We’re all familiar with a Greatest Hits List. It’s best-of-the-best, the home runs, and the heavy hitters.
Food might be Vancouver’s best kept secret. Not only is Vancouver incredibly multicultural, but it’s one of Canada’s most abundant, most multicultural regions and North America’s most walkable city.
As with music, art, and Netflix shows, we’ve all got opinions on what makes something the greatest. This is our current take on Vancouver’s restaurant scene, highlighting the restaurants that have brought us decades of happiness while we’ve called Vancouver home.
Things you should know:
- Seafood is the #1 food that locals recommend eating in Vancouver.
We once polled 100+ concierges/tour guides/tourism folks, and they all said the same thing: seafood.
- Sushi is Vancouver’s comfort food.
There are over 600 sushi restaurants in the city and everyone eats it. Same goes for ramen. We can’t get enough.
- Our dim sum rivals the dim sum in China.
Vancouver is super multicultural, with over 25% of the population being Chinese. The food reflects it.
- Brunch is a religion.
Vancouver absolutely loves to brunch, especially when it involves things like nutella, paella, or poutine.
- When a restaurant calls itself “Canadian Cuisine…”
Think local meats, fresh seafood, seasonal vegetables and hearty grains. When they say “Pacific Northwest,” it’s usually more seafood and seasonally-focused.
- You should try the beer.
There are over 50 craft breweries in Vancouver alone! Here’s our Ultimate Craft Beer Guide to get you started.
Below are the Vancouver restaurants that we think you should hit first, especially if you’re new to the city. You won’t find the latest craze or most recent openings here, but you will find a thoughtfully chosen list of top restaurants that we think are essential to Vancouver dining.
Vancouver Foodie Tours
If you can’t commit to a single restaurant, check out Vancouver Foodie Tours – they’re a walking food tour that hits a series of restaurants in the most food-centric neighbourhoods. Tours are 2-3 hours and you’ll learn history and culture while digging into the iconic foods (like seafood, dim sum, craft beer, wine, and cocktails) that Vancouver does best! It’s Vancouver’s #1 Rated Tour on TripAdvisor and one of Forbes’ Top 9 Food Tours in the World! Check it out: https://foodietours.ca/
SUSHI | If there’s any kind of occasion in the calendar, we hope it involves Miku. It’s a Japanese restaurant with sushi and the like, but it’s got a distinct West Coast flare with items like fresh oysters, kale gomae, and ebi fritters. There are a few invented-in-Vancouver items – like flamed-torched Aburi Oshi Sushi or the Braised Beef Short Rib – that have hypnotic power over us. The food quality is amazing, there’s a waterfront view, and it’s in that price range where we probably shouldn’t eat here every day. When we truly can’t resist, we visit at lunch and have the Lunch Shokai ($38) for great value.
Downtown – 200 Granville St
SEAFOOD | Seafood is Vancouver’s defining feature – we’re literally on the Pacific Ocean. But when we’re craving seafood and can do nothing but the best, it’s got to be Boulevard. The dishes are fresh as you’d expect, but it’s the consistent execution – of flavours, of presentation, and finesse – that brings Boulevard to another class. From Vancouver’s Best Seafood, to Best Chef, to Best Upscale Restaurant, Boulevard raked in numerous awards across the board.
Downtown – 845 Burrard St
CANADIAN | If you’re someone who knows hotel restaurants as overpriced, sub-quality tourist traps, dining your way through downtown Vancouver will quickly change your opinion. Here, hotel dining rooms compete in the upper echelon of the restaurant scene. Not only is Notch 8 a destination for lavish high tea, cocktails, and seafood, it’s housed inside the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver – one of Vancouver’s most historic and iconic buildings. The hauntingly high ceilings and dramatic decor are from another time. From the street, you might never know Notch 8 exists, but it is a worthwhile escape from Vancouver’s glassy cityscape.
Downtown – 900 West Georgia St
BELGIAN | We first fell in love with Chambar at dinner over Moules Frites, Ossu Buco and wine. Lots of wine. We solidified our long-lasting relationship over Belgian Waffles and Paella over many occasions at brunch. If you don’t have a reservation, Chambar has a big enough space that the wait isn’t ever too long, so it’s always a great option to keep in tow.
