Grab a bite before you see Vancouver's festive sights
It’s those magical moments, with lights twinkling and the singing of carolers in the background, that make the stress and anxiety of the holidays dissolve into wonder. ’Tis the season for spending time with loved ones, making the annual trek to the sights of the city, and enjoying a fuel-up together at a nearby restaurant, either before or after the excitement of your visit. (Because of the locations of some of these seasonal attractions, some of the restaurants qualify as “nearby” only if you’re driving.) And don’t forget to make reservations so you don’t get disappointed; most of these spots accept them.
Bright Nights—Stanley Park Christmas Train (Stanley Park; until January 1; closed December 25)
The West End has plenty of family-friendly establishments that will get you fed and on your merry way in no time. Robson and Denman is the destination for ramen, one favourite being Motomachi Shokudo (740 Denman Street, closed December 25 and 26), where ingredients are organic and the broth has a chicken-stock base rather than the usual pork. Especially popular is the charcoal miso option, the charcoal lending a slight smoky note to each delicious slurp. Across the street is cozy Nook (781 Denman Street, closed December 24 to 26 and January 1), where the classic Italian fare will please everyone. Nook does a mean spaghetti Bolognese, and the Neapolitan-style pizzas come blistered, with toppings like prosciutto, arugula, and roasted garlic. If the lineup is too long, Nook’s Italian sister, Tavola (1829 Robson Street, closed December 24 to 26 and January 1), is conveniently located around the corner. If you prefer to dine right in the park, visit the Teahouse in Stanley Park (at Ferguson Point), where you’ll find more casual options, like tempura-battered lingcod and chips, as well as mains like Brome Lake duck confit with fig demi-glace and herb-smashed Yukon potatoes.
Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden (5251 Oak Street; until January 1; closed December 25)
Although the elegant Shaughnessy Restaurant (closed December 25) in the garden is always a great bet, there are plenty of casual bites to be had nearby. At City 1 Café (954 King Edward Avenue, closed December 24 to 26 and 31), expect a bright, modern space serving reasonably priced Malaysian and Singaporean fare. Order a few dishes—such as boneless Hainanese chicken, spicy seafood mee goreng (fried noodles), and curry beef brisket on rice—and eat family-style. Next door is Kim Express (952 King Edward Avenue, closed December 23, 25, and 30), where you’ll find consistently well-executed Vietnamese staples like bánh mì and pho. The Cambie Street corridor also has a host of options, including BierCraft Bistro (3305 Cambie Street, closed December 25), where adults will appreciate the selection of more than 120 Belgian and craft beers and dishes like steak frites. Little ones can order the mac ’n’ cheese from the kids’ menu.
Heritage Christmas at Burnaby Village Museum (6501 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby; until January 4; closed December 24 and 25)
Closest to the museum is the lovely Hart House Restaurant (6664 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby; closed December 26 and 27, and January 1), located in a Tudor-style heritage house at Deer Lake. Enjoy an elegant family meal over mains like cavatelli pomodoro and grilled lamb sirloin with house-made harissa. For more informal dining, head to the Kingsway strip, where you’ll find Saffron Indian Cuisine (5–4300 Kingsway, Burnaby, closed December 25), which has all the standbys: veggie pakoras, butter chicken, tandoori lamb chops, and palak paneer made with fresh spinach. Also nearby is Hanwoori Korean Restaurant (5740 Imperial Street, Burnaby) for Korean comfort food, like dolsot bibimbap (rice topped with veggies, beef, and egg served in a hot stone bowl) and pan-fried kimchi and spicy pork with noodles. Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria (6011 Hastings Street, Burnaby, closed December 24 to 26 and January 1) is about a 15-minute drive away but well worth a visit, especially for its authentic Neapolitan pizzas, such as the standout classic Margherita.
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge (3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver; until January 5; closed December 25)
Kiddies will love the kitschy fun at the Tomahawk (1550 Philip Avenue, North Vancouver, closed December 25, early closing at 4 p.m. on December 31 and January 1), where the Chamberlain family has been proudly serving diner fare since 1926. If you need to slay your appetite before braving the decked-out bridge, order the Skookum Chief burger, which includes an organic ground-beef patty, a wiener, bacon, egg, aged Cheddar, onion, lettuce, tomato, and special sauce. La Cucina (1509 Marine Drive, North Vancouver, closed December 23 to 26 and 30, and January 1) serves up well-made pastas like spaghetti carbonara, as well as mains such as veal loin with prosciutto and sage in a Marsala wine sauce. Kypriaki Taverna (1356 Marine Drive, North Vancouver), meanwhile, offers generous portions of the Greek classics, from slow-roasted lamb shoulder to vegetarian moussaka. When you’re out in the cold taking in the lights, you’ll be glad for the warm, sustaining meal.