One week in Vancouver... The catch? Two little kids
I have been skulking around the boards for my family's Vancouver vacation in early September, but wanted to get thoughts on what I've managed to gather.
A little background on us: 2 thirty-somethings now living in the SF Bay Area who have based most of our travel itineraries on CH finds. Having two kids under 4 has cramped our style slightly, but the kids are reasonably adventurous and civilized eaters in restaurants. They have done well with ramen, izakaya, and of course, any place with french fries.
We will be staying in a hotel downtown, not planning on renting a car (but can). The adults are happier once we've had coffee/tea in the morning and beer/wine/cocktails in the evening. We are looking to try places that are "Vancouver-y" or somewhat different than what we can get around SF/SJ, any cuisine, any price range, but clearly my biggest issue is finding good eats with two kids in tow.
A loosely organized list of what I've come up with so far:
Coffee - Matchstick, Revolver
Pastries, etc. - Cartem's Donuterie, Thierry Chocolaterie
Dim sum - Dynasty, Kirin, Sun Sui Wah
Taiwanese - Kalvin's
Ramen - Santouka, Marutama, Motomachi Shokudo
Izakaya - Kingyo, Rajio, Suika, Zakkushi
Pubs (with food) - Alibi Room, Chambar
Ice cream - Earnest, Rain or Shine, Bella Gelateria
Are there any not-to-miss places I'm missing?
Have any of the spots taken a downhill turn and should be struck from the list?
Most importantly, for our sake and that of the good citizens of Vancouver, are any of the places on my list a definite no-go for kids?
Thank you so much for your help. I will report back in September with how we did.
Pretty good list. If you like seafood, you might want to consider http://www.yewseafood.com/ It is quite casual and should be fine for kids. Farmer's Apprentice http://www.farmersapprentice.ca/ is the hot place at the moment; hard to get reservations for dinner but no reservations for lunch/brunch; arrive early; easy access from downtown by bus/taxi. Near there is Pâtisserie Lebeau for pastries, sandwiches and waffles. Baguette & Co in the west end also good for pastries. I would prefer either of the previous two to your choices but it comes down to individual preference (not a donut guy and have had indifferent results at Theirry). L'abattoire is well thought of here (dinner only) http://www.labattoir.ca/ - it is in Gastown. For a quick and easy middle east lunch downtown there is http://www.anatoliaexpress.ca/ In that vein, there is http://streetfoodapp.com/vancouver ;many choices in the downtown. Hope you have a great visit.
A few notes...Chambar is not really a pub and I wouldn't take my kids there. That being said, my kids are pretty rambunctious little buggers and are 6 & 3. You could probably go early though and it'd be fine. As for coffee, JJ Bean and Caffe Artigiano are also safe bets downtown.
Rajio is good but pretty out of the way for you. Not worth the trek from downtown in my opinion. Same goes for Earnest ice cream. Just hit Bella or jump on a relatively short bus ride to Kitsilano's Rain or Shine.
These are not downtown, but I regularly take my kids to Rocky Mountain Pizza. They have a little play kitchen setup for the kids and on some nights the kids can go into the kitchen and make their own pizzas. You can drink some decent beer/wine here also. Definitely the most kid friendly place around. We also go to Temaki or Tokyo Thyme fairly often for excellent sushi. Temaki is better but Tokyo Thyme is more kid friendly.
There's some decent patios mentioned here: http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/06/be...
Avoid Old Spaghetti Factory at all costs.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for the suggestions and tips.
I had come across Farmer's Apprentice and L'Abbatoir on the board - both would have been on the list pre-kids, but now I'm slightly wary since we've acquired two companions well short of the legal drinking age. So you think it would be doable if we went for lunch/brunch at FA with the under 4 crowd. What if we tried to get the very first dinner seating at either? I don't want to be *those people* who kill the mood of all the other diners who are enjoying a night out sans kids. The early bird strategy has worked well for us in nicer restaurants in several places, just wondering if it might be forgivable in Vancouver as well.
