This is your indispensable companion to all that is fresh and delicious in Vancouver right now

I’m writing this in late October. The temperature has taken a dip into ‘Are you kidding me?’ territory and let’s be honest: Vancouver’s patios are, for the most part, not suitable for rainy nights or chilly days. Friends, if you loved that little Korean chicken place down the street or adored the XLBs from the noodle shop near work, or even used to look forward to your ’treat’ dinner from that special spot once every few months but haven’t really supported them of late, I have five words for you: use it or lose it.

Hospitality folks are clinging to life right now. Things are harder than they have ever been. So please, if you love the incredible variety of food that’s available in the city, from hole-in-the-wall taco and roti joints to farm-to-table neighbourhood restaurants and absolutely everything in between, I beg you, support them. Maybe take a pledge from here till this is over to support local. Stop giving your money to chains and multi-national corporations and start making sure that the post-COVID world is one that we want to eat in with unique stuff-your-face culinary diversity.

As evergrab napkins. It’s messy as hell right now...

 

1. Say yay for Small Victories

Nikki BaileyNikki BayleyFor the record, I’m really not much of a dessert person. Come at me with a chocolate cake and I likely will say no. But I want to like sweet things; you can’t splurge on cheese all the time, after all. So, delight abounded when I tried Small Victory’s vanilla cream-filled croissant doughnut. It is gorgeous: not too sweet, crunchy on top, wonderfully buttery and flaky and just oozing with a really superb proper vanilla-y filling. Well worth queueing for in the rain.

 

2. Go get lunch from Vij’s

Vij'sNikki BayleyHey, you guys! Stop thinking about Vij’s as just a ‘destination dinner’ place. I mean, sure, it’s always going to be somewhere special to go and celebrate, faceplanting into a plate of lamb popsicles, jackfruit and happiness, but now they do lunch and it’s tasty as F.

The crew from the sadly shuttered Rangoli is now on lunch duty and they are whipping up a mouthwatering storm. The samosas (crammed with curried short rib or potato and bell pepper) are hand made every day. I had a beef one and it is a rare thing of delectable wonder. Lunch is served daily from 11:30 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. and for just $15 you get a samosa with vegetable rice pilaf and coconut curry. For maximum joy, dip the samosa into the curry. Trust me. Eat in (they have an outdoor patio space or safely eat inside thanks to enhanced COVID spacing), or order through Doordash, Uber or pick up yourself for takeout. Again: use it, or lose it, folks. 

 

3. Patio it UP at Guu Garden

Nikki BaileyNikki BayleyAlways one of my go-to spots in the 'before' times, I booked a patio table at Guu Garden recently and loved their new COVID-19 setup. All the patio spots have a little fire on the tablesperfect for keeping cozy, and there’s plenty of space between everyone, too. Wrap up warm and dive into all the usual Izakaya deliciousness, such as superb tontoro (grilled pork cheek), addictive tuna tataki (the garlic chips!), and spectacular tako wasabi (wasabi-marinated octopus). Ordering—and paying—is done on your phone.

 

4. Excellent vermouth alert

vermutI enjoyed some of Kaitlyn Stewart’s drool-worthy cocktails on the patio at Capo & the Spritz the other day (big yes for their Affogato milk punch and the pun-worthy Claribaldi). They have gloriously extensive vermouth and amaro menus and I tried a new-to-me sweet vermouth from Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley Esquimalt wine company. Cue, table-banging ecstasy! This is so, so good! Complex and herbaceous, sweet but not cloying, deliciously grownup, it made me think of long nights on Barcelona patios drinking wonderful vermut and sodas. Mmmmm. No surprises to see it won gold at the prestigious 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. They offer free shipping across Canada for orders over $85. Want to make someone’s Christmas? Order a few bottles of this baby and spread the love for your next virtual cocktail party with friends.

 

5. Comfort eat BeSIDE’s awesome deep-fried cheese curds

Nikki BaileyNikki BayleySo, Timber (next door to Forage) transitioned a while back to BeSIDE Forage. But guess what, gang? THEY STILL DO THOSE AMAZING DEEP-FRIED CHEESE CURDS (and yes, I am shouting about that 'cause I was super excited when I found this out.) I introduced a few folks to them last weekend and it’s good to see the pure pleasure one of those bad boys can still bring.

 

6. Hella crazy deals at Hawksworth

HawksworthFacebook/Hawksworth RestaurantThese tough COVID times are bringing some absolute banger deals to us as diners. Case in point: weekend brunch at Hawksworth now has a prix-fixe deal of three courses for $20.20 from 11:30 a.m. till 3 p.m. (or till they sell out). On the menu: beet carpaccio, beef brisket eggs Benedict and pumpkin tart.

I just checked out their online menu order system and again—holy crap!you can get a Hawksworth burger kit which includes four house-made brioche buns, Hawksworth burger patties, the house secret sauce, aged Canadian cheddar and fixings to make this drool-worthy burger at home for... $50. You guysthis is a steal of a deal.

 

7. Backyard with Chancho

ChanchoChanchoI am all about dining outdoors. Hell, we’re Canadians! There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Layer up and get stuck in! My all-time favourite spot for tacos, Chancho on Davie is now doing a ‘Backyard Kit’ which I reckon works just as well in the park or by the beach. This excess of deliciousness contains: fresh-made corn tortilla (they do these in-house and I swear to god, they make every other tortilla you ever had until now taste like absolute trash), chips, guac, salsas and black beans, either margaritas or micheladas and your choice of either carnitas (have the campechano!) or veggies. Prices start at $74 and will feed you and your bubble!

 

8. Plan weekend brunch at Bread X Butter

Nikki BayleyNikki BayleyOne of my favourite chefs, Felix Zhou has started to do brunch service at his downtown location of Bread X Butter in Cathedral Place on West Georgia at Hornby. It’s a little hidden away, so not much passing trade unless you know about it. So, I am telling you about it 'cause it’s brilliant. I had the fried chicken and waffles, and my breakfast buddy had the scallop Benny. Both disappeared incredibly quickly. But can I just apologize again to anyone in the downtown core who may have heard my loud moans of appreciation that I made while inhaling that chicken? Man! Crunchy, spicy, sweet with maple syrup and juicy, juicy chicken! When chicken and waffles are done this well, they’re absolutely unbeatable!