I get asked for food recommendations all the time and recently my friend Karen asked me for a 4-day restaurant guide for her Aunt and Uncle who will be visiting from Hong Kong this summer. Normally, I’d list all my favourites and call it a day but people from Hong Kong have the most discerning palates. After all, Hong Kong is the ultimate food paradise where you can enjoy the best of any cuisine as good (or almost as good) as the best you might find in its local origin. So instead of coming up with a list of all the best restaurants in Vancouver, I thought I’d come up with a list of the best the city has to offer the world.
Undoubtedly, that means fresh seafood and the beautiful outdoors. Salmon, halibut, oysters, spot prawns, Dungeness crab, are just some of the delicacies that are available to us. The beauty of living in Vancouver means that I can stroll into the supermarket just down the street from me and buy a multitude of fresh fish, shrimp, lobster and crab sold in live tanks. Or I can go to the docks by Granville Island during spot prawn season and buy them straight out of the water as they are caught. At the fish market, you’ll see men walk straight off their boats on the docks with massive halibuts swung over their shoulders to their counters to butcher the fish right in front of you.
Pacific Northwest cuisine is distinct to the North American region of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia. The local cuisine might not be fancy but it is always about using the freshest, local ingredients that the environment provides. It is also heavily influenced by the multi-cultural makeup of the city from the Chinese and Japanese seafarers and railroad builders, to the historical influx of Sikh immigration who came to seek employment in the agriculture and mining sectors, to the First Nations that have long inhabited this land. With Canada only turning 150 years old this year, these Asian and Native influences are a critical fabric of Canada’s West Coast history and modern society. All amongst the most spectacular backdrop of snow capped mountains and a beautiful ocean view.
Eat your way through Vancouver with your mouth and your eyes.
Fish and Chips at Fish Counter. Located on Main Street, this place offers very few seats and a standing counter by the window, but it remains my favourite fish and chips place in Vancouver. They offer sustainably sourced fish to choose for your battered fish: wild salmon, ling cod, halibut or Pacific cod and I especially love their Asian-inspired slaw on the side with sesame seeds. I never finish the mountain of fries that comes with it so sometimes I’ll ask for Caesar Salad instead. While I wait for my order to be cooked I always poke around their fresh seafood counter on the either side.
3825 Main Street, Vancouver
Daily 10am – 8pm (Fish & chip counter opens at 11am)
Fish Tacos at Tacofino. Tacofino has a range of delicious tacos to choose from but the original taco that drew me in when it was once just a food truck is still what I always have to order whenever I go. The fish tacos. Best in the city hands down. Each serving is just one piece so order several kinds to share making sure each person gets at least 2 tacos. It’s not quite authentic Mexican but 100 percent Canadian with the battered Pacific cod always cooked to perfection. I also love the chicken taco which is their take on a chicken karaage.
15 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C8
11:30am – 12am Thurs to Sat
11:30am – 10pm Mon to Wed
1025 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5P9
11am – 9pm Sun
11am – 10pm Mon – Thurs
11am – 12am Fri and Sat
Lunch at the highest point in the city, perched high on a hill surrounded by trees with stunning views of the city. Seasons In The Park, located at Queen Elizabeth Park, serves Pacific Northwest cuisine with panoramic views of the city. It’s the sort of place to get the quintessential Canadian West Coast experience. Food is good but the views are what you should come here for.
Seasons In The Park
Queen Elizabeth Park, Cambie St at W 33rd, Vancouver BC
Lunch weekdays 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner daily from 4:00pm
Brunch – Saturday 11:30am to 2:30pm, Sunday 10:30am to 2:30pm
Lunch or brunch amongst the prettiest lilies, roses and hibiscus in the summertime at Shaugnessy Restaurant. Located at the Van Dusen Gardens, spend the afternoon after your meal walking around the most magical garden taking in the spectacular array of flowers, plants and trees. It’s all about the garden here and take note, you will be taking a lot of photos here.
