Even if you’ve taken part in Dine Out Vancouver in the past, chances are you’ll find something new to try this year. The 11th annual dining festival takes place January 18 to February 3 at 240 restaurants across Metro Vancouver—and it has 68 new participants. There are also a number of events that combine dining with theatre, wine, fashion, nightlife, and more, targeting different interests in conjunction with food.
According to Tourism Vancouver’s Lucas Pavan, Dine Out Vancouver’s festival coordinator, there are many new events this year. Take Hawksworth @ Holt Renfrew, for example. The stylish soiree ($199 to $249) will be held inside the luxury retailer (737 Dunsmuir Street) on January 29 at 7 p.m. and includes a cocktail reception, dinner, and dessert by Hawksworth Restaurant with wine pairings by JoieFarm. Ticket holders will also be treated to a preview of Holt Renfrew’s spring 2013 collections and receive a $50 gift certificate to the store.
“As far as Dine Out goes, this is ‘haute cuisine’.…It’s really quite a unique experience,” Pavan says in a phone interview.
By contrast, Street Food City II—which returns for a second year on the north plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery from January 23 to 27—is a casual family-friendly event with no entrance fee. Organized by the Street Food Vancouver Society and the Downtown Vancouver BIA, the daytime event has expanded in terms of size and duration, and includes new Vancouver food trucks such as Guanaco, Soho Road Naan Kebab, and Pig on the Street.
“It will be five days including two weekend days, whereas last year it was only three [days],” Pavan says. “We also have 14 street-food carts confirmed rather than the eight or nine we had last year, so [it’s] a lot bigger and a lot longer.”
Also returning is Act I, Eat 1 ($59 to $65), a series co-presented by the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival featuring dinner-and-show pairings, such as the seafood and Shakespeare event with Merchant’s Oyster Bar and play I, Malvolio on January 31. Tickets, which range in number from 15 to 40 per event, include a long-table, communal dining experience followed by the performance.
In addition to I, Malvolio, this year’s Act I, Eat 1 shows include Photog: An Imaginary Look at the Uncompromising Life of Thomas Smith; Look Mummy, I’m Dancing; and Winners and Losers paired with dinners at Steamworks Brew Pub, Edible Canada, and Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar, respectively.
The main attraction, of course, is that participating Dine Out restaurants will offer three-course dinners set at $18, $28, or $38, with many offering prix fixe lunches as well. When it comes to sorting through online menus, Pavan suggests picking restaurants that are new and unfamiliar to you, such as recently launched Left Coast Bar and Bistro (2958 West 4th Avenue) and the soon-to-open Nosh (2585 West Broadway). For $28, diners at Carthage Café (1851 Commercial Drive) can experience French-Tunisian cuisine with a vegan couscous main-course option, while customers at Merchant’s Oyster Bar (1590 Commercial Drive) will be served a three-course savoury menu that features an appetizer, a “mid course” such as albacore tuna poke, and a main course instead of dessert.
A number of restaurants will offer options for those with special diets. For instance, vegetarians can enjoy a dinner that includes house-made sweet potato gnocchi with local wild mushrooms at Herons West Coast Kitchen at the Fairmont Waterfront (900 Canada Place) for $38. At sister restaurants Miku (1055 West Hastings Street) and Minami (1118 Mainland Street), vegetarian Dine Out options ($38) include a vegetable tart at Miku and vegetable chirashi sushi at Minami as entrées. It’s easy to find restaurants offering gluten-free options as well, such as LIFT Bar and Grill (333 Menchions Mews). New chef Jefferson Alvarez has created a three-course gluten-free menu ($38) that includes a main-course choice of ash-crusted deer loin or smoked sturgeon, and a gluten-free dessert option of fresh fruit with spiced milk bubbles.
While many restaurants are offering three courses priced at $38, over 60 will be serving dinner for $18. For instance, at Gastown cocktail spot Clough Club (212 Abbott Street), diners can try South American tapas dishes such as a corn and roasted tomato croquetta and salsa-dressed hanger steak. Over at Giovane Café + Wine Bar at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (1038 Canada Place), the $18 menu includes an appetizer choice of house-cured charcuterie and imported cheeses, and a main course choice of Italian sausage and spinach pappardelle. Meanwhile, at Troll’s Restaurant in Horseshoe Bay (6408 Bay Street, West Vancouver), $18 gets you options like crab cakes as an appetizer and a half-rack of ribs as a main.
“A lot of people think booking a $38 menu is going to be the best value, but that’s not to say that an $18 menu can’t surprise you,” Pavan says.