Best way to enjoy a Sex and the City lifestyle on a Trailer Park Boys Budget
Yaletown Brewing Company
1111 Mainland Street
On the first Thursday of each month, from 8 to 10 p.m., the lounge at the Yaletown Brewing Company offers three different martinis for five bucks. Each month, three guest bartenders mix up martinis of varying quality. Sure, some of their concoctions taste like nothing more than Kool-Aid with a splash of vodka, but you'll be too busy looking fabulous to care.
Best place to get nailed for picking up a newspaper
Safeway parking lot
2315 West 4th Avenue
Shoppers at this Kits Safeway are entitled to one hour of free parking. However, stepping off the tarmac just two steps to grab a newspaper from one of the sidewalk boxes at the lot's entrance will land you a parking ticket. Enforcers pounce the second both your feet leave the lot. Do register your protest at the customer-service counter: the first ticket will be forgiven. Understandably, Safeway doesn't want you to park on their land and then take your dollars to Capers or Cobs, but remember that picking up a newspaper or mailing a letter as part of your Safeway excursion is verboten.
Best indication of how UBC sees its students
On August 9, the soft-drink machine outside the Safeway at 2733 West Broadway dispensed 591-millilitre Cokes in plastic bottles for $1.25 a pop. A couple of kilometres farther west, exactly the same beverage in exactly the same container was available from exactly the same kind of machine in the Buchanan complex, SUB, Brock Hall, and several other buildings maintained by the University of British Columbia, the only difference being that these same cans cost $1.75, a whopping 40-percent markup. Isn't Safeway supposed to be the more capitalistic of these two institutions?
Joey Tomato's Mediterranean Grill
550 Lougheed Highway, Coquitlam
You know the type: restaurants that specialize in having food served by ridiculously attractive women who, in the real world, wouldn't spit on you if your hair was on fire. We're not just talking about Hooters, the grand dame of breastaurants, which unapologetically serves up a side order of corn-fed mammaries with every basket of chicken wings. There are plenty of other establishments that try to be more subtle about it--Cactus Club, Sammy J. Peppers, and the Cat's Meow come to mind--yet still rely heavily on offering its patrons the thrill of having fajitas served to them by perky 19-year-olds working their way through community college or actress/model school. Joey Tomato's, located in a nondescript building on the Lougheed Highway, is the best of these, offering countless servers in blouses with plunging necklines and tight black skirts at work in a dining room filled with overstuffed chairs and weird glass ornaments. The food is pretty good, but talking about the food at a place like this is about as useful as talking about the articles in Playboy.
Best mixed--and we do mean mixed--drink
Atlantic Trap & Gill
612 Davie Street
After a long night of revelry at this friendly Maritime-style watering hole, the occasional brave soul asks for the Beermat, a drink that goes down as easy as a bottle of Screech. When ordered, the bartender takes the rubber beer mat that he's been pouring drinks on all night and tips out the spillage that has accumulated at the bottom into a small glass. The flavour is something akin to drinking urine out of a rubber boot. Of course, if you're able to taste anything by that point in the night, you're clearly not drunk enough to order one.
Best fake-meat takeout
Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant
137 East Pender Street
As faux-flesh-loving vegetarians are already fully aware, the best fake meats in the world come from China, but most of these culinary treasures are far more difficult to prepare than the equivalent soy products sold in the supermarket. There is one gluten-based delight that does not require an advanced degree in Chinese cuisine, however. The fake bacon found in the freezer of the Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant comes deliciously close to the real thing. Better still, you don't actually have to fry it to get that crisp, smoky taste; 90 seconds in the microwave will brown it just fine, thank you, and it won't give you a heart attack, either.
Best McDonald's-free zone
The Market House food court
530 Hornby Street
Across from the YWCA is a gloriously franchise-free alternative to its other downtown counterparts. India Abroad consistently attracts the biggest lineups and most loyal clientele, but there is also fresh, fabulous Greek, Mexican, and Chinese food.
Jiro, upstairs at 333 East Broadway across from the Kingsgate Mall, is a creditable Japanese restaurant on any terms. But its $18.95 all-you-can-eat dinner might just be the best food deal in the city. The selection ranges from the obvious staples to treats like hamachi sushi, oysters motoyaki, tuna tataki, and shabu shabu. Put yourself in the sushi chef's hands and fabulous off-the-menu exotics like spicy jellyfish may well arrive.
