From Fine Dining to Hole-in-the-Walls: The Best of Downtown Vancouver Restaurants
By Natasha John
Vancouver Local Expert
Vancouver is a foodie's dream! The city is full to the brim with delicious restaurants that range in price, cuisine and atmosphere, making it impossible to choose just one favorite. The best restaurants downtown aren't always the most expensive, nor are they the most trendy and we think you will be happy with a meal from any of these restaurants.
Hawksworth Restaurant and YEW seafood + bar are two solid choices if you're looking for fine dining while in Vancouver. Yew's atmosphere boasts tall ceilings and lots of space, while Hawksworth is slightly sexier in atmosphere; both are delicious options.
Vancouver is known for its sushi and a visit to the city isn't complete without visiting Miku, or their sister restaurant, Minami. They brought aburi style sushi (charcoal flamed sushi) to Vancouver and locals love it. We think you will, too!
For something cheap and cheerful, pay a visit to La Taqueria. Their traditional tacos will fill you up and go easy on your wallet. With a number of vegetarian and meat options to choose from, you will be hard pressed to decide on your order. Make sure you get an order of the cold and creamy horchata to wash it all down with.
There are many other fantastic restaurants in downtown Vancouver that should be on your list, but these should start you off on the right foot.
10 Phnom Penh
Before we get into the details, we have to warn you that you may become seriously addicted to Phnom Penh. The secret is out in Vancouver and locals and visitors alike are lining up for Phnom Penh's Cambodian and Vietnamese goods. This restaurant calls the East Side home and has a following that's obvious from the line-up. The deep fried chicken wings are a masterpiece. The light and crispy batter keeps the wings juicy and the sauteed garlic and green onions add extra flavor. Dip them in the lemon and pepper sauce and we dare you to stop at just one. The marinated butter beef is a dish of thinly sliced, medium rare beef topped with a blanet of cilantro, brown garlic and Phnom Pehn's special sauce. It's tender, tangy and awesome! Phnom Penh has plenty of dishes you must try! ((604) 682-5777)
9 Cactus Club (Coal Harbour)
Cactus Club is a chain restaurant with locations in British Columbia and Alberta. The food is consistent across each location and diners appreciate that dependability. Chef Rob Feenie made his mark in fine dining and now oversees the menu for all Cactus Club locations. On the menu you will find everything from hearty salads, to popular appetizers like chicken wings and flatbreads. Mains include juicy steaks, burgers, seafood and pastas. A heavy focus on local and sustainable ingredients sets this chain apart. This Coal Harbour location is situated in Jack Poole Plaza and has gorgeous views of the water, mountains and Stanley Park. The outdoor seating space is ample and perfect for a sunny day in the city. (604.620.7410)
8 Homer St. Cafe and Bar
Built in 1909, the Homer Building has been an iconic property in Vancouver's Yaletown for years. What was once the Homer Cafe, is now the Homer St. Cafe and it has gone through major restoration and renovations, doing this historic building justice. Step inside this contemporary space, admire the nod to the building's history and tuck into comforting dishes from the kitchen. If the red rotisserie in the kitchen doesn't give you any indication to the feast you're about to eat, the aroma certainly will. Juicy rotisserie chicken and a daily featured roast are the main event! The Homer St Cafe has nailed the rotisserie chicken and it's a must order when you're there. Complete your meal with a glass of wine or cocktail from the extensive and well thought out menu. All desserts are made in house and are a treat for your palate! (604 428 4299)
7 Le Crocodile
The Alsatian-style cuisine at this elegant restaurant is most pronounced in the savory onion pie served with a glass of chilled Alsace Edelzwicker. Other rich and saucy classics include calf's liver in garlic spinach butter, duck in a reduction with olives, and rabbit in a pinot noir sauce. The salmon is grilled with the skin on, and the Dover sole is pan-fried to perfection. Finish your meal with French cheeses or nibble on them prior to indulging in one of the many fine desserts. Le Crocodile is a Vancouver institution and has been around forever. Locals know they can go to Le Crocodile for a consistently good meal and that old school French charm. (604-669-4298)
6 La Taqueria
Authentic Latin and Mexican fare is hard to come by in Vancouver, but La Taqueria does an excellent job of bring the flavors of the South, up to the North. Not only are the flavors similar to what you may find down there, so are the prices, in terms of Vancouver's standards. Choose from items like De Cachete (tender beef cheeks), Carnitas (pork confit), Pollo Con Mole (Chicken in a mole sauce), Pescado (fish), and the popular De Lengua. Yes, De Lengua is beef tongue, and it's tender and delicious! There are also a number of vegetarian options and if you venture that way, make sure to order a Rajas Con Crema (roasted poblano peppers with creamed corn, sour cream and Mexican cheese). There are a few different homemade salsa options and some freshly pickled vegetables to add onto your taco that will add some welcome heat. To complete your meal, grab a Horchata. It's creamy, without the dairy, slightly sweet and has warm hints of cinnamon. It's very refreshing! (+1 604 568 4406)
