Vancouver Casual Eateries

By / Magazine / October 14th, 2009 / 3

I never liked Vancouver when I was young. I remember a few family vacations in the 1970s, driving out to the coast, visiting family friends, and being wet … very, very wet. I don’t think I visited the city even once in the 1980s and it wasn’t until the mid-’90s that I went back — and fell in love with it.

Vancouver is no longer just a Canadian city, it is an international destination and second home for tens of thousands from around the world who are drawn by the city’s beauty, temperate climate, and what has become one of the best places to eat on the planet. Expo ’86 was arguably the catalyst for much of this. Millions came to and heard about the city, fell in love with it, and the influx of bodies, dollars, and influences followed.

This international influence has resulted in one of the most unique food cultures on the globe. Vancouver’s Pacific West Coast cuisine is an amalgamation of global flavours and techniques focusing on local seafood, meat and produce. And while you should expect to see and taste (and pay for) the quality in the city’s many fine dining establishments, Vancouver boasts a number of casual eating options that will both wow your palate and take it easy on your wallet. The list is long, but here are a few of my favourite casual eating spots in ‘couver.

{loadposition contentad} Go Fish (1505 – 1st Avenue West on Fisherman’s Warf)

This unassuming seafood shack, brought to us by Gord Martin of Bin 941/942 fame, is easily one of my favourite places to eat in the country. They serve the best fish and chips (made with locally caught cod, salmon and halibut) and right-off-the-boat-fresh daily seafood specials (they are literally steps away from incoming fishing boats). The perfectly fried halibut melts in your mouth, the fish tacones are kickin’, the chowders rock, and the oyster po’boys are amazing. Its location on the seawall just adds to its charm. Be prepared to stand in line, but it’s always worth the wait. You’ll never eat frozen fish again.

Rangoli (1488 West 11th Avenue, vijsrangoli.ca)

Located next door to Vij’s, the best Indian restaurant in North America, Rangoli is fortunate to share the same owner, Vikram Vij. While its neighbour is only open for dinner and does not take reservations (you will often see celebrities standing in line with the regular folk ravenously awaiting the 5:30 pm opening), Rangoli offers the same great quality for casual lunches, dinners, and afternoon snacks. Don’t miss the Savoury Chaat (wheat crisps with potatoes, sprouts, chutney & yogurt), Pakoras (fried batter with cauliflower, spinach, onion and potato), or the Goat meat and Jackfruit curry. But don’t stop there because everything on the menu will blow you away. And you can’t leave without enjoying the Meeti Roti (filled with sugar and cashews and topped with custard). Take home some of the pre-packaged frozen meals — an ideal way to enjoy Vikram’s cuisine at home.

Granville Island Public Market (granvilleisland.com/public_market)

You can’t even think about Granville Island without considering the food. You could spend days wandering from vendor to vendor tasting, smelling, and ogling the fresh produce, meat (every cut you can imagine), just-off-the-boat seafood, fresh baked pies, antipasti, baking, cheeses, etc., etc., etc. Stop in at the Oyama Sausage Company for their great selection of meats. They even have guanciale … GUANCIALE! Whether you are a professional chef or home cook, this market’s assortment of local and exotic will bring out the little kid in any food lover. Every community should have a market like this and we should all endeavour to shop this way. Public tours of the market are offered by Edible British Columbia.

The Reef (1018 Commercial Drive, thereefrestaurant.com)

Most people are familiar with Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken, curry goat, and roti, and the Reef does them very well. But, for something a little different, stop in for brunch. Their many takes on eggs benny include poached eggs sitting on jerk salmon or jerk pork, while the Jamaica Me Crabby has the soft-yolked eggs perched on curry crab cakes. The plantain chips with jerk mayo are a great match with the many cool Caribbean cocktails made using fresh herbs and fruit. Every culture has its fried dough, so don’t miss the johnny cakes dusted with cinnamon sugar.

Provence Marinaside (1177 Marinaside Crescent, provencevancouver.com/marinaside)

Located in trendy Yaletown, you could very easily spend a lot of dough in this classy spot with its tasty-looking menu and great wine list. But select a number of baked, grilled or marinated antipasti from the display case for $5 each, along with a glass of the Okanagan’s Joie Farm Rose, add the seaside location, and you have a great casual meal reminiscent of the south of France. The antipasti vary, but some of my favourites are the marinated artichokes, squid, bocconcini and tomato, farro salad, and risotto balls.

Patisserie Lebeau (1728 West 2nd Avenue, grababetterwaffle.com)

This Kitsilano bakery operated by Belgian born Olivier Lebeau and his wife Penny is a must-stop on any visit to Vancouver. Their website name (see above) says it all. These are the best waffles EVER! The light Brussels waffles, the mouth-watering Leige waffles (I am addicted to the pecan, but they are all capable of causing compulsive behaviour), the savoury waffles, and the fruit-filled waffles have been delighting Vancouverites since 1995. No day is truly complete without a waffle from Lebeau. They also prepare delicious sandwiches daily on fresh, in-house baked baguettes (please bring back the pepper pâté).

Moderne Burger (2507 West Broadway, moderneburger.com)

Consistently voted “Best Burger” in Vancouver, this 1950s style diner serves up burgers au naturel (no fillers, preservatives, or seasonings). Freshly ground steak formed into patties by hand is the cornerstone for these never-frozen, cooked-to-order burgers. The menu is simple – steak, turkey, veggie, and wild salmon burgers, a BLT, made-to-order fries, sodas, floats, shakes, and malteds, all prepared with a 1950s flare. And this isn’t a late night burger joint. They’re only open until 8 pm, so grab the family for a great dinner out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Editor-in-chief for Quench Magazine, Gurvinder Bhatia left a career practising law to pursue his passion for wine and food. Gurvinder is also the wine columnist for Global Television Edmonton, an international wine judge and the president of Vinomania Consulting. Gurvinder was the owner/founder of Vinomania wine boutique for over 20 years (opened in 1995, closed in 2016) which was recognized on numerous occasions as one of the 20 best wine stores in Canada. Gurvinder was the wine columnist for CBC Radio for 11 years and is certified by Vinitaly International in Verona Italy as an Italian Wine Expert, one of only 15 people currently in the world to have earned the designation. In 2015, Gurvinder was named by Alberta Venture Magazine as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People. He is frequently asked to speak locally, nationally and internationally on a broad range of topics focussing on wine, food, business and community.

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