5251 Oak Street (at 37th Avenue)
Lunch/Brunch 11:00am to 3:00pm
Dinner daily from 5:00pm
Experience the best of Japanese Canadian cusisine at Minami. There are a lot of good Japanese restaurants in Vancouver but only a few that I would rank high enough to compete on a global scale. Minami has been consistently good since I started going and service has always been top notch. What makes it special, however, is that it doesn’t attempt to serve traditional, authentic Japanese food. Instead it takes Japanese fish and ingredients and infuses it with Western techniques creating a truly original, very-Vancouver menu. It is a delicious example of how the city has mastered the art of fusing the East and the West, especially with seafood in the Japanese cuisine realm.
Favourites: Salmon Oshi Sushi, Ebi Oshi Sushi, Saba Oshi Sushi, Saba Bo Roll, Premium Aburi, Kabayaki Glazed BC Octopus, Kaisen Soba Peperoncini, Miso Sakekasu Sablefish and Crispy Prawn Dumpling, Green Tea Opera.
1118 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2T9
11:30am – 10pm Sun – Thurs
11:30am – 10:30pm Fri and Sat
Dine in an old house at Lupo. One of my favourite places to go for fine dining Italian food is Lupo. Service is always great, food is consistent and where else can you experience dining in a charming, heritage house right in the heart of downtown?
869 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC V6B 2R7
5pm – 9:30pm Sat and Sun
5pm – 9pm Mon – Fri
Indian food at Vij’s. This place doesn’t take reservations but if you’re only in town for a few days, a line up at Vij’s is worth it just so you can leave knowing you’ve had the most delicious Canadian-Indian food the city has to offer. Vij’s combines traditional Indian spices, flavours and techniques with locally-sourced meats, seafood and produce.
3106 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2W2
5:30pm – 10pm Sun – Thurs
5:30pm – 10:30pm Fri and Sat
Enjoy the quintessential West Coast cuisine at the most celebrated restaurant in the city, Hawksworth at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. The food here is on point, celebrating everything local, diversity in culture and flavours, but with a creative and inventive take. Service is also exceptional. This restaurant may take the cake for serving up modern Vancouver on a plate.
801 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1P7
6:30am – 10pm Mon – Fri
7am – 10pm Sat and Sun
COFFEE, PASTRIES AND TREATS
Coffee and Lucky’s Doughnuts at 49th Parallel. Whenever I travel, locating a good cafe is a must for me. I need my espresso every morning and not all cups of coffee are created equal, unfortunately. So if you enjoy your cup of coffee like I do, 49th Parallel is the place to go in Vancouver. Not only do they serve great coffee, they also have the best doughnuts available in town. I’m not a fan of their old fashioned doughnuts, I prefer mine light, fluffy and most definitely with yeast raised dough so I steer clear of all the rather flat looking ones. The Original Glazed is my favourite but I also love all of their bismark or hole-less doughnuts stuffed with some delicious cream or compote. Knock yourself out!
7am – 10pm Mon-Sat
7:30am – 9pm Sun
7am – 7pm Sun – Thurs
7am – 8pm Fri and Sat
Have a croissant at Thomas Haas. Thomas Haas serves the most delicious croissants and I’m not the only one in town who thinks so. You’ll see when you get there, most of the time there’s a line and a wait for a table because their dougnuts are soooooo good.
Favourites: Pistachio Croissant, Almond Croissant and Chocolate Croissant
2539 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6K2E9
8am –5:30pm Tues – Sat (closed Sun and Mon)
Have a gelato at Bella Gelateria. This award winning gelateria takes their craft so seriously, you’ll see metal lids covering all their gelatos in order to preserve the temperature for optimum consumption quality. It’s the best gelato (and ice cream) I’ve had in Vancouver and it’s just as good as the gelato I enjoyed when I was living in Italy. Truly authentic with the most delectable texture that I look for in a good gelato (some what stretchy and almost chewy), their flavours are wonderfully Canadian as well spanning the gammot of ingredients from all over the world such as Buco Pandan (Filipino), Akbar Mashti (Iran), Black Sesame (Japan) and Hazelnut (Fraser Valley).
Favourites: I am always partial to black sesame but you can’t go wrong with any of their flavours!
1001 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6C 0B7
11am – 10pm Sun – Thurs
11am – 11pm Fri and Sat
1089 Marinaside Crescent, Vancouver, BC, Canada
778 737 7890
9am – 11pm Daily