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This is your indispensable companion to all that is delicious in Vancouver right now
I went out for dinner on the patio of Row 14 in Cawston recently—the first time I’d been to a restaurant in months. People: it was exhilarating! Wildly delicious, of course, but the giddy thrill of having lovely people bring me food and drink again made my head spin and heart melt. Of course, we need to practice physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and mask wearing when distancing isn’t possible, but within those spaces, if we are careful, kind and considerate to others, we can enjoy the simple pleasures of dining out again.
So, grab your napkins and a mask, and prepare to get messy once more…
One of Gastown’s best-loved spots, have you really lived in Vancouver if you’ve not had an order of Calabash’s decadent house-made fried coconut dumplings slathered in mango or guava butter? If you’re new to Caribbean cuisine, then veggies and vegans should give the roti a spin (think a chapati or wrap). It comes stuffed with spicy veg and is covered in a finger-licking coconut rundown sauce. Meat eaters: don’t think twice—just order the house-marinated jerk chicken with rice and peas. Cocktails are on-point and you can further your rum education with a flight here; they have some 80 rums from around the world to choose from.
The new normal feels pretty sweet at Fergie’s: tables are set at a reassuring distance apart, both inside and out; friendly mask-wearing servers leave your food and drinks on trays at one end of the table; and menus are texted to your phone so you can choose what drool-worthy brunch you’ll have as you take a stroll along the rushing Cheakamus River as you wait to be told your table is ready. The only problem is that everything looks ridiculously delicious.
I had the Alpha Bowl, piled high with roasted veggies, smashed avocado, quinoa, veggie fritters and topped with an egg, but was giving serious side looks to the pulled pork hash. I spoke (distantly) to plenty of other Vancouverites who’d booked a cabin to escape city stress with a Squamish break and a side of amazing brunch—eggs always taste better with soaring mountain views! On Fridays and Saturdays, from 3 to 9 p.m., you can enjoy cocktails and a tasty après menu on their top deck which has a decidedly awesome Ibiza vibe.
Back in business again, post-COVID shutdown, head to East 15th to enjoy the funky deliciousness of one of Fraserhood’s most beloved and long-running restaurants, the Lion’s Den Café. Japaribbean means you can menu-jump between Caribbean classics such as jerk chicken and ackee and salt fish (they do a vegan ackee too), or try chef Junko Tanabe’s superb okonomiyaki and teriyaki chicken (served with rice and beans). Their all-day breakfast eggers are still one of the best bargains in town and seriously—if you’ve not tried their curried chicken Jamaican patties, are you in for a treat! Check out their social media for weekly specials.
I’m a huge fan of chef Felix Zhou (ex-Heritage Asian Eatery), so let me tell you about his new venture, the Bread x Butter Café at 925 West Georgia. Daytime eats are the order of the day (the café is open 7 a.m. till 3 p.m., Monday to Friday) with everything from avo toast and breakfast sandwiches through to simple soups and salads, more elevated gourmet sandwiches (Bocconcini sourdough? Yes, please!), chocolate croissants, muffins and cookies. The coffee program comes from local caffeine heroes, JJ Bean. I can’t even imagine the stress of opening a new spot in a pandemic, so hop on over there and show chef Zhou some love.
I only just heard of One Arrow Meats this week and I’m already incredibly excited about what they do. The creation of Cree-Metis chef, Heat Laliberte, One Arrow makes artisanal, naturally smoked, local ingredient-driven bacon. The meat comes from Fraser Valley Pork sourced directly from Cioffi’s and Laliberte only uses premium-quality ingredients, such as Maples Sugar Shack Extra Dark Maple Syrup and Vancouver Island Sea Salt. The bacon comes in four different varieties: Black Pepper and Honey, Hickory Smoked Maple, Chinese Five Spice and Salt and Smoke (100 percent sugar-free). One Arrow offers free delivery in the Greater Vancouver area with a minimum purchase of $75. With orders less than $75, pick-up is available in the Granville Island area and you can often find Laliberte at Vancouver Farmers Markets—check his Insta for details.
Plant-based cuisine continues to gather more fans, so why not try a fresh spin with Kula’s Afrocentric plant-based treats. Chef-owner Asha Wheeldon made her way from Kenya to Toronto and now to Vancouver, where she’s cooking up affordable nourishing family-style meals delivered directly to your door.
Try Kula’s signature Sukuma strew: a hearty blend of red lentils and collard greens, or a vibrant mushroom-feta salad, or add some Kula-style flavours to cooking at home with a spice pack. Place your order online by Wednesday at 9 p.m., then receive your meals on Saturday (delivering from Vancouver to Surrey).
Coffee fan? Of course, you are. So, may I suggest you give the Indigenous-owned Spirit Bear Coffee Company a whirl? Fair Trade-certified, organic, freaking excellent with the coolest branding around, they have five blends going from light to dark (including espresso) and a decaf blend too. Based out of Port Coquitlam, local heroes Spirit Bear fund several social and environmental programs through their coffee sales including the Northern Lights Wildlife Society, the Ocean Alliance and the First Nations Snowboard Team. Right now you can score a free sampler pack with each online order—what are you waiting for?!