Appreciate the pizza recommendation, too. That is always a winner with the kids. Adults, too, for that matter.
Several thoughts about your original post and the subsequent comments:
I would reconsider Chambar particularly if your kids are well-behaved in restaurants. The music level is usually quite "vibrant" and I've seen lots of people with children (from 6 months - teenage) dining here over the years.
In addition, they have just moved into their new space (next door to the old) and are now open for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. Haven't been to the new location yet but the old was one of our go-tos for out of town guests, special occasions, and just a nice night out for no reason at all.
Re: l'Abbatoir: our one experience there the restaurant was incredibly busy and we were seated extremely close to the tables next to us. The food and drinks were good but I wasn't impressed with the service.
Fable would be a great choice with the kids (make a reservation) and then maybe to Rain or Shine for dessert down the street? If you're in that part of West 4th make sure to check out Ayoub's Dried Fruits and Nuts. The fanciest store you've ever seen for buying snackies!
One note about Bella Gelateria, the line up can be over an hour long on a nice day. I don't know about your kids but mine would go crazy, I don't care how good the gelato is!
If you're on Granville Island with the kids and want a sit down restaurant I would highly recommend Dockside for breakfast or lunch with little ones. Very good value "kids menu" and the aquarium that wraps around the open-kitchen provides great entertainment while waiting for food to arrive.
Finally, re: the Alibi Room, double check the licensing rules (which have recently changed in BC) but previously no minors were allowed.
Good list! A few additions:
If Revolver, which is bit cramped, is busy. Around the corner is Timbertrain which has good coffee and booths for the little ones to squirm around in.
With booths in mind, for seafood Blue Water Cafe is surprisingly kid tolerant especially for kids that are well behaved. Just ask for a booth in case they want to nap or play on the ipad in the corner of the booth.
For Izakaya I would add Guu Garden which has good food and a small upstairs area where you sit on the floor.
Chinese places don't bat an eye when it comes to kids, even if they are running a muck in the restaurant.
For you dim sum, I would drop Sun Sui Wah and consider Chef Tony in Richmond (http://cheftonycanada.com/en/). Easy to get to from downtown on the Canada Line and it might be neat for the kids, you go over the river to get to Richmond.
Another Ramen place to try is Taishoken for their tsukemen ramen.
Thanks - the kids are enamored with public transit, so I think they'd love the trip to Richmond. That does open up a whole new avenue of research for me, as it seems from what I've briefly gathered on the boards that Richmond is the epicenter of all types and levels of Chinese cuisine.
I've seen the various Guu's mentioned a lot too, will have to add that to the list.
If you'll be wandering around downtown, you might want to check out the Japadog carts and/or their bricks & mortar spot on Robson. A different take on hot dogs -- and they have fries. Our friends with kids always seem to find it a hit.
Hello. Some excellent digging. As a fellow 'other board' lurker, I approve.
Coffee - I prefer Matchstick and the previously mentioned Timbertrain to Revolver but they all have good coffee. If you are closer to the West End/Stanley Park side of downtown, try Greenhorn. On Main St, Gene is pretty good.
Pastries - I can't say that I agree with the reco for Baguette & Co. (if you name your business after a food item, you should be able to make said item better than Safeway) but I do have an oddball reco that is right across the street from it. Transylvanian Traditions makes delicious kurtos kolacs, light and crispy "chimney cakes" that are baked on thick dowels and sprinkled with sugar that caramelizes on the outside while the dowels are rotated over hot 'coals'. So tasty.
If you do decide to go to Farmer's Apprentice at lunch/brunch, Beaucoup Bakery is just a couple of blocks away and good.
Downtown, Thierry, Ganache and Cadeaux are your best pastry options. Cartems doughnuts are very good - Earl Grey is my favourite that they always have but they also really like to do specials.
