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A very delicious to-do list.
Here’s a New Year’s resolution we can all get behind: chowing down on amazing local food at every opportunity we can get. From delicately seared salmon to kimchi double cheeseburgers, outside-the-box charcuterie to the best bottled, jarred and frozen goods, this is your guide to eating the city in 2024. May the odds be ever in your flavour.
The bad news: by the time you read this, Mount Pleasant staple Brassneck may have moved on to a different variety of changeling (essentially a dark sour beer aged in wine or whisky barrels). That would be a shame, as the Muscat Changeling ($6.75 for 12 oz) is a truly wonderful blend of fruit, vanilla and oak that the team has been saving in barrels for about a year. The good news? Any of the rotating changelings are absolute must-drinks.
The challenge of eating Ophelia’s taco de carnitas ($5.50 each at happy hour) is part of the fun—the corn tortilla is loaded up with pork confit, plus fresh cilantro and chili de árbol salsa. A squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of pickled onions later and you’re off to the races (just know your plate will likely be a casualty in the delicious chaos).
Tawnshi is changing the board game (get it?) with their modern Indigenous charcuterie boxes (from $55). Trade out your standard cheese and crackers for soft bannock, salty smoked salmon and sweet cedar jelly, plus more adventurous eats to share—ever had a pickled milkweed pod?
Anyone who thinks avo toast is overrated hasn’t tried a superior slice from the Preservatory Provisions and Toast Bar (toasts range from $5 to $14). Choose your own (bread) adventure from fresh loaves including house sourdough, brioche and sprouted rye, then pick from set menu combos like ricotta with raspberry merlot and peppercorn preserves, salmon lox with salted lemon and nori preserves or prosciutto and burrata with figs and walnut wine preserves.
You could norm it up and serve your caesars with a celery stalk or an asparagus spear—or you could wow your brunch guests with New York-style Hobbs horseradish pickles ($10). Don’t forget a splash of brine in the drink itself, too. Not into the heat? Hobbs’s Granville Island tasting bar is also an excellent place to learn whether you’re a full-sour, half-sour or kosher-dill kind of person. (Fun fact: When Harry Styles visited Vancouver in November, he was spotted eating pickles at Hobbs… it’s a sign of the brines.)
Street Hawker has only been around since the spring of 2023, but the counter-service burger joint has already made its mark on Main Street: the indulgent menu puts a Southeast Asian spin on the grill. The kimchi burger ($15.45) is a beast constructed from a pair of Two Rivers beef patties, American cheese, bacon and everyone’s favourite fermented Korean veggies.
It’s an Old Fashioned with a pretty and purple twist. Maxine’s Late Harvest cocktail ($18) starts with high-proof Wild Turkey 101—so it’ll quickly warm you up on a chilly winter night—and then made bright, lively and just a little earthy thanks to housemade beet shrub. With a dash or two of Fee’s celery and black walnut bitters, plus a twist of orange peel, this is the drink you want to both start and end the night with.
A runny fried egg, melty havarti, candied jalapeño and sweet tomato relish—other than choosing between maple sausage or a generous cut of bacon, the only decision you’ll need to make when it comes to Crack On’s Crack sandwich ($15) is what surface to take that post-sammy nap on.
*Chef’s Pick: “The tajarin with aged butter and quantum beef seasoning ($30) from Elephant is brilliant. It may seem like a simple plate of noodles with butter, but the complexity is hidden in the technique. The pasta dough is very rich with egg yolk, and the chef spends extra time drying the sheets until they almost look like leather. Then, they skillfully cut them into thin noodles, blanch them and finish the cooking in this umami bomb of aged butter sauce with a beef seasoning that has the same quality as a good fish sauce. Absolutely delicious.”—J-C Poirier, chef/owner of St. Lawrence
With its lighter and brighter West Coast spin on the dish that made Julia Child fall for French cuisine, Collective Goods’ salmon meunière ($20) is prepared so that every ingredient sings. Organic king salmon is just barely seared and topped with fried caperberries, lemon caper vinaigrette and candied black pepper lemon—a combo that has you wanting to bite into each perfectly prepared ingredient on its own, and then together, and then on its own… you get the picture.
We love instant ramen in all forms, but none quite nail the texture, taste and quality of a fresh bowl—except, that is, for Franklin Food Lab’s frozen spicy tonkotsu miso ramen ($15). There’s barely any prep involved (you don’t even have to add water), and the resulting soup is as good as it gets: thick, chewy noodles, big slices of pork chashu and bright corn and green onions.
