The Urban Diner 30
The premise of the list is simple – where do we like to go eat? Where would we recommend to people who have come in from out of town? Vancouver has a varied dining landscape, and there are so many great choices. The listing is our go to list containing everything from the big guns to the little guys, seasoned veterans and mom & pop start ups. We are pretty sure you’d pretty happy with dining at any of these places.
To be clear – we have paid for our own meals at these places. There is absolutely no influence from the marketing guys. We take our Church and State policy seriously.
We expect this list to evolve and develop. We tend to leave new places off the list so that they can find their footing and get into the rhythm of their game. Now, in no particular order, here’s our take on the where we like to eat.
1 Alvin Garden
(4850 Imperial Street, Burnaby, BC, 604.437.0828)
Yes – it’s in Burnaby. Lots of awesome stuff on this list may take a little traveling, but don’t be a baby. The seriously spicy Hunan cooking at this little place is off the charts. The pig heart appetizer is fantastic, tea smoked duck is complete genius, and the pickled pepper beef will punch you in the face with vinegary heat. The room is clean and bright, and the menu is easy to navigate. It even has pictures. Go. Now!
2 Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca
(1133,1129 Hamilton St, Vancouver, 604.688.7411)
It is said the Italians taught the French fine cooking when Catherine de Medici arrived in Paris. But most modern diners don’t associate Italian cuisine with genuinely high end dining. Do yourself a favor and check out Chef Pino Posteraro and his fantastic cooking – deeply flavored, rigorously executed, and served with elegance and restraint. One of Vancouver’s premier dining experiences.
3 Kirin Restaurants
(Various Locations www.kirinrestaurants.com)
Each Kirin houses a full classic Chinese kitchen, making just about everything in house with a distinct Vancouver point of view. The dim sum menus and fresh sheets are updated monthly, and incorporate local ingredients and seasonal specialties. When king crab and spotted prawn season roll around, start speed dialing for a reservation.
4 Hy’s Encore
(637 Hornby St, Vancouver, 604.683.7671)
So many places aspire to Old School, but this is the real deal. The charcoal grilled steaks are absolutely delicious, with just the right sear and smoke. Beefsteak tomato salad, gratineed cauliflower, and the legendary cheese toasts are mandatory sides. The brassy Victoriana, the waitstaff buttoned into white jackets, the silver trays being whisked around the room, all with a complete lack of irony. It should make you giggle – but it doesn’t. It’s that good.
5 Lin Chinese Cuisine
(1537 West Broadway, Vancouver,604.733.9696)
Though the menu offers a wide range of Shanghainese and Sichuan dishes, focus on the hand crafted buns, dumplings, and noodles. Steamed vegetable buns, green onion cakes, chicken wonton soup, are all heartwarmingly good. The xiao long bao are arguably the best around, bursting with a fantastic rich homemade broth.
(871 Denman Street, Vancouver, 604.608.1677)
Vancouver has run amok with izakayas – but here, sharply executed cooking raises the dining experience beyond cute shouty Japanese waitresses. The chicken kaarage, sashimi salad, and dan dan noodles are all superb.
7 Motomachi Shokudo Ramen
(740 Denman Street Vancouver, 604.609.0310)
Lately, new ramen noodle houses seem to open weekly in Vancouver. The same team behind local stalwart Kintaro, opened Motomachi to focus on organic broths and lighter cleaner flavors. The resulting noodles have an unmatched restraint and purity, much appreciated by noodle aficionados
8 La Quercia
(3689 W 4th Ave, Vancouver (604.676.1007)
This is the neighborhood Italian restaurant that everyone dreams of – immediately appealing dishes that perk up the appetite coupled with smart service and fantastic prices. The house made pastas, vitello tonnato, and roasted local lamb are all heartbreaking. If you are really lucky, the daily menu will include their ethereal ravioli, each filled with a softly set egg yolk. You will literally weep.
9 Medina Cafe
(556 Beatty Street Vancouver,(604) 879-3114)
Just about every single item on the breakfast and lunch menu is completely delicious. Starting with the glorious Belgian waffle, topped with honeyed fig marmalade, is a no-brainer. The breakfast cassoulet, with fried eggs, baked beans, saussison and double smoked bacon is a sly take on the classic full English breakfast. And you don’t have be a hung over football yob to enjoy it.
10 Dan Sushi
(2511 West Broadway Vancouver, 604.677.6930)
This city has way too many cheap Japanese restaurants for its own good, overrun with indifferent sushi joints of the worst sort. Recalibrate your sense of what good Japanese should be with a visit to Dan Sushi. The sashimi is spectacularly fresh, the tempura lighter than air, and the grilled meats simply prepared and delicious. Why, there’s even a well thought out sake list. Just like a real grown up restaurant. Imagine that.
