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How to Eat and Drink in Vancouver
These Vancouver food and drink tips will help first-time-in-Vancouver foodies and “drinkies” figure out what, where, and how to best indulge in all the cities tastiest treats.
✓ Do Go to different dining districts
Instead, “risk” heading to one these Vancouver’s dining districts and following your nose (or taste buds):
- Alexandra Road: An easy SkyTrain ride south to Vancouver’s southern suburb of Richmond. You’ll be overwhelmed by the 200+ mostly Asian restaurant options.
- Main Street: Hipster mile. Tons of vegetarian and vegan options and casual spots to “nosh,” or whatever they say these days.
- Commercial Drive: It’s got options from all corners of the globe.
- Gastown: Definitely the most popular area of the city for a dinner out, with tons of reasons why.
- Yaletown: Where the yuppies go to pre-game and spend more than they should.
- West Robson: Japanese and Korean row. Tons of ramen spots with ever-present lines.
- West 4th Ave: The birthplace of Lululemon, with plenty of spots that cater to Lululemon-types. Go to Maenam for Thai food.
We put together a save-able Google map of all these districts in our Vancouver travel blog for first-time visitors.
✓ Do go to Vancouver’s brewery districts also
Just like our Pacific Northwest neighbors in Portland and Seattle, Vancouverites are passionate about our beer.
If you are too, you’ll be happy to know that most of the city’s microbreweries are in two conveniently beer-crawl-able brewery districts:
- On and around Main Street between 1st and 7th.
- Along Powell Street between Clark and Victoria.
Our Vancouver travel guide provides a save-able Google map of them.
✗ Don’t get your hopes up about “Canadian” food
There isn’t such a thing as “Canadian cuisine,” especially in Vancouver. Reflecting Vancouver’s immigrant population, the city’s food is just a hodgepodge of cuisines from around the world.
Nevertheless, there are some foods here in Vancouver that you’ll have a tough time finding outside of Canada. Among them are Nanaimo bars, Caesars, poutine, and Aboriginal cuisine, which our must-do in Vancouver post explains in more detail.
✓ Do expect to explore Can-Asian cuisine
Many visitors tell us that when they got off their plane in Vancouver’s airport they saw so much Asian-ness that they briefly worried they’d landed in the wrong continent.
They’re not that crazy for thinking so.
After all, Vancouver is the world’s most Asian city outside of Asia, with forty-seven percent of its population coming from Asian descent.
This Asian-ness is a huge part of our culture, so plan to explore it (especially the food) as part of your trip.
✗ Don’t just get sushi or ramen when you go for Japanese
For some reason, everyone who comes to Vancouver thinks they need to eat sushi or ramen.
Kingyo, in particular, is Kim’s favorite. She’s a half-Japanese food fanatic so you can trust she knows what she’s talking about.
✓ Do consider a sunset picnic
If you’re fortunate enough to visit in Vancouver over the summertime, pretty much the best food experience you can have is a sunset picnic.
Aptly named Sunset Beach is a picnic pick. So are English Bay and Kits Beach.
✗ Don’t drink alcohol in public (…overtly)
The fine for drinking in public is hefty, $200+.
We do it anyways when we go for picnics on Sunset Beach, but we’re discrete. We pour the booze into cups or water bottles and hide the empties.
✗ Don’t forget to bring ID
No matter how old you are, if you want to buy alcohol you’ll need to be able to show a piece of picture ID and another with your name on it (like a credit card).
Everyone checks. Without ID, you’re outta luck.
✗ Don’t waste time looking for amazing happy hour deals
Happy Hour is not that happy in Vancouver because there is a legal minimum price on alcoholic drinks—$5 per 20 oz. beer, $15 per 60 oz. jug, $3 per oz of liquor.
Don’t forget to add 15% taxes and 15%+ tip on top of those prices, too.
✗ Don’t look to buy alcohol at corner stores and supermarkets
You can only buy it in either government BC Liquor stores (cheaper) or designated cold beer and wine stores (more expensive).
✓ Do drink the tap water
Our water is potable and is clean and delicious because it comes from up high in the beautiful mountains that help make Vancouver one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Drink it and don’t be sucked into getting one of those We ♥ Van water bottles. To Vancouverites, those don’t say you “♥ Van.” They say you’re too lazy or unconscientious to fill up your own bottle from the tap.
✓ Do eat the wild fruit
In the summer and spring, you’ll likely see a lot of berries in the bushes along the streets and in the city’s parks.
Ones to look out for are blackberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries, blueberries, salmonberries, and salal.
To learn more about not just berries, but other local edible plants and mushrooms too, try a foraging class, one of the cool things to do in Vancouver we highly recommend.
✓ Do eat the original California roll
Did you know that the California roll was invented in Vancouver?
It was… though some in L.A. try to take the credit.
Either that or it’s from the all-you-can-eat sushi spot across the street, Tomokazu.
✓ Do join the rest of Vancouver for some ice cream or gelato
Some claim that Vancouverites eat more ice cream than any other city in the world.
I doubt it, but I don’t doubt that ice cream and gelato are a big deal in Vancouver.
To uncover whose is best, we blind taste tested gelatos and ice creams from all across the city and, to the chagrin of the local economy and hipsters everywhere, the winner was Haagen Dazs.
Read our Vancouver ice cream and gelato post to see who came second, third… and last.
✓ Do try some of our favorite, only-in-Vancouver dining
For our recommendations on unique and unforgettable food experiences like subs from the Sandwich Nazi and crazy bubble tea, don’t miss our post on only-in-Vancouver dining experiences.
✗ Don’t forget to tip
In Vancouver—and across Canada—you’re expected to tip at restaurants and bars unless the service is horrendously terrible.
No server will complain if you tip too much, but they will probably think less of you and the country you came from if you tip less than 15% at restaurants and or a dollar or so per drink at bars.
Tips are your servers’ main source of income and they share them with all the staff, so when you don’t tip them, you punish everyone.
✗ Don’t miss out on more Vancouver tips
If you found some of our Vancouver food and drink tips helpful, head over to our Vancouver page and these posts, in particular, for more: