The Ultimate Vancouver Food Bucket List: A Local’s Guide 2020
For such a compact city, Vancouver has a vibrant food scene where there are SO many great restaurants and dishes to munch on. But with so many choices and only so much space in your stomach…it’s a pity not to enjoy the best of what Vancouver has to offer.
So whether you’re visiting Vancouver for a few days or a local Vancouverite who’ve finally been enlightened about how amazing food is in your life, we’ve created a tailored list of the best and must-eat Vancouver foods. These are the dishes, the treats, and the restaurants around Metro Vancouver that no doubt should be on your Vancouver food bucket list and itinerary.
This is our secret list we send to relatives and friends who are from out town. Enjoy this local’s guide to the best food in Vancouver BC.
Vancouver Chinatown’s Phnom Penh is an award-winning restaurant (“Best South East Asian Dining”) that serves Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes that are greasy, flavourful, and yes, hella delicious.
As every true Vancouverite will tell you, the real deal here is ordering Phnom Penh’s “Holy Trinity” of Butterbeef, Deep-Fried Chicken Wings, and Beef Luc Luc. The term “Holy Trinity” has been coined by locals themselves and has slipped in the city’s urban dictionary.
You’ll be very content just ordering these 3 dishes.
This place is a definitive must-have restaurant experience if you are a first-timer to Vancouver and admire Asian dishes. For locals, it can be an easy go-to solution for bringing guests and visitors for an impressionable, delectable treat totally worth every penny.
Pro tip: If you panic at the idea of long waits to get your food order, make an order in advance. OR grab your squad so you unlock reservations (party of 8 or more) and dine-in.
If sweets is your weakness, navigate your course towards Beta5 Chocolate. This is the ultimate place to satisfy your sugary needs by ordering some of their heavenly and delectable cream puffs. The nice soft creamy fillings of the Beta5 puffs come in all the flavours you can imagine (how can you say no to lychee rose or Vietnamese coffee?). But if you are not sure which one, start with the classic Vanilla or Variations of Chocolate.
Besides refined cream puffs, at Beta5 you can satisfy your sweet tooth with their trademark chocolates (ie. Whole Cherry, Tropical Crunch, Sparkling Praline and Thai Mango) or unique chocolate bar collection (ie. Noodle Bar, Peppermint Crunch).
They recently opened a new cafe on Industrial Avenue (beside their current spot), where you can sit and have a blast enjoying your creampuffs or if you are in a rush, just grab sweets for take away.
Pro-tip: Call in the morning and order in advance if you’re gunning for a seasonal puff so can guarantee you get the goods.
If you are an ice cream aficionado, head to any of the Earnest Ice Creams. Here you can combine fan favourites “Salted Caramel” “Whiskey Hazelnut” or “London Fog”–and these are merely the regulars. You can also stumble upon Blueberry Cheesecake, Cherry Chip or Maple Walnut or one of their seasonal flavours. Vegans will also love it for there is a plethora of vegan options.
Pro tip: Grab a pint to skip the long line during the hot seasons.
You also won’t make a mistake if you have a flight at the Commercial Drive’s Elephant Garden Creamery either. The Mango Coconut Sticky Rice is the real bomb and a local favourite. But don’t limit to this. Their White Choco Raspberry Rose, Vietnamese Coffee, Milk Tea, or Cookies N’ Cream Monster might be as equally enticing to try.
With so many yummy flavours to choose from…a flight is the only answer to your struggles.
Earnest Ice Cream Locations:
1485 Frances St, Vancouver BC 127 W 1st St, North Vancouver, BC 3992 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC 1829 Quebec Street, Vancouver, BC
Downtown Vancouver’s sister restaurants Miku and Minami are the perfect spots to devour some authentic, Aburi-style sushi. In 2008, Miku first introduced the Aburi cooking practice to Vancouver, which means the sushi gets flame-torched and its taste is distinctively changed. Minami quickly followed suit. Their trademark dish, available at both restaurants, is the Salmon Oshi Sushi: a delicious pressed BC wild sockeye salmon with jalapeño and Miku sauce that will simply make you crave for more.
Tip: If you’re already going to dine fancy, don’t skip out on the dessert. Specifically the Green Tea Opera Cake.
70-200 Granville Street, Granville Square (Canada Place Way and Howe Street), Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 1S4
Resume your sushi tour at Tojo’s, where your sushi is de facto prepared by a living legend of the culinary world. The real deal of the house is the California roll, invented by chef Hidekazu Tojo and who owns Tojo’s Restaurant. Most other places use imitation crab in their California rolls, but it is here that you get the real crab deal (dungeness crab) and oh boy it makes a huge difference.
