wVisit Design*Sponge for my Vancouver City Guide or read below.

I’d like to thank Crystal of Crystal-Marie Sing Photography for supplying the beautiful photos.

Lastly, if you read the guide and feel something amazing is missing, please share it in the comments. I’m always hunting for the next great addition to the city!

Bonnie

—-

Crystal Giles for Gild & Co. Van City Guide11

 Photos by  Crystal-Marie Sing Photography

Vancouver is not an easy city to live in: it’s expensivecongested and it rains for (what can feel like) ten months straight some years. Then the sun comes out and us Vancouverites forget about all that and enjoy the amazing natural beauty of our city. It truly is hard to beat a sunny day in Vancouver: green glass towers  juxtaposed against snow-capped mountains, bright blue skies and a shimmery ocean, make Vancouver worth living in, or at least visiting.

Three years ago we proudly hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and much has changed in the city since. As the city matures, the diversity and ingenuity of our people and commerce grows. One of my favourite trends is the influx of wood-fired pizzerias that have appeared in almost every neighbourhood. There are also lots of interesting new Portlandia-style boutiques, food trucks and bike lanes. By North American standards, Vancouver is a very bike-friendly city. I highly recommend renting and exploring the city by bike.

The City is committed to being eco-friendly. Even our mayor Gregor Robertson, a New Zealand farmer in his early 20s, co-founded an organic fruit beverage company called Happy Planet!

Here’s a roundup, by neighbourhood, of my favourite places to eat, shop and play in this fine city I call home.

Be sure to check out this Google Map with all of the below listings!

KITSILANO / WEST SIDE

Kitsilano was once known for it’s hippy culture is now one of the most desirable areas in the City to live, with it’s beaches, tree lined streets and proximity to downtown. The West Side encompasses everything west of approximately Cambie Street (including Cambie), south of the downtown peninsula and north of Marine Drive.

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

La Quercia – white tablecloth family-style Italian food. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

Las Margaritas – casual, lively Mexican cantina in the heart of Kitsilano’s West 4th Ave shopping district. It’s hard to say no to a margarita at Las Margs.

Bibo – Kitsilano’s answer to wood-fire oven pizza for the “true Neapolitan pizza” experience. Open for lunch and dinner.

Vijs – a Bollywood-esk Vancouver institution for contemporary Indian food in a happening atmosphere. The Vij’s philosophy is that everyone waits in line, even celebrities. The good news is that it is worth the wait and they serve tasters while you wait. Vij recently opened a food truck (Vij’s Railway Express), but I honestly found it a bit of a disappointment compared to the delights I experienced at the bricks and mortar restaurant.

The Oakwood – casual Canadiana bistro. Great for brunch or dinner. Known for making ingredients in-house, including pasta, bread and sauces. Their “Canadian poutine” (although I’m not sure what other nationality one would confuse the poutine with?) is to die for with house smoked brisket (oh Canada!).

The Boathouse – while I don’t recommend them for food necessarily, the sunset views over Kits beach are some of the best in town. Tip: their bar has the same views as the restaurant, so you can eat somewhere more interesting and head to the Boathouse bar at sunset for drinks.

The Afghan Horseman – speaking of interesting places for dinner, this place fits the bill. Offering Afghani food to Vancouverites for over 35 years!

Chewies – lively Oyster bar a few blocks up from Kits beach with a welcoming south-facing patio.

Abigail’s Party – half of me just likes this place for the name. The other likes that it’s a funky dark little cocktail bar tucked almost directly under Chewies on Yew Street near Kits beach.

Pied-à-Terre – tiny French bistro offering simple, hearty French cuisine.

Luke’s – if you are staying in the South Granville area, this is a great spot to hit for a casual dinner and drinks. There is a covered patio and the house-made quinoa veggie burger is delicious. It took the chef 8 months to perfect the recipe. Get it deep-fried pickles and bacon (yeah, bacon on a veggie burger).

Lunch and Brunch:

Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop – “pie and chai”. How heavenly does that sound? It may set you back $20 for a slice of pie and cup of Chai tea, but it is no doubt delicious. Using only organic ingredients, this restaurant’s hearty healthy fare is perfect for those who appreciate fine fresh food…especially pie.

The Naam – open 24-hours. You can get a house-made veggie burger with miso gravy any time day. During my 20s, post night-out Naam stops were a common occurrence.

Enigma – en route to the University of BC in the affluent Point Grey neighbourhood, this local bar and bistro serves traditional brunch favourites, such as bacon or steak and eggs, omelettes, waffles and eggs benedict. An added bonus is the complimentary house-made banana bread during brunch hours.

