Seattle & Vancouver Recommendations
April 14, 2009 2:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking a trip to Seattle & Vancouver for an extended weekend. For these places, I'd really appreciate some info on: (1) where to get good coffee in the morning, (2) recommended pubs / microbrews to hit at lunch, and (3) atmospheric watering holes to finish up the evenings.

Bonus for authentic Chinese food or a good steakhouse in either city! My fiancee loves a good medium rare charred rib eye. Thanks!
posted by jabberjaw to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In Vancouver you can get some really good coffee or espresso at the Hornby or Hastings branches of this place:
posted by thewalrus at 2:48 AM on April 14, 2009

Best answer: For "authentic" Chinese food, I'm gonna pre-empt conventional wisdom and steer you away from Sun Sui Wah. As I've said before, it's terribly overrated. It built its reputation for good Cantonese food quite deservedly in the early 1990s, but is now primarily a marketing operation with a mediocre restaurant as an afterthought. Witness the full-page ads in all the local publications, and the massive billboards at busstops and at YVR airport. Since the mid-1990s the owners have monopolized the attention of Vancouver's non-Chinese diners by expertly buttering up the food critics who write for The Georgia Straight, the Vancouver Sun, and Vancouver Magazine. With that trifecta locked-up, it's no wonder that everyone automatically thinks Sun Sui Wah and dim sum go together.

My favourites:
- high-end Cantonese: Kirin (downtown or City Square).
- casual Cantonese: Congee Noodle House (Broadway & Main)
- Shanghainese / Sze Chuan : Peaceful Restaurant (Broadway & Cambie) or Northern Dynasty (Aberdeen Centre, Richmond)
- vegetarian Chinese: Bo Kong (Main & 14th)
- roast squab - Koon Bo (Fraser & 41st)
- Dim Sum - Golden Ocean (41st & Arbutus)
- sea food - Fisherman's Terrace (Aberdeen Centre, Richmond)
posted by randomstriker at 3:26 AM on April 14, 2009

Oh and Red Star (Granville & 65th) is also excellent for Dim Sum
posted by randomstriker at 3:27 AM on April 14, 2009

Best answer: I live in Vancouver, so I can't speak for Seattle, but here are some ideas...

1) Coffee for morning

Many think Vancouver's best coffee is to be found at Caffè Artigiano

Otherwise, there are tons of great little independently owned shops. Second Cup is a very good chain. I'm not that picky, but my coffee afficionado friend who will not touch Starbucks does enjoy Second Cup. Tim Horton's isn't the best, but all Canadians love Timmies.

2) Pubs for lunch

Sorry... not much of a beer drinker, but Yaletown Brewing Company is a very popular spot.

3) Atmospheric watering holes for evening

I recommend Chill Winston in Gastown.

4) Steakhouses

Try Hy's Steakhouse, Gotham Steakhouse, and Hamilton Street Grill.

The Keg is not bad if you want a lower key kinda place, but if you're someone who goes nuts if a cut of meat is overdone, skip it.

5) Authentic Chinese food

ANYWHERE in Richmond. Seriously. If Vancouver is really HONGcouver, Richmond is the Chinese people mecca. There are so many different types of Chinese restaurants, I don't even know where to start.

For the best hot pot, go to Landmark Hot Pot House.

Kirin is very good for seafood.

Hmm... this is embarrassing. I should know more places, because I AM Chinese. But I really only know the Chinese names of these restaurants, making it a bit difficult to find them online. Plus, going out for Chinese usually involves getting into a car with my parents and following them in somewhere.

I gotta go, but I'll see if I can find more later!
posted by keep it under cover at 3:39 AM on April 14, 2009

There are some really good Korean restaurants on the downhill end of Robson street. If you start at Denman and walk towards downtown you will pass them...
posted by thewalrus at 3:51 AM on April 14, 2009

There aren't many Second cups in Vancouver, and their coffee is only so-so, in my opinion.

For good coffee, it does depend on the part of town you're in. If you're near Commercial or Main, I would suggest JJ Bean (There's one on Main and 14th, and one on Commercial and around 4th). Otherwise, honestly... coffee is pretty easy to find in Vancouver. Throw a rock, really.

