Best of Vancouver 2016: Food & Drink

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      Best edible riff on a Netflix summer blockbuster

      Virtuous Pie, the city’s first plant-based pizza joint, has finally opened its Main Street doors, and the 100- percent-vegan eatery is making great use of its timing by tapping into a certain ’80s-inspired TV thriller for a little menu inspo. Yes, Stranger Things fans, “Stranger Wings” pizza—served bianca with buffalo-flavoured cauliflower and “blue cheese” drizzle—is now a thing. Your move, Cartems: a gluten-free Eggo-and-chocolate-pudding–topped “Stranger Rings” doughnut has got to be in the works, right?


      Best local beer to help get greens in your diet

      Yes, such a thing exists, and it doesn’t come with a side of salad. Steamworks doesn’t use the word killer lightly when it comes to its Killer Cucumber Ale. This light summery beer starts with a wheat-malt base and has notes of citrus and hops, and is finished off with Belgian yeast and a tinge of apricot and black pepper. It’s hopped with cucumbers. That cool cuke taste kicks in post-sip, reminding you that sometimes vegetables can taste really, really good.


      Best beer to confuse your taste buds

      If the title doesn’t confuse you, your first sip certainly will: Parallel 49’s ¡Orale! Tequila Gose looks like a beer, sounds like a sour, and tastes like a mild tequila shot, lime included. Launched at the brewery’s fourth anniversary earlier this year, the brew fits in well with Parallel 49’s mishmash of super-weird beers and creative concoctions. If you’re feeling a fiesta but shots remind you too much of that college spring-break trip to Cancún, give this beer a shot—just don’t be surprised if your mouth can’t tell the difference.


      Best unexpected new foodie block

      Close to the SkyTrain, a pot shop, and a bowling alley, the 2200 block of Commercial Drive has not exactly been gourmet heaven. Enter Cabrito (2270 Commercial Drive), a truly buzzing Spanish tapas joint with a garage-door patio, Catalonian tile work, and a giant toro y matador mural. Food from the open kitchen varies, but think killer authentic cured meats, smoked papas, pinchos-style prawns, and lamb lollipops, all washed down with sangria or a flight of three sherries. Now Jamjar has opened right next door (2280 Commercial), an industrial-modern setting for Lebanese food, outfitted with bare light bulbs, rustic salvaged-wood accents, and sleek white subway tiles. Opt for hot and cold mezze, halloumi cheese and olives, or tangy fattoush to share at communal tables. Just follow the sound of crowds and the smell of garlic. And if those two hopping places don’t suit, you can always grab a juicy gourmet burger and craft beer at Relish (2290 Commercial).


      Best way to discover Filipino food and culture

      Sure, there are a lot of recipes and videos online. However, nothing beats the hands-on experience of the Filipino cooking classes offered by Langara College. Students will not only learn how to prepare dishes like lumpia (spring rolls), adobo (meats stewed in soy sauce and vinegar), and pancit (noodles), but they will also get insights into Filipino culture and history from instructors Kaye Banez and Sharlene Eugenio. The duo call themselves the Kusineras (female cooks). The course ends in a kamayan, a Filipino feast eaten solely by hand.

      Besides soft-serve, liquid-nitrogen, vegan, and plant-based ice cream, you can also find ice-fried yogurt in our dessert hub of a city.
      Tammy Kwan


      Best ice-fried frozen dessert

      If you haven’t noticed that our city’s frozen dessert scene has recently exploded with variety, then you must have been under a rock (or are lactose-intolerant). Besides soft-serve, liquid-nitrogen, vegan, and plant-based ice cream, you can also find ice-fried yogurt in our dessert hub of a city. Downtown Vancouver’s On Yogurt (95 Smithe Street, near B.C. Place) makes this tasty treat on an ice pan above a flash freezer—intrigued yet? The yogurt will instantly turn into a solid and will then be rolled up into separate pieces. You can expect the texture to be crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. Go for its popular Earl Grey with Oreo or matcha with red-bean flavour—not exactly ice cream, but who cares as long as it’s delicious?


      Best zero-waste and community-focused café

      Lupii Café does two things to help make the world a better place: protect the environment and build a healthy community. There are no disposable items at the Vancouver diner, and food scraps are taken to a farm to be used as animal feed. A vegetarian buffet is priced at an affordable $5, and food is given away at the end of the day. Founders Daniel and Lisa Papania are academics who are keen on applying principles of sustainability to daily life. Located at 7743 Champlain Crescent, Lupii Café also provides community space: kids can get help with their homework, and there are drop-ins for young children and knitters and crocheters.


