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Forget all you thought you knew about eating in Lower Lonsdale. The burgeoning burg is fast becoming a destination dining spot.
The suburbs get a bad rap for being sleepy and for missing the boat (or, in this case, the SeaBus) on new and exciting restaurants. But LoLo has been slowly getting a facelift in the last few years, and as the young ’uns start flocking across the Lions Gate to escape rising rents, they’re bringing a dash of dining expectations with them. But does LoLo rise to the challenge?
OLD BUT STILL KICKING
The District Brasserie
The main strip beneath Esplanade and before the quay is quintessential LoLo dining, and there hasn’t been anything new on that block for years. However, owner and certified Red Seal chef Paul Mon-Kau’s neighbourhood favourite The District Brasserie (13 Lonsdale Ave.) the European gastro-pub meets West Coast, is still hopping. Refined yet casual pub grub and local beers on tap mean it still draws a crowd on a Thursday night.
Another option for casual food is an outpost of Main Street stalwart Burgoo (3 Lonsdale Ave.) next door. It’s the only one of their locations to feature live music, so check out the website for a list of performances that range in style from Latin jazz to soft pop. And we’re loving the queso fundido.
Gusto di Quattro
On the same block, you have the illustrious Gusto di Quattro (1 Lonsdale Ave.), which has been part of the neighbourhood since 2000. The rustic Italian menu, inspired by local legend Antonio Corsi, offsets the potential snootiness of a white-linen fine dining experience—the result being a higher price tag without high levels of pretension.
NOTHING FISHY HERE
Seafood is front and centre when you’re this close to the water, and Fishworks (91 Lonsdale Ave.) has been the go-to seafood scene for eight-plus years. Owner and chef Shallaw Kadir keeps things solidly West Coast while throwing in curveballs like halibut poutine—the only thing missing is a view. And that can be found at Pier 7 (25 Wallace Mews Rd.), perhaps the best year-round patio in town. Pier 7 is best visited on Thursdays, when the team puts on a messy, wonderful seafood boil for those who like to get deeply interactive with their dinner.
Urban-hipster-hippies, this way. The North Shore mountains are perfect for crunchy granola, so it only makes sense that Buddha-Full’s (106 W 1st St.) two locations are both in North Van. LoLo doesn’t get the same indoor swing set treatment as the Northwoods location, but the smoothies are excellent and this eatery is all vegan, all the time, making it perfect for a plant-based snack post-Grouse Grind. If vegan isn’t your scene, close by is the Instagrammable Lift Breakfast Bakery (101 Lonsdale Ave.), a solid spot to hang out for the morning with affordable breakfast sandwiches (spinach, tomato, Boursin for $5.95) and sought-after baked-in-house bread (try the milk loaf for $5.95). If you can’t get into Lift, try the more low-key Table 153 (228 Lonsdale Ave.), a new split-level (so North Van!) place still suffering a few teething issues (work on the hollandaise, gang) but able to triumph with classics like a giant club sandwich.
Finch and Barley
We may be straying a little, but Finch and Barley (250 E 1st St.) is a new off-the-beaten-track spot, tucked between industrial buildings and a sex shop, that combines live music and stand-up with a good Scotch and brandy list, all backstopped by a predictable menu that’s heavy on flatbreads and burgers but shines when it strays to dishes like chickpea coconut curry. And they sell the tastes-like-summer Casal Garcia Vinho Verde for $26 a bottle. We’ll have three.