TransLink SeaBus travels between the Vancouver Waterfront and Lonsdale Quay and provides stunning views.
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Learn about my favorite places to eat (and drink beer) in Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city and a beacon for international cuisine, based on two memorable trips. This globally influenced, beautifully scenic British Columbian gem now has at least as many destination restaurants beyond the downtown peninsula. I enjoyed compelling food and beer experiences in neighborhoods like Railtown, Kitsilano, and Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood southeast of downtown that has become a craft beer hub. Yes, I may have too many bakeries, donut shops and ice cream spots on my list. You’re welcome. Enjoy 23 selections listed in alphabetical order plus three outdoor wonderlands to explore between meals.
I spotted Il Saltimbocca while walking downtown to another restaurant and doubled back. Nearby Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana pilots this orange truck, which houses a wood-fired oven and makes stellar Italian sandwiches on their supple pizza bread. The Cheech combines warm ham, salami, and mortadella with fresh melted mozzarella, tomato, arugula, and basil mayo.
MUST ORDER: Cheech
Granville Island, which honors an early name for Vancouver, welcomed a public market in 1979. Lee’s Donuts is one of four original vendors. Sadly, Alan Lee passed away in 2014, but the stall is still thriving by the west entrance. Lee’s sells their signature honey glazed donuts warm, with good chew and judicious sweetness. Blueberry, chocolate, and chai space are also viable flavors.
MUST ORDER: Honey Glazed Donut
Anthony Bourdain immortalized Saigon noodle soup star Nguyen Thi Thanh, aka The Lunch Lady, on “No Reservations.” In 2020, Benedict Lim brought her scintillating food to Vancouver and added fantastic flourishes like Atlantic lobster pomelo salad.
MUST ORDER: Bún Thái, Gỏi Bưởi Tôm Hùm (Atlantic Lobster Pomelo Salad)
Lucky’s Doughnuts shares four Vancouver outposts and one Montreal “Micro-Torréfacteur Cafe” with sister brand 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters. The Mount Pleasant location features roll-up garage doors, a sporty motorcyclist mural, and a Spirit Triplette espresso machine. and pale blue ceramics help to deliver beautifully roasted coffee beans from Vince Piccolo and crew. Coffee cruller is the standout item, with espresso in the glaze and cold brew in the batter. Seasonal old fashioned donuts are softer and lighter than normal and come in flavors like crumble-topped strawberry shortcake and blueberry with pistachios.
MUST ORDER: Coffee Cruller, Blueberry Old Fashioned, Coffee
Chef David Hawksworth, who also runs high-end Hawksworth nearby, debuted Nightingale in 2016. High above the dining room, a flock of 3D nightingales “flies” over a picture frame backdrop. Hawksworth adheres to a highly seasonal approach, meaning my recommendations will no doubt be null when you visit. That said, I enjoyed wilted pea & fava shoots with garlic and fermented chile; sunchoke agnolotti with mustard greens, pumpkin seeds, and shaved piave; and the thin stone-cooked pizza with black pock marks and toppings that consisted of guanciale, green olives, San Marzano tomatoes, chile, and fior di latte.
MUST ORDER: Wilted Pea & Fava Shoots, Guanciale Pizza, Sunchoke Agnolotti
Rain or Shine Ice Cream
Josie Fenton and husband Blair Casey run three ice cream shops in Kitsilano, Cambie Village and at The University of British Columbia. I visited their kooky Cambie Village location, which touts a purple cow head with yellow ice cream cone unicorn horn. They source dairy from Birchwood Dairy Farm in B.C. for their “Philadelphia style” ice cream (“100% dairy with no eggs”). “Seasonal Flings” may include Sticky Toffee Pudding or Chamomile with honey roasted sunflower seeds and bright, potent Citra hops. Sweet-tart blueberry balsamic and malted milk chocolate honeycomb made for a great one-two punch in a house-made waffle cone.
