Indulgent lunches to linger over till dinner
It’s holiday crunch time, and many of us are stretched trying to fit family, friends, and work obligations—maybe even a trip—into a few short weeks. So now’s the time to plan how you’ll steal away for a feel-good late lunch or two with your best buds.
Eating later—after 1:30 p.m.—ensures you’ll avoid the usual lunchtime craziness, and restaurants are likely to be more welcoming. Choose a spot that stays open through the afternoon, and linger as long as you like. Here are some of our go-to spots.
Lunches in particular at Market by Jean-Georges in the Shangri-La hotel (1128 West Georgia Street) have been jammed since it opened last winter. Newly expanded hours—daily breakfasts, lunches, and dinners—have eased the crunch. Lunch here is a steal: two plates and dessert for $29. Mix and match starters, fish, and meat plates; choose dessert; and your particular meal might be a black pepper crab fritter, B.C. hanger steak, and chocolate pudding with whipped cream and crystallized violets. Or step up to the bar and nibble from an eclectic menu that includes a chilled shellfish platter loaded with lobster, shrimp, oysters, and mussels; soups and chowders; and black truffle fontina cheese pizza. Cocktails are inventive and the globetrotting wine list offers value. Surroundings are serene and sophisticated, the service smart.
The high-ceilinged, 30-seat Exchange (475 Howe Street)—in Vancouver’s original stock exchange building, built in 1929—is a sweet hideaway, its compact Italian menu ideal for sharing. The bresaola carpaccio, Caprese salad, Nostrano (salami and Asiago) sandwich, and cheese and charcuterie platters are simple and satisfying. The tightly focused wine list hits all the right notes, but with the exception of a single Prosecco, it’s oddly bereft of Italian bottles. Happily, Unibroue dominates the beer list.
Slide into a horseshoe-shaped booth at Gastown’s 1920s-styled Pourhouse (162 Water Street) and enjoy views of the kitchen and always-hopping bar. Toast the afternoon with an on-the-spot custom-crafted cocktail to fit the moment or mood. A polished wine list and smart beer selection will save you from slipping tipsily to the floor after one too many drinks. As for lunch, how about a “crispy” (grilled) cheese sandwich sided by terrific tomato soup, a suitably messy sloppy Joe, Welsh rarebit, or neon squid?
Minutes away, Au Petit Chavignol (843 East Hastings Street), an offshoot of Les Amis du Fromage, is the mother lode if you’re gaga for cheese. Grab a high-top table for prime views of the counter action, where cheese and charcuterie reign. A grand tasting platter—tempting selections are wide-ranging—is the way to go. There’s other stuff too, like croque monsieur, croque madame, fondue, raclette, and poutine. A first-rate selection of wines rules. Riesling, anyone?
Cru (1459 West Broadway) is a do now that it’s open for lunch. A stellar wine list that’s colour-coded to the menu ensures that what you drink will taste great with what you’re eating. Smart, huh? Midday dining woos with moan-worthy Oloroso-sautéed mushrooms on grilled brioche with aged white Cheddar, sumptuous mushroom-truffle risotto, Syrah-braised short ribs, and onion-ring-bedecked sautéed calf’s liver. Lingering is just fine—dinner’s not until 5:30 p.m.—so order dessert and chill.
If there’s a gang, the always-hopping Congee Noodle House (141 East Broadway) is a charm. We love the coziness of a big round table, complete with lazy Susan loaded with family-style dishes for sharing. First up: steaming bowls of earthy, elemental congee, or soup with soy chicken and noodles. Then it’s on to marinated duck with rice, spicy shredded beef with black pepper chow mein, and prawns with scrambled egg. Order dishes a couple at a time for a glacially paced lunch. Tea and beer are the beverages of choice.
Give the Crosstown area a whirl with a dine-around. Begin at Chambar’s next-door sib, Café Medina (556 Beatty Street). Tuck into spicy Moroccan meatballs, or wickedly good Belgian waffles washed down with just-crafted, food-friendly Chambar Ale, which embodies the resto’s “civilized debauchery” motto. If it’s Friday, nearby Wild Rice (117 West Pender Street) is doing lunch. Share lemongrass braised pork belly and Chinese seafood hot pot while sipping Orchid cocktails (Appleton rum, ginger beer, and ginger ale). Around the corner, sleek PIVO Public House (526 Abbott Street) offers fine craft beers and microbrews and better-than-average pub food. A handy “Beer Bible” is packed with tasting notes and pairing tips. Recommended: Morimoto Soba Ale from Oregon-based Rogue Ales with chicken sliders or prawn linguine.
In nearby Yaletown, newbie Society Dining Lounge (1257 Hamilton Street) is drawing raves for its glam décor and pií¨ce de résistance pink Italian glass chandeliers. Start with a boozy milkshake, then dive into mac and cheese balls, onion rings, or spicy Italian pizza. Save room for the evil junk-food dessert platter, crammed with cotton candy, Oreo milkshake, doughnut holes, and more.
Consider these lunch get-togethers a gift to yourself—a new tradition worth embracing.