I always like to research restaurants before I go to a new city, and sometimes the recommendations are great. This time, I realized I hardly used any of the recommendations given to me and was able to find a lot of quality eats by wandering around on my own. The exploration leads to many a discovery. Here’s the low-down on my finds. I’m hoping your stomachs will thank you next time you are in Vancouver.
My buddy Ange told me about Judas Goat. Coincidentally, it’s also owned by the proprietors of The Salt Tasting Room (and convenient in terms of location). Weird name. Check. Hidden location in obscure alleyway in Gastown called Blood Alley. Check. The smell of urine down the lane is not pleasant, but at least I felt like I was somewhere local. Ditto to the location of the hathway house across the street providing for much entertainment. On a phone call giving my friend directions to meet us, I actually said “there’s an arrest going on,” resulting in not the best look from the police officer.
Judas Goat was one of the most memorable meals I had in Vancouver. It’s small tasting plates, but after three or four plates, Ange and I were substantially fulfilled. We had the foie gras (not as much of a fan when it’s spread out on the open), the succulent, tender maple sugar sable fish and dulce de leche with organic applechip. I am used to seeing dulce de leche in chocolate format, so it was a pleasant surprise that this concoction was in caramel form, which added another sweetness to it. Nathan, our server, was phenomenal, telling us all of his foodie places to go to – I even came back to him the next day to get directions from him because we got lost and he sweetly obliged.
Meat And Bread – Another favorite. I think I am going to write a postcard to them because I had such an enjoyable meal here. I walked by it when it was closed (after 5 p.m.), loved their simple typography and peeked in and saw the long table and cool decor inside. I was intrigued. The next day at lunch, there was a long line up of businessmen and I’m sure tourists (judging from the French dialogue from across the table) patiently waiting for their freshly cut porchetta. I opted for the meatball sandwich, soup and rose lemonade. Simple. Fresh. Pure. Amazeballs. I got talking to a local film maker about favorite food spots, then got introduced to the owner who introduced me to another restaurant owner, Bill of Nicli Pizza. He said “Want to have the best pizza in town? Talk to this guy.” And boom. That’s how it’s done kids. Lunch was $15, but well worth it. Plus, it’s licensed!
Lobster Ceviche with a Side of Squirrel. Photo: @Banff_Squirrel
Bluewater Cafe – I ended up here randomly with @Banff_Squirrel and friends hungry, craving fresh sushi, and realizing that gin can only feed one so much for dinner. We wanted fresh and we got fresh. Oysters, dynamite and spicy tuna rolls, and lobster ceviche were our orders. Plus, there was a bit of gin. Hard and straight up. Friendly service and willing to accommodate us short to closing time. A great place to impress a seafood lover. Thanks again to Banff_Squirrel for his generosity (PS He’s a MUST Follow on Twitter. One of the most creative campaigns out there!)
The Diamond – Bar none, one of the best bars I have been to on recommendation from Nathan at Judas Goat. They will make you anything here, like a tasty pisco sour. Plus, they give you these really cute glasses with flowers on them. Me Likey. We didn’t try the menu, but if it’s anything like the drinks, I’ll be returning for a meal. Great place to woo on the second or third date.
Browns Social House – a last minute and solid decision before getting back on the ferry from Kitsilano to downtown Vancouver. Funky interiors. No eats but took advantage of the Margarita Special for $4 from 3 – 6 p.m. Liquor hard on the rocks. No slushy mumbo jumbo. Great deal. Next time: Trattoria.
Il Nido – centrally located Italian resto at Robson. The Bolognese was substantial and came out fairly quickly. The bread was fresh and served with a simple oil and balsamic vinegar (one of my favorites). The owner was so nice he gave me a free cappuccino and homemade biscotti. Lovely courtyard. Inside: ironed, white table cloths. A little bit more straight laced.
Food Trucks – the best way to save some money and a growing trend in Vancouver. I like this because you can grab your food on the go and enjoy one of the many beautiful parks here. Where I went? Bun Me for Banh Mi Baguettes at Robson and Hornby. A very sizable lunch for $4.25 (less than Japadog) was tremendous value. Feastro the Rolling Bistro is at Thurlow and Cordova. It costs approximately $15 for a halibut taco, frites and a lemonade. The fish was fresh and delish, but during a long line up I waited over 20 minutes for my meal. The owner apologized, but I didn’t like rushing my lunch.
The Globe and Mail also had a great round up of the best food carts in the city. I wish I saw this before the conference (and wish I got to the idea sooner! Doh.)
Salt Tasting Room – My lovely friend, Sarah Ann Soffer of Drink, Eat and Repeat (@eatdrnkrepeat) and PR pro extraordinaire gave me this recommendation for great charcuterie. She is a girl after my own heart! On a weekday, there are no crowds but the quality of cheese, meat and wine here is superb. The format is simple: pick your cheese, meat and condiment for a $15 flat rate. Add a glass of wine at cost or a “wine flight” tasting menu for another $15. There are some sides also, such as the arugula salad I sampled which added a bit more sustenance to my meal. I sat at the bar watching the cooks in action. The servers will even write down your selections for you. Great date place (the food is not messy or awkward like sushi) or gathering grounds to talk about the hockey game, as the patrons at the bar did.
Japadog – this isn’t a new discovery but it was fun to have the Terimayo, a teriyaki entrenched dog topped with seaweed. Not substantial for the $5 pricetag but a good snack. I ate at the dine-in location on Robson.
Yamato Sushi – as per Jeannie of Nomadic Chick, this was one of the first restaurants I hopped into. Size wise, think of your first apartment living room. Then cut the square footage of that in half. You may have to wait, but it won’t be for long. The value here was phenomenal: over nineteen rolls plus gyoza and green tea feeding three hungry diners cost $23 (excluding tip). This is great for lunch or a casual dinner.
The Dockside Restaurant - I’m really glad Jeannie of Nomadic Chick chose this as the venue for the PreBex Mashup. It fit everyone comfortably and there was a stylish patio and scenic view of the marina False Creek in the background. You have to walk around the bend a bit, but it was a pleasant surprise to pass by Emily Carr school of arts and see another side to Granville Island. There is a brewery here and plenty of time to indulge in some Jamaican brew, which is blended with hibiscus. The pizza (fried chicken with Gorgonzola) was okay, but nonetheless a good snack.
Don Guacamole’s – this was arranged by Vagabond 3 who love their Mexican. It did not disappoint! A HUGE thank you to the staff here who had to deal with about 30 to 50 people coming in at the last minute and did so with aplomb! We didn’t wait particularly too long for our food and the quesadillas were worth it. Good portions. Great margaritas (this seemed to be a bit of a theme this trip). Thanks again to the wonderful Jade and Bob for organizing the tweet up!
Named by Macleans as the best new restaurant in Canada and having met their PR, I had to get here. I came for drinks in their lounge and it was the perfect spot to watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals (the game that the Vancouver Canucks won). Just a note: if you want to propose to someone in Vancouver, this restaurant is a good bet. It’s clean; it’s sleek; the service is flawless. The barkeep are some of the best in the biz serving up speakeasy cocktails like their signature Hotel Georgia served with a side of history of the Hotel Rosewood Georgia, the location of Hawksworth. I asked them what drink a writer should have (and trying to channel my inner Hemingway) and I got The Last Word and The Journalist. The bartenders even let me take a look at their bible, the Savoy Cocktail book. Amazing. Go.
Honorable Mentions: Lamplighter and The Blarney Stone in Gastown.
All Photos: Copyright @nearafar or Natalie T.
My Flickr is here.