Eat your way through Vancouver’s big three: seafood, Chinese, and “Canadian.”
Vancouver is legendarily diverse. It’s the most “Asian” city outside of Asia, in terms of population, and British Columbia is home to 60 percent of all Indigenous languages spoken in Canada. But eating in the country’s third-largest city comes down to the Big Three: seafood, Chinese, and “Canadian.” That last one is tricky to define, even for locals, but it generally means slabs of meat.
On the edge of North America’s last great fishery — a lot of that wild Alaska salmon you love starts its life in spawning streams in B.C. — it’s natural that seafood is a highlight of any trip to the city. For a splurge, it doesn’t get more celebrated than Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar. Classically trained chef Alex Chen won the gold medal at the 2018 Canadian Culinary Championships and Chef of the Year title at the 2018 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards, where Boulevard also picked up wins in the Best Upscale and Best Seafood categories. His seared coho salmon comes with roasted cauliflower, buttermilk emulsion, curry oil pumpkin seeds, and kohlrabi.
For Chinese, some might complain Dinesty Dumpling House is an obvious choice, but only in the way that the Grand Canyon or Yosemite are obvious choices. The local institution for xiao long bao (soup dumpling) and other Shanghainese specialties has five locations. You’ll wait for a table at the Robson Street restaurant, but on Vancouver’s best street for Asian food — lots of Korean and Japanese places nearby — the atmosphere is always buzzing.
For Canadian souvenir foods and quick bites, Edible Canada, across the street from Granville Island Public Market, is unbeatable. But the unexpected star of Canadian cuisine is Forage. As one diner recently told us, Forage is the place vegetarians go to cheat. That’s because its commitment to all things B.C. and all foods sustainable and natural makes its menu one of the most creative in the country. Where else will you find a Saturday Bison Board Experience, barbecue duck chowder, and locally foraged (get it?) mushrooms with Okanagan goat cheese?
Vancouver is spilling over with excellent local beers and spirits. A great place to try a few is Tap & Barrel. The Convention Centre location is good, but you’ll find more locals at the North Vancouver Shipyards location, enjoying a glorious view of downtown across Vancouver Harbour.
Photography: Leila Kwok/Courtesy Edible Canada, Frannz Morzo Photography/Courtesy Tourism Vancouver, Welbert Choi/Courtesy Forage
From the October 2019 issue