For pubs, my favorite is likely the Fringe Café, on W Broadway near Balaclava. Small, dark place with a decent selection of bottled beers, with about the perfect atmosphere in my mind. If you want good cocktails, I would suggest going to Cascade on Main street (Main and 11th, I think), which has a ridiculously good list of classic, well made drinks. Also, polenta fries. They are a wonder to behold.
posted by vernondalhart at 3:59 AM on April 14, 2009

Assuming it's still there (it should be but it's been about a year since I've visited), I really liked The Irish Heather in the Gastown part of Vancouver. It's a pub that serves a good Guinness and tasty food and would probably satisfy either your #2 or #3 ...
posted by DingoMutt at 4:13 AM on April 14, 2009

Y'know you'd think I'd have more to say here being a foodie and Chinese and all, but randomstriker pretty much has that covered. I will note that:
1) as vernondalhart says, 2nd cup really isn't very good.
2) Although not on the list of stuff you're looking for, there's lots of really good Japanese to be had in town. Some ones to check out: Zakkushi, Guu, Kintaro, Ajisai, Kiyo, Kingyo, Hapa Izakaya, Dan

Tojo is IMO hugely overrated.
posted by juv3nal at 4:18 AM on April 14, 2009

For Vancouver:

Pubs: Anywhere in Yaletown

Awesome place you've got to check out: Granville Island and specifically the Granville Island Market.

Downtown Vancouver isn't great, but the Kitsilano Beach neighbourhood has lots of great cafes and places to eat.

A Vancouver specialty (imho) is tuna melts, and I don't remember the name of the street but Kits Beach has a couple of places that make them. It's just a bagel with tuna and melted cheese but it tastes like heaven :)
posted by alon at 5:48 AM on April 14, 2009

The Lonsdale Quay market is also worth checking out and is a good excuse to ride the SeaBus.
posted by thewalrus at 6:32 AM on April 14, 2009

In Seattle:

For coffee, check out Zokas, Caffe Vita, and Grateful Bread.

Third Place Books has both a cafe and a pub, with the bonus of being an incredible used bookstore that is really fun to poke around in if that's your thing.

My absolute favorite bar is Ballroom. Fremont in general has a lot of pretty good bars.
posted by easy_being_green at 6:39 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know seattle very well, but I have one recommendation:
Macrina Bakery has sandwiches that are delicious. I have never been so pleased with a BLT before.
posted by Acari at 7:17 AM on April 14, 2009

Irish Heather is still around, but it's moved across the street into a less pub-like atmosphere (I preferred the old building). There's also a pub called "Five Acres" in Gastown that has lots of good beer selection and good snack-sized food, with really great staff the several times I've been. It's across the street from Chill Winston, which I've heard is terrible for food and seems more like a lounge than a watering hole, at least from the outside (I've never been).
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 8:11 AM on April 14, 2009

I recommend Cherry Street Coffee House in Seattle. They have five locations, but my personal favorite is the original location at 1st and Cherry. It's a local business. The owner, Ali, is a super guy and very involved in the community.

They also make a wicked bacon, egg and cheese bagel.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:25 AM on April 14, 2009

Best answer: Whoops, I meant Six Acres.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 8:34 AM on April 14, 2009

These are both geographically BIG cities. If you're going to be in both of them for only an extended weekend, any advice needs to be based on where you're staying; otherwise you'll spend way too much of your limited time driving around.

Seattle's ratio of places to get a cup of coffee is about 1 place for every 5 residents. In general, I'd say look around near where you're staying for one of the many little indy coffee houses. Almost all of them brew a decent cup of coffee.

Seattle is also full of microbreweries -- Fremont has several, for instance -- but again, location is all.

For an atmospheric end to your day, look for a place on the water. (Outside seating is nice, too, but can be chilly until July.) Downtown, or Ballard, or on Eastlake or Westlake facing Lake Union -- there's a lot of waterfront of Seattle, and a lot of waterfront restaurants, with spectacular views.
posted by kestralwing at 8:36 AM on April 14, 2009

Best answer: I would rely on Vancouver for Chinese food.