Cafe Zen – homestyle comfort food with great prices and steps to Kits beach.

Sofie’s Cosmic Cafe – greasy spoon with a cult-like following in the heart of trendy West 4th Ave. They’ve been around since 1988 so they must be doing something right.

Jethro’s Fine Grub – Students flock to this West Side hideaway for recovery brunches and massive portions. The place is tiny so waits are long, but if you get a glimpse of the size of the pancakes it will be hard to resist. There are some cute vintage furniture shops nearby to carouse while you wait. Jethro’s specializes in French toast and the aforementioned pancakes, including varieties such as banana bread French toast with caramelized bananas and whipped butter and “The Rooster”, which has a shot of espresso and chocolate chips (gee, why do they call it the Rooster?). Jethro’s was also featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

East is East – on West Broadway between Trutch and Blenheim Streets, the upstairs chai gallery is like a journey to old world Middle East with moody lighting, floor seating on overstuffed pillows and live music to heighten the authentic Middle Eastern experience.

Burgoo – two locations on the West Side: West 10th Ave and West 4th Ave and others around the city. Burgoo is the ultimate experience for worldly gourmet comfort food. Classics such as Macaroni and Cheese, Decadent French Onion Soup and Kentucky Burgoo (slow cooked lamb, beef and smoked ham with lima beans, corn, tomatoes and okra) are perfect on a grey drizzly Vancouver day. Each Burgoo location has a patio for sunny days too.

La Tequeria – this small fast food type joint has some of the best tacos in town, and what’s a taco without beer? Luckily you get that too.

Go Fish – located in an old shipping container on the seawall just west of Granville Island, Go Fish does fresh fish tacones and fish and chips like no other place in the city – very deliciously! Be prepared to wait and sit outside.

Coffee Shops and Snacks:

Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates – Vancouver’s rockstar of chocolate for over 10 years. Thomas Haas chocolates are sold in select grocery stores and at their flagship location on West Broadway in Kitsilano, which includes a cake and patisserie cafe. Their almond double-baked croissant is wicked.

Beyond Bread – artisan bakery for the bread-lover. Go early as they sell out quick.

49th Parallel – where the city’s coffee snobs go for coffee, on West 4th Ave between Arbutus and Yew Streets. The new location include Lucky’s Doughnuts, where doughnut meets foodie. This is the place-to-be du jour in Kits.

Viva Fine Foods and Bakery – steps to Kits Beach, this Italian coffee shop and bakery is a perfect spot for people-watching and to grab a panini to take the the beach.

Terra Breads – the “big guys” of bread in the city. Terra breads come in a variety of shapes and sizes, sold at select grocery stores and their own cafes around the city. The Terra cafe on West 4th Ave between Balsam and Vine Streets is where it all began, and the newest location in Athletes Village has water-view seating.

SHOP

Fashion and Beauty:

Rebecca Bree – shopping at its most stylish. Locally owned and operated Rebecca Bree carries the best designer labels, including 10 Crosby by Derek Lam, Smythe, TIbI, Max Fowles to name a few. Not only that, this store is a beautiful oasis (again, a great escape for rainy Vancouver days) and Rebecca and staff are a delight.

Gravity Pope –  handsdown the best shoe store in the city. Huge selection from North American designers to fine Italian footwear.

Leuie – recently featured in Rue magazine, a charming children’s shop offering clothing, accessories, toys and decor. You can shop online too.

Misch – elegant, refined shopping on South Granville. Locally owned, designer labels and oodles of style! Get a glimpse on their blog.

Home and Decor:

Blue Owl Home Boutique – whimsical and interesting vintage finds located in a historic building on West Broadway and Vine Street in Kitsilano. There’s a good coffee house and secondhand book shops next door.

Step Back – this delightful little store offers a unique selection of vintage and reproduction vintage homeware and gifts.

Gild & Co. – located at 4415 West 10th Avenue the Point Grey neighbourhood near the University of BC, this shop (*cough, my shop) specializes in high-quality vintage and timeless furniture and home decor.

Folkart Interiors – also on West 10th Ave this store has been around for years and carries a good selection of covet-worthy harvest tables and rustic home furnishings. Don’t be scared by the silly/random/folksy carved wooden mounties on the outside of the building.

Bed – on West Broadway Street in Kitsilano, this shop carries locally made bedding in an array of bold colours and modern prints. Shop online or in store.

DO

Kits Pool – this seaside saltwater pool is open during summer months and is an absolutely refreshing experience. Very busy on hot summer days, especially weekends. If you’re an early bird, I recommend swimming laps in the early AM for sunrise  views of the city and coastal mountains.

Granville Island – one of my favourite things to do in the City is a picnic lunch on Granville Island. The Granville Island Public Market is filled with foodie delights to take outside. Be sure to hit Oyama for cured meats and the Italian food mart directly across for their delicious feta-stuffed olives.

Rent bikes – go along the seawall or the streets of the tree-lined West Side neighbourhoods from UBC to Main Street for an easy ride.

Beaches – Despite the short beach season, Vancouver has some fantastic beaches, most of which are located on the West Side of the City. Kitsilano is the closest to downtown and the busiest/most trendy of the bunch. Locarno and Spanish Banks are often filled with families, volleyball players and water-sport enthusiasts. Driving to any of the beaches on a hot sunny day in the summer is a nightmare so take transit, walk or bike. Wreck Beach at UBC is clothing optional and filled with (how do I say) alternative lifestyle folks all summer. It’s a hike down from the University Campus as well so be prepared for a journey (on multiple levels) if you go.

STAY

Airbnb – to get the local experience staying in a Vancouverite’s home, try Airbnb for homey accommodation.

Corkscrew Inn – in a Kitsilano character home, close to Kits beach and public transit. There are lots of other B and B’s in Kitsilano to check out as well.

Mickey’s Kits Beach Chalets – relative to the Corkscrew Inn, Mickey’s is closer to the beach and the heart of Kitsilano’s trendy shopping/dining area on West 4th Ave.

 Crystal Giles for Gild & Co. Van City Guide9

YALETOWN / DOWNTOWN

The southeast part of the downtown peninsula is known as Yaletown and is a hub for Vancouver’s beautiful people, small dogs and stilettos. The nightlife is lively and there are lots of restaurants and bars to choose from. Here is a list of some of my favourites.

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

Rodney’s Oyster Bar – with a location in Toronto and Vancouver, Rodney’s never disappoints. The atmosphere is casual with cheeky friendliness from the wait staff.

The Flying Pig – relatively new to the city scene and started by two local guys, The Flying Pig (which recently opened a second location in Gastown) has an unpretentious classy atmosphere and great wine selection.

Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar – known for it’s candlelit glass covered courtyard, Brix offers a beautiful dining atmosphere with white tablecloths, crystal chandeliers in an 1912 heritage building.

Yaletown Brewing Company – they claim to be “Vancouver’s original and best brewpub”. In the heart of Yaletown.

Lunch and Brunch:

Salsa and Agave – quick, easy, delicious Mexican grub.

Sakana – upscale sushi, great patio and lunch box specials for under $10.

The Twisted Fork – located on the south end of Granville Street downtown. Brunch is delicious, and many hangover soothing drink options. They make their own preserves and serve coffee in a personal size French press. I highly recommend this French-style bistro.

Japadog– a Vancouver original: Japanese style hot dogs. What started as a single hot dog stand by a couple moving to Canada, has turned into a Vancouver tradition. Hot dog toppings include, but not limited to, nori (seaweed), daikon (Japanese pickled ginger), teriyaki sauce, Japanese noodles, plumb sauce and the delicious terimayo. Several locations around downtown.

Coffee and Snacks:

Raw Canvas – part wine bar, part art studio, part coffee shop, part tap house all in one funky setting.

Caffé Artiginao – Italian-themed coffee house and bistro with a few locations around the city.

SHOP

Fashion and Beauty:

Bombay Brow Bar – eyebrow shaping done Indian style with thread (the technique is called “threading). Started by two local ladies, this little salon with a microfocus is a first stop to getting pampered in Yaletown. Two locations outside of Yaletown:on West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano and at the Shangri-La Hotel downtown.

Noir Lash Lounge – after you get your eyebrows rocked Indian style (that is their tag line) at Bombay Brow Bar, you can head over to Noir to get your lashes extended.

Blo – blow dry bar. Another micro focus salon in Yaletown. Do we have a trend here? At Blo you can get your hair washed and choose from one of seven different styles from their Hair Menu, including the “Executive Suite” and the “Pillow Talk”. Warning: I went here once with short hair and felt more drag than glam after paying for my $35 blow dry.

Fine Finds – I go here for the great selection of locally-made jewellry. They also have accessories, giftware and clothing.

Revolucion – more than just cigars, this little smoke shop has a fantastic selection of men’s cologne, shaving goods, wallets and other mens’ accessories. Truly “for the man who has everything”.

Home and Decor:

The Cross – the ultra feminine home decor and design-lover heaven, especially if you like white.

Design House – modern furniture and home decor.

DO

David Lam Park – located on False Creek, this park is heavily used by Vancouverites for recreation activities; from tennis, football, rollerblading, to basking in the sun and jogging.

