The Ultimate Guide to Eating on the East Side

Hungry on the East Side? Try one of these 21 restaurants, breweries and cocktail bars.

Hungry on the East Side? Try one of these 21 restaurants, breweries and cocktail bars.

Lower commercial rents have resulted in Vancouver’s east side becoming a food lover’s playground. From dark and cozy secret bars to modern and airy tasting rooms, East Van (have you got the T-shirt yet?) is now the place to dine out. But don’t expect to be able to book a table anywhere—today’s hippest rooms eschew reservations in favour of first-come-first-served buzz-building lines.

Fat Mao (Photo: Andrea Fernandez.) Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (Photo: Hubert Kang.)

The red-lamppost-lined streets of Chinatown have drastically changed in the last decade, transforming into a mecca for foodies. For starters, there’s Angus An’s  Fat Mao Noodles (217 E Georgia St.), where you have to try the hot and sour pork noodles, and  Bestie (105 E Pender St.), which specializes in sausage and beer (shut up and take our money). But if you want to spend a full evening taking in this ’hood, then hit Keefer Street. Meet your friends for a gin and tonic at  Juniper (185 Keefer St.)—but here the classic G&T gets a twist via rosemary-infused Death’s Door gin with Indian tonic. Then, step next door for dinner at  Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (163 Keefer St.), chef Joël Watanabe (VanMag’s Chef of the Year) and owner Tannis Ling’s flagship room, where you can tell the waiter to just keep the crispy pork belly coming.

Bestie (Photo: Wayne Webb.) The Keefer Bar

After your stomach is sufficiently lined, this block’s last stop is a classic:  the Keefer Bar (135 Keefer St.). You could sit inside and sample a house cocktail, but why not try the patio instead? The fireplace is good, and the noise level is better for conversation (are we getting old?).

As you make your way south on Main, head to  the Union (219 Union St.) for some Korean gochujang with chicken wings, then pop ’round the corner to try out food truck Le Tigre’s bricks-and-mortar  Torafuku (958 Main St.), where pan-Asian experiments are served up in an ultra-minimalist room. Look for the unmarked green door and stop in at  Campagnolo Upstairs (above Campagnolo Restaurant, 1020 Main St.) for a palate-cleansing (and beautifully crafted) aperitif like the tart Pegu Club.

READ MOREThe Ultimate Guide to Eating on the West Side

Juniper (Photo: KK Law.)

The east side is home to some of the best breweries in Vancouver, so why not take a tour around the dozen or so within a few blocks of each other? New player  Faculty Brewing Co. (1830 Ontario St.) has a quaint charm to its tiny room and yeasty smells that will draw you in right off the street. Walk over to  Red Truck Beer Company (295 E 1st Ave.) for its impressive decor, merch stand and pleasant-tasting flights to match.  R&B Brewing Co. (1–54 E 4th Ave.)—grab a pizza while you’re there—is en route to both  Brassneck (2148 Main St.) and  Main Street Brewing (261 E 7th Ave.), so the beer crawl can march on with ease.

Polynesian-themed cocktails await at the dark, bamboo-laden  Shameful Tiki Room (4362 Main St.)—yes, we’re still on Main Street. Order the mystery bowl, but don’t lean too close to this flaming super-sized cocktail. Then head over to vegetable-forward restaurant  the Acorn (3995 Main St.) for the divine beer-battered haloumi dish that has even carnivores joining the queue.

Slickity Jim’s (Photo: Victoria Black.) Savio Volpe

For lunch, try the thrift store-chic  Slickity Jim’s (3475 Main St.) for a soup and sandwich combo or  Don’t Argue! Pizzeria (3240 Main St.) for a spicy margherita. For some serious Italian cuisine, head southeast to where up-and-coming Fraser Street meets Kingsway and 15th Avenue (this cool hipster triangle is known simply as “Fraserhood”) and see if you can get into the always-busy  Savio Volpe (615 Kingsway) for fresh pasta and the best roast chicken you’ve ever had.

La Mezcaleria (Photo: Clinton Hussey.)

Over on Commercial Drive, order the molten-cheese queso fundido from  La Mezcaleria (1622 Commercial Dr.), because any restaurant that puts hot cheese on its happy hour menu is our kind of place. Come Sunday morning, make your way to Hastings-Sunrise and brave the lineup at  the Red Wagon Cafe (2296 E Hastings St.) for pulled-pork pancakes and breakfast banh mi, or save your appetite for lunch: albacore tuna tacos (perhaps paired with a $7 El Cesar?) at  Tacofino Commissary (2327 E Hastings St.)

The East Side (click map to enlarge):