Best trip to Mexico
The Mouse and Bean Antojeríƒ a Mexicana
207 West Hastings Street
The Mouse and the Bean edges out its Hastings-strip neighbour, Mexico Sabroso (440 West Hastings Street). At the latter, the Spanish-language soaps on TV make the feel more authentic, but the Mouse and Bean still has that charmingly erratic Mexican service and wins out with its excellent food and especially good value. The $9.50 lunch special is unbeatable.
Best trip to El Salvador
Rinconcito Salvadoreno Restaurant
2062 Commercial Drive
This pupuseríƒ a is full of Salvadoran expats, and its signature cornmeal pupusas are a civic treasure. Staff will gently steer you away from the obligatory Mexican dishes. The sopa de camarones is fabulous, and the décor is pure Central American back street.
Best double take when ordering a double espresso
2695 East Hastings Street
Every day, owner Wayne Bertrand poses the two mannequins outside his coffee shop in different positions. One morning it might look like they're arguing; the next, the male mannequin is bringing his female counterpart a coffee. It's just part of the fun at the Laughing Bean, which also hosts a search for the best standup comic with a day job on Friday nights. Bertrand, who moved to Vancouver with his wife from the Okanagan last year, says they just "want to have as much fun as we can with our staff and customers". Currently, he's looking for mannequins with more points of articulation than the two stiffs now on display.
Best way to get closer to heaven when you're already at 35,000 feet
The next time you leave Vancouver on an Air Canada domestic flight, request a kosher meal. The Omnitsky Kosher deli at 5866 Cambie Street (604-321-1818), across from Oakridge Centre, supplies hundreds of their famous mouth-watering smoked-meat sandwiches to the airline every week. Just be prepared to explain why you're bringing hot mustard through security.
1883 Cornwall Avenue
Although bagels are a movable feast, twisted egg bread is inextricably linked to the celebration of the Sabbath. Still, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this masterpiece of Central European baking. The fact that you can't get it every day just adds to challah's allure. Sure, there's such a thing as plain challah, but connoisseurs prefer the poppy- and sesame-seed varieties. The best twisted egg bread is yellow in colour, bursting at the seams, full-bodied, gleamy-glazed, steaming fresh, and more than willing to be torn apart by your hungry hands. Good challah is available in a number of places, but none of them can top the twisted egg bread sold by Siegel's Bagels.
Best West Side dining at an East End price
The Green Grape Restaurant
2779 Commercial Drive
Tucked away along a dull strip of storefronts where only the Pondok Indonesia has survived to date sits the Green Grape. The prices are low and the nosh is exceptional, the kind of thing Kerrisdale residents pay a lot more for. There's a real European style to the dishes, fancy little extras, artful presentation, and some of the best damn flavours in the city. You can always tell when you're in an establishment where the owners really care about food, and this is one of those rare places.
Best place to fall off the low-carb wagon
For all of the stubbornly dedicated bread lovers out there, the new Cobs bakeries serve up a carb-friendly menu of pastries, rolls, loaves, and rounds. Favourites include the gooey chocolate croissant and the mouth-watering garlic-and-cheese twist. Atkins be damned!
Best place to bump into someone you met backpacking in a Third World country
All India Sweets and Restaurant
6507 Main Street
Met him on a tuk-tuk in Bangkok or a bus in Bombay? If he's from Vancouver, chances are he'll turn up at All India sooner or later, lugging his worn rucksack (complete with the requisite Maple Leaf patch) and his multiple photo albums, waxing poetic about his travels, gazing wistfully at the Bollywood videos on the screen, stroking his straggly goatee and perusing the $7.48 all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet. What did you ever see in him, anyway?
Best introduction to a postmodern pancake, whatever the hell that is
Modern Club Japanese Restaurant
3446 Dunbar Street
Okonomiyaki is a dish from Osaka that's essentially a giant savoury pancake packed with shredded cabbage, egg, green onion, udon or yakisoba noodles, and your choice of meat or seafood. The Modern Club specializes in this delicacy--which they have inexplicably renamed Modern or Post-Modern, depending on the type of noodles added--and will cook your pancake to perfection as you watch from one of the seats circling the grill.
