only in Vancouver dining experience close up of la charcuterie sandwich cover photo

Unique and Unforgettable (Not Trendy)

Don’t expect to find any trendy places with food that people spend more time taking Instagram photos of than eating in this list of only in Vancouver dining experiences. 

Those places may have delicious food, but they’re really no different from what you can find in other cities.

The places in this list are truly unique.

As born-and-raised Vancouverites who have traveled extensively, Kim and I know what’s good in town and we know what can’t be found elsewhere. 

Here are eight of our favorite only in Vancouver dining experiences:

Get Stuffed by The Sandwich Nazi’s Humongous Salami (…Sandwich)

La Charcuterie Delicatessen

Eating sandwiches in front of la Charcuterie
Salam screamed at us when we tried to take photos inside, so we had to do them out front.
only in Vancouver dining experience close up of la charcuterie sandwich cover photo
Offensive sign on counter at La Charcuterie
Salam (pictured) has no shame and doesn’t mince his words. He doesn’t mince his meat either. He slices it and heaps in on enormous sandwiches.

Salam, the owner of La Charcuterie Delicatessen, is the real-life soup nazi… of sandwiches.

Not only will he prepare you the most unbelievably enormous sandwich you’ll ever see (he’ll weigh it in front of you to show you the 2+ pound might), he’ll serve you equally generous amounts of utterly inappropriate comments about your girlfriend, his salami, and how he can make a different type of sandwich by combining them.

If you’re sensitive or squeamish, don’t even dare to visit.

The whole experience and Salam’s crazy story of how it came to be is so unforgettable that some documentarians made a movie about the owner called “The Sandwich Nazi.” 

Astonishingly though, almost no Vancouverite you’ll talk to will have heard of this epic, unique Vancouver dining experience.

Maybe because it’s not exactly in Vancouver.

La Charcuterie is at least a 40-minute drive from Downtown in the much-maligned suburb of Surrey. Normally we’d never recommend anyone visiting Vancouver to go to Surrey, but La Charcuterie isn’t normal. Whether you’d like to or not, you’ll never forget your experience here.

Update:

As GM mentions in the comments but we neglected to mention:

“It’s important to know the generosity of this man [Salam] towards the less fortunate. Every month he organizes volunteers to come to his shop and make lunches for the homeless. Hes got a heart of gold!” He donates hundreds of sandwiches a month, so go there, buy a sandwich, leave a bit tip, and support the cause.

Drink Your Favorite Chocolate Bar of Fruit with Bubbles

Bubble Queen

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLfHAt5DpRv/?taken-by=bubblequeencafe

As soon as you arrive in Vancouver you’ll be struck by how Asian the city is. So as a visitor, you have to experience a unique, only in Vancouver Asian dining experience.

There’s no better way to do so than by heading to the epicenter of Vancouver’s Asian-ness, Richmond (where the airport is), to an have the epitome of Asian food, bubble tea, at the best bubble tea place there is, Bubble Queen.

Bubble Queen’s tiny, nondescript location is hidden in a business park. Its existence is given away by the ever-present line of people waiting to get their fix.

What makes Bubble Queen unique is its overwhelmingly extensive menu.

My favorite bubble tea is definitely Toblerone. Kim, on the other hand, loves to go fruity with some mango and green tea concoction.

Whatever your preference, there’s no sweeter way to capture Vancouver’s Asian side than to hit up Bubble Queen.

Snack on Unpretentious Food for Unpretentious Boaters (and You)

The Galley Patio & Grill

The Galley Grill sign, sailboat, and downtown Vancouver
Beachside city and mountain views down below The Galley Grill.
The Galley, Jericho Sailing Club, and the beach.
Stop by the Galley on our favorite Vancouver bike ride, which we outline in our guide of non-touristy things to do in Vancouver.

There’s nothing fancy about The Galley. It’s a super low-key patio grill located right on the beach above the equally low-key Jericho Sailing Club.

Many of my friends worked there back in high school, and it continues to be mostly manned by local kids who do their best to cook up basics like burgers, nachos, and poutine.

So yeah, you might find better food and service elsewhere.

What you won’t find elsewhere is any place closer to the beach and with better views of the ocean, downtown, and the mountains.

It’s this unforgettable location and view that makes The Galley an only in Vancouver dining experience.

