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Fast food needn’t be a dirty phrase. Some of our city’s finest rooms offer their signature plates—built with locally sourced, sustainable, high-quality ingredients—conveniently wrapped and packaged to go. Of course, there’s nothing quite like a sloppy, greasy, smoky, salty burger-and-fries combo—as long as the restaurant nails it. Here are a couple dozen of our favourite portable edibles, from cheap and cheerful to prim and proper— as well as some of the best picnic spots to sit down and devour them.
Provence Marinaside1177 Marinaside Cres., 604-681-4144. Provencevancouver.com $$$ 90 seats inside, 60 seats on patio; Mon-Thurs 8 am-10:30 pm, Fri 8 am-11 pm, Sat 9 am-11 pm, Sun 9 am-10:30 pm You can do this the hard way or the easy way. Mix-and-match French Med antipasti, sandwiches, and pastas like roasted-eggplant farro salad, grilled chicken on baguette with tomato aioli, and wild-mushroom ravioli. Or let chef-owners Jean-Francis and Alessandra Quaglia pack up their English Bay picnic for two (antipasti, dessert, fruit, baguette, drink; $35) in a returnable wicker basket with cutlery, plates, and glasses. Note: if you need more dessert, may we suggest a whole clafoutis? Throw Charlotte Gainsbourg on the iPod, and find your own lookout on the Seawall out front.
Fresh Bowl 1128 Pacific Blvd., 604-688-8565 $ Daily 4-9 pm 12 seats inside, 8 outside; Mon-Fri 11 am-10 pm, weekends noon-9 pm Owner Tommy Ng has simplified his old Malaysian resto Jonker Street into this bright, airy café. The eponymous bowls start with a foundation of rice or noodles, then get interesting with curries and proteins. Jonker’s beloved nasi jambori trio is still here, now called Jambori Trio for its combo of chicken curry, beef rendang, and prawn sambal. Don’t try to beat the summer heat; join it with chili spice and, for a break, calamansi lime-jolted iced tea.
Miura Waffle Milk Bar 829 Davie St., 604-687-2909 $ 16 seats; Mon-Thurs 9 am-6 pm, Fri 9 am-7 pm, Sat-Sun noon-6 pm Back in 14th-century England, Wikipedia tells us, waffles were sold by street vendors called waferers. We humbly suggest that the return of these good folks is long overdue. Meanwhile, we’re more than making do with takeout from just-opened Miura in the old Café Agogo spot on Davie. Load up with waffles sweet (go for seasonal fruit—recently, we oohed over rhubarb-strawberry compote) or savory, though we’ve yet to work up the juice to order the bulgogi with beef, egg, and kimchi. Middle Ages Seoul food, ready to go. Travels well.
Salsa & Agave Mexican Grill 1223 Pacific Blvd., 604-408-4228 $ 24 seats; Tues-Sun 11 am-8:30 pm Before the siesta, after the siesta—hell, midway through siesta’s a fine time for a beef tongue taco. These tacos de lengua are all about flavour and texture. Tortillas and burritos are generously portioned, but you’ll want to go a little loco with numerous orders of soft, double-stacked tacos; they arrive with generous cilantro, onion, and adobo sauce, but green tomatillo sauce and ample guacamole bring the whole enchilada to life. Don’t be shy on spices, but hydrate frequently with juices like the rice/cinnamon water. The place is frequently packed with Mexican families, so takeout’s ideal.
WHERE TO PICNIC It ended badly for Gilligan, but yacht rental isn’t inherently foolish. On a budget? Granville Island Ferries will cross the creek for $4, but dream big. Depart Quayside Marina, just west of the Cambie Street Bridge, in a little electric run-around, for $75 an hour (Captain included). Advance reservations required, 604-684-7781.
Maenam 1938 W. Fourth Ave., 604-730-5579. Maenam.ca $$ 60 seats; Lunch Tues-Sat noon-2:30 pm Dinner daily 5-10:45 pm Late night 11 pm-1 am The hardest part about ordering takeout from this modern Thai gem is narrowing the options. Dinner offers an indulgent hot-and-sour soup for two made with rich Sloping Hills pork shoulder ($16) and stir-fried crispy beef ($17), both perfect to take away. Chef Angus An gambles (and succeeds) by putting steamed mussels with lemongrass ($8) in a takeout container, but the spot prawn satay ($15) is best enjoyed à la minute—the delicate texture doesn’t hold up over the long haul. Yes, the prices are steep for takeout, but the quality of ingredients and the deft hand that balances the heat, salt, and sweet in each dish make it worth the splurge.
Q4 2611 W. Fourth Ave., 604-734-4444. Q4restaurant.com $$ 85 seats; Mon-Thurs 5-10 pm, Fri-Sat 5-11 pm For $10 you can enjoy some of Kits’s best housemade pastas, minus the hassle of securing a reservation. Portions here are generous: go for a classic like Spaghetti Quattro, with its garlicky, black-bean-studded spice, or the fettuccine tartufate with chunks of wild mushrooms buttressed by toothy noodles dressed in a porcini cream sauce. Pick up a bargain Valpoicella at Kitsilano Wine Cellar just up the street and you’ve got dinner for two, for under $30.