There’s comfort food, then there’s recipes from grandma—or, in this case, Anh and Chi founders Vincent and Amélie Nguyen’s grandma. Giant chunks of crab soufflé and hefty slices of tomato make up the bulk of the bún riêu cua ($28, also known as Grandma’s crab tomato noodle soup), but it’s also packed with fried tofu and vermicelli noodles… after all, Grandma wouldn’t let you go hungry.
The best cocktails are all things to all people: sweet but not too sweet; boozy, but not so high-proof it knocks you off your barstool. Please Beverage Co.’s Mango Sticky Rice bottled cocktail ($5)—a heavenly, carbonated vodka-based concoction of mango, coconut, lime and pandan—adds one more impossible expectation to the list: it should taste like your dream vacation.
You’ll find a trifecta of duck in the arroz con pato ($65) from Vanmag’s 2023 Best New Restaurant award winner Suyo: there’s the slender slices of tender duck breast alongside confit duck leg, plus a duck egg with a picture-perfect jammy yolk. (That counts, right?) A bed of vibrant green cilantro-beer rice makes the perfect nest.
We challenge you to find a dish that wouldn’t be improved with a drizzle of Nuba’s famous Toum garlic sauce ($15). Dip it, spread it, squeeze it, and you’ve just given your meal a wallop of Lebanese flavour. Gorgeously garlicky but bright and lemony, too, this sauce left one usually eloquent editor struggling to articulate their feelings: “It’s just… so, so good.”
Is it hot in here, or is it just Sriracha Revolver’s cilantro and lime sriracha (from $9)? It’s the green sauce to end all green sauces: refreshing, herb-y and, yes, pretty damn spicy. We use it to dress up eggs, chicken and soups—but the dish is dealer’s choice; it’s all good.
*Chef’s Pick: “The Morning Set ($16.95) at Yama Café—baked salmon or mackerel, pickles, veggie sides, onsen tamago rice and miso—is classic and comforting. I probably go twice a week for it! This dish is super reasonably priced and really filling. The restaurant is family owned, and you can often spot their two young sons running around. Yama-san has been a chef at many Japanese spots around the city and his classical training/technique is so underrated.”—Miki Ellis, co-owner of Elephant, Dachi and Hanai
Chef Michael Robbins’s menu at AnnaLena changes every month or so (that’s part of the innovation that earned him Chef of the Year at our 2023 Restaurant Awards), but one item persists: the torn bread (available as part of the tasting menu, $112). The hefty, buttery, perfectly toasted bread usually sits in a savoury, comforting broth—this restaurant may serve elevated fare, but double-dipping is still encouraged.
Forget about the latest scandalous celebrity couple. Let’s talk about the hottest pair of all: fruit and cheese. Just Another’s guava and goat cheese turnover—the pastelillo de guyaba ($5.50)—is packed with a savoury-sweet combo and wrapped in a beautiful buttery crust. The ideal triangular treat.
Childhood called in with an upgrade: no toaster strudel compares to the Pie Hole’s sour cherry pop tart ($5.50). This pastry’s flaky goodness, jam-packed berry freshness and pop-art pink icing practically screams nostalgia. Breakfast? Dessert? Mid-life crisis snack? All of the above.
Beta 5 opens at 10 a.m., something everyone seems to know—a line weaves down the parking lot long before opening. If that’s not enough to convince you that their cream puffs are next level, then the salted caramel cream puff
($9) should seal the deal. It’s stunning inside (hello, salted caramel Chantilly cream) and out (it’s topped with caramel mousse, salted caramel sauce and a touch of flaky sea salt).
If you’ve never had Lebanese ice cream, this is your sign to try it—and if your palate has been graced by the creamy, elastic-y, wildly fresh treat, this is your sign to do it all over again. The folks at Le Parfait don’t limit how many flavours of ice cream (from $6) you get, so we recommend packing your cone with pistachio, rosewater and ashta scoops.
*Chef’s Pick: “The cereal milk cream doughnut ($5.50) from Mello is one of the best ones that I’ve tasted. It’s nice and fluffy, and there’s a bit of chewy texture to the dough, almost like mochi. The custard is not overly sweet and it’s very refreshing. The cornflakes add a crunchy, crispy texture on top of it all.”—Steve Kuan, chef/owner of Torafuku
*Chef’s Pick: “I think Timbertrain Coffee Roasters is a hidden gem with really great practices. The level to which they roast and prepare is fantastic; they really care and it shows in their final product. I love a good cappuccino ($4.75) on a quiet weekday afternoon for a quick escape. Hats off to Timbertrain.”
—Paul Grunberg, owner of Banda Volpi Hospitality