Dim Sum - yes, take the kids on a Skytrain adventure to Richmond. Many of the city's very best Chinese restaurants are within a 5 minute walk of a station (Sea Harbour which is terrific though busy and expensive is practically in the River Rock Station).
Ramen. I love Santouka and Motomachi (pork jowls? yes please!), but depending on where exactly you live in the Bay Area, I think you can get similar ramen at home (including I believe your own location of Santouka). There is a fancy gyoza bar & ramen place opening downtown shortly that will have something interesting to bring to the table but otherwise, I would skip.
Pubs - The Abbey and The Fat Badger are both new gastropubs, though I would say that The Abbey is more like an upscale restaurant that serves pub-inspired food. The Alibi Room is good for beer but I wouldn't go to eat there. As people have said, Chambar is not super kid-friendly though they are pretty good at accommodating people.
Ice Cream - your side of town definitely kicks our butt in this department. I finally tried Rain or Shine and, while I like the approach and the ideas - and the fresh waffle cones - I would trade a dozen Rain or Shines for 1 Humphrey Slocombe, Smitten, Bi-Rite or any of a number of other Bay Area parlours. Mediocre texture + moderate flavour levels = meh. That said, on Tuesdays they do taco shell waffle cones with fun toppings and the kids would probably enjoy that a lot. It's also just a couple of doors down from Fable which is excellent and open for dinner and lunch (get the duck meatball pasta).
Bella Gelateria is the city's true standout in the frozen category and the owner is about to open a pizza & gelato restaurant in Yaletown (right by the Skytrain station that would take you to Richmond). I haven't been (opens Friday) so I can't speak to its kid-friendliness but I would think it will be fine.
Not to Miss?
Farmer's Apprentice is, yes, delicious and very Vancouver. I would also put Fable in that category though it's less adventurous.
Phnom Penh for legendary chicken wings and lac lac beef.
Miku or Minami for aburi salmon oshi sushi (lots of people on this board seem to dislike Miku/Minami for whatever reason but still love this dish)
Alvin Garden - hunanese chinese food if you get a car (it's in Burnaby, a suburb to the east of Vancouver)
HK BBQ Master - HK-style barbecued pork, crispy-skinned roasted pork and soy chicken. they really are masters.
Shanghai River or Dinesty for XLB/soup dumplings
Any one of a number of excellent Vietnamese options in East Vancouver. Mr. Red is one that's recently been on the hot list and it's located in the East Village neighbourhood.
East Village is home to a lot of independent food spots like the Black Rook Bakehouse (which doesn't look like much but makes some truly yummy cakes, several available by the slice) and Basho Cafe (Japanese patisserie/cafe, only open until 4pm and only M-F) and a lot of good restaurants like Bistro Wagon Rouge, Campagnolo, Kessel & March, Le Do, Tacofino...
Chicha is a Peruvian restaurant on Broadway and Main. It's still a bit under the radar but it's fun, tasty and open for lunch.
If you do decide to get a car or don't mind a bus ride, you might get a kick out of Moderne Burger on the west side - the menu is burgers, fries, soda/floats/shakes. END OF LIST. Conveniently located a couple of doors down from delicious pastries at Thomas Haas.
It doesn't scream kid-friendly but there's a both in the back so if you can get it, I have to give some love to Cinara. It's so lovely and the food is so tasty.
Have an amazing visit!
+1 on the Moderne Burger reco - very nice, family operated place with great burgers in a very authentic 40's-'50's diner decor.
Just a note regarding your east side recommendations, Black Rook Bakery is in the midst of relocating to 2474 east Hastings, a 1/2 block east of Nanaimo, so check to see if they are open yet. Also in that neighbourhood, the Laughing Bean coffee shop, serving JJ Bean coffee, may not be as sophisticated as Revolver or Matchstick, but their coffee is fine by me and they are definitely very kid friendly.
Should the OP decide to venture a little further east into Burnaby Heights, Glenburn Soda & Confectionary serves up great old school sodas, egg creams, malts and sundaes made with Birchwood Dairies ice cream. Great products and very family oriented.
