View of the sunset glistening off downtown Vancouver with the North Vancouver mountains in the background from Queen Elizabeth Park as taken by my iPhone
Vancouver had been on the top of my list of cities I wanted to visit. After a 7 day Alaska cruise out of Vancouver, my family and I decided to stay four extra days in the city. I had been to the Pacific Northwest in the past, visiting Seattle and Portland. I absolutely loved my trips to both cities. The landscape is very green and spectacularly beautiful. As such, the hikes in the region are amazing. Moreover, the food is great. For these reasons, I also wanted to head north of the border to Vancouver. I am a big fan of all three cities but Vancouver is now my favorite city in the Pacific Northwest. If you enjoy skiing, Whistler is a 2 hour drive north of the airport. You can also ski in North Vancouver if you want to go somewhere closer to the city. The mountains of North Vancouver are a beautiful backdrop for the city. There are great hikes there too. I really wanted to hike Grouse Grind. Unfortunately, there were mudslides during the winter and the trail was closed because it was dangerous. Nevertheless, I visited Vancouver in May so the snow on the mountain were melting then anyway. Even without the mudslides, it might have been too slick to hike at that time of year anyway. I will need to return during the summer to do some hiking. Regardless, there are still some great spots north of the city to enjoy the outdoors even in May. Moreover, the amazing Stanley Park is next to the downtown area if want something in the city. Vancouver is also a great city to bike. You will see a lot of bikers pedaling down the streets.
In terms of food, I had some of the most incredible meals in Vancouver. Similar to my experience in Seattle, the Dungeness crab and wild salmon are amazing. When you are in either city, they are must eats. I normally do not even like crab because the texture of the meat feels like rubber to me when I chew so it is not really my taste. However, the Dungeness crab meat tastes more like red meat. If I had to describe it, it tastes like the texture of pulled pork but with a crab taste. Although I do not eat crab, I found myself sucking the meat out of Dungeness crab shells many times in Vancouver. In terms of salmon, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska prefer wild salmon. For most of us outside of that region of the country, we know of farm salmon which is the pink stuff we see at the supermarket. In the Pacific Northwest, they love their wild salmon and there is a disdain for the inferior farm salmon. Nevertheless, there are scientific reasons why wild salmon is better and healthier to eat than farmed salmon. Wild salmon is a different color and taste. There are five different types. In my opinion, sockeye salmon is definitely the best of them. It is a dark red color. Personally, I also love the Asian food in Vancouver. In particular, the Chinese food is top notch. Before the transfer of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, a lot of Hong Kong people emigrated and Vancouver was a popular destination. Consequently, you will find a lot of great Chinese food throughout the city.
The various neighborhoods throughout Vancouver are great too. The airport is in Richmond. It is a suburban type area with a lot of great Chinese food. There are interesting, slightly hidden spots like Granville Island that is a fun spot with good food. The downtown area is vibrant. Of course, there are plenty of great restaurants. Again, North Vancouver is a beautiful backdrop with its mountains. It is also a pretty sight to see the houses built up sides of the bases of the mountains. On the other hand, it rains a lot in Vancouver. According to my friend who grew up in North Vancouver, it is raining or overcast about 2/3 of the days in the year. As such, a sunny day in Vancouver is worth its weight in gold so cherish those days.
There is paid street parking throughout the city. I highly recommend downloading the paybyphone app on your phone. It is convenient to set it up by entering your car information and a credit card once. No matter where you are in the city, you can just enter the parking spot ID code to pay for parking. The app will text you when parking is about to expire and you can easily extend if needed. I held off for a bit but paying for parking was so much more convenient with the app. In addition, some neighborhoods have permit parking to ensure the residents have a spot to park. Be mindful in those areas and carefully read the signs.
