Vancouver’s 18 Greatest Restaurants

Vancouver’s vibe may be relaxed and casual, but the city takes its food seriously. Sustainable seafood and local ingredients are on almost every Vancouver menu from restaurants focusing on international fare to those that serve the region’s iconic Pacific coastal cuisine (not “Pacific Northwest” as it’s geographically incongruous with the 1,200 kilometres of British Columbia north of Vancouver that provide so many of the treats served at Vancouver’s tables).

Vancouver’s greatest restaurants include newcomers such as Lunch Lady as well as institutions like Bishop’s. These must-visit restaurants are in Vancouver’s favourite neighbourhoods and within the city’s best hotels. They welcome both casual diners and celebrities. They’re ideal for a quick bite and for the most important occasions of the year. These are the 18 Vancouver restaurants that symbolize the city’s dining scene.

Lunch Lady (Commercial Drive)   

When Anthony Bourdain tried Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh’s soups at her Saigon food stall for his No Reservations show, he dubbed her the “legendary lunch lady” and said “it’s like discovering new neighbourhoods every few mouthfuls.” Vancouver mother-son restaurateurs Victoria Tran and Michael Tran teamed up with Vancouver chef Ben Lim and Ho Chi Minh City’s Lunch Lady to offer her soups and more at the former location of Mrs. Tran’s Five Elements Café. Open since summer 2020, the building’s facade belies the sleek interior and sophisticated menu of Asian-inspired cocktails, bánh mì, phở, signature dishes, and several favourites from the Five Elements menu. Lunch features a different soup special every day, just like at the original street cart (Saturday’s is very Vancouver with its prawns and crab- and shrimp-cake). Lunch Lady merch supports orphanages across Vietnam.

Dining at the restaurant: Snag a reservation for indoor dinner; for now, the restaurant is only taking walk-ins for lunch and patio and bar seating.

Takeout: Takeout and delivery are available for most dishes by ordering online.

Miku Vancouver (Downtown)

Credit: Mark Yuen

“Miku” in Japanese script symbolically means “beautiful sky,” and the views of the sails of Canada Place, the North Shore mountains, and the sky above are indeed beautiful from Miku’s downtown waterfront location. Inside, there’s even a ceiling fixture that looks like floating glass clouds. Owner Seigo Nakamura had eight restaurants in Miyazaki, Japan before first visiting Vancouver in 2007 and deciding that, given residents’ passion for multicultural cuisine and healthy living, it would be the ideal location for his first international restaurant. Nakamura brought aburi sushi to Canada, and Miku’s chefs have perfected balancing the textures and flavours of this flame-seared specialty. The guiding philosophy for service at Miku is of ningenmi, a Japanese term used for a person with outstanding sincerity, thoughtfulness, and passion.

Dining at the restaurant: Lunch and dinner (including kaiseki set menu) at the sushi bar, in the dining room, and on the wrap-around patio.

Takeout: Aburi at Home and takeout menu available for pick-up and delivery.

Osteria Savio Volpe (Fraserhood/Mount Pleasant)

Serving unfussy rustic Italian using ingredients from the region’s ocean, lakes, rivers, farms, and fields, this warm and friendly osteria welcomes everyone, including kids (just like at nonna’s, “they are both adored and expected to behave”). You can choose to dine family-style with dishes cooked for the whole table or a la carte from the menu of antipasti, salads, vegetable dishes, handmade pastas, and from the skillet, stewing pot, and wood grill. Housemade gelato, Italian pastries, and proper Italian coffee round out your meal at this refined neighbourhood favourite.

Dining at the restaurant: Dinner reservations for parties of one or two are for one hour and 45 minutes, while parties of three to six are extended to two hours. Patio and counter seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Takeout: Savio Volpe’s takeout menu includes squid ink pasta dough, heat-and-serve and some-assembly-required meals, plus grocery essentials from some of the restaurant’s suppliers.

L’Abattoir (Gastown)

Credit: Eric Milic

Regularly recognized on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list, chef/owner Lee Cooper’s L’Abattoir is known for its sophisticated yet unpretentious French-influenced Pacific coastal dining, expertly-paired wines, and work-of-art cocktails. New for 2021 is The Gaoler’s menu experience, named for the restaurant’s location in Gastown’s historic Gaoler’s Mews. Nine seasonal courses — such as steak tartare with bluefin tuna belly or charcoal-grilled wild sockeye — with optional wine pairings are for the whole table, with partial proceeds going to the BC Hospitality Foundation. Or, from the main menu, choose from starters such as baked Pacific oysters with truffle and mains like tandoori-style sablefish and heritage pork chop. 