Also, I thought that coming from downtown, the kids might enjoy the short trip on the seabus over to North Vancouver. Perhaps some other Chowhounds could suggest some worthy locations around there, as I am not all that familiar with the area.
By all means take the kids to John Lawson Park on the beach at Ambleside (between 16th & 17th, more or less). I can't think of any great eating around there but what we do is stop at the Fresh Market on Marine (just about a block and a half up from the park) and get sandwiches at the deli, fruit, etc. and picnic on the lawn.
It's a GREAT park and they will have a ball. Take bathing suits or a change of clothes. They're likely to get wet! Take a camera too. You'll want to ask your municipality why they don't build parks like this!
If you feel like it you can also drive out to Horseshoe Bay about 15 minutes west to see the ferries coming in and going out. Another park out there that's fun is Whytecliff where they can explore a rocky beach, stroll through the woods and walk out to Whytecliff Island if you've timed it right for low tide. Take note that if you haven't timed it right you'll wade you way back to shore. There's a little snack bar that has damned good hot dogs and other offerings I haven't tried yet.
If you go to the aquarium you may see the tank that's modeled after the marine environment of Whytecliff. And if any of your party are divers, take your gear because it's (I believe) Canada's only underwater preserve.
Olive and Anchor is the best eating in Horseshoe Bay. That's not saying a lot but, nevertheless, we love the village a lot so we make allowances. They have pretty good oysters in addition to a variety of standards.
What a fantastic thread you've engendered, reformed (love the handle, BTW). I spend a couple of weeks a year eating my way around the SFBA so I have an idea of what you've got in your back yard. Herewith some ramblings that may or may not be helpful...
Blanket warning: Vancouver doesn't do air conditioning. And this has been the hottest summer I recall in the last mumble years (multiple decades). So be warned and ask before you go!
Given your OP, I'd say do one of the ramen places (either Santouka for toroniku or Taishoken for tsukemen) but just go really early. We do a good job of ramen around these parts.
I'd do a couple of izakaya if you have time. I suspect we're still slightly ahead of the curve though SFBA is gaining fast, and has prolly eclipsed on higher end offerings. Perhaps Zakkushi on Main, because I think it will be more kid-friendly, and maybe Guu Gastown for the upstairs area mentioned by moyenchow. Suika and Rajio are connected; the former is nicer inside, indeed quite swish, but the food doesn't thrill me. Rajio is super casual and has tasty dishes (was there a couple of weeks ago for a late bite) but it is quite far out of the way as waylman notes. Neither would be bad with kids but I've never seen kids at either. I haven't been to Kingyo in forever.
You've hit on my two favourites for coffee, Matchstick and Revolver, though just this week I went to Timbertrain for the first time and will be returning. As mentioned by moyenchow, it has much more inviting seating than Revolver and (drumroll) it also has cold brew on a nitro tap. So very very good. Pastries from Chez Cristophe nothing to sneeze at and will save you a trip out to his faraway shop. My SIL was swooning over the hazelnut chocolate croissant.
Cartems are good doughnuts with interesting toppings. Haven't been since they moved to Pender Street. Thierry has not been successful for me.
I'd probably go with Dynasty if you decide to stick to dim sum in town. Last two very recent visits to Kirin City Square have not been up to par, though I still prefer the room. Sun Sui Wah on Main should be avoided.
Kalvin's is very good but you really have to know what to order. We had a chowdown there a few weeks ago and the quality is still happening, but it is very much a mom and pop, squeezy tables, super busy and service can be variable. DO NOT go without a reservation, even early, as it is tiny and super popular. The fish with yellow chives remains on my last-meal list.
Agree with others about Chambar -- deffo NOT a pub, and I wouldn't take kids there even early. Alibi doesn't have worthy food, and may not allow kids as others have noted. I can't think of a place in town with great food and great beer that allows kids (or maybe even that doesn't allow kids, sigh). We have a long way to go to reach Portland standards, my current benchmark for good brew and good food together.
