Updated on October 27, 2018
Forget Trendy. Try Unique and Unforgettable
You won’t 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 different.
As born-and-raised Vancouverites who have traveled extensively, Kim and I know what’s good in town and we know what’s unique. Here are eight of our favorite only in Vancouver dining experiences:
Get stuffed by The Sandwich Nazi’s humongous salami (…sandwich)
@ La Charcuterie Delicatessen
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, only in 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 mentioned in the comments but we neglected to mention, “its 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
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
There’s nothing crazy 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 than the Jericho Sailing Centre. It’s the unforgettable location and view that makes The Galley an only in Vancouver dining experience.
Eat and drink with the cool kids
@ The Local
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
When you cruise around Vancouver, you won’t be able to avoid getting whiffs of the skunky smell of marijuana. Weed is a huge part of the culture here and British Columbia is famous for its high-quality product.
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 Bella Gelateria, 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
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’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
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.
More Unique, Only In Vancouver Dining Experiences
You’re probably as tired of reading as I am of writing by now, but in case you’re not yet tired of eating after going through all the above mentioned only in Vancouver dining experiences, here are some more:
- The Caesar menu at The Score on Davie
- The Warehouse and its ambiance of cheap, drunken youngsters taking advantage of the “everything’s $5 menu”
- 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.
More Good Times in Vancouver
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:
- Our first-time visitors’ guide to Vancouver will get you acquainted with our hometown
- The top Vancouver travel tips that answer your questions about visiting the city before you ask them
- Our favorite non-touristy things to do in Vancouver
- Checklist of things everyone needs to do in Vancouver’s summer
- The best ice cream / gelato and the best California roll sushi (it was invented here) in the city
- A guide to all the Vancouver beaches (some of which are great for doing rock workouts)
- A couple of our favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes nearby Vancouver: Anvil Island and Brandywine Meadows.
And if none of those answer your questions, please ask us in the comments below. If you had a blog, you’d appreciate getting comments, questions, and feedback from your readers, so do us a favor and leave us a note.