What do I eat, read, see in Vancouver BC?
December 28, 2012 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Traveling to Vancouver BC Jan 3rd to the 7th 2013 - What do I do? What do I eat? Where do I get books? Would love to get personal recommendations from those that have traveled to the city before or who live there now!

I will be visiting the great country of Canada and the excellent city of Vancouver on the above mentioned dates. Now I have a couple of questions that I am hoping you can give me some guidance on.

First, I have no clue what do in Vancouver. I love food (and saying that, I love high end dining...money is no object when it comes to what is tasty and good), I love books (more than food!) - I read contemporary philosophy, poetry and want to get into contemporary fiction. I hear that Canada has a GREAT poetry scene but I know nothing about it!
....and I would love to see really interesting and quirky things in your fair city. Finally, any good concerts occurring during my stay that I may not be aware of? I am not that picky - I run the gamut from jazz, hip-hop, house music and rock (just to name some broad categorizations) So, Vancouverites, what do I eat, read and see?

Second, are there any Vancouver MeFites that would like to imbibe a drink or two with me during my stay? Maybe share an afternoon looking at stuff? Maybe come by and browse books with me? If this sounds good, please feel free to pm me!

Also, I will be staying in the downtown Vancouver area so I believe that transportation won't be a problem.

Thanks again for your help!
posted by Dauus to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Many an hour can be spent in the warren of MacLeod's books.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:11 PM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I once lived at the Hyatt in downtown Vancouver for a month (January). While I'm not so sure about what there is to do in Vancouver (I'm married with children) I can say that there are a lot of good restaurants, especially if you like Asian food.

Lower Robson Street (towards Denman) has a lot of Korean and Japanese pubs (izakaya), although my favourite Japanese izakaya in Vancouver is not Guu (which everyone seems to like), but Goldfish on Denman.

A few blocks up on Robson there's a great and cheap Korean BBQ place next to Fogg 'n Sudds, above the Hong Kong-style eaterie Hon's.

You could try taking the Canada Line to Richmond to Yaohan Mall, which has a pretty incredible Asian foodcourt with authentic Asian fast foods like noodles and curry. A lot of locals, who come from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China, eat at the Yaohan foodcourt in Richmond.

Gastown has really matured over the past five years or so with some great restaurants and lunch places. My personal favourite places in Gastown would have to be Pourhouse, which is a pub with local microbrews and a beautifully restored interior with original massive fir beams and polished copper.

Just up the street on Hastings is Chill Winston, a funky lounge with good food and good beer.

If you can get out there, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC is worth visiting, but it's a hell of a bus ride, and sits waaaaaaay out at the tip of Point Grey, probably Vancouver's westernmost point.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:13 PM on December 28, 2012


For high end eats go to Le Crocodile on Burrard Street or Bishop's on 4th in Kitslano. Kits also has some wonderful book stores along 4th and Broadway. Both worth exploring if the weather is decent enough for a outdoor walk.

Although "touristy" many of the classic attractions really are worth doing. I love visiting the Aquarium in Stanley Park*' walking across the Lions Gate Bridge, people watching at the adjacent Starbucks on Robison*' enjoying the view from Grouse Mountain (skiing/boarding also available), drinking a Belini at Milestones and watching the sunset on English Bay, visiting the many brewpubs of Yaletown and poking around the yuppie shops there*, visiting the green house on top the mountain at Queen Elizabeth Park* are a few January appropriate activities that I can think of.

*would be okay in poor weather

Can you tell I loved living in Vancouver!?
posted by saradarlin at 6:44 PM on December 28, 2012


Pulp Fiction Books has three locations. The Main Street one is the best.
posted by philip-random at 6:58 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do
-Walk around Stanley Park and visit the Lost Lagoon to see raccoons. If you keep walking further around you'll be able to walk around English Bay, maybe take some pics of A-May-Zing Laughter and eventually end up round at Brockton Lighthouse and the Totem Poles (the most visited thing in Van).

-As you'll be in Stanley Park anyway, why not visit the beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. Though personally, the sea otters are my fave. They also have a tropical house that contains butterflies, exotic birds and a couple of sloths. They have a Luminescence theme at the moment which looks interesting.

-If you're in good shape, you could climb Grouse Mountain, and when at the top you can ski, snowboard, snowshoe or ice skate. There's a pretty nice restaurant and the view is beautiful, especially if you stay after nightfall (when the mountain is lit up for night-skiing).

-Capilano Suspension Bridge, just for the view (if you're not scared of heights of course!)

-The Museum of Anthropology is worth a visit, a little pricey but houses hundreds of First Nations masks, clothing articles and tribal artifacts. I didn't get out there for ages but it's really impressive and I wish I'd done it sooner.

- Dr Sun Yat-Sen's Classical Chinese Garden is very pretty and is in Gastown, so you'll be able to walk to it from DT.