Tojo schooled himself as a chef in his native Japan, and moved to Vancouver in 1971, at the time a part of the world that was largely a stranger to sushi. You would be right to blame chef Tojo as the one person who made eating raw fish popular across North America.
Location: 1133 West Broadway Vancouver, BC V6H 1J1
Fan of Fried Chicken 🍗? We have three recommendations for you on this one. The first is LA Chicken, a modest-looking food corner, where you get a perfect, prominent-enough dish of juicy and crispy chicken. A true gem tucked away in Richmond.
Another place where they prepare top-notch chicken wings, intricately-marinated and golden-colored, is at Wu Fung Dessert. One of the many gems located in Aberdeen Centre’s bustling food court. [Cash only]
If you are looking for something more spicy, head to Frying Pan food truck on Burrard Street. Here you can grab a fried chicken sandwich with chilli oil and extra toppings such as marble cheese, pan-fried egg or Korean kimchi.
Safe to say that they have the best chicken you’ll ever have out of a food truck.
Tip: Get an order of their bulgogi fries as well.
L A Chicken Location:
11780 Thorpe Road, Suite 160, Richmond, BC V6X 1J6
The best waffles in the world are, of course, Belgian waffles, and in Vancouver you have two places where you can get one.
Downtown Vancouver’s Cafe Medina first opened in 2008 and might well be your beloved weekend brunch location. Liège waffles are featured on their menu, and you can choose from a variety of compelling-to-try toppings such as white chocolate pistachio rosewater, milk chocolate lavender, raspberry caramel or mixed berry compote or cremè de fruit de passion.
At Nero you have even more options, including Liège and Brussels style waffles. Their waffles combine local ingredients with specialty ones brought from Belgium. Flavours: both sweet and savory, from strawberries to spicy tuna, to orange mousse, avocado and caramelized banana. It’s definitely a hardship deciding which waffle. For the homey feel, check the Robson shop. For a more modern and spacious seating, hop into their Seymour location.
To get a taste of the best Italian-style pasta in Vancouver head to Savio Volpe or Pepino’s.
At Savio Volpe they make their own pasta in-house, and it’s always fresh and tasty. You’ll stumble upon some wild combinations on the menu such as tortellini with squash, ricotta, brown butter, hazelnuts and sage, or cavatelli with cauliflower, dried tomatoes and garlic.
For the best spaghetti head to Commercial Drive’s Pepino’s Spaghetti House, where you can have some of the classics such as Spaghetti Bolgnese. It’s homey, it’s cramped, it’s dark, it’s everything you’d want when you’re looking for some darn good Italian. Try also their Spaghetti with meatballs (massive balls 🤗), Spicy Penne alla Vodka or Lasagna Vegetariana. While you’re there, get their Tiramisu.
As food lores reveal, the first hot dog 🌭 was sold on the streets of New York by a German immigrant, somewhere around the year 1870. However, Vancouver’s tastiest hot dog is neither German or American. Japadog is a hot dog business started in 2005 by a Japanese couple who have moved to Canada. They have one store downtown Vancouver as well as few more hot dog trailers where you can buy some of their signature Terimayo Hot Dog with Teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed.
Also recommended: their Okonomi transformed into a hot dog (a juicy Kurobuta sausage topped with bonito flakes) or perhaps their Yakiniku Rice, which is flavoured rice with BBQ style beef on top of an arabiki sausage. Yummy!
If you’re looking for a taste of Mexico 🌮 in Vancouver, head to Sal y Limon. Their restaurants are friends and family-friendly and their tacos exquisite. The Al Pastor taco comes with marinated pork and pineapple; their Carne in Salsa Verde includes beef in green sauce. Other taco options combine roast lamb or Mexican sausage. It’s cheap, affordable, and most importantly: it hits the spot.
Maizal is one more place that serves madness of a taco. Try their Carnitas which combines braised pork, pork rinds, and guacamole. The Pescado one wraps a deep-fried battered cod, chipotle mayo and pico de gallo. If you wish to tone down on meat, Plantain is served with roasted plantain, rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour cream and fresco cheese.
Bonus points for their tortillas. They are always fresh and you can even see how they are prepared at the restaurant’s front counter. Oh and housemade Horchata.
Make sure to say hi 👋 to Rodrigo when you’re there. Nicest man ever.
