Drinking Vancouver’s best bar picks

Fancy a nice cocktail in Kits or a local brew on Commercial?

Credit: Flickr / Urban Mixer

New Vancouver bar guide maps out where to quench your thirst

Just in time for Games visitors looking to explore our rainy city comes local travel writer John Lee’s latest book Drinking Vancouver: 100+ Great Bars in the City and Beyond (TouchWood Editions, $19.95), which breaks down where to go, why to go and what (and who) you’ll find there.

The guidebook organizes bars (including his 12 crème-de-la-crème picks) into 11 neighbourhoods and includes maps to plot your bar hopping. He covers each spot’s “essential tipple” and “must-have nosh.” And, as Lee writes, “nightclubs and ticketed live music joints are not invited to the party.”

Although his exclusion of nightclubs is fine by this past-prime bar star, I did expect more dives, neighbourhood pubs and places I didn’t know about. But for visitors or newcomers to the city, the list is timely and comprehensive, and even includes an appendix of BC breweries—perfect for anyone who aims to drink local.

Lee also understands the nature of the bar business, and his website offers up-to-date information as well as opportunities for readers to submit their own recommendations.

Here’s but a sample of Lee’s picks, by neighbourhood.


Granville Strip: Whineos

As Lee points out, finding a decent drinking spot on the Granville Street mall for those over 25 can be a challenge, but his go-to is Whineos. The narrow wine bar not only has the strip’s best décor, including a “secret” room hidden behind a bookcase door, but also offers 20 “mostly well-priced offerings” by the glass, about half of which are from BC.

1017 Granville St. 604-669-9463


Main Street: Narrow Lounge

Ducking into the windowless, tucked-away Narrow Lounge, according to Lee, is “like stepping into a David Lynch dream about a vintage dive bar.” For those who are intrigued, not frightened, by this prospect, you’ll encounter “warm and friendly” service, an extensive cocktail list, boutique beer and hearty dishes. There’s also a turntable with a sizeable vinyl library.

1898 Main St. 778-737-5206

Gastown: Pourhouse

Gastown’s Pourhouse is a “sassy homage to old saloon bars, with expert cocktails and gourmet cowboy nosh.” Choose between the long laid-back bar or the elegant, old-timey dining room. Lee recommends the bar’s signature cocktail, the Gold Fashioned (bourbon, maple syrup, d’oro, bitters, and citrus zest), and the bill of fare’s “elevated comfort foods” like pork and beans.

162 Water St. 604-568-7022


Kitsilano: Corduroy

One of the newest watering holes in Kits, “coolly eclectic” Corduroy, unlike many cookie-cutter Westside establishments, boasts a kitschy, cozy atmosphere. They offer local brews served in boot-shaped glasses, organic comfort food and live music, and even host a bring-your-own-vinyl night.

1943 Cornwall Ave. 604-733-0162


Commercial Drive: St. Augustine’s

You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but this unpretentious “standard-looking sports bar” offers one of the best selections of microbrews on draft, says Lee. St. Augustine’s 20 frequently changing taps pour mainly BC brews, but also a number of American beers that are rare to find in the city. You can even order an $8 sampler of four different beers to find your favourite.

2360 Commercial Dr. 604-569-1911


Where’s your favourite drinking spot in Vancouver?