Vancouver is one of the greatest cities on Earth. That’s not hyperbole—Vancouver is consistently ranked in the top five cities in the world for livability and quality of life according to such trend analyzers as the Economist Intelligence Unit and Mercer Quality of Living Survey. A big part of that high quality of life is a fantastic food scene—which heavily features farm-to-table eats from nearby local farms and seafood caught just off the city’s coast. Pair that food with Northwest wines, and it’s no surprise that Vancouver restaurants are some of the best in the world. And these Vancouver restaurants are some of the best of the best.
The award-winning Hawksworth Restaurant—considered to be one of the best restaurants in Vancouver—wows with its Damien Hirst artwork and epic crystal chandelier. But it’s the contemporary Canadian cuisine and seasonal cocktails that convince guests to dress up in their finest and part ways with their hard-earned money. Standout dishes include an Alberta beef rib eye for two, a Pacific halibut paired with foraged greens, and a lamb accented with lemon yogurt.
Only at Gringo can you pair a White Girl Wasted cocktail with a taco filled with what Gringo calls “our almost award-winning saucy brisket.” The sass is high at this taco bar, whose decor can best be described as 1980s Miami Vice in the Instagram age. There are cats with laser eyeballs, pink flamingos dressed in Christmas lights, and neon signs illuminated with phrases like “Tacos & Dreams.” It’s clear they don’t take themselves too seriously, but what they do take seriously is their food. The tacos are mouthwatering, and only $2.75 each. And don’t let the brisket’s description fool you, it’s one of the best out there.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, seafood lovers can get a seafood lunch for just $12.95 at this white-linen joint featuring local and sustainable Ocean Wise seafood. (Tuesdays and Thursdays feature Blue Plate specials with chicken.) And during Happy Hour—from 4 to 6 p.m. daily—a fresh oyster will only run you $1.25.
It’s hard to know what you’re getting into at Dark Table—in more ways than one. Upon arrival, guests congregate in a fully lit area to look at the menu and choose their main course. However, the starter and dessert are kept secret, food to be discovered later only through taste, touch, and smell.
Diners then meet their server, a blind person who guides them through the totally dark restaurant to their table. Their meal then unfolds in the dark, with no cell phones or other light-producing electronics allowed. Guests must rely on their guide for any assistance. It all makes for an unforgettable night out and teaches guests a bit more about the blind community in Vancouver.
Check out what some of our customers are saying about Dark Table:
“Was a really cool experience! Definitely would recommend checking out, even as a picky eater!” – Melanie M.
“It was so much fun! Very wild and exciting experience, great food and fantastic staff. 10/10 will go again!” – Shaela N.
“Food was delicious. Quite an experience!” – Cindel M.
At this sprawling indoor market, locals and tourists co-mingle in front of the stalls, which boast specialty foodstuffs, handmade crafts, seasonal flowers, and full meals. Head here in the morning to grab stuff for a picnic lunch, then enjoy it on the waterfront while taking in views of downtown Vancouver and False Creek.
Here are a few stops we recommend while you’re there:
As incongruous as it sounds, it’s possible to enjoy a stately afternoon tea in the Vancouver Airport. Well, technically it’s afternoon tea at the Fairmont hotel, a soundproof luxury hotel located inside the airport, above the US departures terminal. But diners can still watch the airplanes coming and going while sipping pots of tea and nibbling on scones and finger sandwiches. The tea service is open to everyone, not just ticketed travelers.
OK, so maybe the name doesn’t conjure up visions of a sexy night out, unless your version of sexy is a bit more, uh, visceral. But trust us, this is one romantic date-night spot, especially for foodies. Wildebeest focuses on nose-to-tail cooking, sustainable seafood, and foraged vegetables. Meals unfold in a refurbished 19th-century building festooned with softly lit Edison bulbs. The cocktail program here is particularly inventive; for instance, the College Dropout cocktail mixes cognac and India pale ale with pear and maple vinegar.
More than 40% of Vancouver’s residents were born outside of Canada. As a result, the city has a thriving international food scene. Here are five of our favorites: