Vancouver is one of those mythical places in British Columbia where you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Even if it’s raining (which is, to be honest, a lot of the time), you’ll find people jogging and biking the Seawall, a waterfront path that meanders from downtown Vancouver, around Stanley Park and across the Burrard Bridge to the former hippie enclave of Kitsilano.
All that fresh air can make a person hungry, so here are three places to check out Vancouver’s food scene – best described as immaculate ingredients amalgamated through the many cultures that call the city home.
Named after John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, Gastown is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhoods. Water Street is where you’ll find all manner of Mountie-clad moose and maple syrup, but if you venture to the corner of Hastings and Cambie streets, you’ll see where the locals go for a carb fix.
Purebread (purebread.ca, 159 W. Hastings St., 604-563-8060) started in the ski haven of Whistler, B.C., with artisanal loaves, but has since branched out to include nearly anything worth baking. It’s best to get there early, not just to avoid the lines but also to see the full kaleidoscope of offerings.
The breakfast sandwich goes swanky with prosciutto and egg on brioche, while nubbly scones get dolled up with rosemary and lavender. If you aren’t averse to dessert in the morning, save room for a Purebread brownie, which hides hearts of raspberry, caramelized banana or the legendary lemon chèvre.
You’ll also find such quirky treats as Anzac biscuits (crisp, nubbly oat cookies), pavlovas (meringues with a chewy center) and Lamingtons (square cakes with chocolate-and-coconut icing), owing to co-owner Mark Lamming’s New Zealand roots. And tuck a sourdough loaf in your bag for glorious French toast the next day.
Skip the car and opt for transit or a water taxi to get to Granville Island, the former industrial flats where artists work in all kinds of media, from clay to glass, fiber to metal. Culinary artisans are mostly housed in the Public Market, but the island’s real gem is in the neighboring Net Loft building.
There, local chef and restaurateur Angus An pays homage to Thai street food with Sen Pad Thai (senpadthai.com; 604-428-7900; 1666 Johnston St.). Set aside any worries about gloppy noodles. These are so springy that they almost bite back, and they’re wok-fried to order. Mull five kinds of pad thai or choose the undersung pad siew beef, a Chinese-inflected dish of chewy rice noodle sheets, glossy with soy and speckled with beef.
Mount Pleasant is where the cool kids go for fourth-wave coffee, pop-up shops and craft beer by the paddle. It’s also home to Burdock & Co. (burdockandco.com; 604-879-0077; 2702 Main St.).
Where other restaurants pay lip service to the notion of local and seasonal, chef Andrea Carlson has long been working with small producers to shape the region’s culinary identity. The frequently changing menu highlights local delicacies such as uni (sea urchin) and sake kasu, a byproduct of the sake made on Granville Island. (It’s reminiscent of blue cheese.)
Risotto is made with rice grown in Abbotsford, B.C., about an hour’s drive away, and the wine list includes some of the more interesting bottles from the Okanagan Valley, about five hours away.
While the menu changes often, there’s usually some form of fried chicken. A recent incarnation featured buttermilk-marinated chicken thighs, deep-fried to perfection and served with puckery dill pickle mayo. It’s so pretty that you’ll reach for a knife and fork, but you’ll want to swipe the plate clean with your finger.
Yuh is a writer based in Vancouver. Her website is thewelltemperedchocolatier.com. Find her on Twitter: @eagranieyuh.