Refuel 1944 W. Fourth Ave., 604-288-7905. Refuelrestaurant.com $$ 60 seats; Daily 11:30 am-10:30 pm An eco-friendly basket filled with chef Robert Belcham’s buttermilk-fried Polderside chicken (served cold) plus seasonal sides like watermelon, slaw, and potato salad makes for a dandy picnic. A hamper for one will run you $18; you get all the sides plus three pieces of chicken. The couple’s picnic is double the stuff for $35, while a Family Picnic will do four people (12 pieces) for $68. The chicken itself has a richness that starts at the crispy skin and follows through the meat. The basket comes with biodegradable cutlery, napkins, and one soda per person. As an added incentive Refuel will give a 10 percent off coupon to picnicgoers who return their garbage and recycling to the restaurant. Almost everything on the menu is available to go. Order ahead to avoid a wait.
Topanga Café 2904 W. Fourth Ave., 604-733-3713. Topangacafe.com $ 50 seats; Mon-Sat 11:30 am-10 pm Belly-busting burritos or chimichangas for $9.95. The beef brisket burrito is a delicious knife-and-fork-centric number slathered in a creamy avocado sauce. In a perfect world (or Europe or Japan or any number of other civilized locales) you’d be able to get cold Dos Equis to go as well.
WHERE TO PICNIC Skip the flesh-flashing tubs at Kits Beach and head a bit further west (the base of Trafalgar Street is a great spot) where you’ll find couples canoodling and golden doodles splashing by the shore. Presto: picnic heaven. WEST END
La Brasserie 1091 Davie St., 604-568-6499. Labrasserievancouver.com $$ 35 seats Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm dinner daily 5 pm-midnight Best takeout chicken in town? Let the Refuel debate begin. La Brasserie’s rotisserie bird comes with braised red cabbage, fries, and sits in a delish chicken jus ($14 for a quarter, $19 for a half). Take-away options at the cozy Franco-German room are limited to lunches, though; call 15 minutes ahead to arrange. Owner-brothers Michael and Stephen Wiese will happily pack up anything from their menu (except the mussels—they believe some things were meant to live brief, plated lives).
The European Deli 1220 Davie St., 604-688-3442 $ 8 seats; Daily 9:30 am-8:30 pm Go-to items at this Davie Street mainstay: made-to-order sandwiches on crackle-crust rye ($3.99) and tubs of housemade hummus ($3.50 for small) paired with fresh naan (89 cents each). While you’re there, load up with rare (and cheap) Euro biscuits for afters. And take any recommendations that Ata (the proprietor) shouts out from across the counter—the guy really knows his stuff.
Raincity Grill 1193 Denman St., 604-685-7337. Raincitygrill.com $ 60 inside, 40 outside (fish from the takeout window is for takeaway only) Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm Dinner daily 5-10 pm Ten bucks gets you the best fish ’n’ chips in town—fresh, light, delicately battered. A half-block from English Bay, the takeout window at Raincity offers just-caught halibut 90 percent of the time, with wild salmon and cod subbing as required. Packaging is as eco-friendly as it comes: bamboo cutlery that biodegrades, unbleached napkins, and recycled paper bags.
La Belle Patate 1215 Davie St., 604-569-1215 $ 30 seats; Sun-Thurs 11 am-11 pm, Fri-Sat 11-3 am At the crest of Davie Street, Pascal Cormier dishes up a boggling 26 varieties of poutine. Prices range from $5.50 for a regular-sized “Traditional” to $13.50 for a large “Meat Lovers” with beef, bacon, and pepperoni. The offerings suggest nighttime fare, but the shop’s most bizarre option is actually a Breakfast Poutine—with eggs, bacon, and onions blanketing the regular curds, gravy, and potatoes.
WHERE TO PICNIC From the embarrassment of prime picnic spots in the West End, try the south foot of Thurlow Street where, under the watchful gaze of Jaume Plensa’s lettered We statue, young lovers take in sunsets in relative solitude. GASTOWN
La Taqueria 322 W. Hastings St., 604-568-4406. Lataqueria.ca $ 15 seats; Mon-Wed 11-8:30 pm, Thurs-Sat 11 am-10 pm Weekday lunchtime, follow the line of suits snaking down Hastings into this hole-in-the-wall taqueria with the giant Virgin Mary on the storefront. You’ll be rewarded with a riot of flavours for under $10. Five-inch soft corn tortillas are loaded with toppings like braised beef tongue with salsa verde and lime, braised beef cheeks with chopped onion and cilantro, and pork marinated in achiote (a Mayan red spice) with fresh pineapple ($2.50 each or $9.50 for a plate of four; $7 for vegan and veggie options like sautéed wild mushrooms with chipotle). Wash it down with a Jarritos soft drink, its tamarind tang the perfect counterpoint to the rich meat and house-made hot sauces.