Asian food gems are abundant enough in Vancouver, and The Rise Eatery is another strong nod to that. The Rise Eatery menu’s fuses Asian with other cuisines of the world, and once there you’ll be definitely intrigued to try perhaps some of their so-called ‘dramatic sets’ like “Seoul Good” (this one features Korean fried chicken, wild mushroom cream, truffle oil, rice, parmesan, and pickles) or “Heart Attack” (with Schmaltz stir-fried rice pilaf, chicken confit, sous vide free run egg, chicken crackling and salad du jour).
If you only have one go at this restaurant, you must give priority to ordering their Uni-versal Pasta, a dish that combines delightful squid ink pasta with sea urchin cream, egg yolk, flying fish roe, and dried seaweed. It’s simply divine.
Avocado is the “disputed symbol” of Millenials and some people find the thought of avocado food irritating. However, the avocado toast from Nelson the Seagull is here to dismantle any avocado prejudice you might have. Their “Avo on Toast” features a whole avocado spread across two pieces of buttered sourdough toast and will do your perfect Vancouver breakfast.
There are some extraordinary coffee options at Nelson the Seagull, too. And you’ll also enjoy the hipster interior and open kitchen. Cozy and warm at all times of the day.
Whether by some chance you watch Netflix’s “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner” with David Chang, you might have caught that episode when Vancouver’s very own Seth Rogan takes chef Chang to Lee’s Donuts on Granville Island and the two help their munchies there. This is a mom and pop shop, serving classic donuts since 1979 and they have an ample of yummy donuts to choose from: Chocolate Crunch, Butter Crunch, Honeydew, Maple Iced, Cinnamon, Lemon Cheesecake–and the list goes on.
Cartems Donuterie is one more place that caters exquisite doughnuts downtown and Vancouverites just love it. Cartems kicked off small in 2012 and today runs three stores around the city. Don’t miss their Yeast Donuts, such as their Vanilla Bean topped classic doughnut with organic ground vanilla bean glaze, their Chocolate Glaze donned with perfect Belgian chocolate, or Smoked Maple Walnut that uses housemade maple glaze and spiced walnuts. That is to name just three of the choices. But our true favourite 🍩: the Earl Grey.
Lee’s Donuts Location: Granville Island Public Market, 1689 Johnston St., Vancouver
If you want to warm your belly with a luscious, authentic Japanese ramen, the best Vancouver spots are at Ramen Danbo and Marutama.
When Danbo went international, it opened its first overseas diners in Vancouver. Unlike other ramen shops, at Danbo you have the power to uniquely customize your whole noodles (thickness and firmness) and broth (thickness, amount of lard, and spice).
Their signature ramen dish is the Tonkotsu classic with pork broth. Or you can also get a taste of their Shio Ramen with a gentle salt-umami taste or the Negi-goma Ramen with white sesame oil, specialty-roasted sesame seeds and fresh scallions.
Marutama also serves first-class ramen and have four locations around Vancouver. Their bowls are simple and yet delicious. This chain is very picky when it comes to the ramen-making process. They make everything from scratch and use basic flour and eggs to make their noodles. Their ramen is always fresh as is their fantastic garlic chips. Don’t miss Marutama’s signature creamy chicken broth (Toripai Tan) if you visit here.
Pro-tip: go at off-peak hours to avoid the lines.
Ramen Danbo Locations:
Kitsilano: 1833 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC Canada, V6J 1M4 Robson: 1333 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC Canada, V6E 1C6
Its size is outrageous. It’s meant to be split between two people but will anyway up your cholesterol levels. Score on Davie’s Checkmate Caesar weighs 4 ounces and just might deserve a Guiness record. The minute you get it, it becomes your beloved guilty pleasure to feast on.
This outstanding Caesar order costs $60 and will checkmate you with its fried mac and cheese balls, corn dogs, cheesy nachos, beef burgers full with tasty fixings, a peanut butter pie and a fried chicken with bacon and pickle on the top.
Location: 1262 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1N3, Canada
Richmond’s Chef Tony restaurant is a marvel seafood restaurant, run by distinguished Chinese-Canadian chef Tony He, and where you can order some of the best dim sum bundles of joy.
Unpretentious from the outside, it’s a different world once you step inside Chef Tony’s. There are crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and facing the sets of rounded tables covered with white sheets, as well as other eye-popping interior assets such as a lone, blue-glowing pillar in the middle of the main dining room.
The restaurant’s menu reveals a real food extravaganza, and two items are a must, the Truffle Siu Mai and Squid Ink Ha Gao. It’s safe to say these are going to be the boujie-est Siu Mai and Ha Gao in your life. The first bundle makes for small, distinctive meaty bites stirred by the genuine truffle used in it. Matsutake mushrooms in the second one, make for an unusual choice but is done so well–it’s simply mouth melting.