Best yuppie catwalk
1257 Hamilton Street
Armed with sleek, minimalist décor, a conversation-friendly communal table, and legendary chef Sean Riley, Yaletown's newest restaurant/lounge has become the it spot for swank scenesters and savvy foodies. Try the utterly orgasmic bitter-almond críƒ ¨me bríƒ »lée with blood-orange sauce and biscotti as you watch the parade of Louis Vuitton--toting fashionistas.
Best post-yoga smoothie
1958 West 4th Avenue
This newly opened vegetarian café has a stacked juice bar that features fresh, locally grown, organic produce. Their First Kiss smoothie--made from guava juice, strawberries, mint, and lime, it costs $4.25--is easily the most blissful beverage in Lotus Land.
Best place to cram for midterms
Calhoun's Bakery Café
3035 West Broadway
Being that caffeine is the preferred study tool for the undergraduate masses, what better place to camp out for a marathon cram session than a café? Many days--particularly during exam periods--Calhoun's is packed with textbook- and laptop-toting youth who pore over their work for hours uninterrupted. Best of all, this West Side bookworm haven is open 24 hours a day, so even the latest of late-night coffee cravings can be satisfied.
Best bigger balls for less
Fraser Bakery and Konditorei
6533 Fraser Street
This old-time bakery (at this location since 1964) makes the biggest and best rum balls in town. They're dense, the size of baseballs, rich, chocolaty, rum-soaked, and irresistible. The rum balls are a steal at their usual price of 89 cents apiece, but they've been three for $1.29 all summer, and no one knows when this bonanza will end. Stock the freezer; they're fine after thawing. The rye and caraway breads are great here too, as are the crullers, and kids get free cookies.
Best free steak sandwich
Morton's of Chicago, the Steak House
757 West Hastings Street
We need to qualify this a little: you might feel better if you buy a drink with which to wash your free sandwich down, to avoid looking like a total freeloader. Morton's serves up tasty and high-quality complimentary filet-mignon sandwiches each night between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Best bet: go on Wednesday when four signature martinis are on for $5 a pop.
Best place to be serenaded with your mouth full
Café Pacifica Restaurant
Pan Pacific Hotel
999 Canada Place
The Pan Pacific Hotel's Café Pacifica has been featuring an Italian Opera Buffet every Friday evening for many years. The food is great, there's lots of it, and the arias--Italian love songs and musical-theatre numbers--are normally pure pleasure.
Best place to thank your lucky stars that the chef is in the house
295 West 2nd Avenue
When this newish Italian restaurant advertised "2 for 1 dinner entrée, compliments from our in-house chef Roger", we weren't certain what message it intended to deliver. Was there once an out-house chef, or maybe once you've ordered, your meal is cooked somewhere else and brought in?
Best place for a real dirty dinner
Wilson's Steak House
808 Beatty Street
The spanking new Wilson's Steak House opened within sweat-flying distance of B.C. Place with a swank soirée that featured chiselled hunks, Vegas showgirl wannabes, and assorted Vancouver glitterati. We didn't fit those flavour profiles, nor did we drive up in any of the pricey velvet-roped red convertibles parked curbside, but we did manage a tour of the spectacular innards. Besides the enormous stacked globe-light fixtures that we covet, we were bemused and confused by the upstairs private dining room with its sizable black-marble bathroom complete with multiperson shower. What kind of dinner requires showering before, during, and/or after?
Best Live Performance to Avoid When Wearing Your Finest
Tard. Rebecca Blissett photo.
Best year-round source for Girl Guide cookies
If you find yourself going through withdrawal between the spring onslaught of chocolate and vanilla Girl Guide cookies and fall's chocolate-mint ones, fear not. You can buy them by the box or case (they're even better frozen) at any Girl Guide store (1476 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver; 4780 Blundell Road, Richmond; and 202--1755 Capilano Road, North Vancouver). Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday until 4 p.m. While the traditional cookies are normally stocked until August, followed by the chocolate-mint version in October, all stock is generally available at the West 8th Avenue store all year.
