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Feb 8, 2013 04:02 PM

1st timer to Vancouver in June

Greetings Vancouverites (?). I'm planning a trip to your beautiful city and have been scanning the boards but am having a hard time figuring out what sort of cuisine I should be focusing on that showcases the Vancouver Food scene. I'm only there for a few days and would consider all suggestions from cart to fine dining to help me figure out what cuisine or food item your city is a standout in. Thanks for your help.

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    1. Hey NDB, nice to see you around these parts. I've read plenty of your posts on the SF Bay Area board over the years and hope to repay in some part now. And yes, we do go by the term Vancouverite.

      I think the Vancouver food scene is a bit overblown, to be honest, and I'm not sure what if anything defines it. I love to eat and live here but I get a bit head-scratchy when I read some of the bumphf about the restos here (like the Chinese food is better than it is in China, that sort of thing). So I'll toss out a few ideas to see if they help, but please let us know more of what you think you'd like to try so the hive mind can share its collective wisdom better.

      I think sushi is pretty good here, *possibly* better than SF generally and I think cheaper overall. Kibune makes me happy, and Miko is worth a bit of a splurge (ONLY order a la carte, do not be tempted by the set meals). Ajisai is very good especially if you focus on nigiri and sit at the bar but no resos which kinda bites, plus it is not near much else. Miku has wonderful salmon aburi but not much else IMO and the room is kinda cold and sterile. They are also moving soonish. I like the aburi at Kishimoto just as well and it is less expensive, the room is cozier and the rest of the menu more successful. Maybe try Octopus' Garden if omakase is more your thing and you are dining singly.

      There are a whack of ramen places downtown along Robson that you could check out if you're into Japanese noodles. My current favourites are Santouka for the toroniku and Jinya for the black ramen.

      Izakaya are kind of a Vancouver staple. I know there are a few in SF but might be worth checking some out here. I like Zakkushi best.

      You should prolly check out some dim sum while you're here. Nothing uber-groundbreaking but some places that are doing interesting stuff, and it will be cheaper than SF as well I think. Good Choice, Kirin and Dynasty all make me happy. Cantonese or Shanghainese for a dinner could be in order if you have any extra bellies with you.

      You might also want to try some bbq pork while you're here. I love the stuff at HK BBQ Masters in Richmond, which has a small dine in area but mostly does masses of takeaway. Not a fan of their chicken or duck though.

      For carts, we are behind SF but things are starting to gel a bit. I like Le Tigre, Mogu, and Guanaco the best of the ones I've tried and in that order. AFAIK, we don't have any evening carts yet so think of any you want to visit in a lunch vein only.

      I think the Asian food courts here are pretty nifty and worth a look if you have time, energy and (again) extra bellies.

      I'm not much of a fine diner so I'll leave that to others. For a specialish occasion, I like La Buca a lot but be warned it is out of the way in a quiet area of town.

      Don't recall if you're a coffee guy at all but if so it might be fun to try a couple of shops here to see how they compare to the heavy hitters in the Bay Area (dang, Oaktown's got it going on for roasters). I like Revolver, Matchstick, Kafka's and Elysian on Broadway. And if you make it to Matchstick, be sure to try some of their baked goods -- double baked almond croissant a particular standout. All done inhouse and head and shoulders above any other coffee place offerings I've tried (and better than most dedicated bakeries here). But you will have high standards for pastries given your current locale so do manage your expectations :-).

      We're not a brunch city like SF but there is one place I really like: Red Wagon. Yes, it's been on DDD, and it attracts a somewhat hipster crowd (which I decidedly don't fit in), the lineups can be stupidly long at prime times, and you might not get the hype compared to the options in your home town, but I love the pork belly to death here and if you go a bit earlier on a weekday you shouldn't have to wait.

      I again hesitate to recommend porchetta or even sandwiches to a Bay Area Hound BUT Meat and Bread's meat is pretty darn tasty, and Big Lou's does a fine job also. Stick to the original location of the former (go during off hours to avoid lines), and be warned there is just one tiny counter at the latter. Also in the sandwich but not porchetta vein and for a nicer sitdown experience, I commend to you Panino Enoteca in Gastown. Is it a Vancouver experience? I kinda think so, in that it is what these guys see as a version of a type of Italian eatery. Nice Italian wine and beer list if you want to make an evening of it instead of lunch (I've only been in the daytime but could totally see it working for a casual night out).

      Another area you might enjoy comparing notes with home is in Vietnamese food, whether it be pho or banh mi or maybe seven courses of beef. Kingsway east of Fraser is where it's mostly happening, and everyone has a favourite.

      This is getting way too long so I'll pack it in for now at least. Happy planning!

