On the Town
We don’t always dress to the nines, but whether scruffy or swank we do know how and where to beverage
A discerning guide to bars, clubs, and lounges By Julia Cheung and Colby Richardson
BARS & PUBS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DONNELLY PUB GROUP
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:
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.