If you are from the Bay Area, please immediately lower your expectations for ice cream. I think I've tried all the heavy hitters in your home chow zone, and nothing here comes close. Maybe Bella, but you pay through the nose and have to line up forever. Rain or Shine was so disappointing and expensive I only went once and it is walking distance from my house :-(. Earnest is good but not worth the money IMO.
Agree with Philx re Patisserie Lebeau. Since the remodel a few years ago, you can dine in and the waffles are a big hit with the smalls. Pretty tasty for the grownups too -- I love their ham and cheese Brussels (not the stuffed ones). Go early though as they run out. I'd be hard pressed to find something a small would like on a Farmers Apprentice menu, so maybe hit Lebeau first and fill them up, then go to FA right before opening and order a couple of dishes for yourselves. I wouldn't try FA at night with kids.
I love L'abbatoir but it would be tough with kids, even at opening. The upstairs is dark, crowded and loud. The enclosed area at the back is lovely but so freakin' hot when it's hot out, and it doesn't cool down as we discovered a couple of weeks ago. Also can't imagine what a kid would want to eat off their menu -- you can check it out online.
I gotta demur with waylman on Artigiano. Not sure what's going on, but we've gotten such bad coffee at the one near the art gallery that we threw it out. I think they are all franchises now so maybe some are better than others, but I didn't love the one that closed not too long ago in my hood either. YMMV of course.
Good call on the kurtos kalacs at Transylvania Traditions, No More Snuggles! They don't always have them but they are fab. We have a Baguette & Co near us. As long as you stick to the pastries, you're good -- oh, and the brownies are rather fine, popular with our small niece. Bread is meh for sure. But once again, coming from the Bay Area, the OP's gonna have to dial back the expectations for everything baked here!
This is way too long. Shutting up now.
Wow, you guys. I'm so grateful for all of your very thoughtful comments and redirections (and kid-entertainment ideas, woo-hoo!). Kudos to the B.C./Vancouver board - if your kindness and graciousness are even slightly representative of folks in your neck of the woods, I think my family will have an amazing week in Vancouver.
I will admit I am slightly crushed that a few of you have been gently warning me about the level of ice cream lusciousness in the area. But I think we'll be okay - my husband and I are born and raised midwesterners, where a scoop was icy but generous, cost a dollar, and the "fancy" flavors ran in the along the lines of "french vanilla". As for the kids, ice cream is still delicious ice cream.
Thank you, again, everyone - I am devouring every single word.
Trip report thus far, so far so good.
We arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday - I had made early dinner reservations at Guu (original), since it was an easy walk from our hotel downtown. Cozy and bustly, no one batted an eye at our kids. Another couple with a baby looked relieved to have my kids taking the pressure off them... We ordered a lot of dishes (the waitress asked if we really wanted that much food). Everything was good, but I felt the standouts that night were the chicken karaage (super juicy and flavorful, a hit with the kids), okonomiyaki (light, not the often doughy texture I've often encountered), and the uni (sweet and almost evanescent, fresher than what I am used). We were surprised to be told that the kitchen was out of tofu (?!?), but otherwise had a great start to our eating adventures.
We saw Yew on the way back to the hotel, and dragged the kids in for dessert and cocktails. Kids shared a berry sundae, adults shared the blueberry pie (man, you B.C. folks have got some amazing blueberries!).
Monday started off with unremarkable scones and muffins picked up from Caffe Artigianale on the way to CRAB Park. We peered wistfully in at the barred gates to the Alibi Room... Kids got ravenous after running about the park, so we had uninspiring eggs/hash browns/bacon at Deacon's Corner. On the way back, however, I spotted Timber train. A nice cup of coffee and a delicious cookie called Comfort (potato chips, oats, chocolate) that I was battling the two year old for.