      Best South Indian dining bargain

      Dosa Hut
      7233 Fraser Street

      With a plain dosa going for $4.99 and a masala dosa costing $6.99, this little South Vancouver hideaway defines cheap eats. It’s also clean, unlike some other bargain dining spots around town. The dosas are delivered with delicious South Indian–style lentils. Top up this meal for two with one $4.95 side of bhel puri—a famous Mumbai roadside snack—and a couple can leave feeling full for well below $20. And it’s far more nutritious than Wendy’s.


      Best high-grade nose candy

      Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour
      1002 Commercial Drive

      As anyone who has ever seen Scarface will attest, sometimes you need a little bump or two to get you through the day. While the Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour primarily traffics in the orally consumed byproduct of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, it has also got you covered if you’re more into putting stuff up your nose. For $2 a hit, you can indulge in straight-outta-Belgium snorting chocolate. Finely ground raspberry-mint or ginger-mint cocoa is packed onto a spoon, and then you inhale it with the aid of a special mini catapult. The catapult, and the idea of snorting chocolate instead of eating it, was invented by Belgium’s Dominique Persoone, who was asked to come up with a novel idea for a birthday party for members of the Rolling Stones. Licorice Parlour owner Mary Jean Dunsdon tried snorting chocolate in Belgium and liked it enough to get into the import business. Inhaling the powdered cocoa is supposedly good for clearing the sinuses. And, of course, for making you feel every bit as badass as Keith Richards during the ’70s.


      Best place to sample various meats

      La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop
      Various locations

      Mix-and-match tacos? Yes, please! With offerings like braised beef cheeks and tongue, pork confit, and chicken with chorizo, it’s certainly my favourite post-gym-snack stop. For those noncarnivores out there, there’s also a decent range of veggie-based offerings. Served in soft corn tortillas, meat tacos are super affordable at $3 each (four for $10.50), while the vegetarian ones will run you $2.50 each (four for $8.50). Olé!


      Juke Fried Chicken cooks up some damn good food, though it’s hard not to feel a tad conflicted as you take in the ’hood’s increasingly gentrified state.
      Juke Fried Chicken


      Best place to enjoy fried chicken while contemplating the effects of gentrification

      In just a few years, the 100 block of Keefer Street has changed from a hubbub of Chinese culture into a trendy strip of hipster hangs. Its latest addition? The suspiciously southern-inspired Juke Fried Chicken, though it’s hard not to feel a tad conflicted as you take in the ’hood’s artisanal-cocktail spots and fusion eateries from the base of yet another glass-and-concrete multistorey development. The place makes some damn good fried chicken, though.


      Best proof peak ramen doesn’t exist in this city

      While there have been some Japanese food trends that have come and gone (yoshoku, we barely knew ye), the ramen craze continues to mushroom across the city. Gojiro invaded downtown Vancouver in March with its monstrous, Godzilla-themed bowls. The cat-themed Natsumi Ramen staked out its territory on Commercial Drive. Several spots have opened up in Richmond, including G-Men, Sanpoutei, and Yah Ya Ya, which will open a second location in downtown Vancouver on Robson Street. The ever-popular Hokkaido Ramen Santouka will open a second location on Broadway near Cambie, where the Benkei and Menya ramen joints already are. Meanwhile, ground zero for local ramen, the Robson and Denman intersection, continues to draw new entries in addition to the eight that were already there. Toronto’s Touhenboku moved in. Taishoken (in Crosstown) opened up sister shop Men-no Kura. Koyuki Sapporo Ramen opened on Jervis Street in June. Will Vancouver be able to sustain so many ramen shops? So far, the packed premises of numerous locations say yes. But in the end, diners will be the real winners of this delicious cook-off.


      Best place to find good food when you’re only trying out furniture

      The energy one expends in multiple rounds of sofa-testing and mattress-trying can really take a toll on your body. You know that feeling when you start to get hungry and you really can’t do anything about it because you’re in a furniture store? Not when you’re at IKEA, home to plenty of mouth-watering eats for prices that don’t hurt the wallet. From its Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes to haddock and chips, and smoked-salmon salad to seasonal-berry cheesecake, some come to the furniture giant just for a bite. Tip: if you’re looking for a snack, try the shockingly affordable kid’s meals ($2.99) that range from meatballs to mac-and-cheese. It comes with chocolate milk or a juice box and even a complimentary frozen-yogurt cone from the bistro downstairs. Doesn’t get any better than that.