      1 Reply
      1. re: grayelf

        Greyelf! Great posts! I am doing research for a friend and wondering what your favourite Vietnamese place is in Kingsway?


        TF :)

      2. Concurring with grayelf's analysis and recommendations.

        Our food scene is trendy and our diners fickle...a combination that leads to a lot of mediocrity. We do have some gems. Cantonese is a good bet. As are the top shelf izakaya.

        1 Reply
        1. re: fmed

          I'll jump in on the conversation and agree with both grayelf and fmed.

          I did just entertain a couple of friends who were up from San Francisco at Guu with Garlic and they were blown away at how awesome it was. One was from Vancouver originally but misses what she used to get up here, the other was a Southern states transplant to SF and was very much impressed. Just saying.

          It really is a bit of an odd city for dining. Fine dining has essentially died in this city. In some ways this is a good thing as I can walk into virtually any restaurant in the city with my bike helmet and cycling gear and get treated the same as the West Vancouver housewives (Hawksworth, I'm looking at you). However, that means that there are no restaurants in town with the hype that many of the American major cities might have.

        2. Thanks so much for the extensive reply! I'm sort of glad that fine dining isn't such a big thing as that will save my budget for this trip. It sounds like the Dim Sum/HK, Izakaya and Viet will be the things to check out. I'll be driving up from Seattle, so any other recommendations for that particular route is appreciated and I'll be staying in the downtown area near the convention center. While I will have a car, I'm usually a bit timid when driving in unfamiliar towns. Also, any recommendations for activities or areas to check out to pair with restaurant recs? Thanks again!

          1 Reply
          1. re: nicedragonboy

            Not a ton of places that shriek "don't miss" right by your hotel, but you're not *that* far from Gastown where there are some good options, particularly for imbibing, if that is your thing. I'll let someone more in the know make those suggestions...

            If you go to Deep Cove (and you should, by car) be sure to try the doughnuts at Honey Doughnuts as a snack before or after a short hike. Drool. Also on that side of the bridge, the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge is pretty cool too -- I'd pass on the Capilano one as it is not very natural anymore and quite expensive to get in. There are lots of neat things to check out on the North Shore, including the local ski hills, but really outstanding food has proven to be thin on the ground over the water, at least for my needs.

            If you go to Whistler (and you should), you could try to arrange a stop at Sushi Sen in Squamish on the way there or back. The owners used to run my all time favourite sushi place in Vancouver. This is a day trip, minimum.

            Stanley Park is close-ish to many of the izakaya and the ramen shops.

            The Oval is in Richmond and was built for the Olympics, could be a fun combo with dim sum or an early Chinese dinner but you'd need to drive.

            Granville Island Public Market is worth a look for a foodie type. I've been hearing good things about Edible Canada (new chef as of a couple of months ago) so you could do lunch there and stroll around the island before or after.

            I don't necessarily agree with the food recs here but this brief itin isn't bad:

          2. I used "best" as term in the search tool above and got 18 pages of results:


            That may not be of much help for you sifting through an information overload. But any specificity you can provide will help guide others to come up with suggestions.

            One thing for sure, we're a "compact" metro area in relative terms (to Toronto, LA, SF, NYC, Chicago) and while there are some relative concentrations of ethnic-specific restaurants in some parts, generally you can find decent to very good restaurants of many cuisines throughout Metro Vancouver and without having to slog through highways and byways Our integrated transit system (rapid transit, marine, bus, etc) is quite extensive and seamless in terms of fare payment and transfers.

            4 Replies
            1. re: LotusRapper

              Thanks LotusRapper for your quick and helpful reply. I have come up with this so far:

              Green Lemongrass, Hai Phong, Mui Nho Gai, Au Petit Café (for Bahn Mi)

              1. re: TeacherFoodie

                Grayelf will surely give you the nuggets.

                As for Au Petit Cafe's banh mi, I've been underwhelmed from them the half dozen times or so I've tried them, so I can say I gave them a fair shake. Walk south from APC on the same side of Main St to the corner of 33 Ave and check out Bon Cafe's grilled pork banh mi (#35) for $4. Made to order in kitchen, the pork is nice & hot, juxtaposed by the mound of cool pickled daikon & carrot, cilantro etc.

                Back to Kingsway, one can only "complete" the banh mi circuit/crawl by visiting Tung Hing Bakery, Kim Chau Deli and Ba Le Deli Bakery. Fmed did a comparo here:


                  1. re: LotusRapper

                    Yeah, pass on Au Petit and it's not on Kingsway either. My favourite banh mi is Ba Le on Kingsway at Fraser. Next fave is prolly Kim Chau. Hai Phong has been our go-to Viet on K'way for a while. GLG is great for $5 Viet breakies.