Vancouver Art Gallery – located in the heart of the city in an old courthouse. Entry is by donation on Tuesday evenings, and on select Fridays (usually the first Friday of each month) isFUSE night, where the gallery hosts live music, DJs, and other unexpected surprises. Check the website for FUSE dates.

STAY

L’Hermitage – luxury boutique hotel at a great location, close to downtown shopping, Yaletown and Gastown nightlife, the library, art gallery and the stadiums. They also have a friendly French bulldog in house (his name is Hippo). If you miss him, just ask for his card.

Opus Hotel – high-end boutique hotel in the heart of Yaletown. Very close to David Lam Park, Skytrain station and all the trendy shops and restaurants in Yaletown.

 Crystal Giles for Gild & Co. Van City Guide2

WEST END / COAL HARBOUR

The West End neighbourhood is the south-west area of the downtown peninsula east of Stanley Park and south of Georgia Street. The West End is a dense neighbourhood filled with older apartment buildings, leafy trees, beaches and a mixed population of old, young, gay, straight, local, tourist. The annual Vancouver Pride Parade (the 5th largest pride parade in the world) is held on Davie Street in the West End the first weekend of August.

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

La Brasserie – word on the street is that this Franco-German restaurant has Vancouver’s best burger and killer poutine. Located on Davie Street near the Safeway. I haven’t been there yet, but think I need to go, like, now after looking at the menu.

Nook – simple pizzas and pastas at very reasonable prices.

Lolita’s – Mexican cantina on Davie Street. Good selection of tacos.

Hapa Izakaya – another Vancouver institution. There are Hapas Izakayas in several neighbourhoods in the city offering Japanese pub food. The stone rice bowls are must. Guu Izakaya is just as delicious. So whether you go to Hapa or Guu, just go.

Kadoya – if you’re looking for sushi in the West End, go to Kadoya. Their mega rolls will blow your mind.

Espana – best Spanish tapas in the city, I reckon. This place gets very busy most nights of the week, but worth waiting. I recommend the Grilled Flank Steak with potatoes bravas, smoked paprika and anchovy butter. Nice selection of Spanish wines too. Be prepared to spend a bit of money to get a full belly.

Lunch and Brunch:

Cadero Bottega – tiny New York style deli in the leafy residential area of the West End, offering made-to-order sandwiches, cheeses, meats, snacks, espresso, etc. Stumbling across this place is like finding a hidden gem in a flea market.

Coffee and Snacks:

Delany’s – family run business since 1993 with several locations and expansions. Go little coffee shop, go!

DO

Stanley Park – tennis, pitch and putt, rollerblading, swimming, cycling and more.

Rent bikes – there are several places to rent bikes in and around the West End.

Beaches – English Bay, Second and Third Beach are stunning.

Pride events – the parade, as mentioned above. Check the Vancouver Pride Society website for information on other LGTB events in the West End and around the city.

STAY

The Westin Bayshore – in Coal Harbour on the water. If you want views on the North Shore mountains, the harbour  in a tranquil urban setting, this is your place. Very close to Stanley Park, the Vancouver Convention Centre and right on the seawall.

Coast Plaza Hotel & Suites – the rooms are dated, but the location near English Bay and Stanley Park in the West End is unbeatable. Views to die for if you can get a south west facing room on a high floor.

The Sylvia Hotel – old but well loved hotel on Beach Ave in the West End. Stellar location near English Bay and Stanley Park.

Best Western Sands Hotel – yes, it’s a Best Western, but it has possibly the best karaoke bar in town. Nothing fancy, but definitely a good time. In the heart of the West End action near the corner of Davie and Denman Streets.

 Crystal Giles for Gild & Co. Van City Guide8

GASTOWN / CHINATOWN / CROSSTOWN

Moving east in the city brings (a tad) cheaper rents, better coffee shops and more eclectic and alternative culture. With that brings some of the cities most interesting and unique shopping, dining and entertaining experiences.

Gastown is the original downtown corridor, Chinatown is adjacent on the east side, and Crosstown is the area between Yaletown and Gastown, in and around the stadiums and library.

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

The Diamond – restaurant and cocktail bar on the upper level of a beautiful historic building overlooking Maple Square (where Powell, Alexander, Water and Carrall Streets meet in Gastown).

Peckinpah – casual BBQ House in the heart of Gastown. Open 11:00 am until midnight Sunday to Thursday and until 2:00am on Fridays and Saturdays.

L’Abbatoir – beautiful food, beautiful interior, beautiful people. Trendy new French-inspired restaurant in the heart of Gastown.

