Where to take the family to eat over the holidays in Vancouver
For Justin Ault, co-owner of Hapa Izakaya, nothing says the holidays like going out with the family for Chinese food. “We’re Japanese-Canadian, so the idea of having Asian food in December is not that crazy of an idea. It’s almost like stepping outside of the holiday bubble, going to a Chinese place for dinner around this time of year,” he says during a phone interview.
During the holidays, Ault dines with his wife, Lea Ault, their two daughters, who are seven and nine years old, plus many of his in-laws. One of their favourite restaurants is Golden Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Kerrisdale (2046 West 41st Avenue, 604-263-8886). “It’s nothing fancy but we know the people there, and we’re comfortable there,” Ault explains.
Their other go-to pick is Maenam (1938 West 4th Avenue, 604-730-5579) to visit chef Angus An and his wife, Kate Auewattanakorn. “It’s great to support another family that’s putting their heart, soul, and passion into their guests,” he says. Ault and his family also love the hospitality of Ken and Tomoko Oda, who own Dan Japanese Restaurant (2511 West Broadway, 604-677-6930).
Ault offers the above suggestions when the Straight asks him where he takes the gang for a casual night out when nobody wants to cook. Other restaurant-industry insiders add their suggestions below. But before bundling everyone up and heading out, keep in mind that holiday hours vary; call each restaurant or check its website before you go.
Steve Edwards, general manager of Cibo Trattoria, also likes Maenam for dining with the family. Edwards is a holiday orphan since his family is in Toronto, but he eats out a lot with his girlfriend and her clan. One of their favourite comfort foods is ramen at Kintaro (788 Denman Street, 604-682-7568). “The food is really reasonably priced, and you’re guaranteed to leave full. They always have the stockpots going, and it smells so good in there,” he says by phone.
They also go to Tacofino Commissary (2327 East Hastings Street, 604-253-8226) for its unassuming room and killer tacos. And Alvin Garden (4850 Imperial Street, Burnaby, 604-437-0828) is well worth a drive when they have a craving for authentic Hunan cooking. “I like the food there because it’s really spicy,” he explains. He also recommends Phnom Penh (244 East Georgia Street, 604-682-5777): “The chicken wings are awesome.”
John Bishop, owner of Bishop’s, indulges in Chinese food at Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant (3888 Main Street, 604-872-8822; 102–4940 No. 3 Road, Richmond, 604-273-8208) over the holidays with his wife and adult son and daughter. “We’ve taken the kids there ever since they were small. You don’t have to worry about them knocking things over and making a fuss,” he says during a phone chat.
The Bishop family frequents Green Leaf Sushi (3416 West Broadway, 604-568-9406) because “it’s family-run, and they make all kinds of sushi. They are very sweet people. And the food is very nice and of high quality,” Bishop explains. Another casual choice for them is the Kits location of East Is East (3243 West Broadway, 604-734-5881). “We like to go to have their wraps. And they have lovely soups,” he says.
When Shira Blustein, co-owner and general manager of the Acorn, dines with her husband, her brother-in-law, and her brother and his girlfriend, they look for a place that’s inexpensive, isn’t too fancy, and has vegetarian options for her. A favourite is Grub (4328 Main Street, 604-876-8671), where she takes her parents as well when they visit from out of town. As Blustein explains over the phone: “The menu continually changes, so you never get tired of it. They also have vegan desserts.”
Her brother-in-law adores Les Faux Bourgeois (663 East 15th Avenue, 604-873-9733). “It’s got delicious, classic French food. They have a tarte florentine that I like, and they always have an excellent vegetarian option,” Blustein says. She and the gang are addicted to Nicli Antica Pizzeria (62 East Cordova Street, 604-669-6985). “I have a pizza problem. And they’re not helping me with my problem. And they do vegan pizza,” she explains.
Bill McCaig, owner of Nicli, sometimes finds it tough dining with his 13-month-old daughter, Olivia. One of his family’s favourite spots is Burgoo (various locations) for its comforting stews and soups. As well, his daughter has often fallen asleep to the sound of his taco-munching at La Taqueria (2549 Cambie Street, 604-558-2549; 322 West Hastings Street, 604-568-4406). “I would put her in the BabyBjörn. I’d put a napkin over her head, and we’d eat our tacos,” he explains over the phone.
So, happy festive eating with the family—tacos and noodles and all.