As the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games are on our doorstep I thought I might share some of our favorite restaurants. As locals and tourists alike have know for years, Vancouver has an excellent restaurant culture. Many restaurant guides will highlight the best in the city; a sampling of the most delicious and expensive spots -I am making my recommendations based on my favorite spots to have excellent affordable food and drink. I have separated the selections out by neighborhood, with a spot in each burrow of downtown.
1. Davie Village: Check out the delicious creations at Lolita’s restaurant on Davie Street. This small but essential restaurant is my favorite place to eat in the Village! The Plántanos con crema are a simply delicious start to a spectacular dining experience. Armed with one of Lolita’s signature cocktails such as the Matador Mojito I cozy up in the friendly surroundings. A friend favorite is the Lolita’s tacos. I would recommend the tacos to anyone I’m bringing to Lolita’s for the first time. They are truly special in their flavor, texture, and presentation. Lolita’s is a must if you enjoy a cozy local cultural experience with some, one of a kind, delicious tastes.
2. Robson Street / Downtown: Cactus Club Cafe is a local favorite! With locations all over the city you can easily find a Cactus Club nearby. Their menu is diverse and enjoyable. I don’t think you will run into a Vancouver local who hasn’t been to Cactus Club in their life; it’s just something you do. I can’t even count the number of birthday parties, after work drinks, lunch time meetings, and various other evenings I’ve spent at Cactus. The Jambalaya Rice Bowl is one of Donovan’s favorites and mine is the Bandara Salad. In closing on Cactus Club, many would say, you have to use the Restroom… Not because their food gives you any troubles but instead they’ve earned a reputation for a creative WC.
3. Coal Harbor: If you love seafood and want to sample some of the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer, Cardero’s is the dining experience for your pallet. As one of Vancouver’s best “food with a view” restaurants you don’t have to sacrifice service. With a local flavor and hospitable service you will be treated with the very best regardless of how you’re dressed. Many folks will wander in after a jaunt on the seawall or a bike ride around the park -all are welcome! Fresh fish is the dish of choice with most and you can’t ignore the temptation as your are perched over the Pacific ocean in one of the most beautiful spots in the city.
4. Gastown: Want to feel like you’ve been swept away to a distant place. Turn of the century architecture and european style sidewalk dining are the charms of Chill Winston. The ambiance of this Gastown gem is unbeatable. Within walking distance of some great local history, shopping, and nightlife, Chill Winston is one of the city’s diamonds in the ruff. The choices can vary from visit to visit based on fresh meats, produce, etc but the menu is always enjoyable. Again, the bathrooms are a highlight… Odd how Vancouver has so many interesting places to relieve yourself… With the communal styling of wash basin and private toilets this gender non-specific restroom would be well served in a gay club.
5. Yaletown: With the neighborhood in it’s name; established as one of the first dining establishments in the relatively new section of downtown Vancouver; Yaletown Brewing Company -my favorite place in town to eat and drink beer on a Sunday! Sunday’s boast the famous half price pizza and beer selections. As locals we can limit ourselves to the Sunday fare but as a visitor to Vancouver you should make a reservation and get yourself into the pub regardless of the day of the week. After all, the food and drinks aren’t particularly expensive at any given time. Another highlight of the Brewpub is that they brew a selection of their own micro ales -mostly delicious selections that can’t be missed. The experience isn’t the same without the Y.B.P. beers. Check it out!
TIP: Tipping – the local food servers rely on tips to supplement their modest hourly wage. It is customary to tip 15-20% throughout the city. Most servers will have to tip out (a percentage of their sales) to the support (ie. Host & Bussers) even if you don’t tip. They can actually loose money if you don’t leave them something. If the food isn’t to your liking let your server know -most will be happy to fix the problem or bring the chef/manager to resolve the problem. It’s not their fault, after all, if the kitchen does something wrong..
In closing, Vancouver has a vibrant selection of restaurants. These few spots represent some of my favorites. Don’t be afraid to try any restaurant in the city. The quality of the food (and food control) is excellent in Vancouver and you can safely enjoy whatever your heart desires.