Erin Ireland’s 5 Must-try New Vancouver Restaurants

Food expert Erin Ireland recommends new dining hot spots to check out

Not sure which new local restaurants you should try? Let food expert Erin Ireland help you decide

With new bars, restaurants, and food trucks popping up on what seems like a daily basis, Vancouver’s food scene can be tricky to navigate. Luckily, Erin Ireland and her famous food blog To Die For are here to keep us up-to-date on where to find the city’s tastiest local dining hot spots.

We caught up with Erin and got the scoop on five of Vancouver’s best new restaurants – click through for her top picks.

Credit: Erin Ireland

Torafuku, 958 Main Street

“I have to say, Torafuku is the restaurant that I am most excited about. They have a beautiful room with a really long concrete communal table and their menu is just mind-blowing”

The chefs: “Torafuku is from the owners of Le Tigre food truck, Clement Chan and Steve Kuan. They’ve done really well with their food truck and, I guess because of its popularity, they were inspired to start this restaurant which is kind of like Asian fusion and izakaya style.”

The food: “Everything is really boldly flavoured and also beautiful.”

Erin-certified dishes: “There is one dish in particular that I think might be my favourite that I’ve ever tried. It’s called Vegetarians Only and it’s so hearty and packed with flavour. It’s crispy mochi with some veggies, some mozza, and some torched mayonnaise. It is just so mind-blowing and the texture is unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I think it’s the torched mayo. I don’t really think anybody can go wrong when they put mayo on something and torch it.

“My other favourite dish is the Kick Ass Risotto. They serve it with a 64.5-degree egg, so it’s very precise and so beautiful. The egg just breaks and spills yolk over your risotto beautifully”

The drinks: “The cocktail list is just fantastic. Max Borrowman is their bartender and his drinks are highly tempting. It makes it hard to pick a cocktail, but they’re fresh and they’re fruity”

Price point: “The dishes are all share plates and they’re all around $12, so very affordable.”

Credit: Erin Ireland

The Birds and the Beets, 55 Powell Street

“I’m so excited about The Birds and The Beets because I think our city needs more good breakfast spots. They describe it as an insanely food-focused counter service café so there’s no pressure. You don’t have to worry about being served, you don’t have to get out of there. You just grab your food, sit down and relax.”

The chefs: “The main chef, Trevor Pruegger, has some wonderful experience. He used to work at Thomas Haas and this is his first venture with his business partner who is also very well-known in the industry. The front-of-the-house man, Matthew Senecal-Junkeer, used to work at Machstick Coffee and 33 Acres so they both have a lot of experience and they’re killing it.”

The food: “For breakfast, for example, they’re serving avocado and slow-poached egg in the form of a brioche sandwich. And they’re doing all house-made baking. For lunch, they’re serving sandwiches and salads. You can choose from turkey, pork, fish or charred veggies then you can select to have that as a sandwich or a salad. Then there are other snacks on the lunch menu, like sprouted grain salad, and they do their own house-made pickles, brioche, and preserves. They seem to care about every little thing on the menu.”

Erin-certified dish: “The sprouted grain salad was amazing. The dressing was a vinaigrette, it was super tangy and I just wanted the salad in a much bigger form. I wanted to eat like five of them!”

The drinks: “They’re serving really good coffee from Matchstick and some other select roasters from nearby.”

Price point: “The sandwiches range from $8.50 to about $11, so on average about $10 and the snacks are really cheap. They’re pretty small but they’re $3  to $5 and the breakfast is around $5.”

Beach Bay Café, 1193 Denman Street

Beach Bay Café recently opened in the old Raincity Grill spot right on the corner of Denman and Davie, so it’s prime time tourist central, but also such a locals’ neighbourhood. They have a little patio with about six seats overlooking English Bay so it’s an amazing spot to go for a sunset.”

The chefs: “Beach Bay Café is from the owners of Cibo and Uva and has a great team. Former chef of L’Abattoir [Scott Korzack] is there doing the menu. There are a lot of experienced people here and the restaurant group is known to be quite successful.”

The food: “I would describe it as kind of traditional West Coast. There was one vegetarian dish on the menu. I wish there were more, but I did enjoy it. They have daily fresh pasta and I think that’s their only vegetarian dish, so it’s very meat forward. They just launched a brunch menu and they also launched a lunch menu since they opened so they’re doing weekend brunch, lunch and dinner.”

