On the Town

We don’t al­ways dress to the nines, but whether scruffy or swank we do know how and where to bev­er­age

Vancouver Magazine - Best of the City 2016 - - Contents -

A dis­cern­ing guide to bars, clubs, and lounges By Ju­lia Che­ung and Colby Richard­son


Bit­ter 16 W. Hast­ings St., Gas­town, 604558-4658. Bit­ter­tast­in­groom.com This her­itage space, the beer equiv­a­lent of Gas­town’s wine­fo­cused Salt Tast­ing Room (they hap­pen to have the same owner), is home to ex­clu­sive one-offs on tap, in­no­va­tive beer cock­tails, and a lo­cally sourced, Brit-pu­bin­spired menu (think Scotch eggs, soft pret­zels and mus­tard, stews with crusty bread).


730 Main St., Chi­na­town, 604-689-8645 Once inside this win­dow­less room, you’ll feel in­stantly warmed by fairy-lit movie posters, old pop ma­chines, and neon-bright fish tanks rip­pling with aquatic life. Perch at the bar with some chips (the only food avail­able) and a Raven Cream Ale—one of sev­eral well-priced drafts—and set­tle into the rec-room vibe of Van­cou­ver’s most beloved alt-pub.

Nar­row Lounge

Main St. at E. Third Ave., South Main, 778-737-5206.


It’s ridicu­lously hard to find from the street—its only marker is a red light bulb that’s il­lu­mi­nated when they’re open—and the graf­fiti­cov­ered stair­well en­trance gives most first-timers sec­ond thoughts. But once inside, you’ll set­tle right in. This speakeasy is hop­ping with good-time Main Streeters who give the room a pri­vate-party vibe.

Port­land Craft

3835 Main Street, South Main, 604-569-2494. Port­land­craft.com It’s the clever in­vo­ca­tion of Ore­gon’s hippest city (with a 16-strong draft list of top-drawer Western pro­duc­ers to back it up) that has this room brim­ming with giddy reg­u­lars. It’s the only place in town where you can start with an Alameda Yel­low Wolf IPA and end with a Black Butte Porter, with a pit stop for some beer-ab­sorb­ing grub—try the fried chicken.

Port­side Pub

7 Alexan­der St., Gas­town, 604-559-6333. The­p­ort­sidepub.ca “Beer, drinks, mu­sic, sports, and all sorts” reads the win­dow of East­side en­tre­pre­neur Mark Brand’s lat­est ven­ture—and what more could you ask for? The mul­ti­level space (in­spired by the lay­out of a ship) serves up 24 craft beers from 48 taps, or Jame­son whiskey right from a tub. The menu doesn’t embrace the nau­ti­cal theme, but its out-of-place of­fer­ings (like fried pep­per­oni) are de­cent. Go early— bounc­ers and cover kick in for the late-night crowd.

The Raven

1052 Deep Cove Rd., North Van­cou­ver, 604-929-3834. Ther­aven­pub.com The ’burbs are home to a few gems worth jumping in a cab for, like this in­stantly wel­com­ing Deep Cove orig­i­nal. The Raven is renowned for its 20 or so deep­dish pizza va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing gluten-free op­tions, but the beer list is even bet­ter, with top quaffs from Storm, Phillips, Drift­wood, and Howe Sound.

Storm Crow Tav­ern

1305 Com­mer­cial Dr., Com­mer­cial Drive, 604-566-9669. Storm­crow­tav­ern.com Roll up to the Drive’s nerd pub in Gan­dalf robes and no one will bat an eyelash. With dark wood ta­bles, me­dieval beams, and steam­punk replica weapons adorn­ing the walls, this sports bar for fan­tasy and sci-fi fans is ideal for Game of Thrones screen­ings. There’s a small, good-value ar­ray of mains (try a $6 grilled-cheese sand­wich), and a B.C.-fo­cused beer list.

