Gastown's emergence as a major dining hub didn't happen by accident. As the Straight has previously reported, it came about through a lengthy period of negotiations in the 1990s involving city planners, the Gastown Business Improvement Association, and activists who wanted better health facilities for addicts in the nearby Downtown Eastside.
One of the turning points came when Vancouver city council approved a heritage-density program in 2002, which set the stage for developers to rehabilitate old buildings. Now, there are dozens of dining establishments, lounges, and nightclubs as well as a thriving high-tech industry in the historic district. Is it any wonder that so many Gastown establishments won Georgia Straight 2015 Golden Plates awards? Nine eateries cracked the Top 3 in our readers' choice awards, some more than once.
This Gastown stalwart serves traditional Irish fare along with Guinness on tap. The rustic brick room creates an ideal atmosphere to dig into its pub grub, including the trademark feature pot pie and bangers & mash. The sense of community is enhanced sitting at what might be the longest table in the city.
The sunrise salad, spinach salad, and lentil loaf make this a vegetarian-friendly pub. But for those not into vegan dining, there is no shortage of meaty options on the menu, such as chicken liver paté and pork belly for starters. There's also a hearty bacon double cheeseburger, turkey meatloaf, and an apple barbecue pulled pork sandwich. And we haven't even started on the lineup of drinks.
Blueprint's V-shaped modern bar and kitchen is located in Gastown's iconic Woodward's building. It features daily lunch specials, craft beer and cocktails, DJs, and late-night dancing on the weekends.
Pork-belly flatbread, deep-fried pickle spears, pistachio-crusted chicken parmesan, and rack of pork ribs smothered in bourbon barbecue sauce were added to the menu in the autumn of 2014. There are also flatbread pizzas, a french-fry bar, wok-fired squid, pork-belly sliders, beer pickles, arancini, and delicious nachos on the menu.
Located just east of Waterfront Station, Steamworks Brew Pub has sometimes been a hangout for newspaper journalists who work in the nearby Granville Square. The menu features roasted blueberry-maple chicken, grilled angus sirloin, New York striploin, bacon-wrapped filet, and the "expense account steak"—a 12-ounce whopper with lobster tail, tiger prawn skewer, herbed mushrooms, and garlic toast.
The award-winning chili is a hit, and there are also Asian options, such as the Bombay butter chicken and Asian duck lettuce wraps. Then there are those pizzas, which come in seven varieties.
This two-level restaurant and lounge features a newly renovated private room, a diverse menu, and perhaps the best selection of B.C. draft craft beer in the province. The Alibi Room is tied to the city's film industry and regularly hosts production wrap parties, but most of the time this Railtown establishment is just a cool, hip spot to grab some high-quality grub or enjoy swanky martinis.
Nestled near the edge of CRAB Park and the rail yard, the Alibi Room serves locally sourced, free-run, or naturally raised meat and poultry. Its chill atmosphere and tasty charcuterie plates make it an easy place to return to.
This watering hole kitty corner to International Village Mall on West Pender Street has a more extensive menu than some sports bars. In addition to a selection of burgers, there's a 40-Way rice bowl, 40-Way pulled pork sandwich, 40-Way crispy chicken sandwich, and several other classic offerings.
The Niagara nachos, Thai chicken bites, and Nathan's mini dogs are three options to get things started. There are also 10 percent discounts for any work groups or sports teams with five or more people, provided the patrons can provide proof. Groups of 10 or more qualify for a 20 percent reduction. There are also hangover brunches on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Pint also won for best pre-game restaurant.
This "reggaecentric" Gastown restaurant and live-music venue serves Caribbean curries, jerk chicken, and oxtail stew. Weekend brunch offerings include roti with jerk scrambled eggs, salara French toast with spiced mango-maple syrup, and ackee and saltfish with homemade dumplings.
Georgia Straight food editor Carolyn Ali has described the roti as "perfect", not to mention "thick, plush, and pillowy soft".
“Most people view Caribbean food as [something cooked in] a little café or a hole-in-the-wall,” cofounder Cullin David told the Straight in 2014. “I wanted to raise the bar on it a little bit. You can really take an ingredient from anywhere in the world, and it will fit into Caribbean cuisine because everyone in the world has put their foot in the Caribbean.”
L'Abattoir, centrally located in Gastown, is nestled between Gaoler's Mews and Blood Alley. Despite the grisly name, the feeling here is welcoming, warm, and sophisticated due to the open space, French tiles, ample lighting, and friendly waitstaff.
Be ready to experience dishes like terrine of smoked pork hock and foie gras (served with sweet and sour beets and fried brioche), Dungeness crab and chickpea toast (served with toasted brioche, light crab custard, and carrot pickles), and raw Pacific oysters (served with mushroom and marrow croquettes).
Executive chef Lee Cooper told the Straight in 2014 that high-end food doesn't have to be fussy. “We never want to challenge somebody to try and like something, because if you’re trying it’s probably not good,” he said.
At the casual-yet-intimate Ask for Luigi, meals are served family-style. Although the restaurant specializes in handmade pasta (like ricotta ravioli), the menu also highlights appetizers like octopus carpaccio, bone marrow and escargot, and a roasted fennel and arugula salad.
With a white-forward wine list (14 whites and six reds), the beverage options are rounded out with a selection of appertivi, grappa, beer, and prosecco.
Chef and cofounder J.C. Poirier's standout dish, according to Straight food writer Gail Johnson, is the pappardelle with duck ragout.
With tapas like tostas de sardines, chorizo con Jerez and exclusively Spanish drinks, the aptly named Sardine Can reminds diners of a night in Madrid. With 20 different tapas, chef Audrey Durbach has provided plenty of choice.
Don't forget the delicious desserts on the menu: baked caramel custard and chocolate terrine with chili, olive oil, sea salt, and toast. Here, the objective is to keep things simple for those looking to drop by for casual cuisine done well.
Durbach and business partner Chris Stewart also own and operate La Buca, Pied-à-Terre, and the Commissary restaurants. The Sardine Can also won for best Spanish