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Seven secret shops worth exploring on your next trip to the West End
Beyond the glittery bars on Davie and the busy restaurants on Denman, Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood – once you venture a few tree-lined streets in – contains a few secret gems.
Most people who visit the community are lured by Stanley Park outings or English Bay sunsets, but just as amazing (if on a much smaller scale) are the charming, independent shops, restaurants and cafés that keep Vancouver’s most densely populated neighbourhood satisfyingly self-sustained.
Some of these places have roots decades-deep, while others are so new you can practically smell the wet paint. Read on to find seven of these secret shops worth exploring on your next trip to the West End.
House of Jewels is a treasure trove of beautiful gems and clothing that’s been a staple in the West End community for nearly 20 years. It’s small but full of well-curated pieces that always include a great selection from local and Canadian artists.
Nestled beside a corner grocers on a quiet street with actual stand-alone homes with picket fences, walking in this store feels more like popping in to visit a good friend. And in the climate of big-box, cookie-cutter retailers with outsourced customer service, House of Jewels is a refreshingly lovely retail respite that makes shopping a joy again.
953 Nicola Street, Vancouver, 604.662.7360
West Enders rejoiced when Greenhorn Espresso Bar finally opened its doors in the early days of 2014. This beautiful, accessibly-hipster chic café is smack in the middle of a residential area, PDX-style.
Greenhorn’s coffees are luscious, and the food – thanks to Chambar-alum, Rebecca Foster – is definitely elevated from the typical café fare. If you need something a bit more substantial than biscotti to go with your coffee, try the decadent quiches and scrumptious soups and sandwiches (there are even gluten-free options). Upstairs is a small gallery space devoted to all things two-wheeled.
994 Nicola Street, Vancouver, 604.428.2912
Graphic artist Annie Chen opened up this small textiles and graphics studio-store in late 2013, introducing her pretty esthetics to design savvy West Enders. Under the design label “Lemonni,” Chen’s store features her own printed textiles and paper goods, but also includes a cosmopolitan selection of practical and pretty things such as dish towels by Japanese artist Atsuko Matano and prints by Spanish artist Bianca Gomez. Drop by Production Road for a browse or to chat with Chen, who’s always working on a new crafty project.
990 Nicola Street, Vancouver, 604.670.6154
When MoMo Sushi opened up in the West End five years ago, its long-term success was dubious given its location on a quiet street that extended only two blocks (welcome to the West End). But it’s thrived and actually opened two other locations now in trendier areas (Gastown and Denman).
The original on Bidwell remains extremely popular and is a testament to what great food at great prices can do. The restaurant is a tiny hole-in-the-wall with so few seats you really shouldn’t assume to get one. And, in fact, a lot of their business is takeout, with a steady stream of people coming in, paying and leaving with their bundle of raw fish goodness. Call ahead and you’ll have this routine down pat in no time.
833 Bidwell Street, Vancouver, 604.569.2001
Cardero Bottega is the type of deli-café that every neighbourhood wishes it had. It’s tucked into the ground floor of a beautifully restored heritage house and just last year underwent further renovations to increase seating, as it was always overflowing with regulars.
This is a New-York-style deli that offers artisan groceries mostly from Italy with treats like cannolis, fresh pasta, organic root beer syrup and local Earnest ice cream. But Cardero Bottega is probably best known for their made-to-order sandwiches, which are probably the best in all of the West End.
1016 Cardero Street, Vancouver, 604.689.0450
At 30 years strong, Chocolate Mousse is a West End institution, supplying locals in-the-know with everything beautiful their inner-Martha Stewart could dream of: ribbons, cards, travel bags, bakeware, kitchenware, tablecloths, shower curtains, candles, tea kettles. Sure, it’s on Robson Street, but despite its massive inventory it’s a tiny store on an otherwise nondescript block that’s easily missed. But it’s the gift store of choice for most locals, where you’re guaranteed to find an exquisite item or three… “one for you, two for me…”.
1553 Robson Street, Vancouver, 604.682.8223
As soon as you walk into Euro Food Plus, you’re transported into a grocery store somewhere in Eastern Europe. The air is briny from the generous pickle and olive bar, everyone is speaking fluent Russian and there’s nary a lick of English on the colourful packages lining shelves.
Euro Foods has been importing authentic Ukrainian, Polish, Slovakian and other Eastern European delights to the West End for 25 years. But even if you’re not in the market for kolbassa, tinned sprats or sushki, they have an amazing deli selection of cured meats, smoked fish, caviar and cheeses. And so what if you’re reduced to shopping-by-pictures; you can’t lose with any of their delicious Euro-treats like fruit preserves, real grainy mustards, hard candies and wafer biscuits.
818 Bidwell Street, Vancouver, 604.688.0959