The Whip

209 E. Sixth Ave., South Main, 604874-4687. The­whiprestau­rant.com Socked into a cen­tury-old build­ing is the per­fect comfy lo­cal: a shabby-chic in­te­rior of dinged ta­bles, dark cor­ners, and shim­mer­ing chan­de­liers in­vites rainy-night hun­ker­ing. Pe­ruse the ever-chang­ing art­work and flirt a lit­tle with the tat­tooed wait­staff as you sip the of­fer­ing from the weekly Sun­day af­ter­noon cask tap­ping.


After coin­ing the phrase “mod­ern pub cul­ture,” this pow­er­house lo­cal chain of 17 rooms has staked a claim all over town, from The Three Brits on Davie to Cin­ema on Granville. With a fo­cus on or­ganic, lo­cal, and sus­tain­able in­gre­di­ents, menus are

fresh and en­tic­ing. An in­ven­tive bar pro­gram by tal­ented bev­er­age di­rec­tor Trevor Kal­lies gives the drinks list the teeth to com­pete in Van­cou­ver’s sat­u­rated cock­tail mar­ket. Here are the stand­outs:

The Aca­demic

1619 W. Broad­way, South Granville, 604-733-4141 A wel­come ad­di­tion to a densely pop­u­lated neigh­bour­hood with limited nightlife op­tions; this pro­vides the down­town vibe with­out hav­ing to cross a bridge.

The Bi­mini Pub­lic House

2010 W. Fourth Ave., Kit­si­lano, 604-733-7116 The orig­i­nal Don­nelly out­post in Kits re­opened in 2011; the space is now smartly con­fig­ured, and fully stocked with craft beer on tap. Sun­days (4 p.m. to late) go for $17 prime rib roast din­ner and $5 small-batch liquors (Hen­dricks, Maker’s Mark, Don Julio).


905 Dun­smuir St., Down­town, 604-899-4456 This is the group’s test kitchen, so ex­pect to taste bold new cock­tails and dishes. The star-stud­ded staff in­cludes ex­ec­u­tive bar­man (and Van­cou­ver mag­a­zine Bar­tender of the Year) Jay Jones.

The Butcher and the Bul­lock

911 W. Pender St., Coal Har­bour, 604-622-8866 Van­cou­ver’s club­house for Liver­pool sup­port­ers fea­tures 28 beers on tap. This is about the clos­est Van­cou­ver gets to a real English­style pub. Bud­get con­scious? Head down for Toonie Tues­days—score a $2 mini burger and a $2 beer.

The New Ox­ford

1144 Homer St., Yale­town, 604- 609-0901 Al­ways packed, this gem has a more pol­ished vibe. The room ex­em­pli­fies what Yale­town will even­tu­ally be­come—posh yet unpretentious—with brick walls and deep leather seat­ing. Su­perb, com­fort­ing grub on of­fer, too.

Tav­ern at the New Ox­ford

1141 Hamil­ton St., Yale­town, 604-669-4848 Serv­ing as a rec room for The New Ox­ford, this dimly lit space is built around a games area (pool, darts), plenty of high-def TVs, and a li­brary for more high-brow dis­trac­tion. Live mu­sic, $3 bour­bon.


Bac­chus Pi­ano Lounge 845 Hornby St., Down­town, 604608- 5319. Wedge­wood­ho­tel.com In the Wedge­wood’s cozy lounge, cher­ry­wood pan­elling and heavy gold and bur­gundy fab­rics re­call a gen­tler era, as do the tin­kling pi­ano and the man­i­cured wait­staff. Set­tle in just to the side of the carved lime­stone fire­place or strike up con­ver­sa­tion with any of the Howe Street play­boys cel­e­brat­ing their lat­est deal.