Pro-tip: avoid peak hours if you don’t want to wait 40 mins for a seat.
A warm and roomy corner on Vancouver’s bustling Main Street, Trafiq Bakery & Cafe makes for a perfect spot to drop by for a coffee break, breakfast or lunch… or to be straightforward, their insanely good Tiramisu Cafe 🍰 and Matcha Tart. Trafiq specializes in their own variety of house-made buttery croissants, pastries, sandwiches and bread, but it’s the above two that are breaking the ceiling.
If a single Tiramisu cake is not enough for you, they even cater tiered cakes (6” cake on top of a 10” one). It’s a dynamite choice for any occasion you might have pending. Some of their other cakes include Lemon Lavender, Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, and Carrot Cake.
For die-hard matcha fans, go hunting their Mucho Matcha tart, which, unfortunately is only baked in super limited quantities during certain months. Watch for the notice on their Instagram if you wanna grab a bite. The tart perfectly blends matcha almond cream, matcha pastry cream, and matcha cream.
Tip: go early if you want to A.) get a spot and B.) get that tiramisu cake.
For the best Vietnamese sandwiches in town head to Banh Mi Saigon on Victoria Drive. It’s a tiny, family-owned store where it’s best to make a take-away order; it has an established reputation and a stable flux of visitors.
Order their special Banh Mi and inside the delicious baguette you’ll find an appealing mix of ham, meatballs, Vietnamese meatloaf, cheese and vegetables like carrot, cilantro, pickled radish and cucumber. Make an order as large as ten sandwiches and you’ll get one for free.
Whether you decide to sit down and enjoy your Banh Mi on the spot, order a cup of Vietnamese Iced coffee. You won’t regret it.
Location: 5397 Victoria Drive, Vancouver, BC V5P 3V6
Richmond’s famed HK BBQ Master also made an appearance on David Chang’s Netflix show. In the Vancouver episode, it’s where Chang and Seth Rogen devour some of the restaurant’s must-haves.
If you want a win-win combination yourself, opt for their Hong Kong style BBQ Pork and the Roasted Pork on rice. Both dishes are splendidly done, with the meat always being fresh, juicy, and flavoursome.
Old Xian’s Food is a famed “dragon”, currently running two stores in town. Their biang biang noodles–otherwise a trademark food of China’s Shaanxi Province–are typically thicccc and chewy, and enjoy wide popularity among Vancouverites today.
“Biangbiang” is the sound the noodle makes when it is being pulled and slapped against the work surface. The repetitive movement transforms the dough into the long belt-like visual you see.
Get your dish of biang biang in a combination with Braised Beef or by ordering the classic Xian Cold Noodle dish, or take our most hearty recommendation and opt for an enticing dish of Braised Lamb Noodle in Soup.
For having a bit of some more traditional Japanese seafood delicacies, check-in at Sushi by Yuji. It’s a warm place with a relaxing, laid-back atmosphere and expansive menu options.
What you must order once at Yuji is their Ikura with Quail Egg Nigiri 🍣 . They have a lot of nigiri options, as well as sushi rolls and sashimi. But Ikura with Quail Egg Nigiri is definitely their winning one. Expect a meteoric sensation as you devour this one in your mouth.
Pro tip: Make a reservation before you go since spots are limited.
2252 Kingsway Vancouver, BC V5N 2T7 at Kensington-Cedar Cottage
This quaint Singaporean restaurant on Main street, although small, will not disappoint you with what they have on their bountiful menu. The staff is very friendly and the service is usually quick.
A piece of Stuff Tofu Puff costs less than a $1 and is stuffed with bean sprout and cucumber, plus topped with both sweet and peanut sauce. Try also their Laksa and Lontong, a banana leaf flavoured pressed rice served in mild vegetable curry, further combined with coconut milk, shredded coconut, dried shrimp, egg and tofu.
Also highly-recommended: the Hawkers’ Lamb Curry Rice, so delicious and well spiced, you’ll want to return for another one.
Location: 4127 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P6, Canada
Hainanese Chicken is a delectable, Southasian dish–a golden coloured chicken served boneless and often accompanied by seasoned rice, along some sauce options and cucumber. Preparing it involves a delicate boiling process.