- Outdoor Activities
1. Stanley Park
It is the best city park I have been to and I live in New York City with Central Park. It is in the perfect location as the peninsula that juts out from the northwest section of the downtown area. I took a walk around the 10 km (6.6 miles) Seawall loop around the perimeter of the park. It was raining that day and raining very hard at times. Nevertheless, I used an umbrella and the views were still amazing. On the east side of the park, you will see the Vancouver Harbour and get some of the best views of the downtown area. Definitely stop at Hallelujah Point and snap a photo. It provides a great shot of Canada Place and the rest of the city skyline. There is also a military base on Deadman’s Island by that location. I actually lost phone and data signal for 20-30 minutes when I walked by it so I assume the base utilizes some kind of signal jammer. At the north side of the park, you see North Vancouver with the gorgeous mountains in the back and houses that run up the base of them. You also see the green Lion Gates Bridge and walk under it. At the west side of the park, you see English Bay and beaches. I cannot think of a better combination of diverse scenic views on the sides of one park. If you have time to only do one thing in Stanley Park, definitely do the loop. It is also a great spot to run or bike. There are plenty of more trails in the interior of the park, a large aquarium, and other things to do in the park. Parking is $3.50 per hour and $13 maximum for the day. It is cheaper in the fall and winter months ($2.50 per hour and $7 maximum for the day). I went to the park on a rainy weekday and did not have much trouble finding a spot even though the prime spots were still taken. On a nice day on the weekend, I can imagine trying to find an open parking spot very difficult even though there are a lot of spots in the park.
- Sea to Sky Gondola (36800 BC-99, Squamish, BC V0N 3G0, Canada)
I definitely recommend driving an hour north to Squamish for the Sea to Sky Gondola. The scenic drive up is awesome. You are driving on the side of mountains. You get stunning views of Howe Sound and the islands to the west. Everything is green because of the precipitation. In my opinion, it is even better than the Pacific Coast Highway in California. On the other hand, the highway is very winding. You could get a little dizzy driving it but I have completed roads that are much more winding. Beforehand, I was skeptical of this tram as a boring tourist trap. I was wrong. It was an amazing experience. When I first looked up at the tram, it looked like a short ride to the top. However, it was only the first peak on a ten minute ride to the Summit Lodge. The views on the tram are great. If you are afraid of heights, it could be a little nerve racking if you sit on the side of the tram where you are constantly looking down. For this reason, sit on the side where your back will be turned to the base if you think you will get nervous. The tram moves at a moderate pace up and down so the speed will not be an issue. The sights are absolutely stunning at the top. The lookout point at the Summit Lodge provides incredible views of Howe Sound. In addition, there is a suspension bridge next to it that is a lot of fun. You are on a mountain so it may appear scary but it really is not at all. The bridge is stable. If you get nervous, just stand in the middle and hold both cables as much as you can to keep our balance. I also highly recommend the 1.6 km (1 mile) Panorama Trail. The Chief & Squamish Valley Platform is a must see. At the platform, you will see incredible views of Howe Sound to the south and the valley to the north. Definitely check the weather before visiting and try to time your trip for when it is a clear or at least partly cloudy forecast. Of course, it may be easier said than done. The $40 admission is certainly hefty. In my opinion, it is worth it. You can also hike the 7.5 km Sea to Sky trail. It is not recommended that hikers attempt the hike down. It is only $15 if you take the one way tram ride down. From the view of the tram, the hike looks like fun. However, I would not try it unless it is summer. I was there during May and the mountain was still melting so I imagine the trails were very muddy and slippery.