Chambar – I am not alone calling this my favourite restaurant in town. This lively hot spot has a beautiful, dark but lively atmosphere and amazingly fine cuisine by a Belgian-trained chef. Great selection of Belgian beer too. Located on Beatty Street, near the Stadium Skytrain stop.

Guilt & Co. – love their tagline: “live music, real stemware”. Great selection of interesting food and live music. Located underneath Chill Winston in Maple Square.

Alibi Room – where locals go for great craft beer. With over 50 taps of local and imported craft beer, the Alibi Room is a must for anyone into the craft beer scene.

The Sardine Can – micro restaurant in Gastown serving Spanish tapas. Food is good and prices are decent, but I got more enjoyment from the atmosphere where they play up the sardine can theme everywhere from signage, to wallpaper, to business cards. Marketing genius? Yep, I think so.

Nicli Antica Pizzeria – wood-fired pizzeria on the edge of Gastown/Chinatown. Modern Italian interior. Delicious pizza. Yum.

The Keefer Bar – Wallpaper magazine called this cocktail bar “delightfully seedy”. Tucked away in an unassuming location in Chinatown, the Keefer Bar is like no other in Vancouver. Great stop for drinks after exploring the Chinatown night market (see below).

Lunch and Brunch:

Cafe Medina – gourmet food by a chef professional trained in a Michelin-starred restaurant, in a casual atmosphere. Go for the Belgian style waffles and other European-influenced food for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Meat and Bread – gourmet meat and bread. Two locations serving only four different sandwiches. Menus change daily. Worth the wait. Open for lunch only. Also seen on Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Nuba – healthy, fresh Lebanese food. Four locations in the city: Yaletown, Gastown, Mount Pleasant and Kitsilano.

Gorilla Food – I’ve been to a lot of restaurants in my day, but nothing quite like Gorilla Food. A truly special Vancouver restaurant offering only raw and vegan food. Some of the most creative, healthy and delicious food I’ve eaten in my life. The owner/chef is a raw food genius. Open 11:00 am to 8:00 pm daily. Not for the closed-minded eater.

Coffee and Snacks:

Revolver Coffee – great independent coffee house, located at 325 Cambie Street in Gastown. Closed Sundays.

Nelson and Seagull – the name of this place always perplexed me (seagulls and food?), nonetheless they serve great coffee and fresh bread. Good for a quick coffee and breakfast or lunch. The menu is simple, such as avocado, eggs or butter on bread, sandwiches and salads.

Cafe Brioche – great little spot for lunch or coffee. Close to the city center.

Cadeaux Bakery – on the seedier part of town near the corner of Powell and Main Streets, Cadeaux is a beautiful little bakery that makes celebration cakes and in-house delights, like cookies, croissants, danishes, scones and more.

SHOP

Fashion and Beauty:

Lynn Steven – designer clothing boutique with a change room made from paperback books – a must see!

Deluxe Junk – looking for a vintage wedding dress? This is your place, or other vintage clothing and curious finds.

Button Button – could also be named, “The Button Shop” or “Buttons are Us”. This amusing little shop sells only buttons, local and from afar.

Nouvelle Nouvelle – fabulous designer women and mens clothing, plus funky non-clothes stuff like the paper mobile that a friend of mine bought a while ago.

Home and Decor:

Örling & Wu – high quality wallpaper, fabrics, tableware and home accessories from all corners of the world.

Parliment – colourful, modern home decor and furniture. Locally owned and operated.

Union Wood Co. – makers of custom reclaimed furniture and suppliers of industrial furniture. Located in the Railway District.

Olla – call themselves an “urban flower project”. I call them an oasis of beauty. Unique and interesting flowers, houseplants, arrangements and terrariums.

Old Faithful Shop – a modern general store selling simple, quality home goods and personal products. Read more about the Old Faithful Shop on local DIY/lifestyle blog, Being Tazim.

DO

The Dirty Apron – learn to cook a special dish or improve your knife skills, then enjoy the fruits of your labour in their exquisite dining room. Classes run most evenings and are around $150 per person.

DR. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – take a relaxing stroll through this classical Chinese garden. The ponds are filled with huge koi fish.

Chinatown Night Market – popular street market running Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights mid May to early September. On Keefer Street, between Main and Columbia. 6:00pm until 11:00pm.

STAY

The Keefer Suites – this place may be only for the uber wealthy, but it’s pretty cool so worth a mention. Three 2400 square foot private suites with private elevators, roof top pool and high-end furniture, artwork and design.