Downtown – 568 Beatty St
INDIAN | If you’re talking Indian food in Vancouver, Vij’s is the place. One taste of the Lamb Popsicles and Garlic Naan and you’ll see why foodies idolize Chef Vikram Vij as North America’s finest Indian chef. Open daily from 5:30pm, arrive early or be prepared for cocktails and nibbles in the lounge.
Mount Pleasant – 3106 Cambie St
CANADIAN | First-timers to Canada come to Vancouver hoping for plaid-covered, maple-syrup drenched cabins of poutine, and alas, there’s nothing of the sort at Fable. Yet, it’s totally Canadian in that it’s laid back, the staff are really friendly, and the food is that wholesome farm-to-table, local goodness. They’re a neighbourhood spot that happens to serve the best French Toast in town, so they’ll always have a soft spot in our hearts! They just renovated in 2020 and the space is bright and welcoming!
Kitsilano – 1944 West 4th Ave
DIM SUM | Dim sum at Kirin is one our favourite weekend traditions with the VFT Foodies. It’s said that the dim sum at Kirin is “even better than the dim sum in Hong Kong”. We gather round, order a mountain of dishes, and let loose at the bamboo steamers grace the table. There’s no push cart service – everything is made to order. 30 years of experience and thousands of Pork and Prawn Dumplings later, you’ll find business people, old-timers, and locals pulling up a seat.
Downtown – 1172 Alberni St
BRUNCH | If you’re new to the city, you’ll figure this out soon enough: brunch is a religion for Vancouverites. There are diners, homestyle cafes, farm-to-table joints, and at the very top of it all, there’s Café Medina. It’s a place you plan for, so you can gather your brunch squad, be-first-in-line, and have the Lavender Latte-Waffle-Fricassee brunch of your dreams. They’re open daily, but you’ve got to arrive before 9:00am or expect to join the line.
Downtown – 780 Richards St
Ask for Luigi
ITALIAN | If pasta is your spirit animal, you’ve got to make time for Ask for Luigi. If it wasn’t so small and if they accepted reservations, we would be here way more often than a couple times a year. The memories we’ve had here – of wine, and meatballs, pastas, and wine against the setting of a small white house – are exceptional. This adorable spot is in a still-up-and-coming neighbourhood, so come along with a friend or know where you’re going. Arrive 20 minutes before opening, or you’ll need to put your name in and grab a drink across the street.
Photo credit: reservationundercindy.com
Railtown – 305 Alexander St
ITALIAN | A hip, hot spot for Italian food outside of downtown, often debated with the likes of Ask for Luigi. It’s a neighbourhood joint and they totally take reservations…if you can snag one 1 month in advance! Walk ups are always accepted daily. At first we were skeptical when people told us of the Bagna Cauda (a garlic anchovy vegetable dip) and the Kale Caesar Salad (who even does that?) but they’ve become two staples for us.
Photo Credit: Yatzer.com
Mount Pleasant – 615 Kingsway
PIZZA | There’s pizza and then there’s Nicli. The guys are hand working the dough. They trimming their little boxes of basil with scissors. There’s a giant wood oven in the middle of the restaurant, stoked with wood until it’s 800 degrees. When you don’t have a plane ticket to Italy but you do want authentic Neapolitan pizza, head to Nicli.
North Vancouver – 3142 Highland Blvd
CANADIAN | Annalena’s one of those places that puts a quiet neighbourhood street on the map. You might just miss it as you pass by, but for those who know it, it’s a go-to-haunt for a night out and a great meal. The torn bread – housemade brioche, fluffy, with smoked beef butter – is the best $6 you’ll ever spend. If you wonder how good Pacific Northwest food can be, come to Annalena, get the oyster, the buttermilk fried chicken, the duck breast…or go the whole nine and get the tasting menu, and you’ll see.
Kitsilano – 109 W 1st Avenue
CANADIAN | The little sister of Hawksworth Restaurant is a slightly more casual, hipper restaurant from the original, but that isn’t to say the interior isn’t absolutely breathtaking! The farm-to-table restaraunt works closely with local farmers, growers, foragers, and fishermen to create their menus. We love heading to Nightingale for their happy hour- think delicious buttermilk fried chicken, garlic parmesan fries, beet salad, and wood-stone pizzas. The eats are paired with their impressive cocktails and wine list.