Dirty Apron Cook Shop 540 Beatty St., 604-879-8588. Dirtyapron.com $$$$ daily 10 am-6 pm Impress a date without the time-consuming shopping or cumbersome prep work. The cooking school’s gourmet packs include all the ingredients (portioned cuts of protein, garnishes, herbs, and spices) and recipes needed to create a three-course meal. Phone the school 24 hours ahead, pick up between 4 and 6 p.m., and have the meal on the table whenever you damn well please. At $65 per person it’s on par with a good restaurant meal, but the intimacy of preparing a gourmet meal at home? Priceless.
Acme Café 51 W. Hastings St., 604-569-1022. Acmecafe.ca $$ 42 seats; Mon-Sat 8 am-9 pm, Sun 10 am-9 pm Gastown is becoming a hub for comfort-food joints (shout-outs to Deacon’s Corner and the new Everything Café for haute diner staples), but a gold star to Acme for putting the full menu online: simply place your order, pay via credit card, walk in minutes later, and pick up your provender. We very much approve of the highfalutin’ grilled cheese with cheddar, swiss, brie, and Grand Marnier-cranberry relish on ciabatta, but the ultimate takeout extravagance here are the fresh whole pies (from $25), like lemon meringue, chocolate cream, and mixed berry, available with a day’s notice.
Two Chefs and a Table 305 Alexander St., 778-233-1303. Twochefsandatable.com $$ 30 seats; Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm Dinner daily 5-10 pm In-the-know architects, designers, and tech geeks call at 10 a.m. to order lunch from this happening Railtown nook. Choose from 14 menu items, including a daily special—$8 gets you a hefty portion of mac and cheese with a crisp green salad (or fries) and garlic toast, or go all out with the steak frites (certified Angus beef New York strip, beefsteak tomato salad, “haystack” frites, tarragon mayo) for $15. Pickup between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
WHERE TO PICNIC It’s unfortunate that such a lovely swath of portside green space bordering the Downtown Eastside is named Crab Park…but don’t let that deter you. Park yourself at water’s edge and watch the tugboats chug to and fro while river otters frolic on the docks. MOUNT PLEASANT & EAST VAN
Memphis Blues 1342 Commercial Dr., 604-215-2599 (and other locations). Memphisbluesbbq.com $$ 50 seats; Mon-Thurs 11 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-11 pm, Sun noon-10 pm Every item on the menu is available for takeout, and since all the meats are smoked (or otherwise cooked) throughout day, this is probably the most prompt service in the city. Meat is the reason you’re here; beef brisket—nicely caramelized on the surface, moist and tender in the middle—is a must ($15.95, including all the southern fixins) while the ribs ($15.95 for a half slab; it takes a mighty appetite to take on the full slab for $24.95) are finger-licking good. Value item of note is the Picnic Pack: four hungry folks will be sated for $55.95.
Las Tortas 3353 Cambie St., 604-569-1402. Lastortas.ca $ 10 seats; Daily 11:30 am-9 pm Siestas in Queen Elizabeth Park are made easy with a belly full of Mexican sandwiches. The full meal deal gets you the torta of the day with house-made chips and agua fresca for $9.95. The Mexican club (turkey, roasted pork, chorizo, and Monterey Jack) for $9.75 is seriously substantial while the pollo con mole poblano (cooked in a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce) for $8.95 is a great way to play chicken.
Café Nuba 146 E. Third Ave., 604-568-6727. Nuba.ca $ 30 seats; Mon-Sat 11:30 am-9:30 pm At the third location of Vancouver’s gem of Lebanese organic hipness, $7 gets you the Garden Falafel Pita, a two-handed wonder of sweet acidic red cabbage, creamy (not too nutty) hummus, and bitter greens. For $7.75, Najib’s Special is crispy browned cauliflower with lemon, hummus, and taboulleh. All takeout travels in biodegradable containers.
Argo Café 1836 Ontario St., 604-876-3620. Argocafe.ca $ 41 seats; Mon-Fri. 7 am-4 pm Local mechanics and scenesters alike praise the epic portions at this breakfast and lunch counter. Diner fare with Asian flair keeps this place popping with a specials board that may feature duck confit salad with papaya salsa or braised lamb shank, both for $10.50.
WHERE TO PICNIC Thread through the cobbled allées of Olympic Village, wondering what-ifs of False Creek living. Make like the locals: load up on drinks from Whole Foods, flip-flop down to Hinge Park, and enjoy False Creek views in blissful solitude.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries 510-2002 Park Royal South, West Van, 604-925-3483. Fiveguys.com $ 41 seats; daily 11 am-10 pm The runaway burger chain from Arlington, Virginia, which is expanding at warp speed and giving In-n-Out a run for their money, recently touched down at Park Royal. Why the fuss? The “Regular” burger features two thick, juicy, well-seasoned patties—the “Little” has one—plus “American” cheese and bacon for a nominal extra charge, and as many free toppings (all the usuals, plus grilled onions, mushrooms, jalapeños, H1 sauce, and many more) as you can cram into the signature bun, which manages to be soft but dense enough to bookend the mighty meat bomb. It ain’t Food Revolution-friendly, but it’s just the thing to fuel up for a bocci game at Ambleside.