With a full roster of concerts, theatre, dance, comedy, and other performances heating up the winter calendar, you’re going to need to fuel up.
Here are some of our favourite places to eat and drink before or after the show.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre/Vancouver Playhouse: Chambar
568 Beatty Street
It’s almost as if this busy, two-level bistro-bar, with its warm bricks and beams and ethereal light fixtures, was made for the postshow crowd. Here you can debate the merits of the opera or the real meaning of that thought-provoking play over perfect-sized petits plats and gourmet cocktails. Slide into an inviting black leather banquette and order up servings of olives and charcuterie. Pair them with a drink like the sweet-but-strong Ploughman’s Old Fashioned—Mount Gay Eclipse rum with spiced wild honey, Solera sherry, and Angostura bitters poured over a coconut ice sphere—or a delicious Blue Fig, a Beefeater gin martini infused with oven-roasted fig and served with a side of blue cheese. Otherwise, time it differently: grab parking before the theatre crowds arrive and lubricate yourself preshow with a choice from the bar’s extensive Belgian lambic and trappiste lists.
Fox Theatre: The Cascade Room
2616 Main Street
Before you catch the band, you don’t necessarily want to load up on the heavy stuff: you gotta save room for the beer at the show. That’s why we like to head to long-time Main Street outpost the Cascade Room, where albacore tuna tartare comes with a light soy-sesame marinade, Asian pear, ginger, and pickled cucumber, while the crispy-braised pork-belly sliders are garnished with pickled cucumber, crushed peanuts, and hoisin-chili glaze. There’s a strong selection of draft on tap, a rippin’ wine list, and a serious array of well-made, vintage-style cocktails: try old-school classics like the frothy pisco sour or the sugar-rimmed sidecar, and minimalistic masterpieces on the martini front. The room is dark and enveloping. Pull up a curvy retro stool to the long wood bar, where you can scope out the massive chalkboard of offerings and take in the mixology.
York Theatre/Cultch: Kin Kao Thai Kitchen
903 Commercial Drive
The name is a Thai saying that means “Have you eaten yet?”, and chances are you haven’t if you’re on the way to one of these East Side theatres. Look for the large windows on the Drive near Venables Street, but know that the bright white minimalist design inside doesn’t even begin to hint at the insanely fresh and authentic Thai food you’re going to find here. Young executive chef and Bangkok native Tang Phoonchai delivers a tightly curated and ever-changing menu of specialties served up like gorgeously plated street food on artist-made ceramics. The grilled-beef-and-red-grape salad and papaya salad are refreshing starters. For heartier fare, look for kra pao, stir-fried minced chicken with Thai basil; there are also killer deep-fried sour-cured pork ribs, and the taste-exploding grilled marinated pork collar. Red, green, and yellow curries tantalize here, too. Wash it all down with an East Van craft beer, and try to get a spot where you can watch all the kitchen action.
Arts Club Granville Island Stage/The Improv Centre/Performance Works: Afghan Horsemen Restaurant
202–1833 Anderson Street
One of the charms of the Afghan Horsemen is all the seating options. You can grab a booth for privacy, sit on a cushion on the floor Afghan-style in an open room, or dine at a regular table—all surrounded by lush photographs, artifacts, rugs, lamps, elegant place mats, and paintings from Afghanistan. The soft lighting and easygoing atmosphere lend themselves to discussing an upcoming show at the Arts Club or cackling over past zany antics of Vancouver TheatreSports League performers. And then there’s the cuisine, offering a hint of Greece, a touch of India, yet not fiery and never too heavy on the oil. The lamb shoulder is reliably tender and tasty, as is the karahi (lamb or chicken shish kebab), which comes with eggs, sautéed onions, green peppers, and tomatoes. There are also good vegetarian options.
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage: Siena
1485 West 12th Avenue
It’s not only the proximity to the old Stanley Theatre that makes Siena a favourite of the theatregoing crowd. It’s also the casual formality of the hearty Italian cuisine, the use of carefully sourced local ingredients, the seasonal menus, the great wine list (with half-price bottles every Monday), the 15-percent discount if you show your Arts Club tickets… The menu is a large blackboard with daily specials and appetizers and some inventive pastas paired with both sinfully braised meats (which often find their way into ravioli) and vegetarian choices. Various arancine (stuffed and fried rice balls) are always present, ditto risotto, rich desserts, and a pretty damn good cappuccino. Also, sommelier-owner Mark Taylor makes sure his staff are up to speed on everything.
Commodore: Noodle Box
839 Homer Street
For the longest time, the long-running Subeez on Homer was our warm-up spot for a night at the Commodore. When the doors were locked permanently last spring, allegiances quickly shifted to the equally industrial-chic Noodle Box, and not just because it was up the street. Practically speaking, nothing prepares one for an extended marathon of imbibing like the spicy peanut noodle box. Ditto for the Panang red curry, which kicks fiery ass, and a teriyaki box that’s the next-best thing to shopping in Harajuku. Servings are deceptively large, and spice levels are up to you. Should you opt for Scorching Hot (billed as “order this if you’re a crazy person”), put out the fire within with a local craft-beer offering like Parallel 49’s Gypsy Tears or a Red Truck Lager.