As a local Vancouverite, I believe everyone who travels to Vancouver, Canada, should try at least one of these eateries. I’ve covered the gamut of price ranges and cuisines, and each is included because it is uniquely Vancouver. There are many other amazing restaurants in Vancouver, but these are my personal faves (and see the super bonus at the bottom!)
- Vij’s. This is among the best restaurants anywhere, period. Vikram Vij is a restauranter who knows what he’s doing. He’s turned over the kitchen to his wife Meeru and her all-female chef crew, while he runs front-of-house and makes sure every customer is enjoying the experience. The food is updated-Indian and uses only fresh, local ingredients (as possible). Everyone raves about the “lamb popsicles,” and with good reason. The hitch with this joint is they don’t take reservations for anyone (and that includes the Hollywood set…pay attention as you never know who else is waiting for a table!). Get there at 5:30 and be prepared to wait as much as an hour. But don’t worry…Vij and his staff will ply you with snacks and chai, and you can order drinks while you wait. Plan on $50/person before booze. 1480 W 11th Ave, Vancouver, BC, 604-736-6664
Bonus info: if you can’t get into Vij’s, note that he also owns Rangoli, the bistro-style restaurant next door. The food is just as good, and a bit cheaper!
- Raincity Grill. Located at Vancouver’s most-iconic tourist site, English Bay Beach, this outstanding restaurant focuses on local seafood and meat dishes. The place has totally earned its reputation – and it’s price point – over a couple of decades. Whatever is on the 100-mile tasting menu, order it. I’ve had amazing pork dishes, soups, and yes, fish here. The food is amazing, as are the views of the sea from which some of the food came! 1193 Denman Street Vancouver, BC V6G 2N1, 604-685-7337
Bonus info: Raincity Grill has a walkup window on Denman Street where you can order fish ‘n chips to go for about $10. On a nice day, get it and head for the nearby beach!
- Go Fish. Vancouver is all about seafood, and this is where you get the very, very freshest. Like right off-the-boat fresh, because this fish and chip shack is at the little-known Vancouver Fisherman’s Wharf, just a few steps west of Granville Island. It’s the wharf that’s little-known…Go Fish is very well known to locals. On a sunny day you may wait in line 30 minutes to place your order.
The shack is owned by the same guys who run a tony downtown tapas place, and it’s about the only fish ‘n chips place I’ve ever seen with an executive chef. But when you taste their food, you’ll understand. All their varieties of fish ‘n chips get sky-high marks, but if the Qualicum beach scallop sandwich is on the menu, you simply must order it. Holy yum.
1505 W 1st Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6J 1E8, (604) 730-5040
- Kingyo Izakaya. Vancouver has long had a love affair with Japanese food – especially sushi. Locals all have their fave sushi joints, most in shouting distance of where they live. The recent twist on Japanese fare has been the growth of the “izakaya” concept (that’s Japanese for “pub”). Kingyo does this really right, serving up great cocktails with re-imagined Japanese dishes from dazzling sushi to crazy-good noodles. 871 Denman St., Vancouver, BC V6G 2L9, 604-608-1677. Bonus info: not far from Kingyo, the area where Denman and Robson streets intersect is jam packed with Japanese and Korean eateries. Most of them are cheap, and attract the zillions of Asian students who study English at nearby colleges. Faves include Kintaro Ramen (788 Denman St.) and Ma Dang Coul Korean (847 Denman St).
- The Foundation. My real foodie friends may raise an eyebrow at this one, but it’s an outstanding vegetarian joint in a funky neighborhood. The food is as interesting as the hippie-style people who make it, and the space echoes those sensibilities, too. The food is plentiful—my partner and I order two dishes and share. My fave is called the “Nooswich” sandwich, made with spice bread, corn, and sheep cheese. The front window table actually has a great view of downtown Vancouver! 2301 Main St., Vancouver, BC V5T 3C9, 604-708-0881
Bonus info: Another remarkable vegetarian option is further afield in the fabulously fun Commercial Drive neighborhood—easily reached by Skytrain rapid transit. The joint is called Bandidas Taqueria, and their unique vegetarian taco options are excellent.