Downtown- 1017 W. Hastings St.
LEBANESE | If you’re teasing through Vancouver menus and you’re wondering how on earth this city became so excited about cauliflower, Nuba is to blame. Their signature dish – deep fried cauliflower – became Vancouver’s gateway to Nuba’s Lebanese cuisine. The dishes are as colourful as they are delicious, so you’ll definitely see some Instagramming going on while you’re here.
Various locations (Downtown, Gastown, Mount Pleasant)
VEGETARIAN | Vancouverites – we like our veggies, we like salad bars, cold pressed juice, and nut-based cheeses. Even if we’re not full-time vegetarian, the average Vancouverite has a baseline palate for eating green. Acorn is an upscale place to do this and it’s a beautiful place to dine.
Mount Pleasant – 3995 Main St
DONUTS | This list hardly mentions the Granville Island Public Market, which is probably the #1 destination we’d recommend to a foodie in Vancouver and a place where tons of locals shop for ingredients. The Public Market is filled with deliciousness from 50+ Canadian artisans. They’re technically not restaurants, but we had to make an exception to mention Lee’s Donuts. The melt-in-your-mouth honey dipped donuts are out of this world, and you’d be wrong to leave Vancouver without one. We stop here on our Granville Island Market Tour and Lee’s Donuts changes lives.
Granville Island – 1689 Johnston St
FRENCH | When you want classic French food in a classic setting, you go to Le Crocodile. It’s a Vancouver institution where many of Vancouver’s best chefs first earned their stripes. Thirty years strong and still ranked as one of Vancouver’s finest restaurants, you’ll be dining amongst devout locals on any evening.
Downtown – Suite 100, 909 Burrard St
MEDITERRANEAN | We’ve had a few ethereal nights at Cioppinos, set to the tune of freshly shaved truffles, creamy pasta, and clinking wine glasses. There are a few restaurants with great Mediterraean food in Vancouver, but only one that has a has a massive wine cellar in house. Locals and celebrities have visited Chef Pino for years and that won’t change anytime soon.
Photo Credit: canadas100best.com
Yaletown – 1133 Hamilton St
COMFORT FOOD | If we were dreaming up a cool clubhouse where we could drink, chill, and eat poutine with friends, it would look just like Six Acres. They’ve got wicked playlists in the evenings, lots of craft beer and really good comfort food.
Gastown – 203 Carrall St
CANADIAN (QUEBECOIS) | If poutine is the only thing you know about Quebecois food, believe us, you’re not alone. St. Lawrence is the first of it’s kind in Vancouver, aiming to transport foodies to a place and time filled with ratatouille, tourtiere, and steak tartare. It’s called haute country cooking and it’s all the rage – St. Lawrence won Vancouver’s Magazine’s 2018 Restaurant of the Year and is currently shortlisted in Air Canada’s Best New Restaurants of 2018.
East Vancouver – 269 Powell St
Blue Water Cafe
SEAFOOD | Blue Water Cafe is a seafood icon in Vancouver, and we’re not here to dispute that. But, we will say that we’ve enjoyed eating at the bar and watching the sushi chef work his magic more than the full sit down dinners we’ve had in the main dining room. Either way, the Miso Sablefish is the dish you can’t miss.
Photo credit: mrnystyleandtravel.com
Yaletown – 1059 Hamilton St
MEXICAN | It might seem crazy that Vancouver would have a cult-like following for Crispy Fish Tacos, but we’ve come too far to question it. Tacofino may have started in Tofino, but their little food truck in Vancouver has spurned several more trucks, four restaurants, and a burrito bar. Our favourite location is in Gastown – they’ve got a wicked happy hour and a hidden patio!
Photo Credit: myvancity.ca
Gastown – 15 West Cordova St
The Mackenzie Room
CANADIAN | Where rustic meets refined. They’ve got a casual fine dining vibe that just puts you at ease when you walk through the doors. Chef Sean Reeves keeps a seasonal chalkboard menu using local ingredients to create his playful dishes. We HIGHLY recommend grabbing your 3 best foodie friends and ordering “I Want It All”- where you get the entire menu perfectly portioned for your group, for less than $100 per person (a killer deal). Wondering what to expect? Our favourite dish to date is the Chicken of the Sea. The combination of sea urchin, hazelnut, pear, and squid ink brioche led one foodie on our team to tears.
