In the dining room, the rhythmic pounding of a bodhrán hand drum mingles with the joyful melodies of a tin flute, flooding every inch of the space with an ebullience punctuated by onlookers’ clapping hands and tapping feet. The diners have left the feasts spread across their tables mostly untouched, their attention glued to the band in the midst of their lively song. Such moments aren't a rarity at Donegal's Irish House, but are an almost nightly occurrence at the jovial eatery that brings locals together to make new friends and share in internationally inspired meals.
Champions of fostering an atmosphere of community and friendship, the affable staff goes out of its way to make guests feel welcome, thanks to attentive service and an ever-changing calendar of events that keep inviting guests back. On select evenings, patrons can convene at Donegal's to watch a Canucks game or to see local bands. As guests chat and mingle in the dining room, the kitchen buzzes with chefs concocting Irish standards such as shepherd's pie and international cuisine that includes perogies and sausage, jambalaya, and butter chicken. Donegal's signature dish remains the whopping blarney stone burger, a 7.5-pound charbroiled Canadian beef patty that gets its eater a commemorative T-shirt and a place on the wall of fame if it's eaten within two hours with no help. Unsuccessful competitors, meanwhile, find their snapshot displayed on the wall of shame, under the most personal entry from their dream journals.
The Derby Bar and Grill dishes up fruits from land and sea in the turf-club ambience of an elegant dining house and off-track wagering centre. Whether seated under chandeliers and rows of flat-screen TVs or in cream-coloured chairs in front of the Winners' Circle’s fireplace, patrons browse a menu of gourmet fare to complement their surroundings. Diners trawl for drunken garlic prawns flambéed in Sambuca ($12.75) or nestle into a bed of rice noodles under pad thai’s chicken or shrimp, accented with tamarind and fish sauce ($19.95). Flame-grilled 8-ounce New York peppercorn steak in cognac sauce struts from the kitchen trailing Derby’s garlic-and-cheese bread, seasonal vegetables, and O’Brien or mashed potatoes ($22.95). The Bourbon Blackjack burger blends hearty harmonies of pepper, cheese, and whiskey-mustard sauce ($13.95), and butternut-squash ravioli basks in white-wine-cream sauce ($12.95). All pastas bring along piquant garlic-bread sides, and sandwiches invite fries or house salad to join them with a singing picklegram.
At three locations across Vancouver, Samz Neighbourhood Pub invites patrons to hobnob with friends and enjoy a menu of classic pub favourites. As TVs broadcast UFC events and Vancouver Canucks’ slumber parties, cooks dish up everything from fish ’n’ chips and chorizo mac ’n’ cheese to pierogies stuffed with cheese and potato. Among more than a dozen burgers and sandwiches, the salmon burger—stacked with tartar sauce, pickles, and onion—stands out as an uncommon option.
Cat & Fiddle Sports Bar & Grill has been delivering upscale pub food for more than 20 years. Its generous menu proffers signature sandwiches, such as Cat’s pulled-pork sandwich—made from oven-roasted pork sauced with Jameson’s and Guinness and topped with frizzled onions—to pub classics, including the Team Platter, a sampler loaded up with hot wings, dry ribs, and potato skins, to name a few. Friday and Saturday nights, a live DJ fills the nightclub area with bumping beats while patrons dance on the spacious dance floors.
Paddlewheeler Pub woos patrons with a menu of tongue-tantalizing bread-embraced meats, 14 sudsy beers on tap, and 12 wines by the glass. Fashion-forward mouths can try on the shrimp purses ($10.95), deep-fried wonton-wrapped shrimp served with sweet chili sauce, or potato skins ($9.95). The california clubhouse sandwich transports taste buds to the VHS-paved streets of Hollywood with three layers of bread layered with chicken breast, avocado, and bacon ($10.95). Canines can chomp nine juicy burgers, including the mushroom ($10.45), bacon and cheddar ($10.45), and wild salmon ($11.95), all served with a choice of savoury sidekick, such as above-average-temperature soup, fresh salad, or cape-donning crispy fries.
The Global ComedyFest corrals some of the best and brightest comedians on the international circuit into Vancouver for a marathon of laughs, fun, and moderately uncomfortable first dates. Big names such as zany former MTV staple Tom Green perform alongside up-and-comers in more than 30 performances throughout the festival. Eschew the everyday monodimensional comedy with a combination stand-up and comedy 3-D video show featuring Canada's own Reza Peyk, Jy Harris, and Gary Fong, or opt for a night of “it’s funny because it’s true” laughs at the Gerry Dee show. The Edge of the Fest performance pushes the festival’s edgiest artists to the limits of social acceptability, while the Best of the Fest showcases top comedians such as Greg Behrendt and Peter Chao.