11 Thomas Haas Patisserie
(2539 West Broadway, Vancouver, (604.736.1848)
If you want to see the Beautiful People get tense, just watch as the last of the almond croissants disappear from the display case. It’s Lord of Flies meets Prada as the sharp elbows come out, and orders are shouted impatiently – anything to snag one of those beauties. For a real cocoa overload, try one of their insanely rich hot chocolates – more akin to a thick ganache than to any actual beverage previously known to man.
12 Han Woo Ri Korean Restaurant
(5740 Imperial Street, Burnaby,604.439.0815)
Dear Korean Mommy: I miss your home cooking a lot. I wish there was a place that was clean and bright; and did not play frantic techno music all the time. Somewhere that served slow simmered beef soup, spicy tofu bowls, or wonderful pork belly bo ssam wraps with kim chee and chopped raw oysters. You say that I should go to Burnaby and find such magical place? Oh, thank you Korean Mommy, thank you!!
13 Golden Paramount
(8071 Park Rd, Richmond, 604.278.0873)
The food at this small but well-appointed room is the epitome of classic clean Cantonese food. Oysters are slightly air dried before being pan-fried with soy to concentrate the natural sweetness, and the sweet and sour pork is truly magnificent. The dim sum service is simple and delicious, with genuine handcrafted care and attention to detail. Reservations are mandatory.
14 Meat & Bread
(370 Cambie St, Vancouver 604.566.9003)
A well-made sandwich is a truly glorious thing, and the lads at Meat and Bread have got it down pat. The porchetta, with richly marbled roast pork and crunchy crackling, perfectly dressed with a lemony salsa verde, is a knockdown winner. The maple bacon ice cream sandwich has enough restraint to be a real grown up treat. The room, with its big-shouldered pugilist friendliness is a perfect reflection of the neighborhood and the proprietors.
15 Phnom Penh
(244 E Georgia St, Vancouver, 604.682.5777)
A perennial favorite and for good reason. The food is simply awesome. The deep fried chicken wings and squid (with the crazy sharp lemon white pepper dip) are legendary, the marinated butter beef is vibrantly herby, and dry mixed noodles are cleanly savory. The owners are ethnically Swatow Chinese – so oyster omelets, gailan with salty dried fish, and the clay pot rice is also superb. The clientele is pure old school Chinatown with a good dose of local bigwigs from the nearby police station. You’ll feel like you are on the set of Da Vinci’s Inquest.
16 Bao Bei
(163 Keefer St, Vancouver, 604.688.0876)
The food at Bao Bei really reflects how Chinese cuisine has grown up in Vancouver. It is genuine to our local sensibilities and ingredients, while adhering closely to the ideals of balance, freshness, and clean flavors. The beef tartare, crispy shao bing stuffed with lamb, and the crispy pork belly are all fantastic. The room hums with a smart vibrancy and genuine hospitality. There is always room for more at a Chinese dinner table. Overheard from a group of Singaporean foodie travelers with plates balanced precariously on their table: “This isn’t fusion food, this just great Asian cooking!!”. And they are absolutely right.
(217 Carrall St, Vancouver, 604.568.1701)
If there is one word to describe L’Abbatoir, it’s ‘overachiever’. Don’t let the smartly casual vibe fool you. From start to finish, the ambition and execution of a meal at L’Abbatoir is awe-inspiring and makes this one of the Big Rooms in the city. The beautifully balanced cocktails, the quietly confident staff, the precise yet relaxed flavours – all catches you slightly off guard. After winning one of Enroute’s top 10 best new restaurants a few years ago, they have continued to forge ever forward.
18 Hoi Tong Seafood Restaurant
(160-8191 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, 604.276.9229)
Chef Yiutong Leung is well into his 70’s but his passion and love of cooking remains undimmed, and it shows. He has cooked in some of Hong Kong’s best private dining rooms, and the food reflects that city’s ideal of what Cantonese cooking should be. Hyper clean and pure flavours, home style cooking elevated by serious technique and attention to detail. The salt roasted chicken, bitter melon omelet, and pork hock with sour plums are all top notch (and garnished with curly parsley and a maraschino cherry – how’s that for old school!). The room is elegant but tiny, seating only about 6 tables or so – and right now, it’s home to the finest Cantonese food around.
19 Red Wagon
(2296 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, 604.568.4565)
Here’s the formula for the ideal diner – everything has to be house made, comfortingly familiar yet reflect modern tastes, and it all has to be cheap to boot. That’s a pretty tall order, but Red Wagon pulls it off nicely. Pulled pork pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches with smoky tomato soup, and the awesome Reuben sandwiches with house brined beef; all manage to be indulgent but remain grounded in honest simple cooking.
20 Vij’s Restaurant
(1480 W 11th Ave, Vancouver, 604.736.6664)
In many ways, Vij’s embodies the best of real West Coast food. Vij’s takes superlative local ingredients and runs them through of the prism of Asian techniques. The result is unique and delicious, the genuine product of a deep and confident culinary tradition. The flavors are brightly spicy, but balanced and fresh. The no reservation policy is seriously democratic (ask Vij about the time he inadvertently turned down a reso request from Justin and Pierre Trudeau).
21 Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
(108 – 777 W Broadway, Vancouver, 604.876.8388)
Innovation can be difficult for a Chinese restaurant to pull off well. But the kitchen here really takes a run bringing in wider influences and new point of view. Chinese vegetarian food can be mired in thick sugary sauces and faux meat made from gluten. Here, the Buddha’s Feast and the steamed eggplant with preserved vegetables have a bright freshness that accentuates the inherent sweetness of the ingredients. Dim sum really shines, with lemon scented pork pies, steamed mushroom dumplings.
22 Araxi Restaurant and Bar
(4222 Village Square, Whistler, 604.932.4540)
If Whistler were nothing but a barren rock, it would still be worth the drive to dine at Araxi. This is one of best dining experiences on the West Coast. James Walt’s cooking brims with vigor and liveliness, focused on bringing out the best of the ingredient’s natural flavors. Peak dining is in the summer, when Pemberton produce is at its absolute finest (their fresh corn soup will be one of the best things you will ever have).
(2183 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, 604.738.2025)
It’s hard to name a restaurant that has more accolades piled on it than Bishops. John Bishop is a culinary giant and a man of deep integrity and intellect. The local talent that has trained in the kitchen over the decades is staggering. But Bishop’s is no museum piece – it is still as vibrant and delicious as ever. Service is the epitome of ease and engagement, and the food is alive with bright freshness. You’ll enjoy yourself so much; that it’s only afterwards that you’ll realize that every part of your meal was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
24 Pizzeria Farina
(915 Main St, Vancouver, 604.681.9334)
Farina’s take on pie is gutsy, up-front, and sure handed. The ingredients are supremely fresh and crust has that perfect crackling wheaty bite. The room is spare and clean, the seating communal, and you order at the counter. It could have all descended into Hipster preciousness, but it doesn’t. The honesty of the pizzas underlines everything. It simply works.
25 Via Tevere
(1190 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, 604.336.1803)
Certified by the Verace Pizza Napoletana, this is the real deal. Though adhering to Neapolitan standards, the authenticity never feels slavish – but more of a way to showcase genial hospitality and neighborhood warmth. The pizza’s are sublime, a crust that balances delicacy and chew, and toppings that have a real savory bite (Napoletana with anchovies – delicious!) and cooked in wood fire oven that brings just the right touch of unifying smoke to it all.
26 Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
(1690 Robson St, Vancouver, 604.681.8121)
The line up for this Vancouver outpost of a renowned Japanese chain starts early and stays long for most of the day. The attraction is the fantastically rich milky tonkatsu (pork) stock that is slow cooked for 20 hours. Add a bit of spicy condiment to give lift to the deep round flavours – and settle in for a pretty special bowl of ramen.
27 Jade Seafood
(8511 Alexandra Road, Richmond,604.249.0082)
The service here is the epitome of Hong Kong glossiness, so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Their signature Great Grandfather’s Chicken is fantastic, lightly smoked and dressed with sweet soy. The crackling Peking Duck is a cut above most others in the city, and the Dungeness crab steamed in a softly set savory custard is absolutely stunning.
28 Au Petite Café
(4851 Main St, Vancouver, BC; 604.873.3328)
Cozy, comforting, and civilized – this little gem of a Vietnamese restaurant is the dining version of your coziest blanket. The flavors are deep, yet clean and simple. The star anise scented tomato beef stew with soft cooked tendon and jasmine rice is genuinely soul satisfying.
(1829 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, 606.606.4680)
A real hidden gem, and still oddly ignored by local critics – but no matter – the loyal customers continued to be rewarded by tightly executed Italian food, served in a real neighborhood hangout. Start with the soft boiled eggs with white anchovies, the house made pastas are wonderfully buoyant, the grilled meats and fish are always a sure bet.
30 Bo Laksa King
(2546 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC, 604.568.4593)
All of a sudden there is a buzz around Myanmar (Burma) and its cuisine. Anthony Bourdain recently highlighted the food on CNN, and Naomi Duguid has a best selling cookbook out. Sample the complex and heady flavors for yourself at Bo Laksa King. Ownership has changed recently – so the cooking is more consistent and every bit as delicious. The national dish mohingar, is a powerhouse of noodle dish with deeply savory fish broth and the fermented tea leaf salad will leaving you buzzing for hours.