Whenever I travel to a different city, I keep my food and drink research to a minimum beforehand. Most of my favourite discoveries around the world have come via tips from local trade pros. I always ask where they like to eat and drink, whether it’s a quick takeout snack or full-on fine dining. It ain’t rocket science; if I’m chatting with the sommelier at a restaurant I’m really digging, odds are their day-off haunts will reflect the quality of the place they’ve chosen to (professionally) hang their hat.
Last week, I reached out to a few locals who shape how we drink in Vancouver to see what they’re tucking into and where on those rare and precious days off.
Bar manager, the Diamond
The good times and craft cocktails go quite late at the Diamond, so I was pretty confident that Paulson wasn’t going to be passing along any early-morning breakfast spots. “On my days off, I love food and drinks that are simple, fast, and delicious, like pizzas made by Graham Marceau at Corduroy Pie Company [758 West 16th Avenue],” he said. Alongside those pizzas, “a pint of Red Truck Lager always puts me right.” Of course, after a week of being social and chatting with patrons for the bulk of the day, sometimes those in the service industry just want to lie low. “If I want to stay home, I’ll make some curry and pair it with a bottle of Quails’ Gate Gewürztraminer [Okanagan, B.C.; $20 to $23, private liquor stores].”
Wine director, Nicli Antica Pizzeria
For many in the wine trade, there’s nothing better at the end of the week than putting the wineglass aside.
“To be honest, I mostly drink beer when I go out, like the [$10 on Mondays] bánh mì and beer special at the Union [219 Union Street], or with the burger of the month at Cannibal Café [1818 Commercial Drive].”
At the same time, that wineglass is usually put aside only for so long. “If I want to use corkage, maybe Sardine Can [26 Powell Street] or L’Abattoir [217 Carrall Street],” Gravel added. Yet it sounds like the couch calls her the most, and she ’fessed up to a more likely scenario.
“Let’s take me, on my day off, binge-watching Doctor Who episodes and having takeout.” Combos she might find herself enjoying include Michele Chiarlo Gavi di Gavi (Piedmont, Italy; $29 to $33, private liquor stores) paired with food from Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant (5225 Victoria Drive). “Be careful,” she adds, “these guys are no joke with spice levels, so I usually ask for mild and it turns out just a little spicy.” Or Juan Gil Monastrell (Jumilla, Spain; $24.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) paired with takeout from House of Dosas (1391 Kingsway), which is “open super late, so a bonus on late nights”.
Can you imagine the privilege of eating at Vij’s every day? Hard to believe, but yes—it might get a little tired after a while. “When you’re eating Indian food four or five days a week, it’s great to do something different,” Nelson says. “The Cellar on Granville recently did a total overhaul and renovation. No more dimly lit cavern—not that I didn’t enjoy that from time to time, but it’s now called the Belmont [1006 Granville Street].” Highlights include “a full-service kitchen, great cocktails, and a rotating craft-beer selection”.
Nelson creates a great segue to our next wine guy by adding, “I love Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar [900 Seymour Street] for their great selection of wine, both by the glass from their Enomatic machine and by the bottle. [Wine director] Robert Stelmachuk has done a fantastic job, plus their arancini are delicious!”
General manager and wine director, Cibo Trattoria and Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar
If he’s looking at a little takeout during the day, the Vancouver wine-industry veteran is likely to hit up Paris Bakery (1403 Commercial Drive). “They serve an amazing bánh mì selection. I swing by Liberty Wine Merchants a few blocks away, grab a Famille Grandval Cru de Cambremer cider from Normandy [$12.99 for 750 millilitres], and I’m set!”
For evening takeout, he swaps his regional focus to the long-lauded Afghan Horsemen Restaurant (1833 Anderson Street). “There is so much care and love in their food. I usually grab an order of aushak to go. It’s like a spiced beef ravioli, basically, with cilantro and a savoury yogurt. I’m addicted to pairing this with a white from Spain,” he says, pointing to Altos de Rioja Blanco (Rioja, Spain; $19 to $22, private liquor stores), a charming, citrusy blend of Viura and Malvasía.
Is it always takeout for the guy? Not necessarily. “I like to visit Tap & Barrel at Olympic Village [1 Athletes Way]. The view makes me feel like I’m away, and the pork belly and soft-egg pizza has all the indulgence I need on a day off. I’ll order the JoieFarm Noble Blend they pour on tap to pair with it,” he says, adding that “it’s almost unfair how well they match up!”
Production Manager and Distiller, Odd Society Spirits
“I am a big fan of bourbon and have been making a lot of old-fashioneds at home lately,” says Beach. “If I am looking to get more bang for my buck, I lean towards Bulleit Bourbon [$36.99, B.C. Liquor Stores]. Homemade falafels, veggie curries, and deep-fried Brussels sprouts with lemon and Parmesan are all seriously good partners to an old-fashioned.”
Like his industry colleagues above, Beach balances home life with going out. “I love supporting local breweries, so for a night on the town I’ll go on a brewery crawl. I can’t miss out on our neighbour at Powell Street Craft Brewery [1357 Powell Street] for their Citra ISA, and Brassneck Brewery [2148 Main Street] for their Inertia Imperial Stout weighing in at nine percent—boom!” When he gets peckish on the brewery tour, he adds, “I really like the Disco Cheetah food truck. They were out front of 33 Acres Brewing Company [15 West 8th Avenue] the other day; I had a spicy chicken taco with Korean kimchi along with 33’s IPA.”
So how was that pairing?