I can’t even begin to extol the virtues of visiting the Pacific Northwest when it is not raining. With all the rain throughout the year, cities like Vancouver really blossom when the sun shines and all the plants are green and lush. If it was like that all year, I think everyone would want to live there!
Besides the proximity to nature (the beach is in the center of town and the mountains are 30 minutes away), Vancouver is bustling with an amazing food scene. I could live there for a month and I wouldn’t make the slightest dent on my things-to-eat list. I did my best in a short amount of time. For novelty ice cream, look no further than the liquid nitrogen treats at Mister (1141 Mainland St.). Their most famous flavor is the coconut ash, which complements the black ice cream cones, but I actually like and recommend the crème brûlée (complete with a crackable sugar top) or s’mores (toasted marshmallow!) more. If you get your ice cream in their signature black cone, expect a massive amount of ice cream. It’s enough to share among 3 people (seriously). Flavors change daily so there’s always a surprise in store.
If you’re looking for a more traditional ice cream experience, head over to Rain or Shine (1926 W 4th Ave #102), close by Kitsilano beach. You can indulge in flavors like coffee toffee and salted caramel. Right next to Rain or Shine, you can grab a bite to eat at Fable (1944 W 4th Ave.). They have one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted (thick-cut bacon and cheese are extra) or you can eat more healthy with local British Columbia salmon and kale.
Speaking of local salmon, BC salmon is absolutely incredible. Darker and redder in color, the flesh is flaky and ever so creamy with all the rich fish oil. My first stop in Vancouver was the Granville Island Public Market (1669 Johnston St.). The whole island is full of cute boutiques and small art galleries. The highlight is definitely the public market where there is a plethora of lunch choices at different stalls. I had to order the deep-fried salmon and calamari at Celine’s Fish & Chips. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen fish and chips with salmon and now that’s all I ever want to eat.
When in Vancouver, you have to eat sushi. With fish that fresh, it’d be a travesty if you didn’t. At Minami (1118 Mainland St.), you can try the famed aburi sushi. This flame-seared sushi has an extra touch of magic because the chefs sear the fish with binchotan (Japanese bamboo charcoal). I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! That extra bit of charcoal adds a whole new level of smokiness and complexity to your palate. The salmon oshi sushi (pressed BC wild salmon, jalapeno, Miku sauce) is hands down probably one of my favorite bites of food. Don’t miss out though on the tuna tartare, ebi fritters or Champagne roll (scallop, salmon, cucumber, uni, rolled in golden tobiko, Miku sauce).
I seriously cannot think of a better place to sell poke than Vancouver. At The Poke Guy (420 Richards St.), you’ll find local Hawaiians (shout-out to Reno!) serving poke with a twist, including toppings like mango and corn. One of their star dishes is the Loco-Lomi salad. Reno was great at explaining that lomi-lomi is a salmon salad with tomatoes and Maui onions. Their salad has smoked lomi-lomi, albacore poke, avocado, house yuzu slaw, kani, mango, peashoots, masago, crispy onion and furikake on a bed of lettuce. While I also loved the Poke Guy’s traditional poke, the loco-lomi salad is definitely unique and worth trying.
After you pat yourself on the back for eating “healthy” at The Poke Guy, you can reward yourself by walking a couple of blocks for donuts from Cartems Donuterie (534 W Pender St.). We tried the salted caramel, whiskey bacon and Earl Grey donuts. The whisky bacon definitely won for me because I loved having the savory and sweet contrast. Salted caramel came in 2nd and I liked that it was a chocolate donut underneath the frosting. The Earl Grey was too floral for my taste (I really can’t stand floral desserts with lavender/rose) so it was a pass for me.
If you’re looking for late night eats after watching a gorgeous sunset in Stanley Park, head on over to Cactus Club (multiple locations) where they have all night happy hour specials and a full dinner menu. You can’t go wrong with a glass of their frosé. Three Brits Public House (1780 Davie St.) serves food until 11pm during the week and you have to order their poutine. While untraditional, their poutine is topped with tender, braised brisket, cheese curds, salsa verde and a sunny side egg. I cannot rave enough about how amazing this poutine was. I want a sunny side egg on top of all my fries now.
Ironically, I’ve had multiple people tell me how the Chinese food is better in Vancouver than in China. I was ready to judge for myself. We headed to the famed Dinesty Dumpling House (1719 Robson St.) for my favorite, 小笼包, Shanghai soup dumplings. As soon as we walked in, I was struck by how much the restaurant looked like the Taiwanese chain, Din Tai Fung. What was my final verdict? While the soup dumplings were good (great thin skin and plenty of soup), Din Tai Fung wins for having more flavorful meat. I can’t complain though about all other dishes: shrimp fried rice 虾仁炒饭, dry fried string beans 干煸四季豆 , and minced pork over noodles 炸酱面. 炸酱面 is one of my favorite dishes of life and Dinesty’s version hits the mark with thin-sliced cucumbers and scrambled eggs.
If you’re looking for fusion Asian, check out fast, casual eatery Bao Down (12 Powell St.; also in SF!) in Gastown. We tried their signature Bao Chicka Bao Bao, lemongrass fried chicken with pickled daikon and carrots and topped with aioli. If you’re looking for more classic Western fare in Gastown, you can’t go wrong at The Flying Pig (102 Water St.). Fresh mussels and snapper with a mascarpone risotto? Yes, please!
If you find yourself in Gastown, you have to stop by Six Hundred Four (151 Cambie St.). Inside you’ll meet the owner James, who works with local artists to bring their canvas to life on sneakers! You’ll find really limited-edition sneakers and learn more about local artists. Each artist is featured on 604 pairs of shoes (James explained the significance of 604– the Vancouver area code). I fell in love with a pair of shoes featuring Grouse Mountain in all of its technicolor glory. My shoes were designed by local artist, Elyse Dodge.
And, there you have my recap on all things delicious to eat in Vancouver. I definitely encourage you to visit during the summer and be sure to bring your appetite! Now, I’ll end this post with the gorgeous view from Queen Elizabeth Park.