- Queen Elizabeth Park (4600 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 2M9, Canada)
It is another beautiful city park in Vancouver. I came here on a clear night to catch the sunset. The best spots to watch it is in the middle of the park between the Bloedel Conservatory and the Seasons in the Park restaurant. On the other hand, they are good but not great views. Near the Bloedel Conservatory, there is a bridge where you can see the sun set under the mountains north of Vancouver. However, there are a few trees in the way so you need to look in between them. Similarly, there are lookout points by Seasons in the Park where you can see the glow of the sunset reflecting against the downtown skyline but there is a tree line that blocks a complete view of it. The bridge and the lookout points are close to each other so I walked back and forth to get both vantage points. There are also stunningly beautiful gardens in the middle of the park. It is a big park with a lot of trails. As a result, it is a good place to run, bike, and walk too. Seasons in the Park is also a highly rated restaurant with the best views of downtown Vancouver from the park. Parking is $3.25 per hour and $13 maximum. I parked at the parking lot for the Conservatory for sunset and there were no cars there. Of course, there were cars at the parking lot for Seasons in the Park for dinner.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4J1, Canada)
It is a popular tourist attraction in the rainforest in North Vancouver. The suspension bridge crosses the Capilano River. You can definitely feel it move a bit but the railings are very sturdy. It did feel dangerous at all. It felt like a lot of the movement is caused by everyone on the bridge walking. Once you cross the river, there are series of wooden suspension bridges up in the gigantic Douglas fir trees of the rainforest. Unlike the primary suspension bridge, they are totally stable and still. It is called Treetop Adventures and feels like something out of a Peter Pan movie. Back on the side of the bridge where the entrance to the park is, the Cliffwalk is the park’s newest attraction. As the name implies, it is a walkway built on the side of a cliff with views of the river. There are warnings that it is not for the “faint of heart” because the walkway is narrow and the side is glass [strong glass]. In reality, I did not find it scary or dangerous at all. The walkway is totally still because the supports are firmly nailed into the side of the cliff. If you can make it across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Cliffwalk is nothing. The park is definitely fun for a couple of hours. You can visit rain or shine because the large trees block out the sun on a clear day and the rain on an inclement day. The $43 admission fee is a bit steep. If you are a British Columbia resident, you get a complimentary annual pass for a day’s admission fee. As a tourist, I feel the money is better spent on the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. It also has a suspension bridge. Moreover, the bridge is on a peak of a mountain with better views. As a result, I consider the Capilano Suspension Bridge a fun thing to do but not a must do.
- Blue Water Café
I ate one of my best meals anywhere at Blue Water Café. The food, especially the seafood, is epic. For appetizers, we ordered Kurobuta Pork Cheeks and the Seafood Tower. The pork cheeks were really tender and fall apart in my mouth. On the other hand, they were very salty. The tower arrived in a three tier serving metal dish. It included oysters, prawns, seared red tuna, salmon tartare, jellyfish, scallop ceviche, clams, and mussels. Naturally, we added Dungeness crab. Most of the items were raw. Basically everything was awesome. The scallops, jellyfish, clams, and salmon tartare were all memorable. The oysters were like the ocean exploding in my mouth. It is like when you swim in the ocean and accidentally swallow some salt water but in a deliciously tasteful way. The Dungeness crab was chilled. It was a unique way to cook and serve it. As with the norm with Dungeness crab, it was awesome. I do not eat prawns or mussels but my family assured me they were also top notch. The one thing I did not care for was the tuna (tuna sashimi and spicy tuna roll). However, I have been to Hawaii the last two years and the tuna is the freshest you can find it because it is usually caught the morning you eat it. For this reason, my taste buds have been spoiled. The tuna in Vancouver is imported so it can never equal the best tuna I have eaten. Consequently, I ordered a sockeye salmon sushi roll because I wanted a roll with local and fresh fish. The roll also included avocado. The salmon was fantastic.
For my entrée, I ordered the signature dish, Sablefish. Before visiting Vancouver, I had never heard of it but I will never forget the name now. On the other hand, I have actually tried the fish because it has other names. The name I knew it by is butterfish. The fish was very smooth and fell apart in flakes. The miso sake glaze was incredible. I also loved the bok choy and shitake mushrooms. In addition, I also tried some of the other entrees my family ordered. The Kobe Style Shortribs were very good. It was a generous portion. It looked like a small log when it appeared on the table. My cousin could only eat half of his order and I ate the other half. It was not the best beef I have eaten but it was very tender and braised extremely well. Another great entrée was the free range chicken. The problem with cooking chicken is that it can get dry easily. For this reason, it is a testament to Blue Water Café that the chicken was very moist. In addition, the broccolini was amazing. It was so good that my cousin’s four year old could not get enough so we ordered a side order just so he could eat more. To conclude, Blue Water Café is so good that it can get a small child to love vegetables.
