For the food-friendly, Vancouver’s got it all. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there are some things that are simply required eating. And while we can’t claim we have been to every spot, or know everything there is to know about Vancouver food, we’ve got a handle on a few beloved favourites. So, without further ado, we present to you the Vancouver Food Bucket List: an unofficial guide to some of the city’s must-eats.
California Roll at Tojo’s
Chef Tojo is widely credited with inventing this now-famous roll, and there is one major thing he still does different from all the followers: real, fresh Dungeness crab. There’s no imitation here, and the power in that change should be tasted to be understood.
Lamb Popsicles at Vij’s
Juicy roasted lamb. On the bone. Served with chutney for dipping. It’s the stuff of genius, and it’s thanks to Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala, the minds behind Vancouver’s most beloved Indian restaurant.
Avocado toast at Nelson the Seagull
This is what Instagram dreams are made of. Sitting pretty in Gastown, bakery-cafe Nelson the Seagull makes a mean loaf of sourdough that is hard and chewy on the outside while being perfectly soft on the inside. Topped with some ripe green avocado and paired with an artfully-made latte, it’s hipster brunch heaven.
Kale Caesar at Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant
Heirloom, which hangs just off sleepy South Granville, serves up vegetarian fare that even meat-lovers will enjoy. The kale salad with vegan Caesar dressing is a knockout dish that will have you trying to successfully replicate it at home for years to come.
Salmon Oshi Sushi Aburi at Miku
Vancouver does sushi well, and there are way too many neighbourhood favourites to include on this list—but we must acknowledge the aburi flame-seared sushi at Miku (and sister restaurant Minami). All three options are divine, but the Salmon Oshi might just take the cake, with pressed B.C. wild sockeye Ocean Wise salmon and Miku sauce, topped with a slice of jalapeno. Wash down with sake.
Queso Fundido at Mezcal
This dish is just as fun as it sounds. Gooey, creamy melted cheese is served in a volcanic stone bowl at this Gastown restaurant (there is a Commercial Drive location as well). Go with the classic version, served with fresh tomatillo salsa verde, or splurge for the chorizo or sautéed mushrooms. Served with hot corn tortillas, this is pure indulgent, cheesy bliss.
Najib’s Special at Nuba
We can’t really tell you what’s in Najib’s Special other than cauliflower, because this Lebanese restaurant is very secretive about the recipe. What we can tell you is that it’s delicious, maybe even life-changing. There are a few Nuba locations around the city, which means multiple chances to get up close and personal with Najib.
Gooey Cheese Grillers with Straight Up Tomato soup at Burgoo
Grilled cheese and tomato soup might be one of the most comforting meals of all time, and Burgoo—with many outposts around town—does a heartbreakingly good job. The restaurant’s After School Special lets you pair any sandwich with any soup, but it’s hard to veer away from the classic Gooey Cheese Grillers made with Gruyere, Emmental, white cheddar, and mozzarella on a house-made baguette. Dipped into the Straight Up Tomato soup with vine-ripened tomatoes, garlic, and red wine and then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, it’s decadent, delicious, perfect.
Al Pastor tacos at Sal y Limon
Every taco is a taco worth having at Mount Pleasant’s Sal y Limon, but the classic Mexican combination of roasted pork and pineapple makes the Al Pastor a hard one to pass up. Topped with fresh cilantro and chopped white onion and wrapped in glorious corn tortillas, the question becomes not if, but how many. The restaurant also has an array of salsas ranging in flavour and spice, meaning any palate can be seduced here.
Miso Ramen at Kintaro
It’s best to go to Kintaro at lunchtime, as you’re less likely to encounter a lineup—because yes, this place is popular. Known especially for its Miso Ramen, Kintaro is a humble little joint serving up gigantic bowls of warming soup. Opt for the medium broth, which is flavourful without being overly salty, and we suggest the fattier cuts of pork—they’ll pull apart easily and just about dissolve on your tongue. The chewier noodles are an acquired taste, but they work nicely with the light crunch of sweet corn and alfalfa sprouts. Drink lots of water.
Sausage Kale pizza at Don’t Argue! Pizzeria
While not the most authentic pizza in the city, Don’t Argue! serves the most uniquely Vancouver pies. This hip Main Street joint makes them simple and flavourful, with a popular standout involving mashed potatoes and béchamel. But our favourite is the sausage with braised kale (so West Coast), mozzarella, tomato, and grana padano. Wash it all down with a local craft beer for heightened excellence.
Cavatelli di Ricotta e Semola al Ragout Bianco at Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca
When it comes to pasta at Cioppino’s, it is very, very hard to go wrong; legendary chef Pino Posteraro works tirelessly with a dedicated team to produce incredibly tender and flavourful handmade pastas. Indeed it could be as easy as closing your eyes and pointing to one, but a standout is the Cavatelli di Ricotta e Semola al Ragout Bianco: that’s melt-in-your-mouth soft ricotta gnocchi, juicy organic ground beef, and ragout Genovese alla Napolentana (Neapolitan-style Genovese ragout). It’s the kind of dish you want to taste every morsel of—no smidgen of beef or sauce will be left in the bowl. Thanks to Posteraro’s warm Italian hospitality, meaning he manages to run the kitchen while also entertaining the front of house, most diners will be able to give their compliments directly to the chef.
Papaya Salad at Bob Likes Thai Food
With two locations to choose from, Bob Likes Thai Food serves up some of the most unpretentious Thai that does not sacrifice flavour. The curries are fantastic here, but so is the Papaya Salad, made with shredded green papaya, tomatoes, green beans, chillies, garlic, peanuts, and fresh lime juice. It’s tangy, spicy, fresh, and crunchy.
Whole Branzino at CinCin Ristorante + Bar
Go big or go home might be the name of the game with this dish, and let’s just say you shouldn’t go home. CinCin Ristorante on Robson grills up this whole branzino fish alongside lemon, cavolo nero, garlic, rosemary, and sieglinde potatoes. De-bone the fish yourself, or have the server do it for you tableside—quite a charming experience, we must admit.
Xiao Long Bao at Long’s Noodle House
Some might say Long’s Noodle House is hiding in plain sight. Located right on Main Street near 33rd, this unassuming spot serves up some of the best xiao long bao in the city. The humble, small space is nothing much to look at, but that’s okay: your eyes will undoubtedly be drawn to the small counter at the back, where a cook works away tirelessly filling and shaping those delicious soup dumplings right in front of you. Served piping hot, the little bundles of goodness have perfectly soft dough that wraps around the delicious salty liquid and moist pork.
Chả Cá Hà Nội at Mr. Red Cafe
Specializing in traditional Northern Vietnamese cuisine, Mr. Red Cafe is a small place serving up serious flavour. There are two spots—East Hastings and West Broadway—with the same menu, and a must-have at either is the Chả Cá Hà Nội: pan-fried white fish fillets seasoned with turmeric and topped with green onion and fresh dill. Served sizzling in a pan, it comes alongside herbs including cilantro and basil, plus crushed peanuts, dried vermicelli noodles, and spicy shrimp paste sauce.
There you have it, folks: a suggested list of not only where, but what to eat in Vancouver. Because while new restaurants are exciting, it’s important to remember the classics.