I was blown away by the food in Vancouver – and not for the obvious reasons, like sushi and seafood. On my first visit to Vancouver earlier this year, I was pleasantly surprised to see how diverse, cutting edge, and exciting Vancouver’s gastronomy scene really is! Check out my Vancouver Travel Guide here, which has recommendations on where to stay, a comprehensive list on what to do (and what not to do), and a handy list of things to know before you travel to Vancouver.
Vancouver’s culinary scene is truly reflective of its diverse population. Naturally, there is a heavy Asian influence. But along with that, there are lots of fine dining options, mom and pop shops, and even avant-garde restaurants in parts of the city that have been influenced by immigrant populations, like the Italian and Portuguese. If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, while getting outdoors is a huge part of the experience, give yourself ample time to dig deep into Vancouver’s food scene. We made it to only a fraction of the places on our list!
Go to Vancouver with an appetite and an open mind, and you surely will not be disappointed! Here are 8 places to eat and drink in Vancouver.
From levitating cocktails to intricate plates, you will be impressed at Botanist. Inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, the bartending team here recently won the Bols Master Bar Team 2019. Watch this video I made of the making of their showstopping innovation: Into the Æther.
You can pull up a seat at Botanist Bar to have one of their experiential cocktails (including Into the Æther), or you can grab a seat in their gorgeous main dining room or in the more private ‘garden’ room.
We sat in the garden room and were surrounded by a sea of pretty greenery. The menu is inspired by the Pacific west coast and uses ingredients sourced locally and sustainably.
I recommend giving yourself at least half a day on Commercial Drive because there are sooo many amazing spots to check out in this part of Vancouver. Once an Italian and Portuguese ethnic enclave, it is now home to a wonderful mix of old and new. My favourite place on Commercial Drive was LIVIA.
When I first found LIVIA online, I thought it was a dessert-only shop. Not gonna lie, I initially went here for the beautiful interior. But when we sat down at the bar and took at look at the menu, we realized it was so much more! In fact, I recommend that you go not necessarily for the desserts, but for the lunch and dinner offerings (but that may just be my savoury tooth talking!). You can dine in or order from their busy takeout counter. The menu is heavily Italian influenced and changes often. When I go back to Vancouver, I’m beelining straight to LIVIA to try the Carbonara!
3. Ask for Luigi
This was my favourite meal in Vancouver, hands down. All of the pasta at Ask for Luigi is hand-made daily and suuuuper fresh. The restaurant is set in what looks like a quaint private home. The atmosphere is inviting and comforting – almost like you’re eating at Nonna’s house (not that I’m Italian). Dishes are served family-style and sharing is encouraged. In fact, go here hungry because you’ll want to devour pretty much everything on the menu! My favourites were the Bocconcini fritti (crispy on the outside and like heavenly pillows of cheese on the inside) and the Pappardelle & Wild Boar Ragu. The Beef Tartare (served with Tonnato Sauce & Salsa Verde on toast) was also delicious. They don’t take reservations, so I recommend going about 20-30 minutes before the first seating at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday (there will most certainly be a line-up, FYI).
4. Hydra Estiatorio
Named after an island in Greece and located in Vancouver’s EXchange Hotel, Hydra is one of the swankiest Greek restaurants I’ve ever been to. It has a stunning interior that spans 2 rooms, with a huge bar as the focal point of the main dining room. It has a sharing-style menu, which includes a raw bar, ‘from ocean’ and ‘from land’ offerings, as well as family-style platters. As this was one of several stops on a food and drink crawl we designed, we didn’t order a full meal. We did, however, have their platter of Greek spreads – totally delicious, made from family recipes, and served with warm house-made pita.
5. La Mezcaleria
We stumbled upon this Mexican joint on Commercial Drive and were too intrigued to not go inside! La Mezcaleria has a hip vibe, and as its name suggests, has an array of feature and classic Mezcal cocktails. They have a Happy Hour menu, served between 2 and 5 p.m. from Fri.-Sun. and from 9 p.m. to close Mon.-Thurs. The food is authentically Mexican and you’ll find a good variety of small and large plates on the menu. We had the Chilaquiles and Chicharrón – both very good.
Another popular spot on ‘The Drive, Havana has a long history in the neighbourhood. When new management took over in 2018, it apparently got a face-lift and changes were made to the menu. I can’t comment on the food (as we had no room left to eat by the time we visited), but the drinks were good. There is an outdoor patio in front that would be perfect for people watching on a weekend. We opted to sit in the large, open-concept, pastel-coloured dining room, which is inspired by the colours of Old Havana.
7. Granville Island
You can’t visit Vancouver without taking a trip over to Granville Island. I share details on how to get to Granville Island in my Vancouver Travel Guide. We loved grazing our way through the Granville Island Public Market, which has over 100 stalls and vendors. Apart from the market, there are lots of things to do on Granville Island, so plan for at least ½ a day.
When we were in the mood for something to drink, we stopped at The Sandbar for oysters and an Aperol Spritz. Subject to weather, I recommend asking for a seat on the patio, where you’ll enjoy beautiful views of False Creek.
8. Passione Gelato Artigianale
Located inside of Parq Vancouver, Passione Gelato Artigianale is consistently rated as one of the best places to get gelato in Vancouver (incidentally, it has a 5-star rating on Yelp and 4.9 on Google). I thought my husband’s avocado and chocolate chip combination was a little weird, but the other flavours (like Earl Grey and Tahitian Vanilla) sounded yummy! All the gelatos here are made using organic seasonal ingredients.
For next time…
Things we didn’t get to try this time around, but will definitely have on our next trip to Vancouver:
- Tacofino – truth be told, I avoided Tacofino because I thought it was basic. But friends whose recommendations I trust subsequently confirmed it lives up to the hype.
- Japadog – I love my street meat, so I regret not trying Vancouver’s famous hot dog topped with Japanese ingredients (even if only for the novelty of it!).
- Omakase – my husband and I did go for sushi in Vancouver at a mom and pop shop that I don’t think is worth mentioning. While my husband doesn’t always think Omakase is worth the price tag, it’s something I would like to experience in Vancouver at least once.
- Sopra Sotto – another pretty spot on Commercial Drive. As we were en route to another restaurant, I only had time to snap a quick pic.
Well, there you have it – 8 places to eat and drink in Vancouver! What are some of your favourite places to dine in Vancity?
To see all my photos on Instagram from Vancouver, check out #dineandfashtravelstovan
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