COMMERCIAL DRIVE / HASTINGS SUNRISE

One of the first experiences I had when I moved to Vancouver was going down Commercial Drive on a hot summer day. It was nothing like the downtown and suburban Vancouver I was used to. Every patio was filled with eclectic people drinking, eating, socializing and basking in the sun. The park was filled with kids, parents, sunbathers, hippies playing hacky-sac and buskers. The sidewalks were lined with every type of person imaginable, strolling along checking out the sites on the Drive. While driving a moving truck, literally filled with all my worldly possessions, I knew I needed to explore this area much more.

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

Falconetti’s – Located on the Drive just south of East 2nd Avenue, this place has a rooftop patio with amazing views of the city. While the patio does not have the best service, the main bar area is good with live entertainment most nights and gourmet sausages (note: they put raw garlic on the fries, which can be rather intoxicating).

Via Tevere Pizzeria – Of all the wood-fired pizzerias that have sprung up in the city, this is hands down my favourite. The pizza crust is so fresh it almost melts in your mouth (odd description for “crust” I realize). It’s so fresh they must make the dough right before sliding it into the over. I recommend the quattro formaggi pizza, which has this amazing fresh ricotta cheese on it.

Havana – a Commercial Drive mainstay. The interior is inspired by the faded glory of old Cuba. With a superb patio, small art gallery and theatre in the back, this place is a must for any Vancouverite.

Charlatan – A favourite pubs in town. Perfect for an afternoon pint or evening drinks. A full package pub with great food, lively atmosphere and a tranquil patio for sunny days. The Charlatan’s patio differs from most others in town because it is situated on the side street, not on a busy street, under a big beautiful leafy tree.

Timbre – a Canadiana woodsy themed restaurant and bar with live music. Extensive whiskey selection and lots of BC wines.

Biercraft – two locations, one on Cambie Street, and one of Commercial Drive. Biercraft has over 20 beers on tap and more than 100 bottled beer, many of which are local or from Belgium.

Lunch and Brunch:

Red Wagon – BBQ house meets brunch joint. Pulled pork and BBQ brisket for breakfast? Oh yes! Lined around the corner most weekend morning, this place is worth the trek out Hastings Street.

Bandidas Taqueria – while they are open evenings, I prefer this place for brunch or lunch. Affordable fresh vegetarian taqueria. On Commercial Drive near 12th Avenue.

Cafe Deux Soleilis – healthy comfort food morning, day or night for the past 20 years, with entertainment including open mic evenings and poetry slams.

Coffee and Snacks:

Prado Cafe – independent coffee shop on the Drive at the corner of East 4th Avenue. Delicious baked goods.

JJ Bean – lively coffee shop on the Drive at the corner of 6th Ave.

Cafe Napoli – just north of East 1st Avenue on Commercial Drive. Cafe Napoli is one of a few old style Italian coffee shops. Go there for a strong, quick espresso just like they do in Italy, or hang out on a Sunday afternoon to drink coffee and watch the football (soccer) game with the regulars.

Latin Organics – lesser-known coffee shop and cafe on East Hastings Street at Clark Drive.

SHOP

Fashion and Beauty:

Mintage – I am not shy to call this the best vintage clothing store in town. There are a few other good ones on Main Street, but this one take the cake as the best.

Spank – there are a few Spank clothing stores around the city, including a location on Commercial Drive.

Exposure – youthful clothing and accessories boutique with four locations around the city (Commercial Drive, Yaletown, West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano and South Granville Street), and a newly added a home store, selling vintage and new furniture and home decor on Commercial Drive.

Monarchy Boutique – off of the Drive on Victoria Drive, filled with clothing and accessories by local independent designs.

Home and Decor:

Attic Treasures – go to place for mid century modern furniture in Vancouver.

Gourmet Warehouse – foodie heaven for any apparatus, implement or ingredient you need to make a delicious meal. Staff are helpful to find what you are looking for.

South China Seas – shop online or at their store on Victoria Drive for Chinese herbs, spices, cookbooks, tools and tableware.

Figaro’s Garden – cutest little neighbourhood garden store in Vancouver, with an impressive selection of plants, seeds and gardening equipment in a little store.

DO

Grandview Lanes – original retro bowling center on the Drive.

Yoga – the ratio of yoga studios to Starbucks is almost equal in every other part of Vancouver except Commercial Drive, which has more yoga than Starbucks, including Bikram Yoga.

STAY

Bee and Thistle – bed and breakfast in an historic home steps away from some of the best shops and restaurants on the Drive.

