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Jul 1, 2008 12:33 AM

Commercial Drive, Vancouver -- top ten places to Chow?

A comment made about the development of the chow scene on the Drive in the last year got me wondering: what are you top (ten) places to have breakfast, lunch or dinner in this 'hood? I'm ashamed how little I know about the restos in this area, and it's time to rectify that, so please educate me and I will go forth and eat!

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  1. This is my neighbourhood and know it quite well. I have lived here for a couple of decades. Keeping down to 10 is actually a challenge for me. There are perhaps 200 places to eat here representing dozens of ethnicities between 12th Ave and Venables (1.5 miles) - from pizza-by-the-slice to high-end sushi.

    1 Lime Restaurant - a truly excellent sushi place - a bit of a neighbourhood secret really. They do superb sushi/sashimi and they serve their own house-made 100% buckwheat soba (a rarity outside Japan).

    2 Stella's - a Belgian gastropub. About 30 Belgian beers and good pub food with a Belgian/Asian twist

    3 Lombardo's - the best (IMO) wood-fired pizza in town. (Vancouver Magazine's Golden Plate Awards agrees with me)

    4 Carthage Cafe - French/Tunisian. They now finally have a liquour license and can serve wine.

    5 Dolce Amore - best gelateria in town, IMO.

    6 Cafe Katmandu - Himalayan/Tibetan cuisine...and a meet up for the Philosopher's Cafe once a month or so.

    7 Szechuan Chongqing - old-school Nixon-era Szechuan

    8 Pondok - Indonesian. Inexpensive, and good

    9 Prado - Coffee. One of the best in town. 49th Parallel beans. (JJ Bean is also very good)

    10 Little Nest - a kid-friendly cafe and probably the best place to go for breakfast, IMO.

    That's ten that I like. And there's more.

    DiVino - soft-opened last night. I have yet to go, but I will in the next couple of weeks.
    The Reef - Carib food. More of a drinking place for me.
    Cafe Kathmandu - Himalayan restuarant - and meetup for the Philosopher's Cafe
    Fet's - burgers and so forth. Scotch specialists too with dozens of premium scotch.
    Me and Julio's - I have still to successfully dine there - having tried to go a few times now- but I expect it to be as good as Lolita's..which is a decent modern Mexican place.
    Tio Pepe - Yucatan. This place has been here for years.
    Rinconcito Salvadoreno - Homemade Pupusa.
    Bouzyos - a decent Greek place.
    MegaBite - my favourite pizza-by-the-slice and delivery. I ask for the thin crust. Super deal.

    Grab a map from here: - it's a bit outdated.

    14 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      Thanks for the great list, fmed. I have been to only three of your choices (well, four as of tonight). I've started a best of Commercial file, which I'm sharing with my brother and SIL who live in Strathcona and want to learn more about Commercial.

      Inspired by your post, the SO and I headed over to the Drive this evening and wandered up and down -- we saw all the places on your list except, for some reason, we missed Prado. And we ended up grabbing a gelato at Dolce Amore. They are indeed outstanding and we will be back.

      PS I had the mascarpone, but also tasted the panna cotta and the dolce de latte. Tough choice!

      1. re: fmed

        Wow..what a list fmed!
        Is Prado better than Caffe Artigiano?

        1. re: Beach Chick

          I think so. Caffe Artigiano has many many inexperience baristas behind the bar these days (price of success, I guess). The baristas as Prado (especially the owner, Amy) are all pretty experienced (there may be one or two in training, but usually not at peak times).

          I believe that they may be using the same beans - 49th Parallel's Epic Espresso Blend.

          1. re: fmed

            Prado does use 49th Parallel Epic, but I'm pretty sure Artigiano has a tweaked blend from 49th, Artigiano Private Reserve. Not sure how different the two are though. I know I prefer Epic over the APR.

            And yes Beach Chick, I would say Prado is better than Artigiano. The space is beautiful. It's in an old building with lots of exposed wood and brick. I love people watching from a window seat or out on the sidewalk with my macchiato in hand.