Eat
-Samurai on Davie, for delicious and cheap sushi

-Stephos on Davie, for hearty greek food

-Finch's Tea and Coffee House - most amazing sandwiches ever if you can ignore the pretension

-Kin Vietnamese - really, really tasty vietnamese/taiwanese food. I could eat here every day.

-Save On Meats - excellent diner grub at half the price of local eateries, plus you get to sit in the iconic, filthy/gorgeous place, under the constant buzz of the revolving neon sign

-Vij's restaurant is widely regarded as the best Indian food in Canada, although I haven't been there myself yet people I know rave about it. But! pricey, and no reservations.

-Meat and Bread are supposed to do the best pulled pork sandwich, though I haven't had the chance to go in there yet.

-Please do pop into Trees Cafe and order any cheesecake you like. They're all bloody gorgeous.

-Marcello's on Commercial drive is some of the best pizza I've had outside of Florence. YUM. The Drive is a fun area to walk around too!

-Cartems Doughnuts if you want earl grey or bourbon/bacon fried cakes


Books
-The obvious one is Chapters, downtown. Though I can reccommend Pulp Fiction and Macleod's.

Hope you have a great time! Inbox me for any more questions. I've only been here for 18 months but I'll do my best to help.
posted by everydayanewday at 7:02 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


My husband and I traveled to Vancouver specifically to eat delicious things, and our four favorite places where we ate (and drank) our butts off were:

L'Abattoir - wonderful craft cocktails (which I found were surprisingly difficult for Vancouver bars to get right) and I seem to recall drooling for days over the memories of the veal sweetbreads

Guu - Japanese izakaya/bar food. Gets really crowded really fast, so get there early and pace yourself over a long period of time drinking sake and eating things on sticks

Santouka - my favorite ramen shop in the world. Yes, it is technically a chain but they don't have many locations outside of Vancouver and southern California, and it's really fucking good. Get the spicy miso ramen

Tojos - intensely high-end sushi. Sit at the bar and get the omakase.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:03 PM on December 28, 2012


Food: Espana on Denman has great Spanish tapas; the Guus are variable: I find the one in Gastown not amazing myself, but some of the others are better (the one in the West End is better, IMO); I'd avoid Stephos: it's cheap and filling, but you end up queueing for not great Greek food, IMO; I don't eat fish but when a friend came to visit she really enjoyed Rodney's Oyster house in Yaletown (they also have really good Guinness for here). Vij's is awesome but the waits can be long...they do have a bar in the back, though, where you can drink and they serve you free nibblies as you wait; if you find the wait too much, West on Granville up the street is very good (the best cocktails I've had in Vancouver, too). Korean food is really good and varied here: there's a number of good places on Robson ranging from a little bit grotty to not quite fancy but sparkling clean. Santouka nearly always has a line; Kintaro on Denman is also popular and quite decent.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is usually not really worth a trip unless they have a good exhibit, but the Museum of Anthropology at UBC is very much worth a trip. The Sun Yat Sen garden is pleasant and sometimes they have music there.

MacLeod's books is the best second handbook store in Vancouver and worth a visit - they always have something interesting there.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:21 PM on December 28, 2012


About a year and a half ago I sent a friend a long long disordered email filled with suggestions of Vancouver wanders for their upcoming trip, & I'll reposting parts of it here. Everything, when I was back in Vancouver a year ago, still holds true.

There's a great tiny cafe+bookstore called Solder & Sons at Main & Cordova right in the thick of the downtown east side (the only place--DTES, not Solder & Sons--in all of North America to have a supervised shooting gallery staffed by nurses--yay, harm reduction in practice!); sometimes the owner has shows in the evenings even though the whole space isn't much larger than a kitchen, and in general it's probably a good spot to ask around about interesting under-the-radar events and things to check out. I bet they'd have good suggestions on poetry readings and the local literary scene, FYI.

A couple blocks away is Blim, an extremely hip arts space that offers an (expensive) community screenprinting space and (very cheap) materials for making pins. I was in Vancouver for nearly two weeks in the summer of 2010 and made about twenty 1.25" buttons over the course of three wanders past, depleting their stash of mid-nineties "subaltern with mournful dark eyes" National Geographics for their tiny illustrations of prehistoric life, etc.

If you like sitting in cafes, in my opinion the best cafe/general store in town is The Wilder Snail. It's on the edge of a lovely sun-dappled park in Strathcona. Strathcona's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Vancouver, and has a distinctly different feel than elsewhere in the city--filled with ramshackle Victorians to the rest of Vancouver's polished contemporary architecture and too-manicured lawns. (I think there's a city ordinance about green space in/around condos and complexes, which makes the city look astonishingly lush and verdant despite prevailing architectural aesthetics..) As a neighborhood it's being rapidly gentrified, and you can see junkies and homeless folks from the Downtown East Side rubbing elbows with young professionals who've bought fixer-upper homes.

