Where VIFF stars go to wine and dine in Vancouver

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      As residents of Hollywood North, we’ve had our fair share of celebrity sightings. This past summer alone, lucky Vancouverites have spotted Adele waiting patiently for her double-Oreo scoop at a Yaletown ice-cream parlour, Neil Patrick Harris marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade, and Owen Wilson striding nonchalantly through the Fairmont Pacific Rim lobby with his entourage in tow.

      Hell, even former Bachelorette hopeful and Penticton-born personal trainer Daniel Maguire has had his moment, posing for photos with giddy fans in various nightclubs and restaurants around Vancouver’s downtown core.

      With the Vancouver International Film Festival running from this Thursday (September 29) to October 14, however, there’s no better time to strap on the stargazing goggles. And though the fete will see special appearances by names like noted filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, X-Files creator Chris Carter, and Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany, the cinema isn’t the only place you can rub shoulders with some of Tinseltown’s brightest talents.

      Chambar's proximity to key VIFF venues makes it a popular pick among VIFF staff and guests alike.
      Ema Peter

      Thanks to the slew of filmmakers’ dinners organized by VIFF staff, eating out before, between, or after screenings may be your best bet for spying a VIP outside his or her natural habitat. “We organize the meals to showcase the food we have in the city, for our programmers to meet the guests inperson, and to introduce filmmakers to other filmmakers,” Tallulah, VIFF’s assistant manager of guest services, tells the Straight by phone.

      So, where can you expect to, um, casually cross paths with some of this year’s high-wattage guests? Although food preferences of the actors, filmmakers, and show-runners are taken into consideration, it turns out that wining-and-dining is all about location. For this reason, Tallulah reveals that Chambar (568 Beatty Street) has been a popular pick among VIFF staff and festival stars for years.

      “They’ve got a great atmosphere, the food is great, and their location is fantastic because it’s in the middle of International Village, SFU Goldcorp, and the Vancouver Playhouse,” she says.

      Tallulah, VIFF's assistant manager of guest services, touts Exile Bistro for its creative farm-to-table cuisine.
      Exile Bistro

      The Crosstown eatery’s proximity to key VIFF venues makes it a prime spot for filmmakers to grab a bite during screenings, giving them enough time to dash back to cinemas in time for postfilm Q&As. Tallulah notes that past invitees have also been fans of the restaurant’s Belgian-inspired fare, which includes dishes like grilled octopus with scallop ceviche and braised lamb shank served with figs and almond couscous.

      Nuba’s Gastown outpost (207 West Hastings Street)—known for its vibrant Lebanese food and chillaxed vibe—is another hit among VIFF headliners. “Nuba is brilliant because you could take someone who’s been in the business for years or someone who’s new to the city or festival, and they’d both have a great time,” explains Tallulah. “The way the food is served and the type of food—it kind of crosses a bridge.”

      Other restaurants frequented by VIFF guests include CinCin Ristorante + Bar (1154 Robson Street) for its outstanding Italian dishes and private wine room (“Sometimes that’s requested because guests know it will be a bit quieter for conversation,” discloses Tallulah); award-winning seafood joint Blue Water Café (1095 Hamilton Street); and Exile Bistro (1220 Bute Street), which Tallulah touts for its creative farm-to-table cuisine and site within walking distance of the Vancity Theatre and the Cinematheque.

      VIFF programmers will be accompanying high-profile guests for postfilm drinks at Gastown's L'Abattoir.

      If you’re looking to unwind or engage in some postfilm discussion, hit up Clough Club (212 Abbott Street) or L’Abattoir (217 Carrall Street)—two Gastown destinations that boast dark, sophisticated ambiances and celebrated cocktail programs. Tallulah says VIFF’s programmers will be accompanying actors and filmmakers to these venues following late-night screenings. 

      New to this year’s VIP-dining roster are celebrity magnet Hawksworth Restaurant (801 West Georgia Street) and its laid-back sister resto Nightingale (1017 West Hastings Street), known for its housemade pastas, salads, and wood-fired-oven pizzas with a Canadian twist. “Those are ones we’ll probably take our top guests to,” Tallulah says of the David Hawksworth–owned eateries.

      Caribbean hot spot Calabash Bistro (428 Carrall Street) also gets the hospitality pro’s seal of approval—check out the restaurant’s to-die-for coconut dumplings and rum-centric bar menu. But if you’re lucky enough to see a celeb while stuffing your own face, play it cool. It turns out stars aren’t so different from us regular folk after all.

      “They love going to the dinners and having a place where they can sit, talk, have a nice glass of wine, and just breathe,” says Tallulah.