And for dinner, we hopped on a bus to Vij's. It was just about 5, and we weren't even close to being the first there. The kids were entertained by the little fish ponds; the adults were entertained by cocktails from Rangoli's next door. Soon some complimentary nibbles were being passed (spicy pita, veg pakora) and then we joined the herd crowding in at 5:30. More comps - some delightful play on chips with salsa, ?yucca fries, a splash of warm Chai. Again the waitress asked if we might be ordering too generously, but you only live once, right? We ordered for apps: the special specialty chicken, chickpeas, eggplant, and samosas. For entrees we showed slightly more restraint, sticking with the rightly famous lamb lollipops and the beef short ribs. The kids were appeased with a mango lass I (very mango-y, and not overly sweet).
Now we are spoiled by an incredible depth and variety of Indian food in the SF Bay area, but Vij's was well worth the effort. Every dish was nuanced and interesting, not a one or two-note spice bomb, and nothing like we've tried closer to home. As my husband said, What South Asian restaurant has a somm? (He recommended the Laughingstock viognier, which was a worthy match)
Okay, on to day 3 of eating our way through Vancouver... Started the day off with a half dozen at Cartem's (kid's fave - plum compote filled, husband - vanilla bean, mine - creme brulee). Lots of seating, no one minded the kids running about (blame the sugar). Got a chance to try some Matchstick brew - good stuff.
We took the kids on the Sea bus back and forth, which they loved, then caught the bus to dimsum at Dynasty on Broadway. We ordered fairly standard dishes (taro puffs, turnip cake, shrimp dumplings, sticky rice in lotus leaf, etc) and thought the quality was much higher than what we have where we live.
Finally, I made reservations at Kibune, because it seemed to have a similar sensibility to the sushi/izakaya place we frequent at home. Again, we comically over ordered. The sashimi was fresh (again, suckers for the uni), the specials were tasty (really enjoyed the stuffed eggplant and matsutake soup). A nice neighborhood spot, and we dashed across the street after dinner to enjoy the beach and sunset.
Again, we're really enjoying all Vancouver has to offer, and thanks so much for the help. A very loose agenda for the rest of our stay, only have reso's lined up for Zakkushi dinner Thursday, and at least one meal for Bella Gelateria/Pizzeria and another somewhere in Richmond. Will keep updating as we keep eating.
Sounds like you're doing well so far! Sad that you had meh pastries from Artigiano but no surprise alas. IF you find yourself in that hood again, Cadeaux does far better stuff, though perhaps still not approaching SFBA standards. Deacon's has been inconsistent since it opened, unfortunately, though we had a couple of nice meals there in the early days. Sorry to hear it hasn't improved. It does have proximity to the Park going for it, with famished kiddies! And it's kind of cute inside. If it's any consolation, brunch at Alibi would only have been better in that you could have gotten a good beer.
Tickled that you ended up at Kibune, which has been a family fave for many years. We've been going less latterly as they've had some pretty serious service issues but it sounds like you were fine that night.
Which Zakkushi are you going to?
Day Four began with macarons at Belcafe (not bad parents - we had promised to try these the day previous...). Got a box of 8, but I can't say much about them, since the four year old ate most of them by the time I realized he had opened the box. But we did try a cup of 49th Parallel coffee (fave so far remains Timbertrain).
Spent the morning at the aquarium, then got lunch at Marutama - two bowls of the tamago ramen. Extra noodles for the two year old, who is a ramen fiend. We liked the change of pace with the chicken broth - every ramen-ya we've been to in the SF Bay area is pork-based.
Spotted a Belgian waffle place down the street, Nero. Tried the mini-liege (chocolate chip and vanilla custard-filled); they were OK, wouldn't have gone out of my way for them.