Erin-certified dish: “The menu is rotating so I can’t actually recommend a dish!”

The drinks: “Beach Bay Café is a solid option, especially for cocktails. They have a guy named Adrian Lidner, he’s Australian, and he does a really great job with the cocktail list. I had the Aviation, the cocktail with maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, Bombay, and lemon. That was delicious. They also have something called the Blanco Sour with a Sauvignon Blanc, Lillet, lime, egg white and black walnut bitters. So, they’re exploring some really creative ingredients with their cocktails and they are made with care.

“They’re not just creating this cool-sounding drinks list and popping out average cocktails. They are taking their time and really focusing on the bar program.”

Credit: Fred Fung

Royal Dinette, 905 Dunsmuir Street

“Why I’m so excited about Royal Dinette is I expected the menu to be a little more traditional, a little more classic because it’s in the financial district, and often in that area you’ll find diners who are a little less adventurous. But no, executive chef David Gunawan has stuck to his guns. He is really well-known for using seasonal ingredients and using whatever the farmers bring to him so I wondered if things would change with this new location, but they didn’t.”

The chefs: “David Gunawan is the chef of Farmer’s Apprentice and Grapes & Soda. Dave has won a slew of awards, and he’s definitely one of the city’s most respected chefs.

“He has quite an all-star team behind the restaurant. Jack Chen is his head chef and Jack has worked at L’Abattoir and he’s worked at Farmer’s Apprentice for years. He also has Chen-Wei Lee, who was formerly at Bao Bei, Wildebeest and Chambar. And also Jonathan Therrien who was at Chambar and Café Medina.”

The food: “The menu, which I would call very progressive, features six dishes from the garden, which are primarily vegetarian, vegetable-focused dishes that are all colourful, beautiful and so flavourful and hearty. Gunawan is combining some grains into these garden dishes so they’re not salads.

“He’s got one meat dish on the menu, which I think is so wonderful and important in this day and age, focusing on reducing our meat intake, and he’s got two fish dishes on the menu, which of course is neat as well. It’s just nice to see something that’s kind of different from your traditional T-bone steak, hamburger, which so the many of the office workers seem to gravitate towards in that area.”

Erin-certified dish: “The Burrata, which was served on fresh thick cut toast with plums and mustard grains (pictured). This was some of the most melt-in-your-mouth Burrata that I’ve ever had. It felt like the bread was taken out of the toaster and hustled to the table so it was still crispy on the outside but super soft on the inside.”

The drinks: “Wendy McGuinness, who is one of the city’s most well-known bartenders, she’s running the drinks list so it’s going to be top-notch.”

Price point: “The dishes in the garden section are on average about $14 and the meat dish is around $19. The fish is $18-$24.”

Credit: Erin Ireland

Mission Kitsilano, 2042 West 4th Avenue

Mission’s dishes are highly inventive and absolutely delicious. Chef Curtis Luk has done a really great job with the flavour pairing.”

The chefs: “Mission is from Curtis Luk who appeared on season two of Top Chef Canada and he formerly worked at Fable with Top Chef Canada runner-up Trevor Bird. He also used to work at Bambudda and he worked at the Parker.”

The food: “They are focused on sustainability with a nose-to-tail philosophy; however, they also offer a vegetarian tasting menu alongside their traditional tasting menu. This is what really grabbed my attention because it’s pretty rare and pretty awesome to see.”

Erin-certified dish: “I’d have to say that my favourite dish was the Cauliflower Porridge with brassicas and wheat berries. It’s kind of hard to pick a favourite because they’re all so inventive. Another dish was Stuffed Walla Walla Onion with charred onion butter and summer squash. These aren’t exactly dishes you’re going to see on many other menus, that’s for sure!”

The drinks: “This is [Cutis Luk’s] first venture with sommelier Chase McLeod, so that’s a nice little dream team there: one handling the food, one handling the wine and drinks. They also have a bartender named Justin Darnes and he’s the bar manager.”

Price point: “You can have four courses for $45 and you can add wine pairings for $30 or you can have the six courses for $65 and add wine pairings for $45. You can also order à la carte so dishes range from about $8 to $18.”