Vancouver is home to its fair share of foodies, so when restaurants shut down operations in mid-March, many were thrown off their regular culinary programming, and left wondering what to do, where to eat, and how best to support the local businesses they’ve come to love.
Now, as restrictions begin to ease four months into the pandemic, we asked a cross-section of local food-lovers, both up-and-coming and more established, what they’re eating right now, whether it’s through takeout, delivery or dine-in, what they’ve missed most, and what they’re excited to try soon.
While these foodies all have their own favourite spots, here’s something, it seems, many can agree on: they’ve really missed eating dim sum the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, and welcome the chance to dine in once again. They also really appreciate those restaurants that have implemented safety measures so conscientiously to offer their diners a safe and comfortable environment.
So, here’s what some of Vancouver’s top food Instagrammers and bloggers have been eating, and where, in their own words.
Emma Choo, @vancouverfoodie
I’ve been eating tons of Chinese and Japanese food and, oh my, the amount of desserts… I have eight pints of Passione gelato in my freezer at the moment. I also stumbled upon an amazing combo at Sushi Nova that’s only $30, and it literally has everything you ever want to order at a Japanese restaurant in one.
I have started dining out at restaurants again. But, always ensuring the restaurant I dine at has taken the proper safety measures, like social distancing between tables. A few spots I’ve dined in at include: Axum to try Ethiopian for the first time, Sushi Umi (my go-to North Van sushi spot), Memory Corner, Sprezzatura, Dosanko, Chancho Tortilleria, and the new Zubu (for my birthday).
I’m most looking forward to dining out again at St. Lawrence (my ultimate fave), Phnom Penh, Potluck, Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen, and Unchai Thai Restaurant.
Steph Wan, @stephwants
I’ve been really enjoying ordering Toptable2U meal kits for their miso sake glazed sablefish and whole truffle-roasted chicken. I love that everything is already prepared, the cooking instructions are easy to follow, and most of all, having a fine-dining experience in the comfort of my own home. On my lazy days, I like to pick up food that we don’t cook at home like sushi, fried chicken from DownLow Chicken (extra spicy!), and gelato from Passione Gelato.
Yes, I’ve started dining out again with the preference of sitting in an outdoor patio setting. My current favourite patios include Italian Kitchen, Gotham, Miku, Cardero’s, and Jules Bistro.
I’m most excited about dining at Potluck Hawker Eatery for chef Justin Cheung’s chili crab and the off-menu black-pepper crab. I always look forward to visiting sushi chef Taka Omi at the Lobby Lounge and RawBar for omakase, and I can’t wait to revisit Bob Pochana for their pad si-ew, as well as La Terrazza for their carbonara (and lobster).
Alana Yee, @yvreats
I have been ordering takeout and picking up from local favourite spots. Mostly Japanese food from Gami Sushi and Sushi Lovers, and Chinese food from Empire Seafood Restaurant (for dim sum) and Mama’s Dumpling & Coffee (for steamed pork dumplings and Shanghai fried pork buns). I haven’t used any delivery apps as I was worried about the extra handling of my food and I didn’t want extra people coming to the house. I have also, on a few occasions, ordered meal kits from Torafuku, Boulevard, and Toptable2U to prepare their restaurant food at home.
In the past few weeks, I have slowly started to dine out again in restaurants. The very first restaurant that my family and I went to was actually Pepper Lunch because we were in the area. Having dim sum at home just isn’t the same as in a restaurant, so I knew that we had to dine in for that. We went to Empire Seafood Restaurant and I was happy to see the tables spread out.
One other place I have dined in with my family is Happy Day Cafe in Richmond. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with their social distancing measures they have put into place. It was my first time there and I would go back just because they have taken the safety protocols so seriously and it made us feel extra safe.
I am looking forward to returning to dine-in at Dosanko and Torafuku. They are two of my most favourite restaurants, and I miss eating their food freshly cooked from the kitchen. Another place that has been on my list to try is Published on Main. I have heard such great things about this place and can’t wait to try it.
Kaye Cabigting, @yothatssobomb
In support of small local businesses and restaurants, I usually go for takeout on Wednesdays, which is Canada Takeout Day. I noticed that for takeout during pandemic, I have been eating more comfort food. I believe we all need a bit more comfort during this drastic shift in life, and good food is good mood! My favourite items for takeout are Korean fried chicken or pizza— they’re delicious, easy to eat, and make the heart and tummy happy.