Dining at the restaurant: Tuesdays through Saturdays, dinner is served in the sunny atrium, dining room, and bar, plus on the first-come-first-served summer patio. L’Abattoir’s private dining room can be booked seven days a week.

Takeout: Take-away options are available on request.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House (Downtown)

Specializing in American classics, this Vancouver dining institution is named for “Vancouver citizen of the century” Joseph Seraphim Fortes, who is credited with saving at least 29 lives as an English Bay lifeguard. The restaurant opened in 1985, 100 years after Mr. Fortes’s arrival in the city. Since then, the seafood tower — a special occasion favorite — has been a popular choice from the extensive menus, as are the fresh oysters and chops, with the beef aged a minimum of 28 days. Weekend brunch focuses on the savories.

Dining at the restaurant: There’s often live music in the main dining room, and the roof garden patio has a lovely outdoor fireplace. Don’t miss the popular happy hour.

Takeout: Choose from selections from the main menu, including kids’ dishes.

Gotham Steakhouse and Bar (Downtown)

Credit: Gotham

Multiple award-winning Gotham is a downtown favourite of steak lovers, both local and those visiting Hollywood North to film TV shows and movies. Inside one of Vancouver’s heritage buildings, Gotham features fine dining for lunch and dinner within its Art Deco-inspired decor. Executive chef Jean Claude Douget brings his French background to the steakhouse’s attention to detail, house-made sauces, and elegant presentations. In addition to the finest cuts of prime steak, Gotham’s menu features lobster tail, oysters, and social hour treats such as ahi tuna and short rib sliders.

Dining at the restaurant: Choose between Gotham’s dining room, lounge, and the large terrace with fireplace — those who opt for the lounge will often have the added benefit of live music. The social hour discounted menu is available from 3pm to 6pm in the lounge and on the patio. 

Takeout: Both takeout and delivery are available. 

Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca (Yaletown)

Celebrity chef Giuseppe “Pino” Posteraro  — he’s been on Iron Chef and was the first Canadian chef to be honoured with a Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy — opened his Cioppino’s in 1999. Ever since, Vancouverites and visiting celebrities have been flocking to it, and award-givers honour it, too, like with a coveted three-forks rating from Gambero Rosso, the first restaurant in Canada to achieve it. In addition to superbly done Italian classics, you’ll find innovative dishes such as Haida Gwaii halibut acqua pazza with a sauce of lemon and cherry tomato, plus whatever the day’s local, seasonal ingredients inspire Posteraro to create. The restaurant, still featuring an impressive open kitchen, was renovated and expanded during the spring 2020 COVID closure, resulting in a wine cellar with about 45,000 bottles and a new bar with a temperature-controlled space for 50 wines by the glass.

Dining at the restaurant: Within the expanded dining room or in several private rooms, plus on the new patio. Lunch Thursday and Friday; dinner Tuesday through Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

Takeout: Call to order.

Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar (Downtown)

Uncompromising excellence and innovation characterize this Pacific coastal, seafood-forward restaurant within the Sutton Place Hotel. Boulevard’s list of awards is long, including chef Roger Ma’s national award at the 2020 Canadian Culinary Championships and chef Alex Chen’s Iron Chef Canada win. Choose prix fixe with optional wine pairings or go a la carte — favourite Oceanwise ling cod cioppino is featured on both menus. Summertime Sundays have Southern-inspired seafood boils for casual celebrations, capped by beignets with lavender ice cream and blueberry compote.

Dining at the restaurant: Enjoy happy hour and dinner in the elegant dining room or lounge, at the oyster bar, or outside on the patio, plus in private dining rooms.

Takeout: For pick-up and delivery, order online for meal kits with instructional videos from chef Alex Chen, plus BLVD Provisions that are ready to cook or reheat.

Botanist (Downtown)

Credit: Botanist

Botanist’s award-winning team — see its listing on Canada’s 100 Best — is known for impeccable service, avant-garde cocktails from 2020 bartender of the year Jeff Savage, and executive chef Hector Laguna’s inventive Pacific coastal cuisine. True to its name, Botanist draws on organic foraged ingredients and those from British Columbia’s farms, while fish and seafood are sustainably caught and meats are heritage cuts. Plus, the terroir wine program is sustainably driven. On Botanist’s menus are treats such as pan-seared scallops with sunchokes, lardo, and XO sauce to pair with drinks like the “Treebeard”  with Douglas fir gin, cedar, and birch sap. For a special experience on a special occasion, Savage hosts a bespoke cocktail tasting experience paired with six of Laguna’s seasonal dishes.