            1. re: peter.v

              Thanks for the intel on the beans peter.v. I'm headed over to Prado in a few minutes ;)

              1. re: fmed

                Funnily enough, I'll be headed out to the Calgary outpost of Artigiano in a little bit!

                Ah, and Beach Chick, Artigiano is a good option, especially in the downtown core where not many coffee shops of good repute exist. There are a few coffee threads kicking around on the board if you're looking for other shops. Regardless, Prado easily ranks among the best in the city.

                1. re: peter.v

                  It's good to get expert validation from an experienced barista such as yourself, peter.v.

                  Off to Prado.....

                  1. re: peter.v

                    I keep meaning to check on the 49th Parallel website to see where in the city you can get their Epic Roast (besides flagship on 4th of course) and this thread has prompted me to do so... I'll post separately to promote ease of searching/reference.

              2. re: fmed

                Thanks fmed and Peter for the heads up on the baristas at Caffe Artigiano..
                I'm in San Diego but love to head up to of the most gorgeous cities in the, the food is so bloody good!
                Love Gerard's at Sutton Place!

            2. re: fmed

              Nice list fmed, I second Dolce Amore, its the closest I've found to the gelato I had in Italy!
              I will definitely have to try Lime for their soba noodles and I've been meaning to try the Little Nest for breakfast/lunch, what have you had for breakfast there?
              Also a fan of La Grotto Del Formaggio for their sandwiches

              1. re: alwaysroom4dessert

                >>I've been meaning to try the Little Nest for breakfast/lunch, what have you had for breakfast there?

                I was an eggs breakfast at around lunchtime - simple but well done.

                1. re: alwaysroom4dessert

                  Is Dolce Amore even better than Mundo Gelato? ... My last visit to Vancouver I tried several gelato places and could not find one better than Mundo Gelato.
                  I LOVE gelato with a passion! I never made it over to Commercial Drive ... I am coming back 1st week in Oct. If this is the best gelato, I have to try it.

                  1. re: rachelfromatlanta

                    Mondo is good...but I like Dolce Amore better. Mind you, I do live right in the neighborhood.

                    Give it a taste and report back!

                    1. re: fmed

                      I would second fmed's assessment that Dolce Amore is better than Mondo Gelato, creamier, more flavour, based on my three tastes but I've not been to MG in a while so taste bud memories may be off. I also like that DA is a famiglia-run place.

              2. Little Nest is sort of scary

                My 10

                Lime is great before 9pm (cover charge for dubious bands after that)
                Stella's is excellent
                Carthage is good especially now with a licence
                The Reef is as good as the one on Main
                Wazubee is a very good deal , great wine prices , great wine list
                Falconettis is a good bar , nice sausages
                Casa Verde is one of the best portuguese places in the city
                PCOV is also anexcellent deal
                Rinconcito for pupusas and Coronas
                Arriva for old school italian

                9 Replies
                  1. re: fmed

                    "Knightafter's in the house."

                    He's like a rock star only with food :-).

                      1. re: starlady

                        PCOV is the Portuguese Club of Vancouver.

                    1. re: toutefrite

                      All those screaming kids perhaps?

                    2. re: knight

                      I love Casa Verde :o)

                      Has anyone been to the Charlatan? I was debating whether it was worth it to try it out.

                      1. re: im_hungry

                        I go there to drink...they have a good bar. I'm not a fan of the food especially compared to Stella's.

                    3. My tops, in not an exact order:

                      - Lime: Great Sushi, very fresh. Great kitchen also. Their sablefish is outstanding.
                      - Stella's: Beer list is superb, food is good for what it is.
                      - Theresa's: great cheap Breakfast
                      - Continental Coffee: for coffee
                      - Me and Julio: good modern Mexican
                      - Rinconcito: Papusa's
                      - Wazubee's: Best wine list east of Gastown. Great prices, good eclectic mix. Food is hit and miss.
                      - Cafe deux Soleil: Fun atmosphere if you're with the right people. Vegetarian breakfast. Good smoothies.
                      - La Casa del Fromaggio: Sandwiches are outstanding, cheese selection good, but pricey.
                      - Carthage Cafe: Tunisian. Good cous cous.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Cancuk

                        Great list Cancuk.