Lobby Lounge in the Fair­mont Pa­cific Rim

1038 Canada Pl., Coal Har­bour,

604-695-5502. Fair­mont.com

This clas­sic Fair­mont in­stal­la­tion masters so­phis­ti­cated mod­ernism with cozy touches: a nearly floor-to-ceil­ing fire­place, a small li­brary, and live jazz (a lovely Fazi­oli grand pi­ano takes cen­tre stage). The raw bar dis­plays fresh sashimi and abun­dant oys­ters.

Re­flec­tions and 1927 at the Rosewood Ho­tel Ge­or­gia

801 W. Ge­or­gia St., Down­town, 604-682-5566. Rose­wood­hotel­ge­or­gia.com The re­cently re­stored iconic ho­tel is home to two dis­tinct wa­ter­ing holes. The lobby bar, 1927, is a de­light­fully mod­ern hat-tip to the year of the his­toric ho­tel’s birth, and has the cock­tails to match. The newly redesigned fourth-floor ter­race, Re­flec­tions, chan­nels an L.A. vibe with ca­banas and sunny sip­pers. Watch for long-awaited base­ment club Pro­hi­bi­tion to open some­time this win­ter.

Xi Shi in the Shangri-La

1128 W. Ge­or­gia St., Down­town, 604-689-1120. Shangri-la.com High tea in the lounge of this land­mark lux­ury ho­tel—with in­spired canapés like srirachacrusted tuna, and scones served with clot­ted cream—war­rants an af­ter­noon visit. Stay through the evening to en­joy Asian­in­spired cock­tails.


The Cas­cade Room 2616 Main St., South Main, 604-709-8650. The­cas­cade.ca The pub-themed cui­sine on the menu is good, but noth­ing wows like a per­fectly blended, fresh-fruit cock­tail by Cas­cade’s award-win­ning bev­er­age di­rec­tor, Nick Devine. Min­gle with the Main Street hip­sters as you sip the Cas­cade Room Cock­tail, a heady mix of bour­bon, ap­ple, lime, and vanilla topped with a shav­ing of roasted hazel­nut.

The Clough Club

212 Ab­bott St., Gas­town, 604-558-1581. Don­nel­ly­group.ca Part of the Don­nelly em­pire but a room of its own (in a 110-year-old build­ing), Clough switches its sibs’ black wood and leather for smart de­sign tricks. (Check out the hall of mir­rors in the back room.) Bar­tender Kris Carter mixes se­ri­ous dark-spirit cock­tails—try the bar­rel-aged Boule­vardier.

The Di­a­mond

6 Pow­ell St., Gas­town. Di6­mond.com This bar­tender-owned spot over­look­ing Maple Tree Square is a cock­tail des­ti­na­tion that tips its hat to the clas­sics but also gets play­fully in­ven­tive. (Reg­u­lars are kept in­trigued by an ev­er­chang­ing sparkling-wine cock­tail.) The Baja-in­spired Mex­i­can snack menu pro­vides sa­ti­at­ing, if un­usual, ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

Guilt & Co.

1 Alexan­der St., Gas­town, 604-2881704. Guil­tand­com­pany.com Kitsch is king at this base­mentlevel bar, from fe­dora-clad wait­staff to board games scat­tered across the dimly lit room. But the cock­tail pro­gram—a rum punch con­coc­tion called The Mis­sion­ary Man is the sig­na­ture—is any­thing but ironic. Toss in live mu­sic, art, and a $5-a-chunk wheel o’ cheese for a win­ning com­bi­na­tion.

The Keefer

135 Keefer St., Chi­na­town, 604-688-1961. The­keefer­bar.com Sharply de­signed, slightly louche, dis­cretely mys­te­ri­ous, this room brings an ur­ban edge long miss­ing from Chi­na­town. The bar menu re­flects Asian flavours, but the fo­cus is clearly on the cock­tails. Pair the re­fresh­ing Dragon Fly (based on drag­on­fruit-in­fused gin) with some Pek­ing duck slid­ers.


