For the past few years this category has been a two-operation race, with the twin powerhouses of Cactus and Joey going toe-to-toe for not only regional, but national dominance. It's also a category where the quality—and competition—seems to rise every year. Here are the results from our last Restaurant Awards.

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1. Cactus Club Cafe 

The judges continue to marvel at Cactus’s ongoing ability to create a memorable dining experience—be it watching the seaplanes land while tackling a tuna stack at Coal Harbour or a crispy tofu bowl in Nanaimo. The service (thanks to Sebastien Le Goff) and food (Rob Feenie and team) work seamlessly together, and everyone seems to be having the best time.

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2. Joey

Joey should take solace knowing that second place in Vancouver is essentially second place in North America for upscale casual, but one gets the impression the company is too busy dominating new markets—North Van’s Joey Shipyards being the latest example —to have much time for handwringing. The Blur to CC's Oasis?

READ MORE: The Best Japanese Restaurants in Vancouver

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3. Tacofino

It's easy to forget what a wasteland our city was for decent Mexican food in the not-too-distant past. And then like a gift from the the horizon came a saviour from Tofino, and now we have a cool half dozen (plus trucks!) to keep us going.

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4. Earls

The OG: if not for Earls, this category might not exist. Such was the vision of Bus Fuller who essentially perfected upscale-casual and set his offspring and acolytes throughout the continent to spread the gospel of potato skins.

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 5. Nook

Nook has quietly risen to four locations, with a minimum of hoopla but plenty of community engagement. Of all the "chains," it's the one with its formula of rustic pizza and house-made pasta that feels the most like a neighbourhood joint.