Get the best bites of it either at Cafe D’Lite Express or Mamalee. The first serves this Malaysian treats in Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre food court [cash only], and the second is a family-owned gem on Broadway street. Expect a juicy treat with fluffy rice and two tangy sauce options at Cafe D’Lite Express, and as an extra a bowl of simple hot soup. At Mamalee, you can opt-in between Hainanese Chicken Laksa Noodle, Hainanese Chicken Noodle Soup and Hainanese Chicken Chilli Sauce.
Cafe D’Lite Express location:
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Suite 2220, Richmond, BC V6X 4J7
It’s like food from the Japanese grandma I’ve never had.
Chef & Co-owner Nathan Lowey
Although situated in the…not so appealing part of downtown Vancouver, Dosanko is worth the trouble. It’s homey. It’s simple. It’s comforting. And that’s why we’re in love with Dosanko.
The most thrilling dish here is their OmuRice. The plate is a combo of fried rice, topped with a perfectly cooked Japanese omelette and tomato sauce. The show starts when the omelette is sliced down the middle infront of you. It’s a spectacle.
Recommend going extra and cementing your OMG feelings by opting for the Hayashi (beef) sauce with it.
When you’re there, say hi 👋 to owners Nathan and Aki. They’re the sweetest.
At Joe Fortes, the lobster roll is to die for. The rolls are invariably fresh and tasty and you can combine with some tasty bread with truffle oil plus a good quality glass of wine. Go earlier and catch the bar’s happy hour, the perfect after-work activity. Go later, you may even catch some live music adding to the overly joyous ambience of the place.
777 Thurlow St, Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 3V5, Canada
As we are getting closer to the bottom of this list, you are probably clear by now that Vancouver indeed has an abundance of beautiful eateries, ones for lunch and dinner and ones to help your sweet tooth. Giovane cafe in Fairmont Pacific Rim can best help you for the latter.
What really distinguishes them from the rest is their humongous sugar buns, that is tainted with plenty of yummy cream filling. Giovane’s sugar buns sell out pretty fast, so you want to go earlier to catch them. Ask for the seasonal flavours–these are usually the specials. If you are fond of matcha, ask for matcha flavoured sugar buns. Heavenly, right?
Location: 1038 Canada Pl, Vancouver, BC V6C 0B9, Canada
Resume your search for mouth-watering Vancouver sweet delights at Passion8 dessert cafe. You’ll be surprised by how inventive they get here with their Korean-style treats that you can down alongside a nice cup of coffee. Order a Tiramisu Bingsu–it’s exquisite, creamy , fluffy and appetizing.
Pro-tip, pour the espresso around the cake, not on top to avoid embarrassment and a big mess.
3010 Cambie St., Vancouver, BC V5Z 2V9 403 North Rd, Coquitlam, BC V3K 3V9
For a final stop of Vietnamese food in Vancouver, choose Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen. Try their Special Fish Cake Soup (Bun Cha Ca Dac Biet #24) brimming not only with fish cake but also with tofu, tomatoes, garlic, dill and other herbs. Also take their Special Crab Cake Soup pho (Bun Rieu #23)which sports pork, shrimps and tofu. Both dishes have vermicelli noodles, too. At the end of the day, you need to try both to see which side you lean – team #23 or team #24.
It’s a modest-looking restaurant with its mirrors making it larger than it actually is. And it won’t be long before you see your own smile in those mirrors 🤗
Tip: either go early or off peak hours to avoid the lines.
Location: 5083 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC V5P 3T9, Canada
Feeling thirsty after reading all these best of the best Vancouver treats? Now it’s time to freshen up with a Deep Cove Cocktail from Botanist Dining. Decorated with wavy cucumber ribbons, mixing island gin, sea buckthorn liqueur and blue algae syrup in its contents, and served attached on an intricate chunk of wood, this cocktail gets as botanical as it can. Yes, it’s true, this cocktail is also perfect for your Instagram feed, and you are likely to reach out for your phone as soon as you see it nearing your table. More importantly, enjoy every sip of it.
Location: 1038 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC V6C 0B9
With such a diverse and attractive food scene, you can never get hungry once in Vancouver. We’ve now told you about the must eat restaurants and items where you can munch on some of the most delicious Asian treats, seafood specialties, genuine Italian pasta or best local sweets. Whether you want to sit down in a fancy restaurant and have your meal prepared by some of the city’s well-renowned chefs, or grab something on the go from any of those pleasant-smelling street food corners, this bucket list is all yours to explore and experiment with.
As any local will also tell, Vancouver is a true food destination that goes beyond our top-quality sushi and you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Hope you’ll enjoy what’s on offer every bit as we have.