Ever since Phase 2 was lifted in Vancouver, I dined in at restaurants right away. Tamarind Hill was my first dine-in experience after all the closures. They did everything right in terms of sanitizing, disinfecting and social distancing.
I was most deprived of having dim sum during the restaurant closures, so I was ecstatic to see one of my favourite dumpling spots open up again. It is surprisingly located in a food court, called R&H Chinese Restaurant at Lansdowne mall in Richmond. They serve the most authentic, handmade soup dumplings that will warm your soul and make you do a happy food dance. Food just tastes so much better when you are able to eat it fresh, right when it’s made.
I am most looking forward to dine at a hot-pot spot again, preferably Little Sheep Mongolian. Although the restaurant is open and it is possible to dine in with a couple friends, it is not the same as eating with a large group of people. Being able to dine with numerous friends and family, like old times, is something I really miss.
Another spot I am looking forward to dine at is the new Vancouver restaurant, Lunch Lady, which is a popular Vietnamese spot Anthony Bourdain raved about. It is supercool to see a streetside food spot in Asia form into a modernized restaurant here in our very own city. I cannot wait to find out if the food lives up to the hype.
Jason Yeh, @nomsmag
During the early months of the pandemic, my family and I would mostly cook at home for every meal. But when Takeout Wednesday came along, and on the weekends, we would indulge and order fried chicken delivery from Kosoo and Win-Win Chick-N, tacos from Maizal RMF, Japanese comfort food from Dosanko, and pho from Mr. Red Cafe and Viet Mama Cafe. Interestingly enough, it was actually my mom’s first time having tacos in her life—during the pandemic. Of course she loved it.
Around mid-June, I went for my first dine-out experience since probably March. Overall I’ve dined out a total of four times. Regardless, I am still very cautious about dining in and I keep it to a minimum. The spots I went to are a mix of new and older restaurants like Cold Tea Restaurant, Potluck Hawker Eatery, Blackball, and Sip Bowl La Mian.
Maybe I’m just basic but … I can’t wait to go for sushi or ramen with a friend when everything gets better. For me, it would always be either Marutama or Ramen Danbo for the noodles, and Sushi California or Miku for sushi. Three spots I’m also looking forward to going back to are Potluck Hawker Eatery, Tom Sushi, and Lunch Lady.
Joyce Chiang, @monkeyeatsworld
I have been eating lots of takeout sushi. Tom Sushi in the West End is one of my favourites. I’ve also been ordering meal kits for myself and for friends. For example, Tacomio Vancouver has amazing family-style taco kits.
I do dine out every now and then, mostly to support small and/or family-run restaurants. I really love the Mexican home-style breakfast food at a new restaurant downtown called Brunch. I also enjoyed dining at Chi Vegan recently and look forward to returning soon. They recently switched their menu to be fully plant-based.
I can’t wait to dine at HK BBQ Master in Richmond for their crispy pork belly and char siu (barbecue pork). They are only open for takeout right now, but their barbecue meat is best when it’s fresh out of the oven. I am also looking forward to returning to Marutama Ramen’s original location in the West End. Their soft-boiled ramen egg is the best!
Viranlly Liemena, @viranlly
In terms of takeout/delivery, I’ve done a couple rounds from Toptable2U: the Blue Water sablefish and Elisa steaks are on heavy rotation, and the banana cream pie was so delicious, too. I’m also a fan of Miku’s aburi party tray (seems like this is everyone’s favourite, as well), and I’ve gotten Korean fried chicken from Dae-ji delivered to me at least once a month, ha!
Yes, I have been dining out again, and I was very excited when they announced that dine-in service is back on. My first stop was L’Abattoir for their iconic Pacific baked oysters (one of the things I craved most during quarantine and not available for takeout), and the sweetbread on toast. I also went to visit Savio Volpe recently, and they’ve done a great job in reopening the dining room.
I’ve missed dining and having cocktails at Botanist and am looking forward to having another feast at Potluck.
