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Best Local Type Chains in Greater Vancouver Area?

wintersummer May 20, 2011 06:18 AM

We will be spending about two weeks in Vancouver and the surrounding area. I've picked out some places to eat, using recommendations from Chowhound and other sources.

Here's what I'm looking for: does British Columbia/Vancouver/Canada have any good, reliable chain type restaurants? We're going to have a considerable number of meals where I won't be able to make reservations, won't know exact times we'll be eating, and really won't know what area of town we'll be in at the time. I'm looking for some "go-to" places in these situations and was hoping to just have a few reliable type places to search for in my GPS. Just as examples, I've heard about Cactus Club, Earls, Joeys. Any opinions? Any other thoughts?

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  1. waylman May 20, 2011 07:37 AM

    Cactus and Earls are safe bets. Brown's is also decent. I'm not a big Joey's fan.

    1. i
      islandgirl May 20, 2011 07:45 AM

      I think Cactus Club has the best food and service of the above you mentioned. Earls used to be good and the food is still good but the service and atmosphere is a little too "loungey/clubby" these days for my taste.
      Milestones is another option as is White Spot. Milestones service and atmosphere is very good, food can be hit and miss I find although if you stay with basics like burgers, steaks, etc it's reliable. White Spot is the most casual of these types of restaurants mentioned but has good burgers and sandwiches etc. More of a diner type menu

      5 Replies
      1. re: islandgirl
        wintersummer May 20, 2011 08:28 AM

        Thanks for these replies! This was exactly what I was looking for.....just the names of a few places I could enter in my GPS and head toward some decent food. I'll be in situations where I don't want to drive 30 minutes for lunch, but just to something nearby - and hopefully, good!

        1. re: islandgirl
          islandgirl May 29, 2011 08:30 PM

          Just to add to my response above, we were at Milestones on 4th last night for a quick dinner. They are now featuring specials from Top Chef TV show which are freshly prepared in-house. I had the watermelon and golden beet salad which was quite good and my husband had the steak and frites which came with a sinful gorgonzola and green peppercorn sauce. Both these items, and I imagine the rest of the Top Chef menu items, are a notch above the typical Milestones options, many of which are pre-made or frozen to start.
          Also, Milestones is very child-friendly if that's of interest to anyone reading or the OP.

          1. re: islandgirl
            robinsegg May 29, 2011 09:20 PM

            Milestone's items are pre-made or frozen to start? That will come as a surprise to the folks I know who work for them!

            1. re: robinsegg
              islandgirl May 30, 2011 08:26 AM

              Not all of their items by any means, but having an allergy I've had to ask about many items and many of them are not made in house or are not made to order so can not be modified (the flatbreads, the phyllo shrimp, the Kobe sliders). Perhaps this is restricted to the appetizers? Most of their mains contain cheese or other dairy products so I have to avoid them.

            2. re: islandgirl
              islandgirl Jan 2, 2014 04:52 PM

              On a recent trip to Milestones in Victoria I tried the Grilled Seafood Salad. I think I had this once this past summer as well. Both times I've been impressed. The greens were fresh and crisp, topped with crispy noodles, avocado, papaya, tomato, 6 skewered grilled shrimp, marinated shrimp meat and a piece of grilled salmon filet. Very tasty lemon vinagrette.
              Why can't all their dishes be this good?

          2. r
            rtms May 21, 2011 02:54 PM

            I think a classic West Coast chain is White Spot. I agree that Cactus and Earls are decent and Milestones. I enjoyed Browns.

            5 Replies
            1. re: rtms
              LotusRapper May 22, 2011 12:11 AM

              White Spot menu is stuck in the '80s, circa 1988. Have you seen their prices these days ? 'Cept for the burgers, other offerings I find almost criminal in pricing relative to what you get. My $0.25

              1. re: LotusRapper
                tdeane May 22, 2011 11:06 AM

                Don't forget, the guy coming up with the new menu items at Whitespot used to be in charge at Earls in the 80's and early 90's. I mean who still puts stir frys on their menu? Whitespot is good for a burger but, avoid the bigger better burgers. Far superior is the original patty especially the double double!!