Parking can be a bit difficult next to the café. We actually ran into a traffic jam on the street it is on but found street parking pretty easily a couple blocks away. There is also valet parking.
- Granville Island
It is a cute island to shop and find something great to eat. It is a fun place to spend a few hours. The parking may be a bit of a challenge so you may need to circle around. There are actually foodie tours to show you around the island. Definitely stop by the Public Market (1669 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canada). If you are looking to cook, the raw meats and seafood look amazing. The selection of fruits are incredible too. All the fruit look fresh and delicious. The variety of colors make the market very pretty. In addition, there are exotic fruits ones that I normally do not see in New York. For example, I see the red pitaya (dragonfruit) in New York but the Public Market was the first time I saw a golden pitaya. It is extremely sweet and tastes much better than the generally tasteless red pitaya. There are also a lot of food vendors that sell prepared food. Most of them are concentrated in the food court area but you will see them scattered around the market.
The bread and pastries look absolutely delicious. I tried the double baked almond croissant. The almond crust at the top definitely differentiates it as one of the best croissants I have ever eaten. A really good almond filing in the middle would make it perfect.
JJ Bean Kiosk
I am hesitant to recommend JJ Bean because it seems to be a chain that probably over expanded with 18 locations in Vancouver. It is impossible to maintain excellent coffee throughout each location when a coffee shop expands so much. As a result, the quality could vary greatly depending on the location you go to. The kiosk in the Public Market is very good. I ordered a medium latte and the drink is smooth throughout. I was very happy with it. On the other hand, I saw an order of a large latte and it looked like slop. In my opinion, the cup is way too big for the large size. It may have just been poor latte art but I would be surprised if the taste did not suffer too. Either a medium or large will have two espresso shots. The difference is the amount of milk. Unless you just really want more milk, I would highly recommend ordering a medium.
It is 20 minutes south of downtown Vancouver and where the airport is located. It is a growing, up and coming, modern, and upscale neighborhood. We ventured into Richmond multiple times during our time in Vancouver and had some of the best Chinese food there.
- Richmond Night Market (8351 River Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 1Y4, Canada)
It is a unique experience that is not for everyone. The Night Market is only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holiday nights for the summer months (May 12-October 9 for 2017). There are no signs for the admission fee but it was $7.50 for two adults. The Night Market is a carnival atmosphere. There are rides, popup shops, and a concert stage. In addition, there are animatronic dinosaurs throughout the market. A Brachiosaurus is at the entrance and they have a T-Rex in the back. Of course, the Night Market is best known for its many Asian food stands. It is an overwhelming selection of food: BBQ skewers, Korean, dim sum, and much more. One of the more popular and interesting items I did not get to try is the rotato. It looks like a stack of potato chips on a stick. If you look closer, it is actually a rotating potato that has been sliced up and all the pieces are connected. I recommend taking a walk around all of the food stands to survey your surroundings in order to game plan and pick out what you want to eat. I ate dinner before going to the Night Market. For this reason, I was not that hungry. If I was, I probably would have tried at least 5 different stands. Instead, I tried two. One of them is Sippy Tea. They are known for their Tea-ffee, a blend of tea and coffee. The drink is served in a plastic bag that looks like an IV bag from the hospital. I am very picky with coffee. I only drink specialty coffee. Consequently, I was very skeptical about it. Nevertheless, I was very impressed. I ordered the earl grey tea-ffee. It grew on me more and more as I drank it. It was very sweet and delicious. In terms of food, I ordered BBQ skewers from Chef James Xin Jiang Man BBQ. The meats on the skewers were tender even though they were not the best quality of meat. The marinade on all of them were fantastic.
