Ever since the British Columbia government passed revolutionary new liquor laws in 2014, happy hours have begun to pop up on restaurant and bar menus across the province. In Vancouver, that doesn’t necessarily mean mozzarella sticks and draft lagers in gloomy pubs (though there’s nothing wrong with that); fine restaurants and upscale-casual dining spots have launched great happy hours, too, giving locals the opportunity to treat themselves without breaking the bank. So recruit a friend and begin some epic culinary adventures with these standout eats.
Named after the local legend of English Bay, Joe Fortes is one destination that lives up to its reputation. The seafood and chophouse just off Robson has entertained celebrities and residents for the past 30 years, and continues to impress with its San Francisco-inspired grill and illustrious wine list.
Start off with a healthy serving of the Jumbo Tempura Prawns (battered shrimp served with a side of Togarashi mayo). Pro tip: save the sauce for the Truffle Parmesan Fries—they were made for each other. If looking to enjoy a mean lobster roll, Joe Fortes makes one of the best, boasting generous lobster meat and shrimp mixed in with classic remoulade and encased in soft bread. With fresh One Dollar Oysters to round things off, there’s really nowhere to go wrong (or hungry) on this menu.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day, at the bar only.
Nothing spells happy hour better than a great patio location, and The Sandbar’s dreamy views from Granville Island are difficult to beat. Brandishing a new menu just in time for the warmer weather, this historic seafood spot serves up big Baja California influences.
For something unexpected, opt for the Avocado Chips with a golden breaded exterior and creamy centre. If something vegetarian and gluten-free is in order, the Tacos Frijoles (salsa fresca, black beans, zucchini, and feta cheese inside a charred tortilla) do not disappoint. But for that satisfying crunch, an order of the Bay Shrimp and Avocado (avocado topped with shrimp and served with house-made tortilla chips) is just the thing.
Hours: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, in the lounge or at the bar.
Coquille Fine Seafood
For a sophisticated take on seaside cuisine, look no further than the heart of Gastown. Since opening its doors in early 2018, Coquille Fine Seafood has been an inviting addition to the neighbourhood with its plush emerald decor, charming mermaid embellishments, and splendid menu. Thanks to the eight varieties of oysters from as far as Prince Edward Island on offer, this is the best opportunity to discover diverse flavours from across the country. Factor in a great sharing plate like the Fritto Misto (fried seafood mix served with aioli for dipping) and a refreshing glass of Tommy’s Margarita (tequila, fresh lime, and agave nectar), and let the good times roll. With a rotating daily feature of food specials, every visit will have something different to try.
Hours: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
A Vancouver must, this inventive French-inspired restaurant boasts exceptional dishes crafted from locally-sourced ingredients and presented like intricate oeuvre d’art. There’s no set menu here for happy hour—rather, a discount is offered on most of the restaurant’s small plate offerings, which rotate every week. If looking for colourful fine cuisine that tells a story, this is the place. (Just come early, as spots are very limited.)
Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day, at the bar only.
Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar
This seafood-forward restaurant inside the Sutton Place Hotel offers guests two different ways to dine. If a polished and contemporary setting is preferred, go for the sparkling interiors of the main restaurant; if looking to sample moodier, smoking room refinement (minus the smoke), get comfortable inside Boulevard’s lounge.
Once settled in, quench thirsts with a classic Negroni, or a Dickie’s Moscow Mule (Ketel One vodka, Dickie’s Ginger, and lime). For bites, the Octopus Ceviche (lime, cilantro, onion, tomato, chipotle tortilla chips) and House Smoked Salmon Pâté (crostini, pickled red onion, capers) are tasty revelations. From the hand-cut Kennebec fries to the succulent local oysters to the chicken wings, guests will be hard-pressed to find a reason to stay away.
Hours: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
It might be the energy in the room or the tropical decor, but there’s something special about urban Mexican eatery La Mezcaleria (it has two locations: Commercial Drive and Gastown). Not only does it boast an eclectic bar selection of tequila, mezcal, and cocktails including the Palomita (El Jimador Resposado, grapefruit soda, lime, and salt), but its live Cuban and jazz music at night makes it a great spot to hang out and unwind.
But on to the food. While the options for happy hour may be limited, they are a smorgasbord for the senses. Start with the Amigos Flight, which features octopus and fish ceviche with guacamole and pico de gallo, plus signature chips for dipping and scooping. Then perhaps move onto local favourite Queso Fundido (sizzling molten cheese fondue served in a stone bowl) and of course, sumptuous tacos. Take time—this is one meal to have fun with.
Hours: 9 p.m. to close Monday and Tuesday; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday (Commercial Drive); Tuesday 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday (Gastown).
The Cascade Room
The family-run Cascade Room has been a proud fixture of Main Street for years, and it is not hard to understand why. The British-inspired gastropub specializes in comfort food classics, offering international fare with a West Coast twist.
Going into spring, the updated menu maintains its English flair with the treasured Sassy Molassy Burger (six-ounce organic beef patty, barbecue sauce, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo)—it’s a meat-lover’s dream held together inside a hearty bun. Pair with the Roast Beef Poutine (roast trimmings, squeaky cheese, Kennebec chips, and gravy) and a tall one from the extensive list of rotating drink features, and that’s a night well spent.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Pink Elephant Thai
Don’t let the pink be a turn-off. Inside the bright interiors of this modern restaurant, Thai dishes with authentic flavours are being served. Accompanied by Pink Elephant’s in-house peanut sauce, the Chicken Satay skewers make for tasty nibbles, paired with a side of cucumber salad for tang. Depending on preference, the Yum Neua (spicy beef salad marinated with cilantro root and fish sauce) can satisfy any protein needs, while the Som Tum (shredded unripe papaya made with fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, and chili) can offer the same refreshing spice, the lighter way.
Hours: 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day.
Honourable Mention: Tuc Craft Kitchen
On a rainy day, there’s nothing quite as comforting as walking into this modern tavern on West Cordova. The atmosphere is cozy and rustic, a gathering place for those who enjoy vintage cocktails and nostalgic flavours. Notables from the happy hour menu are the Crispy Bacon Egg (a hard-boiled egg wrapped in bacon, dipped in tempura batter, and deep-fried) and the Pork Belly Crackling (juicy bites of diced pork with a side of star anise sauce).
Hours: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Happy hour is a fitting name for this time of the day; it’s difficult not to leave these establishments with a fully belly and a satisfied smile.
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