                1. re: tdeane
                  islandgirl May 22, 2011 05:26 PM

                  I would agree that the menu is not innovative at White Spot but they have a few items that are consistently good: the beef dip and the shrimp sandwiches, the chicken pot pie and the aforementioned basic burgers.

                2. re: LotusRapper
                  rtms May 28, 2011 09:20 AM

                  I don't really have a reply to jabs at White Spot. I do like their burgers and it is restaurant chain that originates on the West Coast.

                  West Coast Cafe
                  5142 Cordova Bay Rd, Victoria, BC V8Y2K5, CA

                3. re: rtms
                  kav23 Jan 7, 2014 09:20 PM

                  When it comes to White Spot, stick to breakfast and burgers.

                4. r
                  robinsegg May 28, 2011 11:26 AM

                  We're big Milestone's fans, for that type of fare. "Locally grown" chain that is now owned by a large food company out of Toronto.

                  We're also partial to Moxie's, and there are 3 in downtown Vancouver; their menu is online. Also a Canadian chain.

                  Moxie's Classic Grill
                  1160 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6E1N1, CA

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: robinsegg
                    anewton May 28, 2011 12:02 PM

                    I know it is not exactly what the OP is asking for, but how about this spin on local chains:

                    Japadog (not for a formal meal,but for a quick lunch on the fly)

                    Peaceful Restaurant (2 locations now)

                    Go Fish on Granville Island (not exactly a chain, and not exactly a restaurant, but there are multiple offshoots including at least 2 here in Victoria--RFBF and 1 Fish 2 Fish)

                    Hapa Izakaya (3 locations at last count)

                    These are truly "local chains" as opposed to regional chains like Earl's, Joey's, Moxie's, Cactus Club, Brown's, etc...and the food is better at these small local chains, though admittedly they are not burger, fries, and pasta type of chains.

                    Hapa Izakaya
                    1516 Yew St, Vancouver, BC V6K3E4, CA

                    1. re: anewton
                      fmed May 28, 2011 02:27 PM

                      The Guu's as well (6? locations including the one in TO).

                      1. re: anewton
                        bill_n_opus May 29, 2011 10:07 AM

                        I think Go Fish is still out of commission as of 2 weeks ago. I may be wrong.

                        I agree with most of the above recs ... I do have to say that my early experience of Milestones back in the day when they were just coming in was having a Ceasar salad and getting 4 prehistoric fern-like pieces of greens and 2 rubik's cube sized croutons.

                        I kid you not.

                        You had to break up the crouton to get more croutons.

                        1. re: bill_n_opus
                          eatrustic May 29, 2011 11:46 AM

                          Go Fish is open and has been every time I've walked by in the last week. They were closed last winter for renos but that's it as far as I know.

                          As for the Moxie's a few of them have morphed into a Wok concept - the Broadway and Burrard location for example, same company though so I'm not too excited.

                          1. re: eatrustic
                            lunchslut May 29, 2011 02:11 PM

                            I think the new chain is called Rockport. Mostly wok and grill foods. It is ok quality with a cheaper price point than Milestones and Cactus Club.

                    2. iL Divo May 29, 2011 11:54 AM

                      into inexpensive sushi?
                      "Yamato's" on Davie and Seymore downtown Vancouver, 22 pieces under $6, < with salad soup tea also....my favorite place for sushi period. Not a chain but if you're in town and hungry for sushi, it's a hit for sure.
                      "Vera's Burgers" I think there are 5 in town, I've been to 4 of them.
                      Their burgers are huge, so you can share if you want and they have perfect poutine, share it too, it's way too much for one but delicious.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: iL Divo
                        Sam Salmon May 29, 2011 05:08 PM

                        Lest We Forget Pajos and their four stellar locations


                      2. LotusRapper May 29, 2011 08:18 PM

                        In the same genre as White Spot, there's also ABC Restaurant and also Ricky's. Not Chowhound destinations, but good for families.

                        On the Chinese restaurants front, there's:

                        Hon's House of Noodles (5 locations ?)

