Five Vancouver bars where Canucks fans can cultivate a budget-friendly pre-game glow

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      Considering we’ve gone 52 seasons without winning a Stanley Cup, and have a grand total of two playoff appearances in the past decade, it sounds nothing less that epically surreal: we’re number fucking one.

      That’s right: as of February 15, 2024, there is no better team in the National Hockey League than your often (deservedly) maligned, suddenly beloved Vancouver Canucks. Thank you Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin, Rick Tocchet, J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko, not to mention indisputable draft-table wizard Jim Benning. You’ve made it enjoyable to go to the rink again.

      The only downer for Vancouver’s long-suffering fans—and this goes for when the team is losing as well as winning—is the price of getting one’s drink on at games. Cultivating a pleasant glow at Rogers Arena can famously be a challenge unless your name is Jimmy Pattison, Chip Wilson, Bob Rennie, and whoever picked all seven numbers correctly in last week’s Lotto Max draw. 

      A 24-ounce cup of draft Budweiser will run you $18 plus taxes at the rink; a can of Molson Canadian $10.25; a premium Stella Artois $10.99; and a craft Whistler Forager $11.99. Like your drinks a little harder? An Aperol Spritz is $12.99, and a shot of Grey Goose vodka is $13.99.

      And so, because having a glow is the best way to enjoy the glow of the red light when Petey, Brock, or Hughes scores, your wisest plan of action is to have a pre-game drink, or four, off-site. (On that note, maybe cap things at three—no one wants to be sitting beside someone who’s passed out in a puddle of their own drool at the beginning of the second period.)

      Here are five go-to spots for a pre-puck drop beer, wine, or cocktail, all with a few things in common. First off, they’re more or less under the radar, which is to say that, if you’re looking for a sports bar with 17 large-screen TVs and a room full of bro-dudes and dudettes in vintage Matt Cooke jerseys, you’ll be disappointed. They’re also all within walking distance of Rogers Arena, which will get the blood pumping for the American national anthem. (Which, thanks to all the bombs bursting in the air, glaring red rockets, and perilous fighting, kicks the ass of Canada’s mandatory sing-along.) 

      And, best of all, the drink prices at the following places take the sting out of the fact that those centre-ice Canucks tickets 10 rows up from the player’s bench cost roughly the equivalent of two airline tickets to Mexico City. Sorry, can’t do anything about that reality—sometimes you gotta pay, especially when your team is number one. 

      The Brickhouse

      For as long as Vancouver has been on the outside looking in where the NHL’s power rankings are concerned, Main Street’s brilliantly offbeat The Brickhouse has been on death watch. Back in 2017. reports first surfaced that it would be demolished to make way for a new housing project, the site later approved by council in 2021 for a mixed-use development. And yet today it’s still here—an endearing and enduring mix of American tavern and really great dive bar. 

      Come for the Christmas lights that stay up year-round, framed photos of The Partridge Family’s Susan Dey and Elle Driver-edition Darryl Hannah, perpetually grotty fish tank, and, of course, the floor-to-ceiling brick wall. Stay for the beer and no-frills cocktails (if you’re looking for a Chocolate Choo-Choo, Tahitian Tee-Hee, Bourbon’s Bug’s Blood, or Squash Strawberry Alley Cat, you’re in the wrong establishment). Don’t forget to bring cash, the great thing being that your $20 bill goes considerably further than you know where. 

      Address: 730 Main Street

      Instagram: (Too cool for social media)

      The Boxcar/Instagram

      The Boxcar

      On one side of the Boxcar sits Pizzeria Farina, home to some of Vancouver’s best pizza this side of Straight Outta Brooklyn and Via Tevere. On the other is the Cobalt, which over the years has been everything from a low-rent strip club to a roosting magnet for batcave obsessives to a gloriously chaotic music joint. (It’s the latter the Main Street spot might be most loved for, the room having hosted everyone from the Exploited and Extreme Elvis to Lucy Dacus and Nikki Lane). Like its neighbours, the Boxcar has a vibe that’s left-of-the-dial cool, the music ranging from warehouse funk to tequila-hazed yacht rock to cosmic-comedown post-country, and the tin ceiling a reminder that not everything from Vancouver’s architectural past ends up in the landfill. 

      Two-ounce cocktails will run you from $12 for a Boxcar Mule to $16 for a stupidly delicious Oaxacan Dreamsicle (mezcal, orange cordial, vanilla, lemon, mole bitters). A deep list of craft beers on tap includes options like 33 Acres’ Mezcal Gose, Lighthouse’s Hazelnut Dark Ale, Main Street Brewing’s Secret Krush Lager, and Joyride’s Windfall Cider, all of them a budget-friendly $8. Bonus: you can pop next door to Pizzeria Farina, pick up a Proscuitto e Arugula, Margherita, or Funghi, and enjoy it at your table while ordering another round. 

      Address: 917 Main Street

      Instagram: @the_boxcar

      La Taqueria Pinche Taco shop

      As evidenced by the lunch-time lineups, the big draw here is Mexican street food–style tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas. What we love most about La Taqueria, though, is the way it flips to a catina-style watering hole at night, where you can almost always get a seat for a quick margarita or three. A La Taqueria Cerveza tall-boy will run you just over $7, with two-ounce margaritas coming in around $12 for options that include a Lavender Love, Miss Hibiscus, and the Picante with habanero bitters. Round things out with an impromptu pastor, baja, or cachete taco, dinner providing a great excuse to have one more Mezcal Margarita before puck drop.

      Address: 322 Hastings

      Instagram: @lataqueria

      Gringo/Instagram

      Gringo

      If nothing else, you have to appreciate the honesty of the Gringo team. The menu at the pink-neon-flared location at Blood Alley in Gastown separates the margarita options into three categories: “Crap, OK, and BTO (Better Than OK).” Those whose all-time favourite bar memory is a three-day bender at Señor Frog’s in Cancun will probably be more than thrilled with the “Crap” offerings that start at $8.75 for a single, and $13.50 for a double.

      A BTO double will run you $19.50 for a double, with the caveat that “ballers and shot callers” can ask that their favourite top-shelf tequila or mezcal be subbed into the mix. (All margs are of the lime variety and served on the rocks.) Feel free to ask for two shots of Tequila Ley .925 Diamante, with a Del Maguey Chichicapa Cask Finish mezcal chaser. The worst they can do is say no.

      Address: 27 Blood Alley

      Instagram: @tacoboutgringo

      Batch

      In a city where every parking lot—not to mention heritage building—is seemingly just sitting there waiting to be turned into condos, Batch is a welcome oddity. The pop-up is centred around a shipping container bar plunked on the old Expo 86 site. The drinking takes place on Batch’s 70-person patio, with the philosophy being Vancouver should be turning empty spaces into community gathering places rather than parking cars on them.

      Because we already know what you’re thinking, rest assured you don’t have to show up looking like a down-jacket version of the Michelin Man when the weather is cold—fire pits and blankets are part of the fun at Batch. The drinks menu showcases British Columbia’s booming craft beer industry, as well as wines and canned cocktails like Olé Cocktail Co.’s tequila soda and margarita. 

      Cold-adverse to the point where not even a five-alarm fire-pit sounds like it will warm you up? Don’t worry—winter ends in these parts sometime around next week, making Batch a perfect gathering spot for a deep playoff run. That’s right—winter’s practically over! Suck on that, Toronto, where—we couldn’t be more thrilled to report—the Maple Laffs are currently in 13th place in the NHL and clinging to a wild card spot. It’s good to be a Canucks fan. 

      Address: 770 Pacific Boulevard

      Instagram: @batchvancouver

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