The Waldorf Hotel – the cafe, Tiki Lounge, hair salon and other restaurants and bars at the Waldorf are popular with young, artsy, hipster locals. Recently there was fear that this once super seedy hotel would be demolished in favour of condos, but after some 20,000 people signed a petition to “Save the Waldorf” the City designated the building as low level heritage. Time will tell how long this revived hotel will remain in the city. Oh, and there is accommodation at the Waldorf, but beware, the hotel is located in a rough neighbourhood.

 Crystal Giles for Gild & Co. Van City Guide15

MOUNT PLEASANT / MAIN STREET

Main Street between 6th Avenue to approximately 33rd Avenue has changed dramatically over the last five or so years. What used an armpit of the city filled with bingo halls, paint shops and auto shops, is now one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in Vancouver with excellent restaurants, shopping, arts and culture.

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

The Whip – an unexpected restaurant/bar on East 6th Avenue just off Main Street. Great craft beer selection, good food in a funky old building.

The Five Point Pub – casual neighbourhood pub that has been around for years.

The Reef – Caribbean food in a lively atmosphere. Their Mo-Gingerjito is a mojito made with ginger beer, and is delicious!

Toshi Sushi – while hours are limited and waits are long, Toshi serves some of the best sushi I’ve had in Vancouver, and there is A LOT of sushi in Vancouver. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm. On 16h Avenue, just west of Main Street.

The Cascade Room – lively restaurant / bar. My only complaint (which makes me feel 100 years old!) is this place gets so loud it’s hard to have a conversation.

Cafe Montmarte – near Main and 28th Avenue, this tiny French bistro offers casual French fare and live local entertainment.

Brewery Creek Liquor Store – Vancouver’s best selection of craft beer. All chilled for your enjoyment to grab and go (i.e. it’s a store, not a bar).

Lunch and Brunch:

The Whip – this hipster night spot has an excellent brunch offering.

Crave – near the busy intersection of Main and King Edward (25th) Avenue. Weekend brunch waits for their creative, tasty grub are long. The atmosphere is casual and cozy. Good place to spend a rainy afternoon.

Chef Claire’s – a catering company with a tiny store on Main Street. Pop in for a gourmet sandwich while shopping nearby.

Liberty Bakery – a casual bakery cafe with traditional-style baked goods and a good lunch menu.

Coffee and Snacks:

JJ Bean – Main Street institution for coffee shop loitering.

Gene – cozy, artsy coffee shop in a triangular-shaped building on the corner of Main Street and Kingsway.

Our Town – with comfy old chairs, fresh cinnamon buns, over-sized muffins and a piano in the corner, this place always feels like the cool rendition of my Granny’s living room. Ultimate in comfort.

SHOP

Fashion and Beauty:

Barefoot Contessa – pretty party dresses, jewelry and accessories.

Twigg & Hottie – sustainable, local fashion and accessories.

Front and Co. – a mix of new and consigned fashion, shoes and accessories. Fashionistas can spend hours in this trendy shop on Main Street.

Home and Decor:

Much and Little –  this new-concept store offers an unbeatable selection of simple, useful and well-made products for the home; clothing and accessories.

Vancouver Special – contemporary furniture, sofas, design objects, household accessories, and art and architecture books.

Regional Assembly of Text – anyone who likes print, paper and stationery will love this quirky hipster store. Handmade cards, plaid magnetic alphabet letters, letter-writing clubs and a make-your-own_____ (fill in the blank) option allow you to get creative too.

STAY

Airbnb – to get the local experience staying in a Vancouverite’s home, try Airbnb for homey accommodation.

Howard Johnson Kingsway – central East Side location, the “Ho Jo” is close to great restaurants and shopping on Main Street, has an outdoor pool and a good music venue, theBiltmore, in the basement. The hotel may be dated, but the people who hang out at the hotel bar, Mavericks, are not, which has karaoke nights and shows most sporting events.

FRASER STREET AND CEDAR COTTAGE

The Fraser Street corridors, between 12-25 Avenues and 41-49 Avenues, and Cedar Cottage (which crosses over with an area known as Little Saigon) are some of the most exciting up-and-coming neighbourhoods in the city. As Main Street gets saturated with shops, restaurants and increased rental prices, the young hip urbanite gets pushed further east to Fraser Street and Cedar Cottage. It is easy to see why Fraser is being coined “the new Main” (street). Seems like everytime I venture out this way there is a new and interesting coffee shop or restaurant. So fun!

EAT

Dinner and Drinks:

Les Faux Bourgeois – an original in the neighbourhood. This very popular casual French restaurant gets packed with reservations most nights, but they keep the bar area free for walk-ins. Call for reservations.

Pizza Carano – like I said, every neighbourhood needs a wood-fired pizzeria.

