I am old. An imperfectly carved, ancient relic. It dawned on me I’ve lived in Vancouver just over 10 years, much longer on this earth. Which is why you should listen to me on where to eat. Respect your elders.
1. The Reef – Carribbean
I sometimes get my island fix at Riddim and Spice on Commercial Drive. See, I just love hole-in-the-walls. Those places have the most run down decor, chairs shakily held together with duct tape, and the best food. Yet, truly, my heart is with The Reef. They have four locations: Commercial, Main, Chilliwack and Victoria, BC. The original location was on Main Street, a happening neighborhood for families and hipsters. Why do I love it? They house at least 40 different rums. That constitutes a rum bath. And the food is fresh, spicy or even milder, with the right notes of crispy, tender and tasty. I typically go for a vegetable roti or ackee and saltfish. To accompany a meal, usually a rum concoction suggested by the server sustains my rum cravings. 4172 Main Street. +1-604-874-5375. Take the #3 bus on Main and get off at Main and 28th. http://thereefrestaurant.com. Prices: $6 to $18 CDN.
2. Yamato – Sushi
I strive to shatter rash appearances, and Yamato would easily be categorized as shifty, due for a shut down by Vancouver health inspectors. Wrong! Apparently, Yamato’s cramped size and interior mimics eateries in Japan. The prices cause you to read them twice. 22 pieces for $5.95. Uh huh. They offer inventive rolls and rock bottom prices. Right on the edge of downtown, it’s the perfect spot to pad your stomach before hitting the night’s entertainment on Granville. Watch the video below. 616 Davie Street. +1-604 682-5494. Take #6 bus and get off at Davie and Granville. Dine here review: dinehere.ca/vancouver/yamato-sushi. Prices: $5 to $12 CDN.
3. Joe Fortes – West Coast
I am not a raw oyster fan. They are slippery, overly soft pieces of flesh from the sea I can’t swallow. I know, I suck. To make up for my suckery, I do devour every other seafood. You can’t come to Vancouver and dismiss the seafood, unless it makes you heave. Joe Fortes is not overly cheap, but they do have decent lunch specials. A good value, which can be split between two people is the seafood tower on ice. For $58 you get a variety of fish with potatoes and fresh vegetables. The other benefit of checking out Joe’s is their location, close to famous Robson Street, where all the stars and anyone who is anyone shops. I can confirm, there is a massive selection of oysters here (yuck). Look for the vintage taxi parked out front with the Joe name on it! 777 Thurlow Street. +1-604-669-1940 or toll free at 1-877-669-5637. Best way to get there is to walk from Burrard Station and turn left off Thurlow and Dunsmuir. www.joefortes.ca. Prices: $9 to $60 CDN (depends on what you order).
4. Guu With Garlic – Japanese Izakaya
Vancouver is a mecca of Japanese food. Unbelievable. I discovered Guu with a Chinese doctor of traditional medicine. She had to dispel my assumptions on Japanese cuisine. I’m grateful to her. What is izakaya exactly? In short, a Japanese drinking establishment that offers casual dining. Guu also has several locations like The Reef, but I still have fond memories of the second one on Robson and Bute. Guu’s interior has tatami mats with short tables or stretched out tables composed from meaty pieces of wood. They are similar to picnic tables, which force people to socialize and share food. A high percentage of izakaya is appetizer size, hot, and not catalogued as sushi. The garlic part of the name signifies how yummy and healthy it is for us. Many of Guu’s dishes have sprinkles of garlic chips. Imagine sauteed garlic turned brown in the pan, tossed over tuna or beef tataki. Another fave is the spicy calamari or Gin Dara – miso marinated cod with miso mayonnaise. My ultimate favorite drink: aloe vera juice and vodka. I’m groaning. Spent. Leave me now. 1698 Robson Street. +1-604-685-8678. Take #5 Robson bus and exit on Bute and Robson. www.guu-izakaya.com/robson. Prices: $2 to $8 CDN per dish. Main Guu website with locations is special. Each location has something different about it. www.guu-izakaya.com/storeinfo/info.
5. The Congee and Noodle House – Chinese
I am picky about Chinese. Probably because it’s part of my heritage, but it can’t be too greasy. That turns me off quickly. And for good measure, please use fresh ingredients. Following that basic philosophy makes the flavors sing. That’s what we want with ginger, garlic and fragrant green onion. A Chinese opera. The Congee House has been a staple of Vancouver forever. They serve scrumptious, straight up Chinese food at prices you can swallow. Oh, and congee. A childhood friend. Congee is basically rice soup. Sounds gross, but the advantage is you can add absolutely anything to it. Gai lan, beef, pork or seafood. I generally go for the seafood congees and order a side of Chinese donut. Deep-fried bread sticks that you dip into the congee. Heaven and earth. Of course, I always order spicy tofu, too. The best in the city! 141 East Broadway. +1-604- 879-8221. There are several ways to access. #3 Main bus from downtown. Canada Line from downtown to Broadway Station, then hop the #99 or #9 to Main and Broadway. www.urbanspoon.com. Prices: $8 to $15 CDN.