Best sleepy-eyed denial by a brewery
When the hopheads at Shaftebury launched their newest lager, the Four Twenty, at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 at the Media Club, they claimed not to know that this time is traditionally when potheads worldwide break for a smoke, and that April 20 is regarded as "Pothead New Year". Just blocks away at the Vancouver Art Gallery, upward of 1,200 locals gathered for a celebratory toke. The official story is that the lager was christened Four Twenty for its four ingredients (water, malted grains, hops, yeast) and because it's brewed in 20 days. Uh-huh. And they don't inhale.
Best place for dinner and a grope
Dining in the Dark
515 Davie Street
Eating in a restaurant that's turned the lights off on purpose is called... duh... Dining in the Dark, a concept started a couple of years ago in Germany at a restaurant named Unsicht (German for "blindness"), and it's finally made it to Vancouver. DV8 has hosted three of these so far and plans are afoot to do them every few weeks. Guests mingle over drinks, then it's lights out and they're led to tables to eat in the dark, with friends if they've managed to stay connected, or with strangers. Maybe you shouldn't wear your very best clothes. Staff, wearing night-vision goggles, serve and observe. The first dark dinner was pretty tame. At the second, inhibitions were shed as soon as the lights went out and apparently things got mighty loose, mighty quickly, as the senses of smell, touch, and taste came to the fore.
Best on-line memorial to the days when everyone's drink looked the same
One of Canada's greatest design feats was the stubby beer bottle. The stubby was an eminently practical creation: its sturdy build allowed each bottle to be reused up to 30 times, making it both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. The bottle's simple, understated grace was one of the reasons author Douglas Coupland put a stubby on the cover of his book Souvenir of Canada. Sadly, the stubby was relegated to the dustbin of history in 1982 when Carling O'Keefe decided to bottle Miller beer in tall, thin American-style bottles and other breweries followed suit.
The stubby's legacy has not been forgotten, thanks to Leonard Whistler, a Vancouverite who created an electronic tribute to this squat, brown piece of Canadiana. His Web site features dozens of photos of stubbies from major brands like Molson and Labatt, as well as more obscure beers such as Bohemian Maid, Uncle Ben's, and West Coast Tug. It also contains a history of the stubby that outlines how this marvel of Canadian ingenuity went the way of the Avro Arrow, a story that will have you wanting to drown your sorrows with one of those inefficient longnecks and cursing a world that values function over form.
Best way to let your fingers do the fishing
False Creek Fish Sales Float
1505 West 1st Avenue
The False Creek Harbour Authority's Web site will tell you, week by week, which boats are tied up at the Fish Sales Float and what they're selling. For example, in late August, the MV Summer Wages had wild flash-frozen-at-sea chum, pink, and sockeye salmon, smoked salmon, and salmon roe for sale. The MV Carte Blanche was in port with its catch of fresh, wild northern, trawl-caught sockeye salmon, and the oyster guy is almost always in port. This is where Bin 941 and 942's Gord Martin's long-awaited Go Fish is beached. Martin will be cooking and serving whatever his fisher neighbours are catching. Besides Martin, C's Robert Clark is a regular buyer.
Best places for try-before-you-buy booze
Often on weekends, provincial liquor stores offer small tastes of various beers, wines, and spirits, but the best bets are private wine stores, which pour wines almost every Saturday afternoon, often with a winery principal in attendance. Best bets are Marquis Wine Cellar (1034 Davie Street), Vintropolis VQA Wine Store (1811 West 1st Avenue), Kitsilano Wine Cellar (2235 West 4th Avenue), Dundarave Wine Cellar (2448 Marine Drive, West Vancouver), Liberty Wine Merchants (various locations), Mark Anthony Purveyors of Fine Wine (962 West King Edward Avenue), Broadway International Wine Shop (2752 West Broadway), and the Village Wines VQA stores (3050 Edgemont Boulevard, North Vancouver; 3536 West 41st Avenue).
