Need something to do this weekend? Here are five places to hang before, between, and after the slew of shows happening on Granville Island as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, which takes place from this Thursday (September 8) to September 18.
Off the Tracks Espresso Bar and Bistro, 1363 Railspur Alley
The former Argo's warm, woody design makes it a true escape from the hustle and bustle of Granville Island and full-on Fringe-ing. The giant Synesso espresso machine takes centre stage on the high-ceilinged haunt's gorgeously grained bar, and its deliciously strong lattes and cappuccinos will provide the caffeine kick you need to get through the late shows. Also of note: that all-day breakfast—try the buttermilk biscuit with cheese, egg, and fire-roasted tomato—should hit the spot after Fringe-ing into the wee hours. Check the chalkboard for daily specials and organic salads, or just grab a glass of wine and hit the garden patio out front on atmospheric Railspur Alley to watch the world go by—or at least the odd evil clown, that dude in a bunny suit, or some other costumed Fringe performer.
Edible Canada, 1596 Johnston Street
There’s a reason Edible Canada consistently nabs top nods in our annual Golden Plates survey: the folks at this Granville Island establishment were doing farm-to-table long before farm-to-table was even a thing. The airy, rustic-chic room has a knack for sourcing the freshest local ingredients possible, transforming them into culinary works of art that rightfully earn places alongside maple-syrup and poutine in the pyramid of all-Canadian foods. Think French-Canadian split-pea soup topped with crispy pork jowl, Thai-style Fraser Valley chicken wings, and crispy-skinned wild salmon served with bacon-glazed greens and a beet-and-apple reduction. Prefer to consume your daily dose of Canadiana in liquid form? Not to worry: Edible also shakes up a hella True North–inspired cocktail menu that includes a maple-bacon Caesar (need we say more?) and the Grass is Greener, a combination of Prosecco, lemongrass, and Long Table Distilling’s award-winning cucumber gin. If you’re strapped for time between Fringe shows, hit up Edible’s “chip wagon” take-out window or the in-house shop, where you can grab Canadian-made snacks like cheddar-and-chive crackers, black-cherry chocolates, and, yes, ketchup chips to go.
Kids Market on Granville Island, 1496 Cartwright Street
It may be called a kids market, but there’s nothing really stopping adults from checking out the fun zone. (If you monitor the entrance long enough, you might even catch some grown-ups crawling through the three-feet-tall kid’s door). Sure, you may have outgrown the stuffed animals or children’s board games found inside the toy shops, but you won’t be able to resist taking a second glance at the remote-controlled helicopters or the magic area’s intriguing novelty items. The main attraction for both young and old, however, is the Circuit Circus, an old-fashioned arcade that dispenses tickets for guests to redeem prizes. From hoop-shooting and skeeball to a Jurassic Park simulator and whack-a-mole, the games will likely have you spending more than a few quarters. The best part is choosing your well-deserved loot from a selection of items that range from bouncy balls to more practical sour candies. Who knows? You might want to come back even after the Fringe Fest has come and gone.
The Backstage Lounge, 1585 Johnston Street
Talk about convenient: if you're catching a Fringe show at the Revue Stage (1601 Johnston Street), you're practically already at the Backstage Lounge. Hey, do you suppose that's how the bar got its name? Sorta makes you think, doesn't it? In any case, its proximity to Fringe venues makes the bar an ideal spot to hit for a drink after the curtain drops. What's on tap? Local brews from Big Rock, Red Truck, Parallel 49, Okanagan Springs, and Central City, for starters. If you're in the mood for a bite, the menu features standard pub fare like wings and burgers, along with pulled-pork sandwiches and gourmet flatbreads. And if you have thirsty ears, the Backstage Lounge features live music and DJs most nights. The venue has played host to everyone from Dan Mangan and the Zolas to Hedley, Marianas Trench, and Sloan—none of whom will be playing during the Fringe Festival, mind you.
GI Gelato & Coffee House, 1551 Johnston Street
There's an old business adage that goes something like this: "location is everything". Or maybe it's "location, location, location". Whatever it might be, GI Gelato & Coffee House is ideally situated as a between-shows Fringe pit stop thanks to its proximity to the Public Market's expansive waterfront courtyard. Locals, of course, know the area as the favourite snacking area of Greater Vancouver's smarter seagulls. The winged bandits are so practiced at the art of snatching hot dogs, hamburgers, and 10-dollar fruit kabobs from unsuspecting tourists that warning signs are posted all around the food court. And, brilliantly, those signs are typically ignored—which brings us back to GI Gelato. On any given day, the spot has 18 homemade flavours on offer, from lemon-lime-zest or coconut sorbet to cherry chocolate, pistachio, and matcha-green-tea. Because GI Gelato is conveniently located behind the Arts Club Theatre, it's just steps from the waterfront courtyard. Get primed for that smash Fringe comedy by plunking yourself on a bench with a cotton-candy cone. And then try not to laugh until you cry as Bob and Myrtle from Idaho exit the food cart only to watch their prized Phoenix Fast Food souvlaki stick fly to the heavens in the beak of a fabled Granville Island shithawk.