5 Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Nicli Antica Pizzeria was the first to bring VPN certified pizza to Vancouver. Neopolitan pizza has found a large following in Vancouver and on any given night there are hungry diners knocking on Nicli's doors to get a piece of the pie, or a whole pie in this case. The pizza's are served piping hot from the wood burning oven that's made out of stone from Mt. Vesuvius. Neopolitan style pizza has a thin crust with a slight chew and blistering on the bottom with just enough toppings so that you can taste each bite, rather than be overwhelmed by too many flavors at once. Nicli uses San Marzano tomatoes for their sauce and you can taste the difference. They have a handful of salads and antipastos to start with, but the main attraction is the pizza. Boasting vegetarian, red sauce, white sauce and meat options, Nicli's menu will suit most palates. The pizza is served whole and you're given a sharp knife and fork to dig into the delicious creation. At the table you're given two bottles of olive oil to dip your pizza into - chili and rosemary garlic. Nicli is located in the Gastown area, and while the exterior is an old building, the inside is sleek and modern. They have reasonably priced wine and a creative cocktail list. ((604) 669-6985)
4 Miku Restaurant
Miku restaurant has made a name for itself in Vancouver for serving some of the best sushi in the city. Miku was the first restaurant in North America to start serving aburi sushi and it has since become a popular style of sushi, especially amongst Vancouverites. Their popularity didn't stop at just one restaurant and they have a second location, Minami, in Yaletown. A visit to Miku isn't complete without an order of their aburi sushi. The Ebi Oshi or Salmon Oshi are excellent! The charcoal flame gives a hint of flavor without compromising the fresh fish. Miku has a creative list of rolls that use the best cuts of fish and you certainly won't see imitation crab meat here. Feeling adventurous? Let chef prepare a special meal and order the omakase. (6045683900)
3 YEW seafood + bar
Exceptional fine dining and stellar service are the hallmarks of this excellent restaurant inside the Four Seasons. Special features include a contemporary raw bar, a pastry chef that creates pure magic in the kitchen and a solid wine program created by Emily Walker. YEW has a seafood heavy focused menu created by Chef Ned Bell, which makes sense when you look at what the Pacific Northwest has to offer. The menu changes seasonally, but you can always be sure that there's an abundant amount of choice when it comes to the types of seafood, and land lovers will be pleased with the options available to them. Weekend brunches are fantastic and indulgent. Of course, there are a few healthy options, too! (604-689-9333, 604-844-6715)
Chambar Beligian Restaurant is a favorite amongst locals for many reasons. The ambiance is refined, yet sultry and the room is filled with people tucking into delicious food and savoring sips of craft cocktails on any given night. The menu has a Belgian focus, but is edges more along the lines of fine dining without being pretentious. Not only are they well known for having fabulous cocktails and wine, but they have a large array of Belgian beer that pairs perfectly with much of the food. When it comes time to sink your teeth into the nosh, the Congolaise mussels are out of this world. These mussels have a slight heat from smoked chili, but are cooled down with tomatoes, creamy coconut milk, fresh coriander and plenty of aromatic spices like fennel and cumin. The lamb tagine is another dish you will find yourself longing for as you dream about the lamb shank that's braised with honey, figs, cinnamon and cilantro, served with cous cous and zalouk. (604 879 7119)
1 Hawksworth Restaurant
Chef David Hawksworth is well-known around the world for serving contemporary cuisine that pleases the utmost discerning palates. Through dedication, consistency and a love for food, each plate is a piece of culinary art that will wow your senses and satiate your hunger. Located inside of the striking Rosewood Hotel Georgia, the dining room exudes sophistication and style, while the service is gracious and warm. Starting your day off with breakfast or brunch at Hawksworth is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, or to impress your dining guests. Situated on West Georgia, it makes it convenient for business lunches, or after work drinks, if you're in the neighborhood. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so a lavish meal is possible almost any time of day. If you're just popping in for drinks, they also offer a bar-dining menu that will curb your appetite while you sip on a hand-crafted cocktail. (604-682-5566)
About Natasha John
Natasha is not born and raised in Vancouver, but calls this beautiful city home. After jumping around Canada, Texas, Arkansas and the UK, she has her feet firmly planted in Vancouver's beaches. Majoring in English Lit, writing has always been something that she has enjoyed. Curious by nature, education has not finished for this aspiring Third Party Mediator, and she is on the road to completing her certificate at the JIBC.
Not one to take things for granted, the awe-inspiring mountains paralyzes her gaze on a daily basis. The Seawall is a magnetic tease that eventually wins over on summer days.
Read more about Natasha John here.