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Home base for the city’s Italian, Portuguese, and lesbian communities is The Drive—a long, quasi-magical succession of indie cafés offering expert espressos alongside truly authentic pizza joints. Post-lunch, stroll the tree-lined side streets for quiet appreciation of the many heritage homes (and nascent infill)
Of the many worthy contenders for Vancouver’s sexiest pizza, we’re crushing on Via Tevere ( 1190 Victoria Dr., 604-336-1803. Viateverepizzeria.com). The room has a family-friendly buzz, but the teal-tiled wood-fired oven at the centre announces the pizzaioli know their craft. A blistery, minimalist margherita with tomato, creamy fior di latte mozza, and aromatic basil shows how a few quality ingredients can shine.
José and Ana Herrera’s breezy Latin American spot Rinconcito Salvadoreño ( 2062 Commercial Dr., 604-879-2600) shouts sunny tropics. Ana’s pupusas, a Salvadorean specialty of beans, cheese, and pork stuffed into a homemade corn tortilla, are a great start before tucking into carne asada: grilled steak with rice, beans, and fresh avocado. Newly popular are the corn-tortilla-based huaraches, and for dessert, fried plantains with cream transport you down the Pacific coast.
Merchant’s Oyster Bar ( 1590 Commercial Dr., 604-258-0005. Merchantsoysterbar.ca) explores the turf alongside the surf. $1.50-a-shuck oysters steal the show at weekend brunches, but weeknight dinners surprise with beef tartare and pork belly—the best of both worlds.
At Federico’s Supper Club ( 1728 Commercial Dr., 604-251-3473. Federicossupperclub.com), owner Federico Fuoco croons to crowds of ballroom dancers and bachelorettes on weekends. Chef Nick Grant’s Italian menu means business, though: start with beef tenderloin tartar crostini with black truffle zabaglione, then graduate to pan-seared B.C. albacore tuna in a pistachio crust.
Long before the pour-over coffee trend, when independent cafés didn’t take themselves as seriously as record stores, there was Turks ( 1276 Commercial Dr., 604-255-5805. Milanocoffee.ca). In keeping with its Little Italy digs, Turks crafts and roasts its own Old World Italian-style espresso blends that are dark, full-bodied, and round. The un-Starbucks staff is part of the experience.
Fratelli’s ( 1795 Commercial Dr., 604-255-8926. Fratellibakery.com), purveyor of fine focaccia and other fresh-baked artisanal loaves, also peddles high-quality espresso. Settle outside with an Americano (beans are sourced from Vancouver’s Torelli roasters), and Sicilian cannoli filled with rich ricotta and subtle orange zest.
Bandidas Taqueria ( 2781 Commercial Dr., 604-568-8224. Bandidastaqueria.com) showcases the Drive’s Latin American influence.
Soft corn tacos come in veggie options like the Ronny Russell (yam, fresh guac, green salsa, and pumpkin seeds). Pitchers of white and red sangria are just the thing.
A wave of spirited craft distilleries is following closely on the heels of the Vancouver craft beer boom, and Odd Society Spirits ( 1725 Powell St., 604-559-6745. Oddsocietyspirits.com) is in the lead. Debut product East Van Vodka is made with local barley and filtered Vancouver tap water. Grab a seat in their elegant but quirky tasting lounge, and watch their copper tanks at work through floor-toceiling glass walls. Wallflower gin and a crème de cassis is also available, a white (lightning) spirit forthcoming.
Parallel 49 Brewing ( 1950 Triumph St., 604-558-2739. Parallel49brewing.com) ups the ante with sophisticated craft beers, dry-hopped for rich malt aroma and cool-fermented for crisp hop flavour. Best bet for session ale: Lord of the Hops, a bracing, piney Northwest-style IPA with a big citrus finish. Mintage ( 1714 Commercial Dr., 604-646-8243. Mintagevintage. com) is known for its overflowing supply of deadstock (unworn vintage) from the 1950s onward, but style insiders come for gems like the reworked in-house line of bright silk tanks sewn from retro scarves, and a range of sweet boho frocks by L.A.based Everly.
The water source for the Vancouver lumber industry in the late 1800s, Trout Lake in John Hendry Park ( Victoria Dr. at E. 19th Ave.) is now a freshwater summer swimming hole (and dog mecca) for East Van residents. Picnic on shore, get sweaty in a rousing game of ultimate frisbee, then cool down with a quick dip.
The Vancouver East Cultural Centre ( 1895 Venables St., 604251-1363. Thecultch.com) is one of the city’s most beloved institutions, with company and visiting plays, dance, and concerts filling the storied church building (constructed in 1909). A glittering counterpart, the York Theatre ( 639 Commercial Dr.) was completed in 2014, saving a 100-yearold former movie theatre; rental shows fill its bijou stage.
Italian Days on the Drive
Merchant’s Oyster Bar
TASTE TH IS Queso Fundido With Chorizo LA MEZCALERIA It’s delivered piping hot in a hefty volcanic stone bowl. Smear the cheese onto tortillas and add heaps of guacamole and salsa verde. Fold, bite, swoon 1622 Commercial Dr., 604 559 8226....