Sherman Chan, @shermansfoodadventures
I’ve been doing home cooking and tackling more ambitious meals. However, that didn’t mean I completely abstained from takeout and delivery. I have ordered sushi for delivery as it is one thing that I’d rather not do myself. I’ve gotten my sweet fix from places such as Trafiq, Chez Christophe, and Royal City Donuts. I did takeout dim sum once at Western Lake, which was good but not the same, as you really want to eat that at the restaurant. Of course, getting fried chicken from places like Church’s and Hi Five has been a nice go-to.
I haven’t necessarily started dining out again, however, I’ve made reservations at Glowbal and Joe Fortes for the next few weeks since they do sport some pretty large patios. I guess the chances of infection are still low when dining out, but eating outside reduces that low percentage even more so. I’m happy to see temporary licences for restaurants to add street dining. I am curious to see how this plays out when the weather changes in the fall.
Hands down I’m anxious to go for dim sum again! That is one thing I tried to replicate at home, and although most of it was good, it was far too much work for one meal. Besides dim sum, I want to try new spots, such as Published and Potluck Hawker Eatery. Of course, there are the solid choices such as AnnaLena and Absinthe Bistro that I would very much revisit when I can.
Leila Kwok, @leilalikes
I’ve been ordering lots of ready-to-eat bentos for takeout. It is nice to see restaurants being creative with their takeout menus, even though their takeout services were not available pre-pandemic. I also love provision-style meals where I can defrost and reheat at home. I made sure our fridge, and especially our freezer, is happily stocked up with restaurant-grade items. Since most places I go to offer curbside pickup services, I prefer pickup versus delivery.
I have started dining out again, including at Boulevard, Masayoshi, Hawksworth, Torafuku, Zubu, and Ugly Dumpling.
Some of the restaurants I’m most looking forward to dining at are Olo Restaurant in Victoria, Harvest, Burdock and Co, Dosanko, Elisa, Livia, and the newly opened Potluck Hawker Eatery.
Darius Davidson, @dari.eats
Takeout/delivery for me has always been back and forth between sushi or fast food such as A&W.
I’ve been dining out again and loving it. I didn’t dine out right away because I wanted to be careful and wait a bit. Of course, I’m still careful. The first spot I went to was Earls for their happy hour. I recently went to Chosun for Korean barbecue, and they were able to accommodate 15 of us (all split in tables of six and extra), so that was great. I also went to Zen Japanese for some premium sushi and drinking.
I’m looking forward to dining in again at Marulilu Cafe. It’s a small but cozy Japanese- owned café with comfort food such as curry omurice. I’ve been craving that. Luckily they’re open for dining in now, but because of social distancing the seating is very limited.
Alex & Jen Leung, @vancity.hungrycouple
We’ve been having lots of sushi takeout. The good thing about sushi is that we don’t have to worry about it getting cold en route since it’s served chilled anyway. A couple of our favourite places are Uma Sushi and Takenaka.
We haven’t fully started dining out again (unless you count dining on a street bench in front of the restaurant). Recently, we visited Miracle Belgian Waffle for the fluffiest and creamiest Korean-style breakfast egg sandwiches!
We look forward to going to dim sum again because we miss getting together with family and friends over freshly steamed dumplings. We also look forward to revisiting one of our favourite restaurants in town, Botanist at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
Lee Man, @lee.f.man
I’ve been trying to support smaller Asian restaurants. They’ve been hit with a double whammy: clients not dining out when COVID first hit in China in February, and now they’re directly hit with this lockdown. I’ve done a lot of takeout with Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, Landmark Hot Pot, and Kwangchow Restaurant—cheap and cheerful chow mein.
I’ve been going to Mr. Red for the crab spring rolls, Golden Paramount and Chef Tony for dim sum, and Chinatown BBQ for their awesome roast duck with thick rice noodles. A recent meal at St. Lawrence was completely restorative and joyful.
I am dying to go to my neighbourhood Japanese restaurant, Hachibei on West 16th. Their beef katsu is my total comfort dish. I’m also really excited to hit Kissa Tanto. Chef Joel Watanabe and Tannis Ling have really created something magical with their menu and that space, and I can’t wait to experience it all over again.