MUST ORDER: Chamomile, Blueberry Balsamic, Malted Milk Chocolate Honeycomb, Waffle Cone
Rodney’s Oyster House
Prince Edward Island oyster farmer Rodney Clark debuted in Toronto. A now unaffiliated Yaletown location opened in 1998, followed by Gastown in 2013. I savored West Coast oysters – Okeovers, Shigokus, Lighthouse, and Little Wings – with a choice of house sauces: Shallot Vinaigrette, Seawitch Sauce (cocktail), White Boy Soul Sauce, Johnny Reb’s Española Hot Sauce, and Back From Hell!
MUST ORDER: Oysters
Tokyo native chef Taka Omi opened this high value, grab-and-go sashimi shop and grocery store in 2020. Their refrigerator displays dozens of tantalizing raw and grilled seafood preparations. Chirashi Premium is a great way to sample different flavors and textures. My haul included silky Hokkaido scallop, both sockeye and Atlantic salmon, ikura (salmon roe), shrimp, maguro and bonito.
MUST ORDER: Chirashi Premium
Small Victory Bakery
Kenya native Karim Nathoo has over 30 years of baking experience. In 2014, he debuted Small Victory Bakery with daughter Afshan and son Qasim. The family now has four locations. Buttery croissants are clearly a strength, whether you opt for them solo or in sandwiches. To crank up the sweetness, consider salted caramel cheesecake with Graham cracker crust and spiral pattern. In the past, I also enjoyed a savory bacon and yellow cheddar croissant and Appolloni, a flaky pastry horn filled with Chantilly cream.
MUST ORDER: Bacon Cheese Croissant, Croissant Sandwich, Salted Caramel Cheesecake, Appolloni, Coffee
Sushi Bar Maumi
Chef Maumi Ozaki, originally from Japan’s Seitama prefecture, debuted a 10-seat omakase bar on Vancouver’s West End in 2015. In October 2023, he upgraded to a whopping 17 seats. I found Maumi charming, wearing black-framed glasses, a gray-blue bandanna, and a collar-free black shirt. From the core menu, I particularly enjoyed silky spot prawns served with fried heads, shima aji (striped jack) and aji (horse mackerel). Bonus round bites included mirugai (geoduck), uchiwahagi (unicorn leatherjacket) and crunchy ezo awabi (abalone) with a nori belt and sauce of abalone guts, soy sauce, and squid ink. The menu featured a glossary of four different housemade sauces – nikiri shoyu, irizake, mojio, and tsume – which Mauri-san applies to different nigiri when appropriate.
MUST ORDER: Omakase Nigiri, Mirugai, Hirame Engawa, Uchiwahagi, Ezo Awabi
WHAT TO DO BETWEEN MEALS (shoutout to A.J. Liebling)
Grouse Mountain Grouse Grind
Most trails tend to have switchbacks that give hikers slight breathers between climbs. Grouse Grind follows a serpentine path right up the mountain. The path involves 2,820 mismatched stairs of varying heights (some as high as 2-3 feet) with roots, rocks and tree stumps thrown into the mix. Grouse Grind is a technical climb, a real thigh burner through a mossy forest, and leads to breathtaking panoramic views and a sense of achievement. The only downhill option is to take a 20 CAD gondola ride.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge
“Have you been to Capilano Suspension Bridge? Don’t go.” My UberX driver, Mohammed, recommended Lynn Canyon instead. Local writer Bianca Bujan also made a compelling case for this far less crowded, free suspension bridge. I took a SeaBus to Lonsdale Quay and grabbed the 228 bus to the trailhead near the End of the Line (General Store). Mossy, fern covered trails and stairs up and down mist shrouded boardwalks led me to a bouncy bridge that overlooks waterfalls in a verdant gorge.
Stanley Park extends north into Burrard Inlet and provides visitors with a gorgeous urban playspace and picnic venue. A 10K path along the seawall is an inspiring setting for a bike ride or run. Take a 15-minute ride on Stanley Park Train, play pitch & putt or enjoy totem poles that celebrate Native heritage. From spring until fall, Third Beach also hosts a joyous Tuesday night drum circle.