1120 Hamil­ton St., Yale­town, 604-669-4604. Don­nel­ly­group.ca Lurk­ing be­hind a hip­ster bar­ber­shop lies this not-so-se­cret cock­tail club. Get into the Yale­town spirit, sip­ping on an ex­pertly crafted gin fizz in the in­ti­mate brick and glass space decked out with mod­ern touches—sleek, min­i­mal­ist fur­ni­ture, cus­tom float­ing lights. Head to the base­ment level, where a DJ spins for stylish lo­cals, as the night pro­gresses.


162 Wa­ter St., Gas­town, 604-5687022. Pour­hou­se­van­cou­ver.com Fash­ioned from 120-year-old Dou­glas fir and lit by Edi­son bulbs from an­tique chan­de­liers, the 22-seat cus­tom bar is the brick and cedar-beamed room’s show­stop­ping cen­tre­piece—a per­fect set­ting for the in­tri­cately crafted cock­tails and back-to­ba­sics food menu. Get there early if you want a spot at the wood.


1115 Granville St., Down­town, 604-687-8001. There­fin­ery­van­cou­ver.com A ma­ture pa­tron­age, a lo­cally in­spired menu, and an ex­ten­sive list of craft beers, cock­tails, and wines make for a wel­come respite from the usual Granville scene. Mix-and-match a cus­tom char­cu­terie plate, try a cock­tail made with fresh in­gre­di­ents, and en­joy the fact that you can ac­tu­ally hear your own con­ver­sa­tion in this lively but laid-back room.


560 560 Seymour St., Down­town, 604-678-6322. Fivesixty.ca This sprawl­ing, three-floor daz­zler, fre­quented by a healthy dose of slick DJs and slicker crowds, is a taste of New York and Mon­treal. A dif­fer­ent vibe dom­i­nates each room; the high­light is the base­ment-level uni­sex bath­room, with its own bar and DJ, a minia­ture dance floor, and speak­ers in the stalls.

The Queen’s Repub­lic

958 Granville St., Down­town, 604-669-3214. Don­nel­ly­group.ca Once you’ve glammed your way past the bounc­ers, wig­gle to Top 40 (or hot reg­gae on Sun­days) or lean provoca­tively, mar­tini in hand, against the bar to at­tract at­ten­tion from the per­fectly bronzed scen­esters all around.

The Roxy

932 Granville St., Down­town, 604-331- 7999. Roxy­van.com After an hour (or more) in line for this Van­cou­ver in­sti­tu­tion, you’ll be crav­ing a drink, so hit the bar for, say, a Long Is­land Iced Tea (you won’t be alone) be­fore head­ing to the rau­cous dance floor, where ev­ery­one from teeny­bop­pers to old-timers belt out stand­bys like “Sweet Home Alabama” with the en­er­getic house band.


1181 1181 Davie St., West End, 604-787-7130. 1181.ca Many long nights have had their start at this high-de­sign bar, where the pol­ished set comes to talk over beers poured by chis­elled men-to-know. Be there by 10 for a claim on the cov­eted win­dow so­fas. Or come later and con­tent your­self with the hu­man cat­tle pen that is the main room.


1022 Davie St., West End, 604-6816180. Celebri­ties­night­club.com This full-glam club (cater­ing to a gay and straight clien­tele) is pre­ferred by the waxed-an­dun­der-30 set. Stick to bot­tled beer. Line­ups are chronic; call by 5 p.m. and get your group on the VIP list. Bet­ter yet, camp out on the heated pa­tio of the Foun­tain­head across the street, where you can mon­i­tor the lines and cross the street when nec­es­sary.


1042 Davie St., West End, 604-685-4077. Num­bers.ca Each neigh­bour­hood has a bar saved for later in the night, and Num­bers tends to at­tract that al­ready-buzzed crowd. Stop in for a mug of some­thing mid­dle-brow, prefer­ably pro­cured from lov­able, bearded Mitch, be­fore nav­i­gat­ing a dim-lit labyrinth of men and retro dance hits.


Storm Crow




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