It's time to check out the diverse cuisine along the Drive which often gets overlooked in favour of the superb Italian on offer
There are a few topics guaranteed to spark fierce and immediate debate amongst Vancouverites: bike lanes, housing prices and which of Commercial Drive’s pizza places is the tastiest. So guess what? I am not planning to poke that particular bear today! We all have our favourite places—for me that’s Dolce Amore for gelato, La Grotta Del Formaggio for picnics and Lombardo’s for pizza, unless we’re counting Via Tevere which is on Victoria, but yeah, I guess you see my point.
ANYWAY there is an incredible breadth of diverse cuisine from Ethiopian to Thai along the Drive which often gets overlooked in favour of the superb Italian on offer, so let’s throw a spotlight on them instead.
Here are seven non-Italian spots you can’t miss on the Drive...
1. Cabrito, 2270 Commercial Drive
Pulling off some of the best tapas in the city, Cabrito is owning the Spanish-influenced game on the Drive right now and mixing up some pretty damn tasty cocktails while they’re at it too. The smoked patatas bravas is a carby-smoky thrill-fest best paired with fat fistfuls of their Basque chorizo. Brunch is cool as f here—see if you can score a patio seat and scope out the street action, and they often have live music on Thursdays. They're open Friday to Sunday for brunch and dinner daily; located between 6th and 7th.
2. Storm Crow Tavern, 1305 Commercial Drive
Nerdy and proud, the fine folks at Storm Crow revel in flying their fantasy, sci-fi and horror-based flag high. I am vastly entertained by the concept of throwing a 20-sided dice to custom-create a Dungeon Burger, and Han’s Hangover Helper Poutine is gonna be an excellent choice for many for obvious reasons... I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously, they lay on plenty of good games and events (totally obsessed with their piñata-making craft workshop) and they have a double happy hour. They're open daily and located between Charles and Kitchener.
3. Fets Whisky Kitchen, 1230 Commercial Drive
Blink and you’ll miss this whisky-soaked spot between William and Charles—but if there was ever an argument for keeping your eyes wide open at all times, here it is. Offering up some 800 different whiskies from around the world, including over 100 Scottish distilleries, Fets has been quietly keeping Vancouver’s whisky community happy for 30 years. But it’s not just about whisky in the glass, you can also get whisky on your plate thanks to an innovative spirit-spiked menu. The charcuterie board is pretty legit with locally-cured Two Rivers meats and cheese with whisky-pickled veg. The organic beef steak bites are a treat, and it’s hard not to immediately demand a high-five after ordering the Forty Creek Whisky Ribs. They're open daily for breakfast, brunch and dinner.
4. Addis Cafe, 2017 Commercial Drive
if you’re new to Ethiopian cuisine, prepare to be enchanted as Addis dishes up some of the best in town. There’s plenty for veggie- and meat-eaters to enjoy here, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays they run a vegetarian and vegan-night special. Try the aromatic gently spiced green lentil wot mopped up with injera, a fermented flatbread that looks a bit like a buckwheat crêpe; or the terrific ye beg awaze tib, a super-slow cooked rich and spicy lamb dish. They're situated between 4th and 5th, and open Tuesday till Sunday for dinner and weekend lunch.
5. La Mezcaleria, 1622 Commercial Drive
There isn’t enough space for me to babble on with superlatives about my favourite Mexican spot in town, but let’s just say that I’m a massive fan of everything they do here. Their lamb barbacoa is a divine slow-cooked, fall-apart meaty feast, the tuna chicharrones I will never, ever share, and the queso fundido with choritzo is probably one of my top 10 things to eat in the city. In short: YES. They're located between Graveley and East 1st, and open Monday and Tuesday for dinner and all day from Wednesday till Sunday.
6. The Reef, 1018 Commercial Drive
Soak up the sun-splashed sounds, scents and tastes of the Caribbean at The Reef between Parker and Napier. Their ackee and saltfish with rice and peas took me right back to Brixton market days and if you’ve never had this quintessential Caribbean dish you gotta give it a try! Shout out to the plantain chips with jerk mayo too—addictive. They’re open for brunch, lunch and dinner Tuesday till Sunday and dinner on Monday, with home and office delivery from Skip the Dishes and Foodee. They also rock an excellent 9 p.m. till close happy hour with drinks specials and half off tacos—try the Tuxpan with island-spiced tilapia.
7. Kin Kao Thai, 903 Commercial Drive
This brilliant beer-centric Thai spot between Venables and Parker is serving up fresh, bright locally-sourced takes on Thai street food with an elevated twist. Don’t miss the deep-fried sour-cured pork ribs or the gloriously aromatic yellow curry. They're open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday. And, yes, they’re signed up with Foodora and Doordash.