The names and borders of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods may be up for debate, but there’s no doubt Vancouver excels in the neighbourhood restaurant department. COVID-19 is putting these gems at risk, so dine-in, pick-up, or get delivery directly from them rather than the big apps, if you can, to enjoy food from around the world, including the city’s own West Coast cuisine.
Even as the weather cools, sheltered patios at many of Vancouver’s restaurants will remain open, complete with heaters. The city’s temporary patio program — implemented to provide more outdoor dining space given COVID-19 — ends October 31, but is likely to be reinstated if pandemic conditions remain come spring.
Here’s where to book a reservation at some of Vancouver’s best neighbourhood gems.
For Asian-influenced Canadian in the Vancouver Art Gallery: 1931 Gallery Bistro
Upstairs at — and on a large patio next to — the Vancouver Art Gallery is this newly renovated bistro with seasonal menus. Whether for brunch, lunch, or dinner, it’s hard to choose between dishes like peking duck eggs Benedict, ahi poke, slow-braised short rib, and the chocolate ganache bar. There are plenty of items geared for kids, too. All proceeds support the Gallery and members get a 10 percent discount. Book now.
For vegan Vietnamese in kits: Chi Vegan
Shortly after the pandemic hit in full force, chef Chi Le decided to make her modern Vietnamese menus 100 percent plant-based, and her namesake Chi Restaurant became Chi Vegan. Aiming to give you “a delicious meal that is not only good for you but good for the planet,” the Kitsilano restaurant uses local and organic products whenever possible. Check Chi Vegan’s Instagram for specials not on the regular menu. Book now.
For award-winning cuisine from the Med in Yaletown: Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
Chef Pino, AKA Giuseppe Posteraro, has been welcoming guests — both famous and regular folk — to Cioppino’s since 1999 and winning awards ever since. Newly expanded into the space next door as of August 2020, chef Pino has a new open kitchen to create his masterpieces. Whether you go full-on Italian or choose some of his modern Mediterranean dishes, it’s easy to pair a glass or a bottle from one of the city’s largest wine cellars. Book now.
For farm-to-table comfort food and pick-up cocktails in Mount Pleasant: Fable Diner
An East Van favourite beloved for its casual vibe and all-housemade comfort foods, Fable is offering a revised dine-in menu, an order-in-advance social distance brunch on weekends, plus a 20 percent discount for healthcare workers and first responders. Fable created its own in-house delivery to keep prices down and, if you’re picking up instead, you can sip on the very-Vancouver cocktails (such as a Kapow Caesar made with local gin or vodka) while you wait. Try Fable’s roast duck pancake, hot mess burger, or grilled cheezus (with or without pulled pork). Book now.
For seasonal small plates and organic wine near the Granville Bridge: Grapes & Soda
Whether you call this location Fairview, Kits, or South Granville, Grapes & Soda is the destination for masterful cocktails, organic/biodynamic wines, and farm-to-table tapas, cheese, and charcuterie. What’s available is always changing; book ahead to be assured of a spot at this tiny gem. Book now.
For traditional Nepali in the West End: Gurkha Himalayan Kitchen
Enjoy the spice and herbs of the Himalayas at this friendly Davie Street restaurant, which came under new ownership in 2019. The large menu helpfully identifies gluten-free and vegan selections, and you’ll find dishes flavoured with timut pepper, carom seed, and garlicky jumbu. Gurkha has three outdoor seating areas with lots of airflow — a large heated back patio and two smaller streetside patios. Book now.
For Japanese tapas Downtown: Guu Izakaya
Guu is Vancouver’s first izakaya, providing the “realest” izakaya experience this side of Japan, and the Thurlow location is the original. Come hungry to sample as many of Guu’s small plates as you can. Always check for what’s on special, usually featuring the freshest of seafoods. Book now.
For Asian comfort food in Fairview and Downtown: Heritage Asian Eatery
Near Broadway City Hall station (lunch and dinner) or downtown on Pender at Burrard (just lunch for now), Heritage Asian Eatery has a casual setting with sophisticated food. Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible and turned into Asian comfort foods such as bao, wontons, five-spice chicken wings, barbecue with lo mein, and veg and protein bowls. Walk-ins, pick-up, and delivery.
For Chinese dumplings in the West End: Jingle Bao
New to Denman Street in 2019, Jingle Bao specializes in soup dumplings, all made in-house from scratch and many vibrantly coloured thanks to dragon fruit, spinach, mushroom, and carrot juices in the wrapper. The team has 40-plus years of experience in making xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, which are amongst the most time-consuming to make of all the Chinese dumplings. Noodles, chow mein, soups, salads, and treats like Taiwanese salt and pepper chicken round out the menu. Book now.
For upscale ramen Downtown: JINYA Ramen Bar
Vancouverites are known to line up for top-notch ramen at various tiny counters, but book a table at JINYA and don’t get left out in the cold. The six signature broths simmer for at least twenty hours until they’re ready to slurp up with handmade noodles. In addition to a dozen types of ramen in those broths, the beautiful Robson Street space has salads, mini tacos, rice bowls, and more. Book now.
For tacos in Mount Pleasant: Los Cuervos Taqueria & Cantina
Inspired by Mexico City’s famous street food, chef Carina Chavero’s kitchen makes everything to order. Accompany tamales, quesadillas, burritos, and a dozen taco choices with homemade sauces such as salsa roja (with charred tomatoes, chilies, and onions) and chile seco (with four types of dried chilies, dubbed “smokiiiin’ good”). The tequila and mezcal selections are growing due to popular demand, or try hand-shaken margaritas of fresh-squeezed tamarind, hibiscus, mango, or traditional lime. Book now.
For healthy Lebanese in four locations: Nuba
Nuba has expanded from its original 15-seater on Hastings to four of Vancouver’s fave culinary neighbourhoods: Gastown (the flagship), Yaletown, Kits, and Mount Pleasant. Nuba sources as many of its ingredients locally as possible, seeks out organically grown produce, uses only Halal meats, and has plenty of vegan options. The goal is a balance of contemporary dishes with tastes from the old country. Book now in Gastown, Yaletown, and Kits (walk-ins only for now in Mount Pleasant).
For seasonal Italian in Fraserhood/Mount Pleasant: Osteria Savio Volpe
This classic osteria prides itself on its warm hospitality and simple, housemade dishes created to maximize flavour. Pasta is fatto a mano in casa quotidiano (handmade in-house daily) and proteins cooked over the wood-fired grill and rotisserie or by skillet and stewing pot. It’s a favourite of clever foxes (that’s the translation for “savio volpe”) both near and far from its Kingsway/Fraser location. Book now.
For jerk and “Japaribbean” in Fraserhood/Mount Pleasant: The Lion’s Den Cafe
This 21-year-old spot at Fraser and Kingsway serves all-day breakfast, jerk of all kinds, as well as Japanese-Caribbean — dubbed Japaribbean — thanks to the influence of the owners’ Bahamian and Japanese heritage. Try Jamaican patties, a teriyaki and jerk chicken combo, oxtail stew, or roti, all with Ting grapefruit soda, naturally. Pick-up and take-out are available Thursdays to Sundays; check its listing for when the dining room reopens.