Strip away all the trappings, like fancy (or any) servers, detailed wine lists and St. Marie-designed interiors, and you have the casual restaurant. Either the food is good, or the restaurant empty. It's always a hotly-contested category in our Restaurant Awards, and one the judges love to go deep on.

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1. Downlow Chicken Shack 

The grub here is so insanely tasty that we doubt the place has ever been open and not busy. Vancouverites line up for a tour de force of fried chicken: and while Nashville hot is the house specialty, a recent detour into jerk sandwich gave one of the judges a moment of stunned reverie with its pure flavour.

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2. HK BBQ Master (awesomely, no website)

This Richmond legend essentially invented the idea of lining up for the cheap and cheerful in town and, thanks to Seth Rogen and David Chang (who popped by the restaurant on the Netflix series Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner), the Richmond temple to BBQ duck and pork has ascended to new levels of busy that we’ve yet to develop words for. But still very much worth it.

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3. Chancho Tortilleria 

They may now be in new nicer digs, but they have not lost the soul of what is also our best Latin spot: steel tray, fresh housemade tortillas, perfectly slow-roasted pork. Lord, it’s good. Moved the needle majorly in the city when it comes to tortillas.

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4Fat Mao 

Angus An's tiny Chinatown spot has a very dedicated cult following, but we've often wonder why it's not subject to greater love? It's the type of spot whose mix of authenticity, warmth and value would make it a guaranteed line-up generator in almost any other city. Ah well: give thanks that you often can just walk in to this winner.

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5. Downlow Burgers

Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann bookend the category with this ode to the smashburger with a rotating bevy of innovations and collabs. The location in the American is the perfect casual, yet dialed-in spot with serious natty wine options to help cut through the goodness of these... handhelds. And the onion rings...wow.