Vancouver is teeming with distinctive dining areas where you can’t throw a California roll without hitting a good eatery. These include Gastown, a haven for the city’s young up-and-coming chefs and bartenders; Yaletown, where the city’s beautiful people come to feed at the hippest eateries; Robson Street, with more than 50 restaurants ranging from Korean noodle houses to super-chic movie star hangouts; Chinatown, with its dim sum haunts and fusion hotspots; Denman and Davie Streets, housing the city’s best selection of good-value, mid-priced restaurants; Granville Island, with its fine dining and casual eateries sharing great city-and-mountain views; Kitsilano, complete with vegetarian haunts, quirky coffee houses and fine dining, especially along 4th Avenue; South Main, filled with small, eclectic joints, many catering to local veggies; and Commercial Drive, with its independent coffee bars and diverse ethnic eateries.
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Not every Vancouver restaurant is a fine dining joint. Consider a story on the trail of the city’s bargain eating options. This could include visits to Granville Island Public Market for cheap takeout; a trek to the Punjabi Market area for all-you-can-eat curry specials; and lunch at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, where eager student chefs serve up gourmet meals at good-value prices. You could also check out Vancouver’s vast array of street eats, from Japanese-style hot dogs to pulled pork sandwiches. And don’t miss Save on Meats, the reinvented Downtown Eastside diner with its fully restored landmark neon sign and great-value comfort food dishes.
Japanese eateries. From the best sushi and sashimi restaurants outside Japan – try Tojo’s (www.tojos.com) and Miku (www.mikurestaurant.com) – to a hugely popular ramen noodle scene, you’re just as likely to spot Japanese visitors as curious locals diving in taste-buds first.
But one subsection of the scene has really taken off in recent years. In Japan, izakayas are cozy neighbourhood bars serving cheap beer and finger food and these have been transformed in Vancouver into the best places in town to sample Japanese comfort dishes and a wide range of imported beer, sake and unique cocktails – all wrapped in an evocative shell of wood-lined izakaya authenticity.`
Where to eat: For a taster, consider local outlets of Guu (www.guu-izakaya.com) and Hapa Izakaya (www.hapaizakaya.com)
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Plan a Japanese night out in Vancouver and make is as authentic as possible. Include visits to local izakayas (and perhaps a karaoke bar or two) and talk to the Vancouver-based Japanese people you meet along the way. Consider adding a visit to Richmond to your story – or grabbing a hot dog at Japadog, a Vancouver street food phenomenon that recently opened an outlet in New York.
Home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside China, Metro Vancouver is also the home of Canada’s best Chinese dining scene. But while traditional dim sum houses and chatty seafood-based neighbourhood eateries are still ubiquitous here, there have been some key developments in recent years. Chinese restaurants have now spread out across the city, including the “modern Chinatown” of Richmond. Also, the traditional streets of Chinatown are now home to some innovative Chinese eating and drinking establishments, such as Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (www.bao-bei.ca) and the Keefer Bar (www.thekeeferbar.com). And, echoing the streets of China, there are several great ways to eat al fresco Chinese treats, from street food carts to night markets.
Each year, Vancouver magazine names what it considers the city’s top restau-rants in a wide range of categories. In 2011, Best Formal Restaurant was Blue Water Cafe (www.bluewatercafe.net); Best New Restaurant was Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (www.bao-bei.ca); and the Restaurant of the Year was La Quercia (www.laquercia.ca).