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Skip the standard pub and opt for a bar with a more covert cool factor to call your watering hole
Bars, pubs, and watering holes are the mainstays of the hospitality industry – those places you can always go for a quick drink, an easy meal, a friendly gathering or just to get away from it all.
But you don’t always want your drink served up with a hefty dose of hype, crowds and hassles. Sometimes the best bars are the ones that remain a little hidden – neighbourhood treasures that keep on chugging (literally) regardless of the regular churn.
Whether you feel most at home in a rollicking sport bar, a medieval nerd bar (yes, it’s a thing!) or quiet corner lounge, you can take your pick in Vancouver. The following neighbourhood bars embrace the eclectic and the art of staying secretly admired.
If burlesque met Baroque and time-travelled to Bram Stoker’s Dracula while hurtling through an Irish pub and a thrift store art aisle, The Narrow Lounge would be the wicked result.
The Narrow is small, intimate, and sexy, bathed in red walls, dark wood, and antique chandeliers, with eclectic décor ranging from mounted deer antlers to splashes of neon blue lighting. At the Narrow, you can steal a private kiss, get to know your neighbour, or maybe even dance on the bar, all in one night. Or, just enjoy some straight-up delicious pub food, like the Guinness Mac ‘n’ Cheese, polished off with a bottle of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout to really have your stomach stick to your ribs.
And in true hidden gem fashion, the Narrow has a practically hidden entrance. Just look for the red light.
Dark corners and stone walls highlight the hidden underground digs of Gastown’s cool Guilt & Co, built in a former tunnel used by bad-boy bootleggers in Vancouver’s Prohibition days.
The basement bar has a different theme every night, including Confessional Mondays featuring local folk resurrection and singer-songwriter acts, and Risque Cabaret Tuesdays. The irreverent menu jumps from the daring genius of the Strawberry Salsa appetizer, a combination of fresh strawberries, stuffed avocado, and deep fried wontons, to the classics like Red Velvet Cake for dessert.
Tip: Ask one of Guilt’s expert bartenders to pour you a glass of Pink Elephant’s Delirium beer. It’s a sight to behold, and a taste you’ll long remember.
Storm Crow Tavern is the new kid on the block. More specifically, it’s the new “medieval nerd bar” on the block with nothing but local beers on tap.
Located at Charles Street and Commercial Drive next to Grandview Park, Storm Crow Tavern’s decor is straight out of the times of Camelot, complete with wall-mounted medieval-style axes and shields. A stack of board games invites patrons to relive their childhood.
If you’re a pop-culture loving locavore, Storm Crow is your fever dream come to life: order a 20 oz pint of Victoria’s Phillips Brewing’s spicy Blue Buck while catching an episode of your favourite show (Storm Crow hosts Game of Thrones Sundays). Be sure to try its Harry Potter-inspired cocktail, The Goblet of Fire, a sucker-punch of Fireball cinnamon whiskey, ginger ale, lime, and bitters.
Established in 1990, The Fringe Café is the oldest neighbourhood bar on West Broadway in Kits with a fiercely loyal group of regulars.
If you embrace the Cheers model – the place where everybody knows your name and they’re all glad that you came – then you’ll like The Fringe. It’s a no-frills bar with a focus on the essentials – a solid beer (and scotch) selection, and a healthy dose of irreverence.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal than The Fringe’s daily $3.99 sleeve draught specials. Plus, there’s a special sense of juvenile fun in ordering a plate of Ugly Boy Nachos with a Dirty Girl Pilsner on the side.
Locus Restaurant & Lounge hits all the right notes for a bar on Main: friendly atmosphere, eclectic menu, local beer and wine, a huge drink list, and a perfect slice of patio optimal for people-watching.
“Locus” is defined as a locality, a site of an event, and a centre or focus of great activity. Indeed, Locus Restaurant & Lounge takes its role as a treasured neighbourhood gem seriously, priding itself on its friendly, laid-back atmosphere with a drink and a bite for everyone.
Full of gothic touches, Locus offers private corners in which to enjoy your 16-year-old Lagavulin Scotch, or, conversely, a bustling sidewalk patio from which to people-watch while you enjoy its famous Baked Camembert with almonds and in-house made preserves. Be sure to check out Locus’ weekend brunches; they’re one of the best kept secrets in town.
Hidden Gems: Vancouver Bars with Personality