Eat and drink with the cool kids

The Local

View of people have food and drinks at The Local in Kitsilano
Drink a Caesar or have some nachos at The Local.
people tanning on busy kits beach in vancouver
After the Local, join the crowds at Kits Beach. You might even want to stay in Kits. Check out our guide to where to stay in Vancouver to see how it rates compared to other neighborhoods.

Vancouverites reading this are puking in their mouths right now.

“How could you possibly add The Local Public Eatery to your list of unique only in Vancouver eating spots?” they’re thinking. “It’s an over-busy, somewhat douchey hole where wannabe cool hipster yoga bros and girls go.”

Well, guess what?

“Wannabe cool yoga and hipster folks,” describes the typical Vancouverite pretty well.

The restaurant’s called the Local and it really is frequented almost entirely by locals, so it’s perfect for tourists looking to get a glimpse of the Vancouver scene.

Better yet, it’s super conveniently located just across the street from Kits Beach.

You might even see us there.

Experience intoxicating and secret fine dining

The Nomad Cook’s Infused Dining Series

menu, cutlery, and a joint on the table at The Nomad Chef's Infused Dining Series, a unique dining experience in Vancouver
The Infused Dining Series’ gourmet dishes came with an extra side of green.

Weed is a huge part of the culture here and British Columbia is famous for its high-quality product.

You’ll find out fast. When you cruise around Vancouver, you won’t be able to avoid getting whiffs of the skunky smell of marijuana.

If you’re interested in trying, consider combining some of BC’s high-quality dope with some high-quality dishes and attending one of Travis “The Nomad Cook” Petersen’s Infused Dining Series meals.

These dining experiences are intimate—max 10 diners—and are set in undisclosed locations due to the questionable legality of edible marijuana. 

Before starting, Travis asks you how potent you’d like your food so that you’ll have a good time regardless of your tolerance and experience with weed.

Check The Nomad Cook Facebook page to see if events are taking place while you’re in town or to hire him for a private dinner.

Cool Off at the Pink Palace

La Casa Gelato

Take a tour through the historic Strathcona neighborhood, hit up some of the microbreweries down the street, then enter La Casa Gelato, the Willy Wonka land of gelato.

While the gelato here may not be award-winning like the tourist and Yelp/TripAdvisor favorite Uno Gelato nor a hipster favorite like Earnest, it’s a more unique experience.

The brink pink exterior and location make it stand out, but what really separates La Casa Gelato is the crazy array of 238 flavors you can choose from like wasabi, gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic vinegar. You’ll find it almost impossible to decide on one (or three).

Good news:

They’re generous with their samples, so be sure to fill up on a seemingly endless supply of samples in this pink palace of gelato, then settle on your favorite and enjoy.

Sample Some Ocean-to-Picnic-Table Seafood

Go Fish

Fishing boat in foreground with Go Fish in background
Get boat-to-picnic-table food at Go Fish.
Fish and chips on picnic table from above

Granville Island is an attraction that’s unique to Vancouver and Go Fish is the most Granville Island-y of all the eateries on it.

Ok, Go Fish isn’t actually on Granville Island (and Granville Island isn’t actually an island either).

It’s just around the corner.

That’s a good thing because if the fish shack were on the “island” (it’s actually a peninsula), it’d be even more crazy busy than it already is.

But waiting for your order isn’t that big of a deal given the scenic setting and delicious seafood coming your way.

End your day with a picturesque picnic

Sunset Beach

The food, sunset, and beach at a recent picnic we had at Sunset Beach
We got some Japanese take-out for this Sunset Beach picnic. To be real Vancouverites like us, bring your own chopsticks and containers. #zerowaste
Aquabuses with Sunset Beach in background
For a classy Sunset Beach picnic, pick up some fresh artisanal picnic ingredients from Granville Island and take a little Aquabus back.

I challenge you to name a city in the world that is as close to the beach with as beautiful sunsets as Vancouver.

What we have here is one-of-a-kind.

Therefore, having a picnic on the beach while taking in the sunset is a truly one-of-a-kind experience that way too many people—visitors and residents alike—don’t take advantage of.

But it’s so simple. Get some take-out, walk down to Sunset Beach, pick your spot, and enjoy.

