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.
From cozy bars to casual spots, the city’s community-focused restaurateurs create gathering places that locals have learned to count on for everything from a lunch pick-me-up to celebratory meals.
COVID-19 is putting these gems at risk, so dine-in, pick-up, or get delivery directly, if you can, to enjoy food from around the world, including the city’s own West Coast cuisine.
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.
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.
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 sources local ingredients to craft its menu. After a pandemic-induced hiatus, the popular Prohibition weekend brunch is back in action, and the restaurant continues to offer a 20 percent discount for healthcare workers and first responders. Whether dining in or ordering out, try Fable’s roast duck pancake, hot mess burger, or grilled cheezus (with or without pulled pork).
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.
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. In addition to the indoor dining room, Gurkha has three outdoor seating areas with lots of airflow — a large heated back patio and two smaller streetside patios.
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.
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 can dine in or pick-up, and delivery is available to enjoy a meal at home.
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.
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.
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 (walk-ins only for now in 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.
Reservations for Gastown:
Reservations for Yaletown:
Reservations for Kits:
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.
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.
For North Indian in the West End: Spicy 6
Named for the six spices commonly used as the base of North Indian curries, Spicy 6 prides itself on homestyle cooking with celebrated New Delhi chef Mani Singarayar at the kitchen’s helm. In addition to the food, the attentive service and generous lunch buffet keep Robson residents returning for more. Menu standouts include tandoor roasted eggplant, butter chicken, and Peshawari naan, a leavened bread filled with crushed cashews, pistachios, raisins, and shredded coconut. Spicy 6 is open for indoor dining and offers takeout and delivery.
For the only Yemeni cuisine in the city: Saba Foods
When Alwaleed Ogbah and his wife Brenda Seng wanted dishes from their home country of Yemen, there was no restaurant they could call — cooking for themselves was the only option. Over time, after cooking for family and friends, they were encouraged to turn their passion into a business, and Saba Foods was born. Today, that business exudes warm hospitality in Chinatown, serving up fragrant plates of marinated slow-roasted lamb, kebabs, and whole barbecued chicken. Don’t forget to save room for fresh-baked baklava for dessert.