Dos and Don'ts for Foodies and Drinkies Visiting Vancouver

How to Eat and Drink in Vancouver

These Vancouver food and drink tips will help first-time-in-Vancouver foodies and "drinkies" figure out what, where, and how to best indulge in all the cities tastiest treats.

Sai Woo restaurant's funky interior in Vancouver's Chinatown.
Poke your head into random restaurants when wandering Vancouver's dining districts and you may stumble upon funky things like Sai Woo's indoor trees.

Do Go to different dining districts

Resist the urge to research and reserve every Vancouver restaurant you dine at in advance. Some of our favorite restaurants like Ask for Luigi and La Mezcaleria limit reservations anyway.

Instead, "risk" heading to one these Vancouver's dining districts and following your nose (or taste buds):

  • Alexandra Road: An easy SkyTrain ride south to Vancouver’s southern suburb of Richmond. You’ll be overwhelmed by the 200+ mostly Asian restaurant options.
  • Main Street: Hipster mile. Tons of vegetarian and vegan options and casual spots to “nosh,” or whatever they say these days.
  • Commercial Drive: It's got options from all corners of the globe.
  • Gastown: Definitely the most popular area of the city for a dinner out, with tons of reasons why.
  • Yaletown: Where the yuppies go to pre-game and spend more than they should.
  • West Robson: Japanese and Korean row. Tons of ramen spots with ever-present lines.
  • West 4th Ave: The birthplace of Lululemon, with plenty of spots that cater to Lululemon-types. Go to Maenam for Thai food.

Further below, we share our free Vancouver Treasure Map, which includes our favorite restaurants in each dining district and other top spots in the city.

A couple of beers from Andina Brewery in Vancouver.
Andina Brewing is one of many microbreweries in the Powell Street brewery district.

Do go to Vancouver's brewery districts also

Just like our Pacific Northwest neighbors in Portland and Seattle, Vancouverites are passionate about our beer.

If you are too, you'll be happy to know that most of the city's microbreweries are in two conveniently beer-crawl-able brewery districts:

  1. On and around Main Street between 1st and 7th.
  2. Along Powell Street between Clark and Victoria.

Our Vancouver travel guide provides a save-able Google map of them.

Close up of rice burgers and kimchi poutine from Rice Burger.
Cultural hybrids like rice burgers and kimchi "poutine" from Rice Burger may one day become "Canadian foods."

✗  Don't get your hopes up about "Canadian" food

There isn’t such a thing as “Canadian cuisine,” especially in Vancouver. Reflecting Vancouver's immigrant population, the city's food is just a hodgepodge of cuisines from around the world.

Nevertheless, there are some foods here in Vancouver that you’ll have a tough time finding outside of Canada. Among them are Nanaimo bars, Caesars, poutine, and Aboriginal cuisine, which our must-do in Vancouver post explains in more detail.

People eating at Kingyo restaurant in Vancouver.
You may or may not feel as if you're in Hong Kong. Trust us, it's a good thing.

Do expect to explore Can-Asian cuisine

Many visitors tell us that when they got off their plane in Vancouver's airport they saw so much Asian-ness that they briefly worried they'd landed in the wrong continent.

They're not that crazy for thinking so.

After all, Vancouver is the world's most Asian city outside of Asia, with forty-seven percent of its population coming from Asian descent.

This Asian-ness is a huge part of our culture, so plan to explore it (especially the food) as part of your trip.

Chicken karaage from Kingyo
Kingyo's chicken karaage is one of Kim's all-time faves.

✗  Don't just get sushi or ramen when you go for Japanese

For some reason, everyone who comes to Vancouver thinks they need to eat sushi or ramen.

Go ahead because it's delicious and affordable. But we recommend trying other Japanese food, too, such as okonomiyaki from Kuma, or an authentic tuna tataki bowl and mochi desserts from Yama Cafe.

Kingyo, in particular, is Kim's favorite. She's a half-Japanese food fanatic so you can trust she knows what she's talking about.

Sunset at Vancouver's Sunset Beach
Who needs restaurants when you can get take-out and enjoy a sunset picnic like this?

Do consider a sunset picnic

If you're fortunate enough to visit in Vancouver over the summertime, pretty much the best food experience you can have is a sunset picnic.

