Where to start? Anyone who's visited Vancouver will tell you that it is a city populated by self-professed foodies and blessed with a cornucopia of restaurants to satisfy their appetite. As I'm sure you can appreciate, this makes writing a post on food in Vancouver an ambitious (and intimidating) job. To do the topic justice, I will divide and conquer. This first post will focus on restaurants, but keep your eyes open for an upcoming post on street food and cheap eats.
What's a trip to Vancouver without seafood? Fortunately, you will not have to venture far from the conference site to find some of Vancouver's best seafood spots. Just two SkyTrain stops away is Yaletown, where you will find Blue Water Cafe, one of the city's top seafood restaurants. If you are looking for something more casual, head on down the street to Rodney's Oyster bar, their Caesars are great (that's Canadian for Bloody Mary). Another top pick is the COAST Restaurant, which is popular for its sleek design and delicious seafood.
I have been told by some Japanese colleagues that when it comes to sushi, Vancouver competes with the best of them in Japan. Tojo's is the premier sushi spot in the city. Chef Tojo himself is the mastermind behind the California roll. Sit at the bar and let him pick your menu. You won't be disappointed. For more casual sushi, I recommend Octopus Garden in Kitsilano. This small, cozy spot is tucked away on Cornwall Street near Kits Beach and serves some delicious off-the-beaten-track rolls. Otherwise, just stick your tongue out and you're bound to hit a sushi place. The city is jam-packed with them.
The izakaya (Japanese tapas) craze hit Vancouver a few years ago, and in its wake left a bunch of delicious eateries. Nestled around the Denman and Robson area are some of the top spots (and conveniently close to the convention center). The sleek Hapa Izakaya hides behind an unassuming black glazed facade on Robson Street. Across the street is the more casual favorite, Guu Garlic . Head down to Denman to check out Toratatsu or Kingyo . If you can't pick, grab a bunch of colleagues and head out for some izakaya hopping.
Perhaps the culinary jewel of the city, Chinese food has a long tradition in Vancouver much to the delight of its residents. Head on to Chinatown for Sunday dim sum at Kirin or a casual noodle lunch at Hon's . Sun Sui Wah is a local favorite of foodies and us lay people alike, but be warned: it is a bit of a trek from downtown. For a modern twist, check out Bao Bei Brasserie, also in Chinatown.
Gastown, a mecca of modern, hip restaurants, is just down the street from the convention center. Grab some tacos at La Taqueria or head down to Salt for great charcuterie and wine. Nearby, you will also find Boneta, relatively new but getting a lot of attention. Reggae-centric Calabash serves great Caribbean fare. Also new to the food scene, but already local favorites, are L'Abattoir and Meat and Bread. Head out toward Crosstown and you'll find Chambar, a Belgian restaurant, and its more casual sister, Medina Cafe, next door.
Carol Zachs is the Local Arrangements Committee (LAT) communications chair for NAFSA’s 2011 Annual Conference & Expo. After completing an internship in 2000-01 at the University of Aarhus’ International Secretariat in Denmark, Carol has worked in the field of international education ever since. Currently, she serves as the manager of study and research abroad at the University of British Columbia, where she is also completing graduate work in education. Originally from Mexico City, Carol has been a Vancouver resident for the past 24 years. Carol looks forward to showcasing what Vancouver has to offer to all of the conference attendees.