While you're in Strathcona if you like ice cream perhaps the single most vital thing to investigate is La Casa Gelato at 1033 Venables Street, where you can try free samples of 260+ different flavors of ice cream, including durian and earl grey and balsamic vinegar+thyme, etc. Really, it's probably the best material thing about the whole city if you ask a subjective, opinionated person.

Further afield (but still quite near, relatively) on Broadway a block east of Main there's Rhizome, a cafe/community center with really tasty food+a nice bar that hosts lots of queer and radical events and is pretty great.

Further west at Broadway and Cambie there are a host of restaurants that serve Chinese cutting and pushing and dragging noodles. What taxonomy. I remember the best one I tried had a pink(ish) interior and seating along the left wall, and might've been called Peaceful Restaurant or might've just been near Peaceful Restaurant; there's about four others in the general vicinity.

From there, you could go wander up Commercial Drive, the "other" hip neighborhood in Vancouver. Or if you've got friends up for late night wanders, you could bike all the way across town after dark to some edge of beach bounded by the seawall near (but not quite all the way to) Jericho Beach and build a fire and drink whiskey. All these things (except fires on the beach) are no more than a ten minute bike ride from one another, FYI. Other folks will have better ideas about hiking and nature-wanders, but it can be really lovely to take a ferry to the islands though would be a whole-day trip by public transit since the ferry terminal is genuinely far afield. If you're very lucky and the weather's clear you might notice that Vancouver is surrounded by mountains, though it was probably the second full week I stayed in Vancouver that the (well, wintertime) fog lifted enough for the landscape to be more than rumor.
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:40 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


MacLeod's is an amazing used bookstore, almost but not quite as good as Russell's in Victoria or the dozen or so specialty used bookstores in Sidney. It's well worth a visit.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:47 PM on December 28, 2012


Gorge yourself on salmon.
posted by brujita at 9:51 PM on December 28, 2012


Whatever you do, definitely go to Chambar to eat mussels and drink fancy beer.
posted by just_ducky at 11:04 PM on December 28, 2012


Local Vancouverite (and still living) here. I think you have to check out some of our microbrewed beer, which can be accessed from certain places in Gastown. I like the Alibi room although they can get super crowded, so I suggest going there early.

For Chinese food, if you could somehow organize a party of I dunno, 10, you can go to the best fine dining Chinese places in Richmond (a nearby city with an even larger Asian population, accessible by light rail transit). But it's hard to order all the feast food by yourself. Shanghai Wonderful in Richmond (not too far from public transit) is pretty good for Shanghainese food. I think most Chinese places in the world serve fusion or Cantonese food, but Vancouver has enough of a Chinese population to sustain other regional cuisines. And try out some dimsum in Richmond... Kirin or Sun Sui Wah are established well-known restaurants. Since you have money for food, IMHO skip the fast food Chinese and go straight to finer dining.

I second Santouka. Get the ramen with the crazy decadent pork base. But if you had to choose between eating ramen and eating sushi, eat sushi. We have really really really good sushi compared to the rest of the world, even if it's not always authentic. I'm fond of Sake Maki on Commercial Drive.

Everything tapir-whorf said is good if you're into taking in the counterculture of Vancouver. I'm always at Rhizome.

Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions. I may be interested in imbibing and sharing some of my local knowledge in person.
posted by Hawk V at 12:50 AM on December 29, 2012


Nthing Vij's (or their more casual sister restaurant, Rangoli). Also nthing Santouka (the pork jowl is amazing).

If you like the idea of sampling a lot of different Asian foods/cuisines in one sitting, the food court at the Crystal Mall in Burnaby is fantastic.

Meat and Bread
for terrific porchetta sandwiches and inventive daily specials.

Bella Gelateria has amazing gelato.

If you're a fan of chocolate, Cocoanymph (emphasis on lots of unusual flavor combinations) or Chocolaterie de Nouvelle France (emphasis on very classic pure chocolate flavors). Both do superb drinking chocolates. Cocoanymph's is super-rich, Nouvelle France's is intensely chocolatey.

Also, the restaurant that tapir-whorf mentions with the pink interior and the seating on the left wall is Peaceful Restaurant, one of my favorites.
posted by creepygirl at 7:13 PM on December 29, 2012


Wow - these suggestions have been great! I am creating a masterlist (and unfortunately a budget..boo!) of restaurants to eat, books stores to peruse and, of course, things to experience and see. You guys are wonderful and helpful! Thanks again for helping me plan this trip out. If anyone wants to join me for a drink (microbrews especially!) or eats or to visit any of these awesome places, don't be afraid to PM me!

Thanks again MEFI - the party don't stop here!
posted by Dauus at 1:47 PM on December 30, 2012


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