Vancouver’s oldest district is now a shopping and dining mecca: home to high-design shops (a mustvisit for lovers of furniture and clothing alike) plus some of the city’s best eateries. Weathered brick, cobblestone, and century-old cedar are everywhere—as are the young video game designers whose studios are tucked throughout
The superb menu at Wildebeest ( 120 W. Hastings St., 604-687-6880. Wildebeest.ca) may well constitute the most exciting dining experience in the city: how about roasted bone marrow with almond butter and tomato jam, finished with a sherry “luge” poured down the scraped-clean bone?
Lee Cooper and Paul Grunberg have a winner with L’Abattoir ( 217 Carrall St., 604-568-1701. Labattoir.ca), an elegant, Frenchbackboned, but entirely unfussy gem that plays host to both the neighbourhood hipsters and the city’s big-money players. Cooper’s menu reads simply, which adds a wow factor to every plate. (Local, seasonal ingredients are given ingenious treatment, like roasted scallops with lemon marmalade.) Seats at the bar are highly prized.
An ever-rotating menu of inspired Italian fare is on offer at Notturno ( 280 Carrall St., 604-720-3145. Notturnogastown. ca). Share plates are the focus: sous-vide local octopus with fennel salad; tangy pork and veal polpette balanced with pecorino cheese; or the famed Long Board, a daily assortment of terrines, pâtés, and seafood. Cocktails are playful but brilliantly layered. Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House ( 562 Beatty St., 604-5590611. Devilselbowalehouse.com) is as cool as it sounds—nestled inside a converted warehouse, with long walls of exposed brick, taps and whisky bottles stretch as far as the eye can see. Tender smoked meats (brisket, chicken, duck) and delicious sides and starters (vegan options, too) make it the perfect drop-in at any time of the day.
Tacos have never been trendier in Vancouver, and Tacofino ( 15 W. Cordova St., 604-899-7907. Tacofino.com) has more than a little to do with it. The entrance is through Blood Alley, an historic bit of Gastown that sounds much scarier than it is. Brave it, because the burrito and taco rosters offer up mouth-watering combinations like chicken karaage with black chili mayo, and chorizo with arugula and pickled onion.
Find coffee’s perfect mate at the city’s favourite donuterie, Cartems ( 534 W. Pender St., 778-708-0996. Cartems.com). Expect lineups for these crazy-good dunkers ($3 each; $30 per dozen): Maker’s Mark bourbon glaze and bacon shavings, anyone?
The massive Inform Interiors ( 50 Water St., 604-682-3868. Informinteriors.com) is a threelevel, 30,000-square-foot monument to the world’s most unique and covetable contemporary home furnishings. Not in the market for a B&B Italia sectional? Then peruse the city’s best-curated inventory of archiecture and design books and magazines.
Oak + Fort ( 355 Water St., 604566-9199. Oakandfort.com) is a surprisingly affordable, pareddown space filled with clean lines and soft, wearable fabrics. A collaboration between local and Korean designers (who oversee production in Korea), the shop also displays gorgeous, minimalist accessories, many designed in-house.
Afternoon beer and bites
Woodwards 128 W. CORDOVA ST. The original city centre is rife with historic buildings dating back to the 1880s. Among the most remarkable is the 2009 Woodwards tower, an experiment in commingling gentrification, social housing, education, and more, all in an elegant steel homage to the department store of the same name that opened in 1903