Wrapped up the day with dinner at the two-week old Bella Gelateria and Pizzeria. Got there around 6, didn't have to wait that long to be seated, got our food pretty quickly. Ordered the rocket salad, two pizzas (Marguerite and Capri), a bottle of Dolcetto, and some scoops of gelato (the saffron/rosewater/pistachio, the amarena, and the yuzu sorbet). The food was solid (perhaps a quibble over the crispness of the crust or the need for a sprinkle more salt); we all enjoyed the gelato (loved the well crafted flavors, thought the texture/consistency was fine). But the service (starting with the hostess) could use some refinement. Our server was trying, but a stronger guiding hand from management could help the FOH staff make this a great dining experience - hopefully it is just the new/opening kinks.
On a side note, I was thrilled to find wine gums (even sour ones!) and German-produced Haribo at the drug store. Sooo hard to find at home...
And on to Day Five... Adults elected to go on a caloric break for breakfast (kids got fruit), and so glad we fasted,because we made it to the Farmer's Apprentice for lunch. We arrived just after opening, were seated immediately, and the kids had room to wiggle on the bench seating. We started with the smoked olives (both kids loved these), the melon salad (which tasted like a delicious farewell to summer), and the salmon pastrami. For mains: the tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes, gnocchi with short ribs, and the sablefish with bean cassoulet. Plus a cows milk cheese from Montreal. My husband was very happy to finally get a chance to sample some beer - we had the Moon under Water (a wheat beer with a little spice to it) and a rice lager with a pleasant fruity tang. I loved this lunch! The folks in the kitchen really know how to handle their raw ingredients - I felt that both the produce and the proteins really shone in their preparations. They have a really nice touch with seasoning, and a deftness in bringing out the seasonality and the place of the food.
For dinner, I had made reservations at Zakkushi on Denman. I think we ended up ordering most of the menu... From the specials,my husband insists that he could eat the yamaimo teppanyaki for every meal; I thought the kuro-edamame was pretty unique, being edamame. As far as food on sticks, our favorites were the quail eggs, ebi-mayo, and to our surprise, the corn on the cob.
After dinner we walked to Ayoub's Fruit and Nut, where the kids ate their weight in samples. We stocked up on snacks (loved the lime saffron nuts), then headed to DQ for two dipped cones. Of all of the amazing things we've eaten on our Vancouver vacation so far, *that* is what my four year old said he would be dreaming of tonight...
We have one more full day of eating tomorrow before we leave for home. Perhaps Richmond, not sure of our game plan yet.
But any suggestions for one final Vancouverian meal/indulgence for Saturday morning (we should get to the airport by 11:30)?
Finding a nice breaky/brunch downtown earlyish on a Sunday might be a bit tricky. I'm going to suggest a place I haven't actually been: Forage (takes resos, opens at 9 Sunday per Open Table though I'd call them first as I thought it opened at 9:30) 1300 Robson nr Jervis 604-661-1400 yes, a hotel resto but a friend I trust has been there and liked it, plus it's all sustainable and locavorey if that's important https://www.dropbox.com/s/isl3vnn2sod...
For our last full day in Vancouver, we hopped on the Canada Line down to Richmond. Intending to have a late breakfast, we first scouted out the Richmond Public Market - but the only activity at that time in the morning seemed to be the meat and produce stalls on the ground level. We reorganized and headed out, but breakfast became even later when we realized that Tsim Chai Noodles (on Westminster) wasn't open yet. We distracted the kids by wandering around the nearby supermarket and Chinese herbal medicine shop until 11 am when the neon sign flipped on. We ordered a few bowls of wonton noodles, beef tendon noodles, gai lan, and on our server's recommendation, the deep fried wontons. The wontons were larger than I expected (maybe racquetball-sized?), with very tender skins and filling, studded with substantial chunks of shrimp. The beef was also meltingly tender, and the noodles had a pleasant bite. The fried wontons exceeded expectations - these were slightly smaller than the ones in soup (closer to golf balls), but the skins became shatteringly crisp while maintaining the tenderness of the filling inside. Yum.