Railtown – 415 Powell Street
IZAKAYA | If you’ve never done Japanese tapas before, do it in Vancouver and start at Kingyo. The dishes are small, so just have at the menu and start with what tickles your fancy. People like to order the smoky hot stone beef, so wear an outfit that you can throw in the wash!
Photo credit: foodgressing.com
West End – 871 Denman St
FRENCH | Tucked away in historical Gastown, L’Abattoir is the top recommendation for fine dining in the neighbourhood. It’s French-influenced West Coast cuisine – think Baked Pacific Oysters with garlic butter and truffle. Because we love to eat our way around Gastown, we often start the night at L’Abattoir with their Avocado Gimlet!
Gastown – 217 Carrall St
DESSERT | This chocolaterie, patisserie, cafe is a petite paradise for your sweet tooth. They serve immaculate pastries and the best macarons in Vancouver. One of the best days of our lives was spent with a whole Chocolate Marquise Cake: hazelnut dacquoise, salted caramel, crisp praline and chocolate mousse.
Photo Credit: eatingclub.ca
Downtown – 1059 Alberni St
THAI | Calling Maenam “Thai food” doesn’t do it justice. It’s one of the best restaurants in the city, with exceptional flavours and great value. Our best advice is to leave your fate to the Chef’s Tasting Menu. 6+ dishes of the chef’s choosing (you’ll want to request the Crispy Ling Cod) and come hungry!
Photo Credit: canadas100best.com
Kitsilano – 1938 West 4th Ave
PACIFIC NORTHWEST | It’s said that Vancouver doesn’t have “true” upscale dining (upscale casual is how this city rolls) but the West Coast cuisine at Hawksworth will be as close as you get.
Photo Credit: canadas100best.com
Downtown – 801 West Georgia St
SUSHI | Hailed as the inventor of the California Roll (yes, in Vancouver), Chef Tojo can still be found behind the sushi counter in his eponymous restaurant. Take a seat at the bar, forget the price tag, and order ‘Omakase’, putting your trust in the chef to create a Japanese seafood journey.
Fairview – 1133 West Broadway
COCKTAILS & COMFORT FOOD | This Vancouver institution is a known date-night spot. Stop by for the best whisky sour in town, or choose from their HUGE cocktail list of classic & creative cocktails. Pair your beverage with their signature scotch egg. If you’re looking to enjoy a meal, think upscale bar classics like beef tartare, fried chicken, caesar salad, truffle tots, and a killer burger. Their boozy brunch is dangerous and delicious!
Gastown – 162 Water Street
FRENCH | A French cafe and bistro found on bustling West 4th Ave, Au Comptoir transports you to the streets of Paris. On a summer’s day, it’s the perfect spot for grabbing a coffee and croque-monsieur, sitting outside and watching the world go by.
Kitsilano – 2278 West 4th Ave
Meat and Bread
SANDWICHES | When you’re strolling through Gastown and notice a long line of drooling bodies, Meat & Bread must be near. Get in while the going’s good and the Porchetta’s hot, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. (Unless of course, you join the Gastronomic Gastown Tour).
Gastown – 370 Cambie St
VEGAN COMFORT FOOD |Vegetarians & vegans flock to Meet to gobble down comfort-food favourites alongside refreshing cocktails. Their menu is stacked with huge burgers, bowls, and salads. We love their Oyster Mushroom Kalamari, their Meet Burger, and Ginger Beefless Bowl. You really can’t go wrong at Meet if you’re craving comfort food- even if you’re not a vegetarian!
Gastown – 12 Water Street (Inner Courtyard)
Hokkaido Santouka Ramen
RAMEN | Vancouver has some hardcore ramen enthusiasm, so picking a favourite from the numerous styles is a matter of taste. Santouka is what we call gateway ramen – it’s a simple menu that’s easy to enjoy. Be prepared to wait 30-40 minutes during lunch and dinner to get your hands on a bowl of steaming pork broth and al dente squiggly noodles. Pro tip: Visit Santouka’s location on W Broadway (accessible by Canada Line train) for shorter wait times.
Fairview – 558 West Broadway