House of Dosas – have you had a dosa? This is a great place to try one. Near the corner of Kingsway and Knight Street, this Indian restaurant is good for vegetarians and nonvegetarians and specializes in the South Indian crepe or pancake made from rice batter and black lentils, known as a dosa. A perfect accompaniment to soak-up  saucy, spicy Indian dishes.

Lunch and Brunch:

The Gluten Free Epicurean – other than the obvious, this quaint cafe/coffee shop has the best cookie that I have ever eaten. No word of a lie and I do not mean this lightly. Their Salted No Oat Chocolate Chip cookie is the best cookie that I have ever eaten. Note: I have also found the cookie in other coffee shops around the city: Blaq Sheep on West 4th Avenue on the West Side and Buddha Full Juice and Smoothies in North Vancouver. I may be stalking this cookie, and I’m not even gluten intolerant!

Coffee and Snacks:

Le Marche St. George – part cafe, part grocery of local of organic fruits, dairy, fancy teas, coffees and other epicurean delights. Situated on a quiet residential street corner, this place is a refreshing stop on the East Side for a croissant and coffee. They’ve been featured in several magazines and design blogs for either the concept or quaint historic building.

JJ Bean – when I met the manager of the JJ Bean on Fraser Street, she said that a local resident said to her: they knew the neighbourhood had made it when JJ Bean arrived. Vancouver’s born and raised socially responsible coffee roaster’s newest cafe location.

Cedar Cottage Coffee House – great little neighbourhood coffee shop with a fantastic selection of house-made baked goods.

Matchstick – a newer coffee shop in the neighbourhood with long wood-slab tables and lots of white Subway tiles. This über-hipster in-house roaster has gone all out to create a beautiful experience for the coffee aficionado.

SweetSalt Bakery – new kid on the block offering German-style baked goods and a play area for kids, including a miniature baking kitchen for the wee ones. On the corner of Fraser and East 19th Avenue.

SHOP / DO

Spool of Thread – a gem in the city. Go here to buy fabric, patterns or learn how to sew. This is a fabric shop for the creative urbanite. Huge selection of beautiful Kona cottons and light fabrics for clothing, pillows, aprons, bedding, tote bags or wherever your creativity takes you. In-house sewing lounge too.

Mountain View Cemetery – it may not include the tombs of famous people like cemeteries in Paris or London, but this cemetery has spectacular views of the city and mountains. When I lived on the East Side, the cemetery was a regular spot on my jogging route.

STAY

Airbnb – to get the local experience staying in a Vancouverite’s home, try Airbnb for homey accommodation.

SPECIAL EVENTS, MARKETS AND CRAFT FAIRS

Got Craft? – a craft fair in itself, Got Craft also provides a roundup of on-going and specific date craft fairs in Vancouver.

Bard on the Beach – Shakespeare festival running during the summer months. Held at Vanier Park, just across from downtown near the Kitsilano neighbourhood.

Vancouver Film Festival – VIFF runs during late September / early October

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival – held in July at the beautiful Jericho Beach with views of the city.

Eastside Culture Crawl – hands down my favourite event in the city. Held on one of the rainiest weekends of the year in late November; painters, jewelers, sculptors, furniture makers, musicians, weavers, potters, writers, printmakers, photographers, glassblowers; emerging artists to those internationally established open their East Side studios for the public to enjoy.

Car Free Days – yup, you guessed it, two days (generally in June) where Main Street, Commercial Drive and Denman Street are closed to cars so people can wander the streets filled with live music, crafts, dancing and extended patios. Kits “Car Free Day” is a little different – rather than blocking off a major street, residents are encouraged to host block parties in various locations throughout the neighbourhood.

Heritage Tours – The Vancouver Heritage Foundation offers bike and other tours, like theVancouver Special Tour in September, which takes a look at Vancouver’s unique (but not necessarily beautiful) residential architectural past,  throughout the city. Tip: If you can’t be there for the day of the self-guided tour, you can print previous years brochures and get all the information. You won’t be able to go inside the homes but it’s also free, and the beautiful heritage architecture can be enjoyed from the outside.

LIVE MUSIC

The Railway Club – small venue downtown, Indie scene.

Vancouver Fan Club – in the heart of Vancouver’s entertainment district on Granville Street downtown, this newer venue has a New Orleans appeal and offers live blues, funk, soul, rock, jazz, world, music, and more.

Biltmore Cabaret – on the East Side, Indie scene.

Notable locals from Vancouver include…

Bryan Adams, singer

Tommy Chong, actor, comedian

Joshua Jackson, actor

Ryan Reynolds, actor

Seth Rogen, actor, writer, and comedian

David Suzuki, environmentalist, scientist, broadcaster

SaveSave