Whether you’re pouring bubbly, serving Negronis, or getting craft beer, happy hour isn’t complete without fun food. There's no shortage of options when it comes to simple ways to make your happy hour at home tastily easy.
The grocer’s got it
Say you don’t feel like cooking but you want to do more than put out a bowl of potato chips or a plate of raw veggies and dip. Order some appies off Urban Fare’s Gourmet Entertaining Guide: spicy chicken satays, Ocean Wise wine-poached jumbo prawns, tomato and basil-pesto crostini, prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus, and West Coast sockeye-salmon crostini with capers and herbed cream cheese.
Or get a platter from Fresh Street Market, like Just Add Wine (with Camembert, Brie, and Parmesan Reggiano alongside grapes, walnuts, dates, crackers, and croissants) or the Smoked Salmon Sensation (which has sockeye candy strips, wild sockeye lox, maple-smoked wild spring nuggets, all Ocean Wise, with cream cheese, red onions, and capers).
With local restaurants having pivoted to pickup and delivery and with their reopening in the works, there’s also no shortage of options outside of grocery stores. Here are some to consider for your next installment of late afternoon happiness.
KISS: Keep it simple with sushi
Stem Japanese Eatery is open for takeout, with beautiful dishes by chefs Tatsuya Katagiri and Yoshiaki Maniwa like miso-marinated Haida Gwaii sablefish collar, B.C. uni and ikura hand rolls, B.C. albacore tuna gomaae, and local tempura zucchini blossom stuffed with prawn pate. (It has wine and sake to go, too, and 10 percent off pre-orders by email or phone.) Longstanding Kits favourite Octopus’ Garden dishes up 2-for-1 uni donburi every Saturday as well as popular items like jumbo negitoro roll, Dungeness crab roll, and customers’ choice sushi and sashimi platters. The West End’s Tom Sushi is offering 10 percent off phone-in orders for dishes like grilled black cod, spicy chopped scallop roll and asparagus tempura roll, oyster motoyaki, and the new salmon amaebi zuke don (marinated, glistening salmon and shrimp sashimi on rice).
Just poke-ing around
Fresh Ideas Start Here (FISH) will deliver beautiful poke bowls from its fresh daily FISHbar to your door. The BC bowl features sustainable wild salmon, octopus, cucumber, seaweed salad, and oshinko, with your choice of sauce; there are plenty other to choose from or build your own. Besides abundant bowls with ingredients such as Ocean Wise ahi, sockeye salmon, Pacific Poke has two types of chicken bowls: sweet shoyu (with ginger jicama, pesto pineapple, wasabi peas, and more) and spicy gochujang (with kimchi cucumber, corn salsa, and pickled red onions). Cactus Club Cafe’s tuna poke bowl packs a flavourful wallop with sesame-ginger Ocean Wise ahi, mango, avocado, edamame, cucumber, radish, and jasmine rice: all texturally playful.
Charcuterie for revelry
It doesn’t get any easier than a DIY charcuterie board. Check out the selection at the new Pastificio di Luigi (Luigi’s Pasta Factory, from the same team behind Ask for Luigi, Pourhouse, among others). You’ll find sopressata, triple-fennel-and-ale salami, house-made foie-gras torchon, sour Tuscan salami, and other Italian deli and pantry selections (in addition to noodles, sauces, Veneto-style meatballs, and individual bottled cocktails like Negronis and Biciclettas). Two Rivers Speciality Meat has you covered with its packed charcuterie case with selections like duck noisette, smoked fennel sticks, coppa, guanciale. (Two Rivers also does dry-aged beef burger kits.) Hit Sebastian & Co. Fine Meats for jamón Ibérico pata negra, prosciutto, salchichón, lomo, buffalo pepperoni, beef jerky, and other fine cured meats.
Let’s taco ‘bout it
It’s baaack! Tacofino’s food trucks are rolling again, and some of its bricks-and-mortar locations are open for takeout. The Tofino-born business’s tacos stand out for their heft. Make it a flavour-bursting buffet with Tacofino'scauliflower and achiote-onion tempura tacos; tacos with soft and crunchy carnitas, cabbage, and pickled poblano; or fish tacos with white beans and crispy rice, among others. With the freshest tortillas in the land, Chancho Tortilleria continues to offer carnitas tacos (pork shoulder and/or belly) as well as veggie versions, all straightforward and supreme, every order coming with pickled red cabbage, salsas, pinto beans, and limes. Tacomio’s DIY Taco Extravaganza Kit for two or four comes with your choice of three fillings (chicken a la diabla, pork carnitas, beef salpicon, roasted cauliflower, chiles asados, or frijolitos), three salsas, pickled jalapenos, red onions, and veggies, fresh cilantro and then some. And on its something-for-everyone menu at Earls Kitchen & Bar (which has Happy Hour pricing in effect daily from 2 to 5 p.m.) are corn and bean or Yucatan street chicken taco kits. Made for two, they come complete with roasted jalapeno crema, Pico de Gallo, white cheddar, shredded cabbage, fresh lime, and Valentina hot sauce.
More meal kits
Say you want to cook without a ton of effort. Move over, pre-COVID-era meal kits distributed by national companies. Now we have some of the city’s top restos coming up with their own take on these pre-prepped boxes. Toptable2U (Blue Water Café, Elisa, CinCin, Thierry) recently launched with some of its group’s greatest hits (a la carte items like Holstein striploin and Snake River Farms wagyu striploin) as well as premium meal kits, ranging from prawn-and scallop paella to wild Pacific halibut with olive-oil-lemon sauce and tomato pearl pasta); then there’s the Elisa Burger Kit. It comes with four pre-shaped juicy patties made of AAA Alberta beef;; individually packaged condiments and brioche buns; and gem lettuce and fresh tomatoes, every last detail considered and nicely presented. Add in the excellent banana cream pie for an especially happy ending. Duck confit with coco bean and mushroom ragout is one of multiple meal kits available at Provence Marinaside. DIY ramen is the deal with Miku’s shoyu tonkotsu kit, complete with house-made broth, tare, chasu, koshi noodles, and egg. Commercial Drive’s Livia has come up with spaghetti carbonara and lasagne meal kits for comforting Italian fare made easy. The noodles are freshly made in house, and each kit comes with local greens, vinaigrette, and the bakery’s outstanding rosemary focaccia and pistachio frangipani tart. And JOEY has fajita kits, truffle popcorn kits, guac kits, and more, plus the Ultimate BBQ kit created by chef Matthew Stowe with chicken, pork ribs, or sirloin steak and all the fixings. And for when that leisurely Happy Hour spills into suppertime, pick up a two-course weekend dinner for two from Cardero’s; the menu changes weekly, but look to a recent offering as an example: Ocean Wise Arctic char, crisp broccolini and pepper, risotto cake, and classic cheesecake with strawberry compote.