Dining at the restaurant: Join for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and weekend brunch.

Takeout: Not available. 

Homer Street Cafe & Bar (Yaletown)

Homer Street Cafe & Bar stands out in Yaletown’s collection of restaurants for its refined comfort food from chef Bobby Milheron from the now-closed West. The menu spans brunch, lunch, happy hour, and dinner, full of eclectic dishes that run from Italian gnocchi to Canadian steak tartare with smoked sour cream to Southern-style baby back ribs. Families should go for the “full monty,” a comfort food feast of rotisserie chicken, baby back ribs, biscuits, coleslaw, potato salad, Brussels sprouts, sauces, and butter tarts. Summer 2021 brings a new spritz menu to accompany the fun cocktail list, draught beers, and wine selection.

Dining at the restaurant: Choose from the covered upstairs patio, temporary street patio, upstairs room, main floor beneath the tin ceiling, or the cockpit private dining room complete with rooster pics. The contemporary space is inside the historic Homer Building and the new Beasley Building.

Takeout: Pickup and delivery begin at noon daily, including “heat, eat, and repeat” dishes such as beef-and-boar ragout and burger kits.

Bishop’s (Kitsilano)

With iconic Vancouver restaurateur John Bishop’s pending retirement in summer 2020, there was worry that his namesake restaurant would close too. But the hospitality-focussed fine-dining institution is still open, and Vancouver diners are hoping that that won’t change anytime soon. The menu still features locally sourced Pacific coastal cuisine, which Bishop helped establish as the model that Vancouver’s restaurants should aspire to when he opened the restaurant in 1985. Chef Macia Bagur delights with dishes such as Dungeness crab and sockeye salmon cake, pan-roasted halibut, house-made cannelloni with sherry béchemal, and daily specials based on what’s freshest.

Dining at the restaurant: Joining for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. 

Takeout: Bishop’s at Home is available Tuesday through Saturday with selections changing frequently.

Torafuku (Chinatown/Strathcona)

Credit: Torafuku

Straddling the border between Chinatown and Strathcona, chef/owner Steve Kuan’s menus straddle the borders of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, with some Italian and French influence, too. Torafuku’s open kitchen serves “kickass” rice bowls with sake-butter-dashi rice, specialty noodles (limited quantities daily), and, from Wednesdays to Sundays, multi-course dinner sets designed for sharing. Ingredients are local and organic whenever possible, such as the 24-hour braised short rib from Blue Goose Cattle in BC’s South Cariboo.

Dining at the restaurant: Snag a spot for dinner Wednesday through Sunday to share the multi-course sets.

Takeout: Takeout and delivery includes the regular menu plus frozen dishes and wines. 

Tableau Bar Bistro (Downtown)

Downstairs at the chic Loden Hotel, this award-winning neighbourhood bistro features both French and Pacific coastal dishes, with new updates from chef de cuisine Ben Miller (who was at the now-closed West). The Niçoise has albacore tuna, the moules frites features Totten Inlet mussels, plus there are seafood towers, halibut, coq au vin, duck, steak frites, and more. Whether here for happy hour or a meal, you’ll want to sample from the cocktail and wine lists or beers on tap, but be sure to save room for desserts like the butterscotch pot de crème or dark chocolate tarte.

Dining at the restaurant: For breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour on the expanded heated terrasse or the temporary street patio, at the bar, in the main dining room, or in the two private dining rooms. First-come, first-served for outdoor dining.

Takeout: Tableau has brunch and lunch/dinner takeout menus with items like brioche French toast, omelettes, steak frites, Le Burger, and foot-long baguette sandwiches.

Nuba (Multiple locations)

Credit: Nuba

Nuba creates modern and traditional Lebanese dishes — with many vegan and gluten-free options — using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Many recipes have been passed down for generations, including founder Victor Bouzide’s great-grandmother’s falafel recipe from the 19th century. Menus change with the seasons, with favourites such as Najib’s special (crispy roasted cauliflower), mjadra lentil stew, and “le feast” mezze platter always on offer. Nuba began as a 15-seat restaurant in 2003 and has since grown to four Vancouver locations, each combining Middle Eastern decor with the characteristics of its home neighbourhood.

Dining at the restaurant: Lunch and dinner daily. All locations now have a patio, with the flagship Gastown the newest. Reservations available at Nuba Gastown, Nuba on Davie (Yaletown), and Nuba Kits.

