Best Things to Do
For more dining options in the area, see GAYOT's Vancouver restaurant reviews and ratings.
Adventure and dreams of striking gold lured masses to the West in the 1850s, but today, it's the city's food scene that has sparked a new gold rush. While coastal aboriginal peoples thrived for generations on seafood harvested from the surrounding bays and inlets, now Vancouver's modern residents, many of Asian heritage, value it just as highly on their dining tables. The generous ocean yields succulent Dungeness crab, spot prawns (fat, sweet and quickly gone), five species of wild Pacific salmon, and oysters in their freshest incarnations for restaurant menus that change with the seasons. Like many international cities where concerns about the food we eat, as well as the environment where it's grown have gained traction, regional agriculture has seen a renaissance in recent decades. For those whose mantra is "eat local," this city will satisfy in countless delicious ways. Along with this (and often part of it), diners can experience a fresh new culinary scene with innovative dining experiences, wine bars with regional cachet, an exciting and flavorful food cart scene, and the offerings of an Iron Chef — all paired with top-ranked British Columbia wines. Vancouver is a young city, but it has grown sophisticated quickly, and its relaxed, liberal attitude gives it the air of a true metropolis.
It would take a visitor several weeks to experience all of Vancouver's popular dining spots, but however long your stay is, you can get a good start. You can have a hearty breakfast at popular Café Medina be it superb Belgian waffles or a tagine with poached eggs. Or head to Yaletown, and go early to secure a perch at Rodney's Oyster House where you can order succulent Pacific Northwest and East Coast oysters. If rubbing elbows with visiting celebrities and sophisticated locals appeals, head to Blue Water Café for sushi and pristine seafood towers, Lupo or Giardino for fine Italian fare, and Hapa Izakaya for inventive Japanese mini-plates plates such as beef tataki and mackerel blow-torched tableside.
Downtown, über-chef David Hawksworth presides at Hawksworth bringing fresh and vibrant dishes to the legendary Rosewood Hotel Georgia. It's fun to sit in the art deco-detailed bar and the casual dining area, but the big show is in the elegant chandeliered space with a view of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Cactus Club Café is home to Iron Chef Rob Feenie who is known for 'casual fine dining' and yes, you can order his Iron Chef award-winning butternut squash ravioli. Royale Dinette delivers a true farm-to-table dining experience for all to see via the open kitchen and taste on the plate. The best Chinatown fix is Bao Bei on Keefer near Main, but arrive early or be content with eating in the bar. For a quick bite or snack, check out one of the many food trucks roaming the city streets.
Come summertime, various festivals and musical events happen on Granville Island. It's the place to go in Vancouver for a progressive breakfast or lunch of artisan breads and pastries, cheeses, pâtés and luscious fruits, berries and more. Don't leave without a visit to Lee's Donuts to taste their legendary glazed doughnut holes, or to Edible Canada to choose from more than 400 made-in-British Columbia food gifts.
Granville Island also boasts three of the best outdoor patios in Vancouver. Sandbar’s waterside rooftop deck at the 300-seat seafood spot is open year-round; in winter, diners take advantage of the roaring fire and the cozy blankets. Everyone knows their signature dishes are cedar-planked wild Pacific salmon and wok squid, but few are aware of the superlative Hoshi sushi bar tucked into the main floor. At sea level, Bridges' umbrella-decked space is one of the city's favorite hangouts where people watching is almost as popular as the lush views of False Creek and the North Shore Mountains. Or, for the city's best fish and chips, it's a five-minute stroll to Go Fish! on Fishermen’s Wharf.
For dinner, head to Fourth Avenue in the neighborhood of Kitsilano to Au Comptoir, a classic Parisian-style café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Alternately, you may want to check out Maenam, just down the road, for Asian-inspired cocktails and modern Thai offerings. For a different perspective, especially an hour before sunset, head to Locarno, Jericho and Spanish Banks beaches when downtown's distant skyscrapers gleam a brilliant gold. Better yet, claim an outside table at the Galley Patio & Grill at Jericho Beach and toast the setting sun with a BC craft beer or glass of BC wine.
Or enjoy dinner in one of the posh spots in the South Granville area stretching from West 16th Avenue to the south end of the Granville Bridge. If you're in the mood for contemporary French cuisine, drop by West, where sea fresh local fish dishes, terrines, and cutting-edge wines are served with unparalleled style. A few blocks east, Vij's is Vancouver's top-ranked destination for authentic Indian curries and an impeccable spice-friendly wine list. Of note, its sleek sibling Rangoli is bargain-priced but every bit as good. If Japanese food appeals, you'll find the city's best at Zest housed in a modest mall on the west side.