After our noodles, we hopped back on the train to check out Aberdeen Centre, a behemoth of retail acreage. We eventually found ourselves by the food court and nabbed a bag of bubble waffles from the imaginatively named Bubble Waffle. There was quite a mob of people around that counter, so I was surprised when my husband returned with the goods pretty quickly. Upon trying a piece, I realized why - the waffle was a bit gummy and not in the slightest bit warm, as if it had been sitting around instead of being made to order. That didn't stop the kids from wolfing down the bits (and requesting seconds... denied).
As the afternoon approached and we still did not have a solid dinner plan for Friday night, I suggested Kingyo, which we had spotted as we wandered about after our Zakkushi dinner earlier in the week. The kids did well with izakaya food, it was an easy bus ride from downtown, and if they were packed, there were a ton of nearby options. We got there around 5:30 to a relatively empty restaurant, and the hostess offered us a table if we could be out by 7:30. No problem.
Once more, our server seemed alarmed by the amount of food we ordered ("usually we recommend about 2 dishes per person, but you have ordered 10 dishes for four people, and two of you are kids..."), but the food was good, and I think we did it justice. Our favorites of the night: chicken karaage (perfectly cooked, generous chunks of meat, with 3 finishing salts a nice touch) and from the specials - snapper sashimi (my husband thought it was the best snapper we've ever had), stone pot rice (flecked with ikura and crab), and the magnolia AA beef (very flavorful and tender). A very nice meal, the kids had plenty to eat (and weren't the only young diners in the restaurant). Our servers were very thoughtful - taking care to pace the firing of our order and showing great kindness to our kids - we never had the feeling of being rushed, even though we did return the table before 7:30, as promised.
Will post one last time to wrap up our last morning in Vancouver, a few thoughts, and a lot of thanks.
And for our last hours in Vancouver, we defaulted to breakfast at the hotel just to keep logistics simple. The salmon benny and BC blueberry pancakes at Yew were well done, and the waitstaff was extremely kind to the kids (even bringing a 2nd then 3rd round of bacon), which was very much appreciated by two tired parents at this point in the trip.
And in true CH fashion, I couldn't resist the chance to tick one more box on our list - I sent my husband and the kids to Thierry to pick up things to eat on the plane. Apparently the macarons were not yet ready, so no chance to compare them to BelCafe's, but the boys did return with a grab bag of chocolates (ok, not extraordinary), almond pear financiers (which I suspected tasted much better fresh out of the oven, they did not fare well imprisoned in cellophane), a passable cannele, decent brioche, and a variety of buttery flaky pastries that tasted good on the flight home.
And that was the end of our week of eating in Vancouver. All four of us really enjoyed your fair city, especially everything edible it had to offer - I feel like we barely scraped the surface, but even this superficial run through the dining scene was quite rewarding.
As a note to fellow Chowhounders with small ones in tow, it is definitely possible to eat very well in Vancouver while completely avoiding places like the Old Spaghetti Factory (as waylman warned previously in this thread). We tried to time our meals with the early part of the dining hours to avoid getting in the way at the lunch or dinner rush, which seemed to work well for all. As a whole, the service we received in Vancouver was great (with a blanket exclusion for Chinese restaurants, no judgement, that's just how it is...). We never expected or asked for high chairs/kids plates and cutlery/kids menus, but roughly half of the places we ate at offered or made available some of these special accommodations. Of note, most restaurants were fairly tight/cozy, and I have no idea what you would do with a stroller (although a neighboring diner did squeeze their infant car seat onto the bench beside us at the Farmer's Apprentice).
One final, giant thank you to everyone who jumped in with tips, suggestions, and ideas. I really appreciated your collective insight and quick responses - thank you for helping make my family's trip to Vancouver a great success. We look forward to returning, to tick off the rest of those delicious boxes on my CH-moderated list.
So glad you had a good time and ate well. Your approach to chowing and to using CH as a resource resonates with me. I hope you will be back soon to eat more. Maybe we can arrange a chowdown for you next trip :-). And I'd love to hear from you on the SFBA board as I am starting my research for our November jaunt to SF.