As for what to get for take-out, sushi is a good choice because it’s easy to eat and stays fresh for long enough to walk it down to the beach and eat it.

Try Shizen Ya for their first-of-its-kind brown rice sushi. Sloppier options include a mega donair from Donair Dude, or poutine from La Belle Patate. Or for classy and romantic, pick up some artisanal ingredients from Granville Island’s market then take the Aquabus mini ferry over to Sunset Beach.

Still Hungry?

More Unique Vancouver Restaurants and Dining Experiences

  • The Caesar menu at The Score on Davie
  • Rice Burger‘s delicious, affordable Asian-style burgers with rice buns
  • The Warehouse and its ambiance of cheap, drunken youngsters taking advantage of the “everything’s $5 menu”
  • Salmon House on the Hill‘s awesome views of the city, Stanley Park, and English Bay (and not too shabby food either).
  • Siegel’s Bagels.
  • Steamed buns from New Town Bakery in Chinatown
  • Nanaimo bars wherever you can find them. (Technically they’re from Nanaimo, a city across the Georgia Straight on Vancouver Island, but you’re not going there.

And wherever you go, be sure to check out our Dos and Don’ts for Foodies Visiting Vancouver, where we dish out delicious tips on where, what, and even how to eat and drink in the city.

Vancouver treasure map Google Maps screenshot
Get the map to our favorite Vancouver locations, with tips for each, right on your phone’s Google Maps.

Free Vancouver Treasure Map

Find of 40 our favorite Vancouver restaurants, cafes, attractions, and more directly on Google Maps when you’re traveling, even offline!

It’s free and super easy: just one click!

Want More Unique Vancouver Experiences?

Hanging out on Jericho Beach
Wanna go to this beach? See our Vancouver beach guide to read about it.

As proud, born-and-raised Vancouverites, Kim and I want you to have an unforgettable visit to Vancouver and we have lots and lots of tips to share to help you do so.

That’s why we put together a super 5-part Not Your Ordinary Vancouver Series:

  1. Vancouver Travel Guide: The 11 Questions You Want Answered Before Visiting Vancouver 
  2. Vancouver Travel Tips You Likely Haven’t Heard Already
  3. Where to Stay in Vancouver: The Best Neighborhoods, Ranked
  4. 7 Things Everyone Actually Must Do if They Visit Vancouver
  5. Our Favorite Non-Touristy Things to Do in Vancouver

And if none of those guides answer your questions, or you’re just too lazy to go through them all, let us know what you’re looking for in the comments below.


Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use special links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we'd recommend anyway. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to.

4 comments

  1. Salam is an amazing guy! Albeit a visit to his shop is not for the “faint of heart- folks who get easily offended by everything” its important to know the generosity of this man towards the less fortunate. Every month he organizes volunteers to come to his shop and make lunches for the homeless. Hes got a heart of gold! Thank you for giving him a great review!
    I’d like to say however,
    Its unfortunate that; “Normally we’d never recommend anyone visiting Vancouver to go to Surrey”
    It’s FULL of beautiful parks & family friendly activities.
    I’ve lived in & raised my family in Surrey for 22 years. Its growing and developing into a beautiful city.
    The stigma behind Surrey is getting old.

    1. I agree we go to Salam’s at least once a month great sandwich! I too am a resident of Surrey and was offended by their comment

      1. Sorry to offend Andrea. Though, I understand Surrey-ites’ sensitivity, I didn’t mean to bash it. As I wrote in response to GM’s comment, it’s just that there’s not much I can think of to recommend in Surrey aside from La Charcuterie. I could say the same about just about every other municipality in Metro Vancouver.

        Have you got any inside tips on stuff to do in Surrey that would make it worth someone’s while to visit for a day?

    2. Hey GM, thanks for pointing out Salam’s charitable contributions, which really are bigger than the sandwiches he makes. I’ve updated the post accordingly.

      As for Surrey, I totally agree that it gets an undeserved bad rap. There’s nothing wrong with living there. We just wouldn’t recommend visitors to Vancouver go out of their way to visit it because a) it’s mostly a comfortable suburban city, which isn’t appealing to travelers with a limited amount of time and b) we know of nothing else to recommend there aside from La Charcuterie. If you have any tips on a day in Surrey, let us know. That’d sure make for a great, unconventional post!

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