Although I am a fan of the selection of food, it is not entirely my scene. The lines are long and it gets very crowded. People will bump into you. Again, the Night Market is not for everyone. I would go back to try more food. However, I am not dying to go back. Regardless, I am glad I at least experienced it once. It is also very difficult to drive to the Night Market. Even with a GPS, I missed a side street and went onto the highway. Once I got back on track, another street was closed off so I had to make a U-turn. The parking lot is confusing too. You can take mass transit to get to the market so it may be a better option.
- Aberdeen Centre (4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, BC V6X 4J7, Canada)
It is a 3 story shopping mall comprised of mainly Asian vendors: shops, food court, bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants. The food court has a great selection if you do not want to spend time to eat a formal, sit-down meal. If you do want a sit-down meal, there are plenty of restaurants including Korean, Taiwanese, etc. Be cognizant of where you park because the higher levels of the parking lot are for longer stays. If is a great spot to stop half a day if you are looking for anything Asian.
Saint Germain Restaurant
We got a recommendation to try the egg tarts at this bakery. They offer various types: [All Butter] Egg Tart, Puff Egg Tart, Molten Cheese Tart, and Butter Baked Sweet Potatoes. We ordered the cheapest one, $1.25, which is the [All Butter] Egg Tart. The crust of the egg tarts are very flaky and buttery. At first, I was blown away. Then, I realized that it was the extra butter adding to the taste. Nevertheless, the tarts are still very good.
Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood Restaurant
It is known for dim sum but we went for dinner. It is what I expect from a good, authentic Chinese food restaurant. It tastes good but is a little salty. Three of the things we ordered stood out: Sauteed scallop with cashew nut in Bird’s Nest, Deep Fried Prawn Ball with Almond Flakes and Fruit Salad, and Gui Fei chicken. The Bird’s Nest was excellent. It was crisp and flaky. I do not eat shrimp but the Prawn almond balls looked great. The almond crust for the balls were very good. The chicken was very moist. Another dish that was good is the braised fish belly & tofu hot pot. It is comparable to the dish at most Chinese restaurants I have eaten it at. The honey garlic spare ribs are another interesting dish. I like it a lot because I love honey. However, it may be too sweet depending on your tastes. We also ordered a couple of vegetable dishes that were good.
- Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant (4940 No 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 3A5, Canada)
We saw an advertisement in the airport for Sun Sui Wah. As such, we assumed it was touristy and did not have any plans to go. However, we met a Chinese couple on the Alaska cruise we were on and they specifically recommended the location in Richmond. It is a very good spot for dim sum. Like other dim sum restaurants in Vancouver, you order via a sheet. I am accustomed to the carts with the food being pushed around in New York. However, the dim sum is definitely fresher when it is made to order instead of sitting on a cart. We ordered most of the items we usually do: rice rolls (beef, prawn, black fungus and tofu, fried dough), chicken feet, spare ribs, steamed beef balls, shumai, dumplings, etc. The rice rolls, chicken feet, and spare ribs are generally my favorite items. They were very good at Sun Sui Wah. A lot of the other stuff had a unique flavor I had never tasted with dim sum. If I had to describe it, there is a hint of a taste of seafood. My family loved it but I was not a fan. It makes sense because I am generally not a fan of a lot of seafood. Another item my family loves, that I do not eat, is the daurian buns. They spoke highly of them. It is an acquired taste. Daurian smells really bad. I would advise against it if you have never tried it and do not want to be adventurous. If you enjoy daurian, go for the buns here. In addition, it has awesome Dungeness crab like the rest of Vancouver. I absolutely loved the Asian style sauce that was on it.