Best spot for a British binge
Celtic Treasure Chest
5639 Dunbar Street
If you've been missing the long-closed Marks & Spencer's food floor, then the Celtic Treasure Chest is for you. There's a terrific selection of savouries, like locally made fresh steak-and-kidney pie, Cornish pasties, sausage rolls, and bread. More? There's a whopping selection of 36 styles of U.K. sausages, 14 kinds of U.K. bacon, and six sorts of kippers. Also present are potato cakes; crisps, including marmite ones; teas like PG Tips, TyPhoo, and Taylor's of Harrogate, and 40 or so others; black and white puddings; wine gums; fish-and-chip and
Yorkshire-pudding batters; mushy peas; Heinz beans; treacle; custards; and much more. A selection of gift items and a small tea room for a cuppa or a light lunch round out the options. Service is friendly and there's always time for a chat.
Best wine to serve supercilious winos
...and those who like a darned good quaff. The Good Sheep Wine Company sources the best B.C. wine that it can find and bottles it under the Foofaraw label. The label was created especially to poke fun at the fussiness of wine-tasting, all the while ensuring that there was decent wine in the bottle. Good Sheep produces two wines only, Foofaraw Unassuming Red and Foofaraw Precocious White. Both are tasty, food-friendly, and very good value at $11. Available at private, non--VQA wine shops.
Best excuse to loaf
Transilvania Peasant Bread
3474 West Broadway
This three-month-old rustic bakery sells just two things: bread and water. Not just any bread, but rustic whole-wheat loaves cooked in a wood-burning oven. Mustachioed owner-baker Nicu Constantin rules this rough-hewn wood-walled shop with hand-carved and wood-burned signs. The bread and the baker are a hit, and his bread is solid, deliciously nutty, chewy and very filling. At a steep $5 a loaf, it's good that a little goes a long way. The water? Romanian Borsec Mineral Water.
Best place to say "Cheese"
43 West Hastings
A tip from a local lifestyle-magazine editor got me in the doors of what's now my favourite meat shop. Occasional cheesy deals--$3 for a perfectly ripe wheel of Brie--are icing on the cake. Besides the jaw-dropping good deals on current trendy proteins like short ribs and buffalo, there are specials on steaks, roasts, fish, and poultry (and cheese), in addition to the usual low prices. But the hands-down best reason for walking through the doors is the service: most businesses could take a lesson from Save-On's pink-capped counter clerks. Huge, warm smiles and prompt, friendly service, whether you're the old guy from the SRO across the street or my friend the spiffily attired editor, are the order of the day, every day. With up to 21 counter people, waits are nearly nonexistent. They say, "We offer full service at Save-On-Meat. Price is unimaginable and our quality no question is the best." We say it's no wonder they've been around for 46 years. The big neon pink pig gracing the storefront is a bonus.
Best eggplant dip on Davie Street
1220 Davie Street
This is not your average, creamy, hummus-like baba ghanouj, oh, no. It's a Persian recipe, red and chunky, its sweet and spicy flavour dictated by the caramelized onions that are one of its significant ingredients. Fantastic with the Lavash bread sold in the same deli.
Best French burger
The concession in Whytecliff Park, near Horseshoe Bay, is run by chef Philippe Hairay, originally from Toulon. He serves up a mean French burger, adding his own spices to the ground beef and topping off the patty with roasted garlic and melted Camembert. Hairay also has a range of fine coffees. The concession is open every day from early May until the end of September and on weekends in October, and the view from its deck of the entrance to Howe Sound is spectacular. A great place to go if you miss your ferry sailing.
Likeliest place to learn what to do with your newly purchased kimchee
2696 West Broadway
While waiting in the lineup at this most comprehensive of Kitsilano corner stores, customers can eyeball Food TV on the screen above their heads, (To be truthful, it's not always Nigella or Jamie; the occasional game creeps in.) If these topnotch professionals neglect to mention the ingredients in your basket, simply head for one of the computer monitors placed there for customers' use and Google "kimchee" or "fresh figs" or whatever else is in your basket.
Best spot for a birthday cake big enough to curl up on
Kam's Bakery and Restaurant
2415 and 2419 Main Street
First note that they are available in smaller sizes (a wall graph lists sizes, variations, and prices, and how many they'll feed), but save your money for the humongous one that measures 34 inches wide by 75 inches long (about one metre by two metres). The high-end model with mangos and strawberries is $950, but you need to add in another $50 for rental of a cake board. Or just use a door.
Best place to get naked
Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar
1138 Homer Street
The classy Yaletown restaurant has a courtyard perfect for steamy first dates. Start out by ordering a Naked Angel martini and the tone will be set to perfection.