                        i wish Wazubee's had better food and service. The wine list is definitely topnotch....and very reasonable.

                        1. re: fmed

                          Ya, I go there for the wine and stick to a salad or the Chicken Wazubich (spelling) with the garlic mayo dipping sauce for the fries.... I must admit, their fries are good.

                          Would like to try the Portuguese places, but would rather go with someone who knows what to order as I'm not very educated in the cuisine.

                          1. re: Cancuk

                            Other than the winelist, the fries are the best thing about Wazubee's.

                            1. re: fmed

                              Yup. Since I don't drink coffee, but am often there with peeps who do, that whole little tray setup thing they bring seems pretty nice, how's the coffee though?

                              1. re: starlady

                                They do good coffee actually. I'm not sure where they source their beans.

                      2. Any updates on your top 10 lists? I recently moved into the neighbourhood and am (pleasantly) overwhelmed with the Drive's choice. It looks like Bump n Grind has emerged as a serious coffee place in the last year. I've quickly become a sucker for Sweet Cherubim. The beer list at Timbre has been a nice surprise.

                        Beyond cafes and restaurants, which secrets have you discovered at the grocery stores, co-ops and delis?

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: bookley

                          Here is my list of places to stock up on or near Commercial:

                          South China Seas (on Victoria Dr)
                          Angel Seafoods (Japanese sushi-grade fish and other Japanese goods): Grant near Clark
                          Bosa Foods (Victoria Dr original location)
                          Polonia Sausage (Hastings)
                          Freybe Factory Outlet (Hastings)
                          Moccia (Salumi - Hastings)
                          Strawberry Bakery (1st/Commercial)
                          Donald's Market (Commercial Dr)
                          El Sureno (Latin american supermarket)
                          Home Hardware (for cooking supplies)
                          Gourmet Warehouse (Hastings)

                          Did I miss anything?

                          1. re: fmed

                            JN&Z!! Their smoked pork loin is incredible.

                            1. re: peter.v

                              My co-workers swear by their Sat. morning meatloaf.

                              1. re: fmed

                                I'm a believer in the Ravioli store. All of the pastas you find on Granville for much less.

                                1. re: JEheartbreak

                                  Yes another good one. I used to go there a lot more, but I now live much closer to Bosa on Victoria Dr. The Ravioli store ("First Ravioli") has some good fresh made stuffed pastas that Bosa does not sell.

                                  Another is Mediterranean Specialty Foods for items like rosewater, dates, olive oil, dolmades, date cakes, etc.

                                2. re: fmed

                                  T&T for asian/seafood/pork
                                  JJ Bean for Beans
                                  Columbus Butcher for veal/sausage
                                  Tamales at the latino joint on Nanaimo/william.

                                  It is amazing, we live in a special neighborhood.

                                  WHAT!!! saturday morning meatloaf. Sounds intriguing.

                                  1. re: jahvay

                                    Great additions jahvay.

                                    Also - the Farmer's Market (at the Wise Hall in the winter and at Trout Lake in the summer.)

                                    1. re: jahvay

                                      Haven't had the meatloaf yet. I prefer to sleep in on Saturdays ; ) but my co-workers say you have to get there early since it's usually gone by noon.

                                      1. re: el_lobo_solo

                                        IIRC, they also have a roast pig on certain(?) Saturdays. I don't know if they still do this.

                                    2. re: fmed

                                      Great lists. El Sueno has got to be my favourite so far. From the rambunctious kid who seems to run the place on the weekend to the 3 lb avocados -- not to mention the largest selection of yerba mate I’ve ever seen -- I discover something new with every visit. (How DOES one go about about choosing mate, anyway?)