Our waiter was phenomenal. He went out of his way to give us plenty of great recommendations for food in Vancouver. When it comes to Chinese food, I often find the best spots from word of mouth from locals. In addition, he tried to look out for us by advising us to not order as much at his restaurant so we could try more food in Vancouver. In general, he suggested we eat less at each individual place so we can try more stuff. Although we tried and loved the spots he recommended, we completely ignored his advice to order less and ordered a lot everywhere. Parking can be a little difficult. There is a parking lot in front of the restaurant [GPS brought me to the back so make sure you are in the front] where there are designated spots for the restaurant. It is a popular place for dim sum so you may have to wait in the parking lot for a little bit before one of the spots opens up.
- Lucky Joy BBQ Restaurant (11780 Thorpe Rd, Richmond, BC V6X1J5, Canada)
It is a hole in the wall restaurant for awesome, authentic, and home cooked style Chinese food at amazing prices. It is definitely not a place for Westernized fast food Chinese food (e.g. chicken and broccoli). The two dishes that stood out the most were the steak cubes with okra and Dungeness crab with yee mein. Nevertheless, I enjoyed everything we ordered: crispy chicken with shrimp chips, fried fish and bean curd in hot pot, stir fried string beans with minced pork, choy sum, spinach with fried bean curd, and a bowl of soup for the table. The prices are ridiculously cheap. For example, the Dungeness crab is $13 per pound. For context, it cost us $16 per pound at a market in Chinatown for us to buy it and cook it ourselves. In total, we ate a large meal for $150. It fed 6 adult and 2 kids and we had leftovers. In terms of service and overall atmosphere, I completely disregard that aspect for a hole in the wall place. Our waitress basically just took our order and the food came out. It is not the cleanest restaurant and the furniture is old. However, there is a reason the prices are so low. It was definitely the best value for a meal we ate in Vancouver. I take that tradeoff of atmosphere and service versus price all the time for great food.
The restaurant is located in a small plaza. As a result, you have to get lucky with parking. There may be some street parking outside of the plaza but I am not sure because I was fortunate when a car pulled out of a spot as I pulled into the lot. This place gets busy. It is popular with the locals. Even on a weekday, it becomes a madhouse with a line at 7:30 PM. We made a reservation at 6:00 and beat the rush.
- More Dim Sum
1. Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant (1132 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1S2, Canada)
Personally, it has the dim sum I liked most in Vancouver. It was similar to the tastes I am used to with dim sum. Everything was very good. The rice rolls definitely stood out especially since half of the dim sum spots we went to did not have them. The beef with parsley is my favorite. We ordered a variety of rice rolls: minced fish & bean curd skin, Chinese doughnut [fried dough], dried shimp & onion, and mushrooms. Another item I really liked were the egg tarts. They come out very hot. Again, everything else was very good. We also had pan fried daikon cake, Spare ribs & pumpkin, chicken feet, beef ribs, sweet durian stick rice cake, and an assortment of dumplings. Like other dim sum spots in Vancouver, you order via a sheet and the food is made to order. If you order enough, they bring it all in the dim sum carts. The prices were also great. We ate a ton and the bill was $85 [We were somehow given a 20% discount. We think it was because we ordered so much]. I also loved that the restaurant has its own large parking lot with plenty of spots in the front and back.
- Dynasty Seafood Restaurant (777 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z4J7, Canada)
It is another very good dim sum restaurant in Vancouver. My favorite item here were the black truffles dumplings. The rice noodles and pan fried noodles were very smooth. Other dishes I liked were the jelly fish and fried cod. We also ordered other dumplings, spring rolls, spare ribs, chicken feet, egg tarts, and pan fried daikon cake. They are good but similar to most places. There is nothing to differentiate those items from any other restaurant. I was disappointed that they do not have stuffed rice rolls. I love beef and Chinese doughnut/ fried dough rice rolls when I get dim sum. Our waiter also noted that they won an award for a dish with shrimp stuffed in fried dough. We ordered it but I do not know what the hype is about. The restaurant also has a decent view of the city. In addition, there is a paid parking lot. However, it is complimentary if you tell the restaurant the stall number. We did not know beforehand so we found and paid for street parking.