Best dine and dance
Federico's Supper Club
1728 Commercial Drive
Not only is the food great, the live entertainment is hilarious and wonderful. Seek out Americo if you like to dance. He's the elderly gentlemen dressed to the nines. He can twist farther into the floor than a 15-year-old gymnast.
Best spot to cruise music nerds
The Message, Thursday at Voda
783 Homer Street
With the majority of Vancouver's clubs overrun by jiggy hip-hop nights--in which wannabe gangsters and would-be video chicks grind to an endless loop of Usher and R. Kelly tracks--many clubgoers are at the end of their ropes. Just where do the music lovers go to kick it? The answer is the Message, a club night hosted by local promoters GMAN & Rizk that celebrates shit-hot tunes of all descriptions. Whether it's house, funk, soul, jazz, disco, old school hip-hop, or rare grooves, the Message's resident DJs comb their crates for the dopest material, serving up choice cuts into the wee hours for a friendly crowd week after week.
Best new salsa-dancing venue for addicts
Atlantis Night Club
1320 Richards Street
The Richards Street club near Pacific now hosts a saucy Tuesday night featuring beginners' lessons held at 9 p.m. by Diego Sanchez, and lots of hot little gyrating bodies. Anyone whose hips have been idle a while would do well to get out there.
Best news for Davie Village clubbers
Decisions, decisions. For the past four years the question for Davie Street clubsters--or more specifically, the jaunty, fresh set who aren't into the more mature, experienced Numbers or Pumpjack bar scene--was this: the Odyssey on Friday? Or the Odyssey on Saturday? Or the Odyssey on Friday and Saturday? After years of delays and uncertainty, Celebrities (1022 Davie Street) finally reopened in July to midblock lineups and up to two hours' waiting times. With swank new décor, including bouncy wood-flooring, a restored room-encircling balcony, red fluorescent-lit beverage cases, a ventilated smoking room, and a high-tech DJ booth, the frumpy beach-bum look doesn't quite cut it here anymore.
Best place to meet topless women
455 Abbott Street
Lick, the lesbian bar near Tinseltown, features topless female bartenders for your voyeuristic pleasure. It's a one-of-a-kind club: everyone is friendly, unreserved, and happy to have you. No shirt, no shoes--that's service.
Best missed chance to get hosed and pastied
Fluffgirl Burlesque founder and former Vancouverite Miss Cecilia Bravo was in town last month, performing at the Sin-O-Matic Burlesque Show. We're not certain what sort of night she was anticipating when she announced the proceedings with the following text: "Miss Bravo will be hosing [sic] her 'Everything you need to know about Burlesque' Workshop this Sunday August 8th between 2-4pm. Participants will be making a pair of their very own pasties and putting them to use learning classic burlesque moves such as the shimmy, bump, grind and tassel twirling." Very Canadian, eh?
Nightclub with the best chance of reinventing itself tomorrow
Uraníƒ ¼s Lounge
315 East Broadway
This strip/karaoke bar is only the latest of the nightclub's countless mutations over the past three or four decades. (It was recently known as the Club Paradise Cabaret.) For whatever reason, the real estate in question seems to change hands with truly breathtaking speed, yet it always remains true to its cabaret roots (no Starbucks for this space). Sometimes the rules are quite strange--in one incarnation, its dress code dictated that you had to wear jeans--but it is always endearingly familiar in its own weird way, a perennial chameleon.
Best proof that gargoyles do spread their wings
King's Head Inn
1618 Yew Street
In addition to the flock of hulking otherworldly beasties atop a Yaletown condo (the Iliad at 1245 Homer Street), three creepily horrific newbies have been spotted high above the King's Head Inn in Kitsilano. A pair of small winged creatures flank a hideous black "grotesque", although we're not certain if they're fulfilling their intended function of spewing gutter water clear of the building and warding off evil spirits or if they're lurking to pick off customers at Café Zen and Tangerine across the way. In this neighbourhood, they might be just the ticket to scare off shitting seagulls and squawking crows.
Best house band
For seven years and counting, Soulstream has played at Bar None, virtually every Monday and Tuesday night, with the kind of élan that would be a treat at a New York hot spot. The media, too hip for Bar None and too busy bleating about "