Eat the City: Your A to Z Guide to the Best Bites in Vancouver

The essential dishes, chefs and hidden gems that make Vancouver an eater's dream.

The essential dishes, chefs and hidden gems that make Vancouver an eater’s dream.

A is for affogato, the most basic and awesome of Italian desserts, perfectly updated with Rain or Shine ice cream and Herkimer espresso at Kafka’s on Main Street. B is for burgers. These are the three best in town right now:

  1. The classic cheese at Monarch Burger ($12)
  2. The bison burger with the house-made works at Timber ($18)
  3. The elegant cheddar, bacon and aioli with crispy onions at the Holt Renfrew café ($19)

C is for collectives, the way the thinking YVR carnivore buys meat., backed by Trevor Bird (Fable), works with farmers who raise their livestock (beef, pork, lamb, chicken) ethically without the use of antibiotics and hormones, then delivers direct to the consumer. You buy a portion of an animal and it comes only when enough like-minded sorts have done the same, for a zero-waste process. D is for the diplomat cake, a stalwart multi-layer batch of buttercream and puff pastry from Notte’s Bon Ton, the city’s oldest bakery. E is for experimental, the key word for David Wolowidnyk’s cocktail lab at the new Botanist in  the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Island gin, sea buckthorn, blue algae, driftwood—holy heck, the master is back in a big way. F is for Filipino, a delicious confluence of Spanish, Chinese, Malay, Western and Indigenous influences that’s Vancouver’s next hot culinary ticket. Bao Down is your easy-access gateway, featuring steamed buns and tacos laden with Filipino ingredients; Pinpin and Kumare both bring the feasting in traditional family style. Choice eats: crispy pata and sizzling sisig for pork lovers, bistek Tagalog—marinated with soy and calamansi—for beef lovers, and chicken inasal. Little Ongpin serves, arguably, the Lower Mainland’s best halo halo (shaved ice and condensed milk), and newcomer Flipside Desserts ups the sweet quotient with uniquely Filipino flavours. Pro tip: hit up Aling Mary for pandesal. If you time it just right, these Filipino rolls will be fresh out of the oven, warm and fluffy with just a hint of sweetness.—Joie Alvaro KentG is for grilled cheese. You’ve probably been eating it since before you could say “provolone”—but these days, melted cheddar on multigrain bread just doesn’t cut it. Here’s what happened when we asked three expert judges to find the best grilled cheese sandwich in the city. READ MORE ▸▸▸H is for hot sauce like the made-in-Vancouver Sriracha Revolver (cilantro lime) and the Hot Beet from rocker Jonny Hetherington (of the Art of Dying).I is for intimate. As in you and the seven other diners who will be joining you at No. 1 Gaoler’s Mews, Vancouver’s entry into the dinner-as-theatre concept. L’Abattoir’s chef Lee Cooper, sous-chef Jack Chen and sommelier Lisa Haley wind you through an interactive multi-course meal and wine pairings that at $275 seem ambitious for our low-key town—save for the fact that each of the monthly dinners has sold out within minutes of being announced. Fine dining is back, baby. J is for the joint effort between Long Table Distillery and Deep Cove Brewers, whereby the latter would lose their licence if they sold a spirit that used non-B.C. pears (these were from Oregon) and the former said, “Um, I’ll take it.” The result is a splendid pear brandy (that’s killer in a Sidecar) that went on to win Best of the Northwest at BC Distilled.K is for kushikatsu, the battered-and-fried Osaka drinking snack that somehow made its way to 10th Avenue. Order up your skewers of choice (octopus, lotus root, et al.) at the hopping Rajio and pair liberally with beer. L is for La Croix—the weirdly addictive Wisconsin-produced sparkling water that’s pronounced La-Croy and is finally on shelves at London Drugs and Whole Foods.M is for Molli Café, the tiny modern Mexican marvel at Burrard and Davie that every Saturday serves up a $5.75 bowl of lamb consommé that is the very definition of goodness.N is for natural wine, the love-it-or-hate-it trend that nonetheless influences every wine list in town. To dive right in, hit Grapes and Soda or Burdock and Co., or, if you want a bottle for home, go for the Haywire Free Form from Okanagan Crush Pad.O is for Orto, the North Van fresh pasta spot Brigitte Raye and son Steeve have just opened after leaving West Van’s acclaimed Café Ça Va. The North Shore’s Ask for Luigi? P is for the $1 pepperoni stick (get the hot) at Pete’s Meat: the city’s best deal at the city’s best butcher.Q is for the crustless Persian quiche—or kou kou sabzi—from Davie Street’s tiny European Delicatessan. It’s green with fresh produce—cilantro, parsley, green onion, spinach—and filled with feta. And if you leave the deli without a container of the world’s best hummus—rich with olive oil, oh so creamy and just salty enough—well, you’re lesser for it. 1220 Davie St. R is for rice pudding. It’s the old-school “treat” that’s been reinvigorated by JC Poirier’s simultaneously modern and classic take on the closing dish at St. LawrenceS is for staying power, because in a city that falls over itself to get into the newest rooms, you can still tuck into a stack of the most amazing cheese toast at Hy’s (opened in 1962), a $4.95 bowl of soy chicken on rice at Hon’s Wun Tun House (1972) or an elegant lobster salad from Bishop’s (1985).T is for takeout, which, in Vancouver, means sushi, and our current fave is Goma, the minuscule dinner-only, no-seating and closed-on-Saturday-and-Sunday spot on a sorry stretch of Oak Street that’s killing it with such oddities as the olive tuna roll with balsamic for a paltry $4.80. U is for underground Chinese food and the secret society of Vancouver-based Chinese chefs who will make you an authentic home-cooked meal…if you know where to find them. READ MORE ▸▸▸V is for VIPs, and judging by this year’s roster (Bono for his birthday, George Lucas and the prime minister of Italy), if you’re interested in spotting them, then buck up and head to Cioppino’s.W is for Winnipeg, the home of mad genius chef Mandel Hitzer, proprietor of Deer and Almond and founder of the Raw pop-up dinners that attract the country’s greatest chefs to a tent at the frozen confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers every winter. Hitzer is coming to town on November 9 as part of Eat Vancouver to cook with Raw: Almond alum Makoto Ono at Mak N Ming. For tickets, go to is for Superflux (if spelled backwards), the peripatetic brewer—they own no facilities—whose freakin’-impossible-to-source IPA has become the Pappy Van Winkle of the craft beer scene in town, sending the beer nerds scurrying whenever a sighting is reported.Y is for YNJ, the call sign for the tiny Langley airport that just happens to be the new home for what was once Chilliwack’s “I Fly for Pie” coffee shop. Old. School. Pie.Z is for Zachary Zimmerman, the former garbageman whose $10.50 meatball hoagie at his Say Hey Café on Pender may be the city’s greatest sandwich.