- Kirin Mandarin Restaurant (1172 Alberni St, Vancouver, BC V6E 3Z3, Canada)
It is one of the most modern and aesthetically pleasing Chinese restaurants I have been in. When I entered, I said “Wow”. Unfortunately, the food does not nearly live up to the décor. The fried daikon cakes were cold. They have rice rolls but they do not stuff them. Regardless, the rice rolls were only just ok anyway. The chicken feet, spare ribs, and egg tarts were decent. On the other hand, there were a couple of dishes I liked a lot. The congee was very good. It also featured some thin slices of ginger I could not get enough of. I usually do not like biting into ginger. However, Kirin prepares it in a way that is delicious to eat. The other dish I loved was the beef chow fun with gravy. If I worked in downtown Vancouver and had a craving for dim sum, I would probably go to Kirin once in a while to get congee or beef chow fun and a couple of dim sum dishes. However, I am a tourist. I would probably not try it again.
- New Town Bakery & Restaurant (148 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3, Canada)
It is an awesome Chinese bakery in the middle of Chinatown. Their dough is excellent. The baked bread of the pineapple and roast pork buns is among the best I have had. It is especially good when you get them straight out of the oven around 7:30 in the morning. The steamed buns are why the bakery was recommended to me. New Town has Bola-Bola (Chicken Deluxe with Chicken, Pork, Ham & Egg Yolk) and Asado Siaopao (Steamed Pork Bun). Both were very good but I preferred the pork bun. Again, the bun part of both items are great. On the other hand, the meat filings are decent but nothing extraordinary.
We stayed at an AirBnB a block from Chinatown. The Chinatown in Vancouver is a decent size. We only ate food from New Town Bakery. My friend from Vancouver recommended Bao Bei (163 Keefer St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1X3, Canada). The food looks amazing but the portions look small and it is a bit pricey. I definitely have it on my list for next time though. We enjoyed shopping at the local markets for some fruit. We found some exotic food at one of them: atemoya. It looks like a big acorn. It tastes like a bit like lychee but actually better. If you are looking for a supermarket, T&T Supermarket (179 Keefer Pl, Vancouver, BC V6B2L2, Canada) is a good one for fresh seafood and Asian groceries and snacks. There are two different gates for the entrance into Chinatown: 26 W Pender St and 106 Keefer St. Nevertheless, there are plenty of great spots for Chinese food outside of Chinatown so there is really no need to visit it just for food. On the other hand, there are a few really good coffee shops, including the best I tried in Vancouver, in Chinatown. Please see coffee shop list below. A lot of the shops and small grocery stores in Chinatown close by 6 PM. If you want to walk around, definitely do so beforehand because it is a bit of a ghost town and slightly sketchy afterwards.
- Cartems Donuterie (534 West Pender , Vancouver, BC V6B 1V3, Canada)
It is a great doughnut shop. There are multiple locations. I visited the downtown location and ordered a variety of flavors: earl grey, whiskey bacon, smoked maple walnut, and chocolate glaze. Without a doubt, my favorite and the most memorable flavor was the earl grey. It was amazing and comparable to my favorite doughnut anywhere: the tres leches from Doughnut Plant in New York.
- Hamaei Sushi (2601 Westview Dr, North Vancouver, BC V7N 3X3, Canada)
Again, there is a lot of great Asian food in Vancouver. One of the recommendations we got was that we needed to try some Japanese food. In particular, there are a lot of Japanese restaurants in North Vancouver. We stopped by Hamaei after visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park since it was recommended by my friend who grew up in Vancouver and close by to the bridge. It is in a shopping plaza. Park in the main lot because the parking spots in front of the restaurant is restricted. Hamaei is a decent, authentic Japanese restaurant. I ordered a couple of rolls: wild sockeye salmon and negitoro. The salmon roll was great but the negitoro was no big deal. Again, salmon is local and fresh in Vancouver. Tuna is imported so I was not a fan of any tuna in general in Vancouver, especially after visiting Hawaii the last two years. The blackened cod was very good. The taste of the fish was great. However, the entrée could be a little less salty. It was a bit too much. Hamaei also has lunch box specials if you go for lunch.