                        Mui Garden (5 locations ?)

                        And the re-branded "BG Urban Cafe" (formerly known as Bread Garden) isn't a full-service resto per se, but can be loosely interpreted as one.

                        1. s
                          shawntripp May 29, 2011 08:34 PM

                          White Spot is good for burgers, but especially great for breakfast. Big old fashioned breakfasts. They also have a "faster food" burger chain called Triple O's which feature those great burgers. Get the BC Burger.

                          1. grayelf May 30, 2011 02:26 PM

                            The OP asked for other thoughts so... more work but you could gather up reccs for areas you know you're going to be in and put them together geographically. I do this old school (Word document divided up into neighbourhoods) for Vancouver and the Lower Mainland and also for San Francisco Bay Area. Carrying these lists in my purse (yeah, really old school) has saved me from many wasted calories on sub-par food and saved me a lot of money, as most of the chains suggested above in my opinion charge far too much for the food they serve. You'd only need a few for each area if you were just visiting once...

                            Whatever you do, have a great visit!

                            1. m
                              MsMiki Jun 4, 2011 09:09 PM

                              My all-time fall-back is the White Spot. If I remember correctly they also have a children's menu. For adults into trying different hamburgers native to local cities, The White Spot Cheese Platter (triple 0, which means with extra, extra mayonnaise), well that's what made it famous.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: MsMiki
                                sherry f Jun 12, 2011 03:39 PM

                                Ditto re the White Spot. I moved to Toronto from Vancouver 33 years ago. When we are in Vancouver, we hit The Spot several times each trip, and then again at the airport when we are leaving (forget what they call it at YVR). My husband and kids are native Torontionians and they really get it!! There is nothing comparable in Ontario. My kids have great affection for the pirate packs (kids meals) we got them when they were little. As an aside from the usual burgers (which you can get wrapped in lettuce with triple O sauce, no bun), I absolutely adore the fries and the boysenberry pie. I guess not having the bun makes having the fries not so bad :). Go Canucks!!

                                We have been to the Cactus Club (Broadway between Burrard and Granville location) a few times. It is OK- very broad menu, I think it is a bit pricey for chain food, when there are so many great restos in Vancouver.

                                Although not a chain, I understand Japadog has expanded to multi-carts. Any updates on it? I've been to the one outside the Sutton Place Hotel on Burrard.

                                1. re: MsMiki
                                  rainey Jan 2, 2014 05:07 PM

                                  OMG do White Spots have a children's menu. My "kids" who are now all in their 30s or nearly so still fondly remember Pirate Packs. At one point, in addition to the pirate ship box, they also came with a chocolate golden dubloon. I have a feeling the last time we were there they didn't. …but the dining rooms had gone upscale.

                                  It's nice food but the menu is also limited so you can get tired of it fast. That's where the kids begging for Pirate Packs comes in. ;>

                                  1. re: rainey
                                    islandgirl Jan 2, 2014 05:28 PM

                                    Pirate Packs still come with the chocolate coin... last time they forgot to put one in and my 5 year old ask and they brought him a handful, he was in heaven!
                                    I like that they give a choice of options so each kid can create their own "pack".

                                    1. re: islandgirl
                                      rainey Jan 2, 2014 05:42 PM


                                      I'm headed back to Vancouver for the first time since 2001. I know I'll find a LOT has changed. It's good to know some things will still be familiar.

                                      1. re: rainey
                                        grayelf Jan 2, 2014 06:55 PM

                                        Welcome back, rainey! I expect you know that there are still one or two White Spots that do car service, if you're feeling really nostalgic. Be sure to post before you get here if you want any specific reccs on other types of food.

                                        1. re: grayelf
                                          rainey Jan 2, 2014 06:57 PM

                                          At Park Royal on the North Shore, I bet. ;>

                                          I will certainly be checking in. I've got a lot to catch up on and a LOT to look forward to. ;>

                                          1. re: rainey
                                            LotusRapper Jan 2, 2014 07:00 PM

                                            The WS at Marine Drive, between Fraser & Knight St. Bridge, still does car service, I believe.

