Summertime, and the eating is easy. Our bounty of local ingredients makes this Vancouver’s most delicious season, hands down. Go culinary adventuring and check out these choice warm-weather dishes.
Nashville-style hot chicken at The DownLow Chicken Shack is the hottest meal ticket in town right now, both figuratively and literally. Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann dished up their piquant poultry as a Sunday-night special at their other restaurant, Merchants Workshop, and decided to make it the star of the show at The DownLow; the lineups have been nonstop since it opened for business further north along Commercial Drive in early June. The secret is in the couple’s spice mixture, inspired by a reconnaissance trip to renowned Howlin’ Ray’s in Los Angeles. Pick your pain level: there’s classic, mild, medium, hot, extra hot, or A Side of Milk for capsaicin devotees. Chicken is available by the piece, whole, or sandwiched in a lightly sweet milk bun with slaw, house-made bread-and-butter pickles, and special sauce. Sides are totally on point, too, such as the pimento-cheese macaroni salad, and the cornbread with honey butter. Be prepared to queue up—but remember that delicious things are definitely worth the wait.
Feeling frazzled at the start of your workweek? Groove your cares away on Monday evenings at Burdock & Co. to the tune of Disco Dumplings, replete with glittery disco ball. Chef Andrea Carlson and her talented crew host this weekly event that begins each Monday at 8:00 p.m. and features a concise slate of savoury dumplings for tasty noshing. Adventurous flavour combinations include wild B.C. halibut with red currant flower vinegar, pork and burdock with charred chili sauce, and crispy octopus and black olive. A petite portion of Carlson’s ever-popular buttermilk fried chicken with pickle mayo is also available for snacking while DJ Chris Allen spins post-funk disco beats that readily erase any lingering vestiges of work stress.
When temperatures are soaring and the thought of turning on the stove to cook a summertime meal sparks its own kind of anxiety, hit up Fresh Ideas Start Here (F.I.S.H.) and customize a sustainable-seafood bowl from an array of protein and topping options. The award-winning fishmonger launched its in-house FISHbar in July 2017, and the sashimi-grade Ocean Wise seafood is always impeccably fresh; try the Fancy Bowl, packed full of wild B.C. sockeye salmon, octopus, albacore tuna negitoro, and shoyu ikura. F.I.S.H.’s original location is on Marine Way in South Burnaby, while the two-year-old West Broadway shop in Kitsilano is ideally located for grab-and-go eats en route to the beach.
If heading to an island instead, Melt Shop Food Truck dishes up grilled cheese goodness to help smooth over the wait when you’re stuck in an interminable Tsawwassen ferry terminal lineup. This mobile temple du fromage is the brainchild of chef Alex Tung and partner Vince Morlet, who were inspired by staff meals at their former Steveston Village eatery, Tapenade. Their regular slate of sandwiches on locally baked sourdough includes The Big Porker with smoked mozzarella, Melt Shop bacon jam, and pickled banana peppers; Sweetie Pie with aged cheddar and maple-and-apple compote; and Fancy Pants with fontina, black-truffle tapenade, and black-truffle honey. Melt Shop is also available for special-event catering with elevated eats like the D-Lux, featuring DOP Garofalo Mozzarella di Bufala, onion jam, and Acadian Gold wild sturgeon caviar. It’s comfort food that’s over the top in the best possible way.
Back in Vancouver, chef Eva Chin spotlights a cavalcade of local seasonal bounty with her summer menu at Royal Dinette, and the dessert list is no exception. Luscious strawberries from Cropthorne Farm are dipped in strawberry juice infused with Zaklan Heritage Farm’s anise hyssop. Bronze fennel fronds and nasturtium leaves, courtesy of Glorious Organics, add verdant brightness, while a dusting of dried Nootka rose powder adds floral earthiness. Sweet cream ice cream from Avalon Dairy softly rounds out this homage to Lower Mainland growers and purveyors.
Speaking of ice cream, nothing beats the heat quite like it, and La Glace’s Mark Tagulao has created a charming Paris-inspired oasis of sweet temptation on the west side. “All things are better when shared with someone cherished” is his mantra, and that certainly holds true for his elegantly presented six-scoop flights. They are the perfect way to sample La Glace’s summer ice creams, made in the French method and infused with exotic tastes such as the Filipino flavours of Tagulao’s childhood. Standouts include Kalamansi Sour Cream Sherbert that’s a perfect blend of softly tart and creamy, and Saffron Nougatine with saffron-infused honey cream, orange blossom, and roasted pistachios. Take-away pints in keepsake milk-glass jars are a lovely way to transport La Glace for at-home indulgence.
In the words of Charles Bowden, “summertime is always the best of what might be.” Enjoy these fleeting tastes of the season while flavours are at their fullest.
Plan your next meal.