We have always picked up because we are a tad outside their regular delivery radius, but there are one or two wee tables in a relatively nice (for a delivery pizza joint) storefront. Parking is still gruesome down there because of Canada Line construction but worth the battle IMHO. Their menu is online.


                                                Firewood Cafe
                                                3004 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z2V9, CA

                                              2. re: grayelf

                                                >>Thanks for the heads up on the Eatery's okonomiyaki. We gave up on Modern Club because of the too-slow-even-for-this-kind-of-food service, and the only other place I've had them was the one on 2nd Ave whose name escapes me, where they were good but not great.

                                                The place is called The Clubhouse....pretty good lunch-grade sushi too.

                                                I haven't really found great okonomiyaki in this town (LA and of course Japan, has very good okonomiyaki joints). Lion's Den (Japanese-Jamaican!) serves a decent one....but it is highly inconsistent...I had a near burnt one last time. I'm not even sure if they still serve okonomiyaki as it has been quite a while since I have been there.

                                                1. re: fmed

                                                  The Clubhouse it is -- I enjoyed the food there the two times we went but it sort of fell off the radar. Very eclectic decor, as I recall :-).

                                                  The best okonomiyaki I've had in Vancouver was at an event hosted by Mokuyokai where we learned how to make it and whipped some up ourselves. I gather there are at least two styles in Japan and that people are quite zealous as to the variety they favour.

                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                    Yup, the two major ones are one from Kansai (primarily Osaka), and one style from Hiroshima. Because i ate them back to back (i went from Osaka to Hiroshima), people were very interested in which one i favoured. When you say zealous, that is understated significantly. Let's just say my life felt threatened if i didnt answer based on the region i was in. :)

                                                    For your own reference though, i prefer Osakan-style better!

                                                    1. re: yen

                                                      I have a confession: I make pseudo okonomiyaki using Bisquick as a base. (I prefer Osakan as well, BTW)

                                                      1. re: fmed

                                                        Yowch. You're a brave man to admit that :)

                                                        Strangely though, i don't find Okonomiyaki all that tough to make, once you've found all the ingredients (sauce, flakes, etc...). Do you do that for speed reasons?

                                                        1. re: yen

                                                          Laziness ;)

                                                          It is quite quick kids will eat anything Japanese...they love it. Since I have a good Japanese pantry (bonito flakes, dashi, kewpie mayo, botttle sauces, seaweeds, etc) it's a matter of dumping a bunch of stuff in a bowl, folding, then measuring amounts.

                                                          I have made it the using the "proper" method(s), though.

                                        2. re: ihatepickyeaters

                                          I agree w/toutefrite and fmed. Don't go to Sophie's. I wasn't big on the food at the Eatery, either. There's an Earl's and Cactus Club around your hotel. They're middle of the road chain restaurants that serve reliable food, if you really don't feel like venturing far from your hotel. If you go for a 10-15 minute walk, you'll have a few more options. If you head west, there's Cru on Broadway (small plates, tapas), Memphis Blues (BBQ house, great beef brisket), Vij's and Rangoli (Indian cuisine. Vij's is expensive, Rangoli is not). If you head east, there's Congee Noodle (wonton, noodles, etc.) and there's a bunch of restaurants on Main St, between E.7th to E.11th. My favourite place to grab a drink is the Cascade Room. If you walk up Cambie, there's also Pied a Terre btwn W.18 and 19th.

                                          1. re: im_hungry

                                            15 min walk is no problem - thanks for the advice. are there any sushi places nearby? i've heard about Vancouver's great sushi and would love to try some if it is within a 30 minute walk from my hotel.

                                              1. re: ihatepickyeaters

                                                My picks are Toshi on E.16th, 1/2 block west of Main and Shiro on Cambie and W. 15th (it's in a small strip mall). Both are within 30 mins walk.