In Seattle . . .

Stumptown in Capitol Hill (they do weekly cuppings)
Cafe Umbria in Pioneer Square
Espresso Vivace in Capitol Hill

Brew Pubs
Elysian Brewing Company--best in town, I'd suggest visiting the original location/brewery in Capitol Hill, though the food is significantly better at the Pioneer Square location
Maritime Pacific Brewery in Ballard
I'd suggest passing on RedHook, Pyramid, and Hale's


Daniel's Broiler (bone-in Delmonico for two is a carnivore's delight)--the Leschi location is lovely and will show you a different part of Seattle than any of the above

Atmospheric watering holes
Marcus' Martini Heaven . . . dark, in a basement, music, in Pioneer Square which can be a bit too hectic for my tastes on a weekend
Boka Lounge at Hotel 1000 . . . swank, upscale, shiny
Zig Zag . . . touted as the best place for cocktails in Seattle, on the hill walk at the Pike Place Market
Black Bottle . . . good value, in Belltown, pretty casual
. . . it really depends on where you're staying and what you're looking for--feel free to email me with specifics or provide more info in the thread
posted by donovan at 9:22 AM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all, so far! These suggestions beat the crap out of Yelp & Chowhound. Please, if you have any more suggestions (or affirmations of prior suggestions), keep it coming!!
posted by jabberjaw at 9:29 AM on April 14, 2009

Coffee in Vancouver:

Vernondalhart is right about Second Cup...I don't even settle for it in Toronto where the coffee is fetid, so why would you go there in Vancouver where the coffee kicks ass? JJ Bean on Commercial Drive is good, but the best espresso in town (even better than Artigiano) is at Continental Coffee near Commercial and 1st Ave. (There are a lot of watering holes of the atmospheric variety in that neighborhood, too. Another strip to look at for the latter would be Main St., between about 12th and 6th.)
posted by Beardman at 9:30 AM on April 14, 2009

For authentic Chinese food, try Yaohan Center (it's a small mall) in Richmond on No. 3 Road.

The food court in Yaohan is simply amazing, with every different variety of Chinese fast food you can imagine, and it's cheap. You can wander over to the much larger (and weirder) Aberdeen Centre mall next door, which also has a food court with cheap, good, Asian food.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:32 AM on April 14, 2009


for coffee downtown: Melriches on Davie. It's really cosy and friendly, the coffee is excellent, and they do great food (breakfast sandwiches, paninis, baked goods). They're also licensed (just beer and wine), so I'd recommend them for either breakfast or lunch. I personally feel that they have the best coffee in the city.

pubs: six acres and yaletown brewing (as mentioned above) are both good. I also like Subeez at the north end of yaletown (it's very close to shopping and downtown destinations). If it's sunny, they have a nice outdoor patio area. We're definitely a microbrew/pub lunch town so it's not too hard to find a great place to go.
posted by rhinny at 1:27 PM on April 14, 2009

ANYWHERE in Richmond.

Uh, no. That's like saying "anywhere in Italy" for Italian food.

Yes, Richmond is one huge Chinatown. But there's good Chinese food and bad Chinese food in Richmond. There's places that have good service and bad service, and places that are overpriced or not. Don't drive around in Richmond, park randomly, walk into a place and automatically expect to enjoy it.

Stick with specific recommendations from food fanatics.
posted by randomstriker at 3:10 PM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for everything, guys. As it turns out, we were guided mostly by our cravings while in Seattle and Vancouver and didn't hit a lot of great suggestions. In Seattle, we ate chicken gizzards, Elliots oysters, Long Provincial for late dinner, Ivar's for clam chowder, and Beechers for mac and cheese and cheese curd to snack on while driving up to Vancouver. In Vancouver we ate Chinese smorgasbord at some place full of old Chinese men on Hastings street, Kirin for blanched geoduck, and a late night snack at the Babylon Cafe. Pretty good chicken schwarma, totally hit the spot. After we flew back home, we also ate fresh salmon sashimi from a whole giant fish we brought back on the plane.

Thanks again for all of the suggestions!
posted by jabberjaw at 2:56 PM on May 14, 2009

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