Takeout: Takeout at all locations plus choose from four varieties of meal kits with Nuba favourites, delivered by Nuba or picked up at the Mount Pleasant location.

Farmer’s Apprentice (Fairview)

Now owned by hospitality pros Satoshi Yonemori and Mioi Sawada, you’ll find innovative cooking, stunning plating, impeccable service, and a relaxed setting at this rustic bistro near the south side of Granville Bridge. Befitting its name, Farmer’s Apprentice chefs get creative by dehydrating, fermenting, and smoking the sustainably harvested ingredients procured locally. The menu changes frequently with plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Ordering plates for the whole table is most popular; you might find potato gnocchi with morels, peas, and scapes or salmon with saffron, zucchini, and romano beans. The long wine list features natural, biodynamic, and organic selections. Watch for special dining events with local farmers. 

Dining at the restaurant: When dining indoors, seats at the bar have the best views of the open kitchen. There’s also an outdoor patio, and reservations are recommended.

Takeout: As in the dining room, the take-out menu changes frequently. 

Notch8 Restaurant & Bar (Downtown)

Credit: Notch8

Throughout the day and evening, Notch8 is an elegant choice within Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The luxurious decor was inspired by the glamorous rail travel of the 1930s and the Hotel Vancouver’s history as one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Notch8 is named for the throttle position for the highest speed of a train, achievable only by the most skilled of conductors. The skill of executive chef David Baarschers and executive sous chef Dennis Peckham is apparent with dishes like a soba noodle power bowl with your choice of prawns, wild salmon, or chicken breast; roasted local halibut; and BC flat iron steak frites. The lounge menu includes bison carpaccio and Notch8’s classic burger. Weekend afternoon tea offers tiers of finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries with LOT 35 loose leaf teas and optional Champagne. From Monday to Friday, the coveted Tea in the Window is available, where you can enjoy your tea while sitting in the hotel’s street level window display (reserve in advance, only two seatings per day are available). 

Dining at the restaurant: Breakfast beginning at 7:00, weekday lunch and happy hour, weekend brunch and afternoon tea, plus dinner daily. Lounge service begins at 11:30 daily. Monday to Friday Tea in the Window. Private dining on offer too. 

Takeout: Takeout is available, including to-go afternoon tea on weekends (order before Friday at 5:00) and picnic packages for two featuring spicy tofu or fried chicken sandwiches. 

Vij’s (Cambie Village)

Chef and sommelier Vikram Vij is one of Canada’s culinary celebrities, with cookbooks, a line of pre-packaged and frozen foods, and awards bearing his name. He and Meeru Dhalwala own Vij’s, Vancouver’s favourite place for Indian cuisine since it opened in 1994 — New York Times writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman named Vij’s “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world,” and, pre-pandemic, you were likely to see celebrities in the same no-reservations lineup as you, sampling passed nibbles as everyone waited for a table on a first-come, first-served basis. Given COVID restrictions, Vij’s is accepting reservations so now’s the time to try the innovative Indian dishes featuring local and sustainable ingredients — without the need to stand in line.

Dining at the restaurant: Both in the dining room and on the covered patio seven days/week, in the new Cambie Street location. For now, the lounge is also set up for table dining.

Takeout: Takeout and delivery are available daily. There’s a special menu that takes travel time into account (and Vij’s famous lamb “popsicles” in fenugreek cream curry are on it).

Maenam (Kitsilano)

Maenam is executive chef/owner Angus An’s second restaurant with his Thailand-born wife Kate Auewattanakorn (they currently have five). Opened in 2009, the Thai restaurant is a frequent award winner thanks to how An applies his classic French training and innovative approaches to Thai street food and the flavours popular in the Land of Smiles. The kitchen is helmed by chef de cuisine Mike Tuangkitkun, who blends his Canadian and Thai backgrounds to create delights that focus on local, seasonal, organic, and sustainably harvested ingredients wherever possible. The menu encourages you to share dishes among the table and to pair them with creative cocktails, wines by the glass and bottle, and from an informed beer list. 

Dining at the restaurant: Dine nightly in the lively space.

Takeout: There are three choices of chef’s menu meals (starter, main, and dessert) and four frozen dishes available for takeout. Plus, dishes from Freebird Chicken Shack are now available for takeout out of Maenam’s location Tuesday through Saturdas, with delivery service planned.

Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer/photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism; follow her on Twitter at @TravelEater and Instagram at @TravelEaterJohanna.

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