      Best reason to rise and shine

      The Pie Shoppe
      1875 Powell Street

      To read some of the comments online, the staff at the tiny Pie Shoppe occasionally take their cues from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. But who cares if the folks behind the counter are sometimes “a little impolite” or have “REALLY BAD MANNERS”? That’s actually a blessing, because it might mean “No pie for you!!!” and more for us. And what goddam sinfully delicious pie it is, whether you’re into taking your taste buds to bold new places (hello, salted honey and pear-ginger) or having your mind blown by lovingly hand-crafted classics (apple and pumpkin). The Pie Shoppe likes to go organic and local with its ingredients, and its various creations are finger-formed and baked onsite. Doors open at 11 and close either at 6 or—traumatizing—when the pies are all gone. So get up early. And watch the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld the night before you go—the last thing you need to happen at the Pie Shoppe is a lifetime ban, bad manners be damned.


      If Mister's liquid-nitrogen ice-cream is good enough for Adele, it's good enough for you.
      Tammy Kwan


      Best way to treat yo’self like a 10-time Grammy winner

      Just because you’re not a celebrated pop star with three critically acclaimed albums under your belt doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a little dessert like one. The next time you feel a sugar craving coming on, follow Adele’s lead and make your way to Mister, Yaletown’s smoky-liquid-nitrogen ice-cream joint. Opt for the double-Oreo despite the pleas of caution from your vocal coach, and later, share the experience with your thousands of adoring fans—or a small circle of friends. Whatever.


      Best place to take an Instagram photo of dessert with bad lighting

      South Granville’s Cheesecake Etc. is known for its dim lighting and jazz-club ambiance. The moody atmosphere, paired with hushed conversations, is cozy and inviting. Everything goes well until your cheesecake with strawberry sauce or chocolate cheesecake drizzled with caramel sauce and toasted pecans arrives. How the hell do you take a photo of this masterpiece in this kind of lighting without bothering your neighbours (i.e., using your iPhone’s flashlight to brighten the dish)? It wouldn’t hurt to get a bit more light than a flickering tea candle—no?


      Best place to go broke from buying pretty pastel-coloured French sweets

      Ever since the patisserie Ladurée opened up on Robson Street, sweets and confectionery fanatics have flocked there to wait in line and purchase its goodies. But at $3 per macaron, your wallet will feel a lot lighter than it did before you walked in. This is especially true if you intend to splurge on multiple macarons to fill that fancy-looking box you’ve had your eye on. You know what they say: it’s not about the price; it’s about the experience. If you ask us, that’s a lotta money to pay for a short-lived experience.


       Japadog serves up three scoops of ice cream in a deep-fried hot dog bun. 

      Best place for quirky hot-dog-based desserts

      Various locations

      Once the PNE comes and goes with its whacked-out food, ranging from deep-fried tequila to bacon-flavoured cotton candy, Japadog’s age ice takes the (ice cream) cake for strangest non–PNE dessert. Japadog serves up three scoops of ice cream in a deep-fried hot dog bun. With five flavours to choose from (strawberry, vanilla, mango, black sesame, and matcha), you’ve got plenty of frozen fun to taste. Don’t bother taking us out to the ballgame—just take us to Japadog.


      Best place to act classy for the afternoon

      What’s classier than having a cup of tea and some sweet and savoury snacks midday? Tucked away on a quiet little street in Kerrisdale, Rose House is your answer as to where to act classy (good practice before William and Kate arrive). As soon as you walk in, you’ll notice the abundance of rose stems and rose petals that follows the theme of its name. Sit back on one of its plush velvet– upholstered seats and sip from a cup of rose afternoon black tea. With your pinkies up while holding fine china, you’ll think this is the classiest you can get—but you’ll be wrong. When the finger food—like cucumber sandwiches, home-made scones, and mini pastries—arrive on a three-tier stand, that is the epitome of opulent snacking. It wouldn’t hurt to wear a fascinator or bow tie, you know, just to keep up with the theme.


      Most likely place to find locally sourced, artisanal, hand-crafted, liquid nitrogen–frozen, ice-fried, cold-brew, organic, vegan, non-gluten, dairy-free, craft-brew, poké-ramen–latte-flavoured ice cream served from a food truck

      Vancouver. (Portland is a runnerup.)