                                            And also the one at Gilmore and Lougheed in Burnaby,

                                            1. re: LotusRapper
                                              grayelf Jan 2, 2014 07:16 PM

                                              You know, I can't in good conscience recommend WS any more, even for nostalgic reasons. We went a few months ago because we had a small with us, to the Lonsdale one. Really not salutary. Meh food, terrible service, expensive and slow. Sigh.

                                              1. re: grayelf
                                                LotusRapper Jan 2, 2014 10:54 PM

                                                I stopped going for years for the exact reasons. Thanks for backing up on that, GE !

                                              2. re: LotusRapper
                                                islandgirl Jan 2, 2014 07:17 PM

                                                And the one on West Broadway (near Larch?)

                                                1. re: islandgirl
                                                  Sam Salmon Jan 2, 2014 09:30 PM

                                                  I'm pretty sure that one does car service I've cycled behind there a few times and the menu is still on display.

                                              3. re: rainey
                                                amelieducroix Jan 2, 2014 08:11 PM

                                                The one at Park Royal is closing soon (relocating down the parking lot). The one at Park and Tilford still does car service.

                                      2. re: MsMiki
                                        twinkienic Jan 6, 2014 11:37 PM

                                        I do love those triple-O burgers, and get in line when they have Pirate Pak day - the nostalgia gets to me, even though objectively I know it's not great food.

                                        I think White Spot is onIy enjoyed by BC-born residents, though. 've never met anyone who grew up outside BC who has enjoyed a White Spot burger for the first time as an adult. I think they hook us in with Pirate Paks during our childhood and then we crave the triple-O sauce forevermore.

                                        1. re: twinkienic
                                          LotusRapper Jan 7, 2014 06:02 AM

                                          There's a conspiracy theory in there somewhere ..... ;-)

                                          1. re: twinkienic
                                            rainey Jan 7, 2014 07:14 AM

                                            We're from Los Angeles but my husband just loves WS burgers and particularly the sauce. I can't say I even remember it but then I could very well have asked for mine without any.

                                            1. re: rainey
                                              LotusRapper Jan 7, 2014 09:42 AM

                                              Our LA friends swear by Original Tommy's Hamburgers and In-N-Out as the best chain burgers in SoCal.

                                              1. re: LotusRapper
                                                rainey Jan 7, 2014 10:55 AM

                                                Don't know about OT but In-N-Out has a sauce that's similar to WS so that's all very consistent. However both OT and I-n-O are truly drive thru fast food places with the most basic amenities if there are any at all. Nothing like the comfortable dining rooms of WS.

                                                1. re: rainey
                                                  LotusRapper Jan 7, 2014 11:12 AM

                                                  Ah, the no-so-secret "spread" sauce !

                                        2. b
                                          brokentelephone Jan 7, 2014 10:36 AM

                                          Earls and Cactus are great chains; i'd argue they're the best in any city in NA.

                                          Milestones, Joeys are crappy.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: brokentelephone
                                            LotusRapper Jan 7, 2014 10:48 AM

                                            Milestones & Joeys are owned by Cara, which also operate Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's, Montana's Cookhouse,
                                            East Side Mario's and Casey's (ON & QC only).

                                            1. re: LotusRapper
                                              grayelf Jan 7, 2014 10:25 PM

                                              Always wondered what Cara did to diversify after most airlines stopped offering meal service.

                                              1. re: LotusRapper
                                                FAM04 Jan 8, 2014 05:29 PM

                                                I agree that Earls and Cactus to the best to satisfy the chain "casual fine dining" in BC and beyond. I would even add Joey's in that mix although I don't love their entire menu. Joeys is not owned by Cara although it is interesting to learn about the others. Jeff Fuller owns Joey's, son on Bus Fuller (Founder of earls).

                                                1. re: FAM04
                                                  vannutmeg Mar 22, 2014 10:22 PM

                                                  FWIW, the ahi tuna club at Joey's is first rate, possibly even better than the equivalent at Cactus Club. It seems like many of these chains are in a race to the top sort of scenario these days, as least as far as food quality goes.

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