Vancouver is a vibrant coffee town. It is a city that loves their coffee. There are a lot of good specialty coffee shops throughout the city. On the other hand, its best coffee shops do not necessarily match up with the top coffee shops I have tried. As such, I consider Vancouver a city that has many good but few great coffee shops. I also talked to a barista at one of the shops and he noted that the coffee scene continues to improve in Vancouver so it may evolve from very good to great soon.
You will see a lot of J.J. Beans throughout the city because there are 18 locations. I am hesitant to blanket recommend it because it is impossible to maintain quality throughout all locations when a coffee shop over expands so much. Personally, I would take a look at the drinks coming out before ordering. Below are the other coffee shops I tried.
1. Aubade Coffee (230 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3, Canada)
Without a doubt, it is the best coffee in Vancouver. It is a kiosk at the front of an antique store in Chinatown. I have never tasted anything like it. I ordered a latte. Aubade is vegan so the barista created a non-dairy alternative to milk. It tastes a little sweet. The latte is perfect. I did not even taste a hint of bitterness. The drink is perfectly smooth throughout. The art is also solid. Since he does not use milk, his alternative is not as conducive for art. He is also passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about coffee. If you have your coffee to stay, he will share some great insights about his travels. It is just him running his small shop. He notes he wants to keep it that way so he can maintain his quality. I appreciate his commitment to excellence.
- Revolver (325 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2N4, Canada)
It is arguably the best coffee shop I tried in Vancouver. I give Aubade an edge because of its uniqueness. Revolver is more conventional. I had an awesome latte here. It was perfect in every way: art, smoothness, richness, and consistency throughout the entire drink. It is located in the downtown area. There is booth style seating in the primary room and an additional room with long tables.
3. Propaganda Coffee (209 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T8, Canada)
It is a solid coffee shop in Chinatown. The latte was good but a little watery. On the other hand, the art was phenomenal. It was arguably the best latte art I saw in Vancouver.
- Timbertrain (311 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B4K2, Canada)
I was told that my experience at Timbertrain would depend on who is working. I ran over here on a Sunday afternoon from Canada Place before embarking on a cruise. I had a disappointing experience. The drink tasted a bit watery. It just tasted like the ratio of the milk, coffee, etc. was a little off. The latte art was decent. The barista was a bit distracted. He was asked a question and stopped mid-drink to answer it. Lattes are an exact science so it might have thrown off the drink just enough. Although I felt I did not get Timbertrain’s best, it was still good. As such, I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt. In addition, I liked its space. It has hip, booth seating.
- Matchstick Coffee Roasters (213 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 0B1, Canada)
It is another good coffee shop in Chinatown. I had two very different experiences. On a Sunday afternoon, the barista really struggled with warming the milk. It is the only time I have seen a barista transfer milk from one pitcher to another in an attempt to get it correct. Ultimately, the resulting micofoam looked fine. However, her technique with the latte art was flawed so the art was mediocre. In terms of the drink, it was a bit watery but acceptable. When I returned on a Thursday morning, another barista made an excellent latte. The art was top notch and one of the most photogenic drinks during my trip to Vancouver.
- 49th Parallel Roasters (2902 Main St, Vancouver, British Colombia)
First, I love the name because Vancouver’s latitude is the 49th parallel. It has a very good latte. My drink had a slight flaw. The initial sips on top had sharp bitterness that kicked me in the face. However, the latte was a lot smoother as I drank towards the bottom of the cup. While I was standing in line, I noticed the doughnuts that glistened at me. The presentation was excellent. The taste did not quite live up to its looks. I ordered an apple fritter. The edges of the fritter are crisp with a good glaze. It also had bacon on top. Honestly, I could barely taste the bacon because the fritter was so sweet. Overall, it is a good fritter but I have had better.