From Thursday to Sunday (November 17 to 20), the Eastside Culture Crawl showcases the work of more than 475 artists in 78 buildings.
Walking or cycling between locations can make you ravenous, so with that in mind, Straight writers have recommended five dining spots in the vicinity of all those studios. Collectively, they represent the diversity of East Van.
Bodega on Main (1014 Main Street)
The term tapas gets applied to almost any small plates these days, but for the auténtico Spanish experience, Bodega still rules.
We’re talking spicy patatas bravas, tortilla española, and gambas al ajillo that look and taste like what you’d find at a century-old taverna in Madrid’s Plaza de Santa Ana. The Iberian outpost comes with a pedigree, of course: it’s run by Paul Rivas, son of Francisco Rivas, a partner at the late, great La Bodega on Howe Street for 43 years.
A lot of that mainstay’s favourites remain on the menu here, including the famous, and famously dangerous, sangria. Other specialties: tender pincho moruno beef skewers, pork sausage drizzled in Basque cider, sherry-drenched mushrooms, and saucy albondigas (meatballs).
With high ceilings, burgundy banquettes, matador posters, and even retro wrought-iron-and-gold-glass fixtures salvaged from the original haunt, the spot has atmosphere to match the food.
Pelican Seafood Restaurant (1895 East Hastings Street)
When you’ve been walking and standing for several hours to admire artwork, you’re bound to get hungry.
To prep your stomach so you can get the most out of the Eastside Culture Crawl, check out Pelican Seafood Restaurant if you dig Chinese food. Its large dinner menu includes everything from deep-fried squid with peppery salt to honey-garlic spareribs to braised dry scallops with winter melon to house-special chow mein.
Don’t worry if you can’t finish the family-style plates: just pack it to go and enjoy it as a late-night snack after gallery-surfing. If you’re planning on heading to see artwork earlier in the day, we suggest stopping by in the morning for some hearty dim sum.
All the classics are served here, including har gau, siu mai, steamed barbecued-pork buns, and baked egg-custard tarts. The restaurant fills up quickly during peak times, so be sure to make a reservation beforehand if you know you’ll be grabbing a bite at this no-fuss eatery.
Did we mention the restaurant’s close proximity to the galleries?
Tamam: Fine PalestInian Cuisine (2616 East Hastings Street)
It’s probably fair to consider Tamam a purveyor of Culture Crawl fuel rather than a fine-dining experience, despite a recent makeover that has left the greenhouselike space looking more like somewhere you’d take a date and less like a ’70s daycare.
Lending credence to that is the family-run resto’s signature mujaddarah, a deceptively stodgy-looking mix of rice, lentils, and crispy fried onions that’s actually get-up-and-go on a plate. Have it with salad or as a side with one of the mains—we recommend the roast lamb—and you’ll be striding, not crawling. (It’s so good that we’ve started making it at home, but even with cookbook authors and chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s help, it’s not quite as delicious as Tamam’s.)
An even better option might be to go with friends and order an absurd number of appetizers, which will not only replicate a truly Middle Eastern meze feast but put you in touch with Vancouver’s best eggplant salad.
Anything on Tamam’s menu that features eggplant is worth trying, in fact—and, although nightshade-free, the hummus is simple perfection.
Siddhartha’s Kitchen (2066 Commercial Drive)
In this artfully spare and cozy room on the Drive, chef Siddharth Choudhary serves delicious Delhi-style cuisine. The curries are a little heavier and have more of a homemade feel than what you’ll find in many other Indian restaurants.
It is perhaps most apparent in the succulent chicken korma that comes in a cashew-nut-and-raisin gravy. There are also vegetarian dishes, including delicious chana masala (chickpeas with tomato, onion, ginger, and garlic served with basmati rice).
And for authentic street food, why not order Choudhary’s Delhi aloo tikki as an appetizer?These two sauce-laden potato cakes will provide enough carbs to keep you crawling for hours.
Anyone who’s read Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha knows that this was also the Buddha’s original name, which explains the large image of the enlightened teacher on the restaurant’s southern wall.
La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop (322 West Hastings Street)
The last thing anyone wants from an old-school taco joint is a place that seems ripped from the designer pages of Ambientes or Arquine.
Located on a gritty stretch of West Hastings, La Taqueria looks like a transplant from the back streets of Tepito, the restaurant’s façade adorned with a giant Mother Mary mural. Inside, expect a fresh, organic, and sustainable-minded menu with Mexican street-stall prices.
Classic $3 tacos include the Al Pastor (chili-and-pineapple-marinated pork) and the De Cachete (braised beef cheeks), and there are can’t-miss $2.50 veggie options, starting with rajas con crema (roasted poblanos with creamed corn, sour cream, and Mexican cheese).
The food is killer and the price is right—sometimes you don’t have to hunker down at Tacos Los Chaparritos in Mexico City for an authentic experience.