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This East Van stretch is an undiscovered foodie gem.
The restaurants along Victoria Drive can be intimidating in their modesty. Absent are the slickly designed interiors with come-hither appeal, and the culinary choices can be overwhelming—if not downright confusing. Immigrant influences abound in this neighbourhood, deep in the heart of East Van, barely touched by the gentrification that has reached Fraser and Main streets. Menus along this compact strip—between East 32nd and 36th avenues—run the international gamut, from traditional German goulash to Myanmarese chicken biryani. It’s hard to know what to try first.
Deutsches Haus at the Vancouver Alpen Club (4875 Victoria Dr.) anchors the row at its north end. This long-standing institution has been serving up schnitzel, lager and its famous pork hock since 1935. The dining room in the gargantuan bunker-like building has plenty of wood and patterned carpet to lend it a vintage ski chalet feel, while the menu (printed in German and English) reads like a historical document for meat-and-potato lovers.
Farther south, a sunny pair of Mexican restaurants offer soul-warming cheap eats that transport you straight to Sayulita or Oaxaca. Adelitas (5178 Victoria Dr.) and El Caracol Cafe (5190 Victoria Dr.) look similar from the sidewalk, but the latter—on the block since 2000—distinguishes itself by serving Salvadoran and Honduran dishes such as pupusas and sopa de res, as well as $4.99 huevos rancheros. Adelitas is a tad newer but has earned legions of devoted diners who rave about the tacos al pastor and chile rellenos. How to choose between the spots? Pick the one with an available table.
Flavour-craving plant lovers flock to VanMag’s Bronze Award winner for best vegetarian, Chau Veggie Express (5052 Victoria Dr.) for bright, clean Vietnamese-inspired dishes like the Midnight Swim bowl, Golden Temple soup and Namaste rolls. Vegans and those in conflict with gluten can also revel in the abundance of green-lit items, including sinful desserts like caramelized banana cheesecake and coconut vanilla bean tapioca. The room, like the food, is light and cheerful, while the service is smooth and efficient. Beware of lineups at peak times.
A few doors south is Amay’s House (5076 Victoria Dr.), which describes its menu as Burmese and Asian, and includes samosas, curries and pad Thai. Among the specialties are the rich and spicy chicken biryani, fermented tea-leaf salad and coconut curry laksa. On the same side of the street is Kawa Sushi (5088 Victoria Dr.), a small, bright spot that prides itself on serving wild salmon and creative rolls. A little farther, at the corner of East 35th, are the steamy windows of Fatty Cow Seafood Hotpot (5108 Victoria Dr.). Don’t be intimidated by the secret-club ambiance and contradictory name. The place is often nominated for the city’s best hot pot, which is essentially the Chinese equivalent of fondue. Across Victoria Drive, on the west side of the street, is AA Plus Restaurant (5207 Victoria Dr.), which specializes in build-your-own noodle soups. On the corner, in a mini-mall facing a gas station, is Sandy La Chinese Restaurant (5257 Victoria Dr.), which is a late-night staple (open until 3 a.m., and they give you free congee if you spend $20), and, finally, in the middle of the block, is Kalvin’s Szechuen Restaurant (5225 Victoria Dr.), a long-time favourite that sees frequent lineups, so it’s better if you’re dining early. From Chinese hot pot to Mexican enchiladas, all within four blocks—it doesn’t get more Vancouver than that.