                                      Which of these places would you be most likely to stock up on something like black garlic?

                                      1. re: bookley

                                        I saw black garlic just last week at South China Seas Trading (Victoria Dr).


                                        PS...I've never acquired the taste for yerba mate...I think forum member peter.v drinks it.

                                        1. re: bookley

                                          fmed's right (good memory!), I am a consumer of mate. I'm a novice drinker really... was introduced to it by a classmate from Uruguay. I don't have any methodology to be honest. I think I picked up my last bag, Cruz de Malta, because they were on sale. It's decent enough. Apparently the good stuff is aged for a couple years. Cruz de Malta is only 3 months aged so it tends to be more bitter than others.

                                          1. re: peter.v

                                            Thanks peter.v. I always seem to end up with Cruz de Malta or Rosamonte. (In my next lifetime, I hope to come back as a mate label designer.) Didn't notice much difference in the flavours between the two. Have also tried Amanda, which seemed a little dustier and twiggier. Wasn't aware that mate was aged...aged how? I once had a roasted version, which was pretty good -- I think the roaster was in Nelson.

                                            Also: lunch yesterday at Rinconcito. We shared a bland corn tamale and an amazing plate of huevos rancheros. Finished with pupusas, which were a step down from El Bombazo in Calgary. A good meal for the price, though.

                                            1. re: bookley

                                              The pupusa's (and other food) at Rinconcito are a bit inconsistent these days. They used to be much better...I'm not sure what happened.

                                              1. re: fmed

                                                The last couple times we tried to get into Rinconcito for dinner they were totally slammed. May have to try for daytime though if they have standout huevos rancheros as I've never had good ones in BC. Being Salvadoran, I wonder if they have a "twist" on the Mexican version...

                                    3. I'm surprised nobody mentioned Bandidas Taqeria. Mexican-themed vegetarian hole in the wall on 12th @ Commercial that serves up some of the best food on the Drive - or the city for that matter. The value is an absolute steal and they're licensed. Its a must-try.

                                      Charlatan is great for drinking, but the food is meh. Still, I find it a much better bet than Stellas if you stick to bar food. Maybe its just me, but Stellas is a bit of an odd-man-out on the Drive.

                                      Little Nest rules - very simple, but very well done. And the total mayhem of 3 year olds tearing the place up on a Saturday morning is awesome. Good coffee too.

                                      Though if you can't find a good coffee on the Drive you need help.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: juddc

                                        I have been hearing very good things about Bandidas lately. Still - a vegetarian tacqueria strikes me as an oxymoron :-) . I should leave my prejudices at home and just try it out.

                                        I actually find I like the bar food at Stella's better than Charlatan's. Also for some reason, I find the beer and taps at Stella's much colder. I was served cool beer and cider a couple of times at Charlatan this past summer. Either place is a good place to drink - Charlatan has a more "sports bar" vibe.

                                        I'm curious to try out St Augustine's (formerly the Edge)...I see that they have 20(!) taps and a craft-brew "Cask Night". It sounds like it could be our own version of the Alibi if that is the case.

                                        1. re: fmed

                                          I would agree the food is a bit better overall at Stella's - the Charlatan is a better bar's bar. Kinda like Dix downtown but smaller. Avanti's is more of a sports bar in my book. I hit St Augustine's for a couple of gigs and a UFC fight, but its not in the same league as the Alibi in terms of atmosphere. Haven't tried the food. The vodka, on the other hand, seems to work really well there.

                                          1. re: fmed

                                            Bandidas is serving well prepared vegetarian or vegan food using healthy cooking, and unusual ingrediants to please even this carnivore. I had a meal there recently, for the first time, and was pleasently suprised at the great food, and the chill enviroment.

                                            They are car free business, using a bike/trailer to cruise the drive for product. This is a GREEN business.