Aptly named Sunset Beach is a picnic pick. So are English Bay and Kits Beach.

For recommendations on what to food to eat on your picnic, read our post on Only in Vancouver Dining Experiences and use our run-down of all of Vancouver's beaches to pick your picnic spot.

Keep your Deep Cove beers under deep cover when drinking them in public or you'll be in deep sh*t.

✗ Don't drink alcohol in public (…overtly)

The fine for drinking in public is hefty, $200+.

We do it anyways when we go for picnics on Sunset Beach, but we're discrete. We pour the booze into cups or water bottles and hide the empties.

✗  Don't forget to bring ID

No matter how old you are, if you want to buy alcohol you'll need to be able to show a piece of picture ID and another with your name on it (like a credit card).

Everyone checks. Without ID, you're outta luck.

Happy Hour-less cocktail from AnnaLena
A delicious (but pricey) whiskey sour at Kitsilano's Anna Lena

✗  Don't waste time looking for amazing happy hour deals

Happy Hour is not that happy in Vancouver because there is a legal minimum price on alcoholic drinks—$5 per 20 oz. beer, $15 per 60 oz. jug, $3 per oz of liquor.

Don't forget to add 15% taxes and 15%+ tip on top of those prices, too.

✗  Don't look to buy alcohol at corner stores and supermarkets

You can only buy it in either government BC Liquor stores (cheaper) or designated cold beer and wine stores (more expensive).

Wildflowers and stream
Vancouver's tap water is deliciously drinkable so save your money and the environment.

Do drink the tap water

Our water is potable and is clean and delicious because it comes from up high in the beautiful mountains that help make Vancouver one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Drink it and don't be sucked into getting one of those We ♥ Van water bottles. To Vancouverites, those don't say you "♥ Van." They say you're too lazy or unconscientious to fill up your own bottle from the tap.

Wild foraged berries picked near Vancouver
Freshly picked wild berries from behind Kim's parents' house in North Vancouver.

Do eat the wild fruit

In the summer and spring, you’ll likely see a lot of berries in the bushes along the streets and in the city's parks.

Eat them!

Ones to look out for are blackberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries, blueberries, salmonberries, and salal.

To learn more about not just berries, but other local edible plants and mushrooms too, try a foraging class, one of the cool things to do in Vancouver we highly recommend.

Tojos California roll from our Vancouver sushi taste test.
A California roll from the Vancouver restaurant where it was claimed to have been invented, Tojo's.

Do eat the original California roll

Did you know that the California roll was invented in Vancouver?

It was… though some in L.A. try to take the credit.

And based on a blind taste test of Vancouver California rolls we did, the best one might be from the restaurant it was invented, Tojo's.

Either that or it's from the all-you-can-eat sushi spot across the street, Tomokazu.

2 Chill Ice Cream from our best ice cream taste test.

Do join the rest of Vancouver for some ice cream or gelato

Some claim that Vancouverites eat more ice cream than any other city in the world.

I doubt it, but I don't doubt that ice cream and gelato are a big deal in Vancouver.

To uncover whose is best, we blind taste tested gelatos and ice creams from all across the city and, to the chagrin of the local economy and hipsters everywhere, the winner was…

Haagen Dazs.

There were some local, artisanal standouts too, though, like Earnest and Rain or Shine.

Menu, cutlery, and a joint on the table at The Nomad Chef's Infused Dining Series
An extra item and special menus at the Infused Dining Series, one of our top Only-in-Vancouver dining experiences.

Do try some of our favorite, only-in-Vancouver dining

For our recommendations on unique and unforgettable food experiences like subs from the Sandwich Nazi and crazy bubble tea, don't miss our post on only-in-Vancouver dining experiences.

✗  Don’t forget to tip

In Vancouver—and across Canada—you’re expected to tip at restaurants and bars unless the service is horrendously terrible.

No server will complain if you tip too much, but they will probably think less of you and the country you came from if you tip less than 15% at restaurants and or a dollar or so per drink at bars.

Tips are your servers' main source of income and they share them with all the staff, so when you don't tip them, you punish everyone.

✗  Don't miss out on more Vancouver tips

If you found some of our Vancouver food and drink tips helpful, head over to our Vancouver page and these posts, in particular, for more:

Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we recommend. It costs you nothing, so we'd be crazy not to. Read our affiliate policy.

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