Deanna Woo, @deannawoo
Initially, when stricter measures were set in place in March, I predominantly made food at home and avoided food delivery or takeout. I would say in late April, early May is when I started to rely more heavily on food delivery apps. Many places such as Earnest Ice Cream initiated curbside pickup, which I really appreciated. I regularly would visit DL Chicken, the Rise Eatery, and Kazu Japanese Restaurant.
As restaurants were opening up in June, I didn’t feel comfortable yet. I think only about three weeks ago (in late June) did I actually start dining out, including at Hawksworth, Raisu, the Parlour, Zubu, Potluck, and the American. I do still continue to try to get takeout and eat at home or at a park, though.
I’ve honestly been craving dim sum. That is something I truly miss and I feel that take-out isn’t as delicious! My go-to dim sum places are Empire Seafood Restaurant in Richmond and Western Lake in Vancouver.
Josh Boettcher, @itsjosheats
I have been ordering a lot of takeout from ghost kitchens or at-home bakeries, including Kula Kitchen, YUMNewWest, Bak’d, and Tacomio (best deal in the city).
Some restaurants I’ve dined in at include Potluck Hawker Eatery (it’s unreal), Axum Ethiopian, and the American.
I’m most looking forward to dining out at Salmon n’ Bannock, Palate Kitchen, and Virtuous Pie.
Jacky Chui, @jackymchui
During the pandemic, I’ve actually been cooking a lot more. I spent a lot of time scouring the internet for fun (but easy) recipes to sharpen my modest knife skills. It’s been fun and meditative to prepare a meal from scratch.
I’ve been slowly dining out again and choosing restaurants that I know have high health and safety standards. I’ve been visiting Nightingale quite often because of their delicious rotating food menu and cocktails. They also recently launched a pop-up patio, so I’m sure you’ll find me there often this summer. You can also often find me at the bar with my friends at L’Abattoir.
I’m looking forward to dining more at Potluck, the new Hawker restaurant in Cambie Village. I got a chance to preview a few menu items, and they were all so delicious and comforting.
Eva Lee, @eatswitheva
Honestly, I have just been ordering the usual takeout as prior to the pandemic. Some of my favourite takeouts are sushi, Korean fried chicken/fried chicken, banh mi sandwiches, pizza, and, of course, can’t forget about those bubble tea runs.
I’ve slowly started dining out again. Since Phase 2 started, I have only dined out a couple of times. I had lunch at Dinesty in Richmond, and I really appreciated how spacious this location was with tables physically distanced. Recently, I went to try out the new brunch menu at Nightingale, and it made me realize how much I missed dining out.
There are so many places I’m looking forward to dining-in at! I have been craving some chicken broth ramen from Marutama (ramen takeout just isn’t the same), dim sum at Fortune Terrace, hot pot at Dolar Shop, and more. I have also bookmarked Potluck Hawker Eatery for that salted egg-yolk sando, and Lunch Lady.
Mijune Pak, @mijunepak
I’ve been hosting an IGTV Live series on my Instagram since April called At Home With Mijune where I invite chefs to cook with me, so I’ve tried a lot of restaurants and had a lot of takeout/delivery, including from Nightingale, Bao Bei Dumplings, Published on Main, Yuwa, Grand Chinese Yaletown, Elisa Steak, DownLow Chicken, Mister Ice Cream, Dope Bakehouse, Pizzeria Farina, Temaki Sushi, Tetsu Sushi Bar, and many more. Everything from fine dining to food trucks.
Yes, I have started dining out at restaurants again. I have visited Fortune Terrace Chinese, Mangia E Bevi, Kokomo, Chez Christophe, Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, Taste of Africa, I&I Jamaican Restaurant, Neptune Seafood Restaurant, Meat & Bread, and Popina. I’ve been going to places I missed, visiting friends, supporting small businesses as well as big since everyone has someone to pay and feed. I’ve been trying to support more Black businesses, and I’ve always diversified my cuisine and restaurant choices.
There are still lots of spots I haven’t been able to visit yet, like St. Lawrence, L’Abattoir, The Pear Tree, Elisa, Tetsu, Jin Sushi, Le Crocodile, Kissa Tanto, and the list goes on. I also can’t wait to try Potluck Hawker Eatery, which is chef Justin’s new spot.
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