The Gastown area of Vancouver originally began with the saloon of the founder ‘Gassy’ John Deighton in the 1870s. It seems fitting that in recent years the area has become known for its brilliant restaurants, bars, and nightclubs and is now one of the most fashionable areas of Vancouver. Gastown is home to many artists and galleries, music venues, and historic sites. Here’s our guide to ten of the best restaurants.
Meat and Bread
Sandwich Shop, Canadian, Fast Food, Soup, Vegetarian, $$$
Meat and Bread’s menu is fairly simple and straightforward, consisting of meat sandwiches – yet, the restaurant is one of the trendier places to be seen in Gastown. Part of a chain, when there was talk of a Meat and Bread opening in Seattle, the news was widely covered in the press. What the success of the Meat and Bread method demonstrates is how popular a restaurant can be when excellent quality ingredients, top-notch cooking, and good service are combined. You can choose from four sandwich options – porchetta, meatball, aged white cheddar and red onion, or the daily special option.
Acme Cafe is based in an historic building on West Hastings Street, built in 1907 and home for over sixty years to the Paris family’s Shoe Emporium. Acme Cafe is especially well-known for the quality of the pies and desserts. You can drop in for breakfast or a more substantial sitting later in the day. Breakfast dishes on offer include plenty of ham, eggs, and muffins, with lunchtime sandwiches available such as smoked salmon, roast shrimp and BLT. Main dishes include wild boar and turkey cassoulet or roast chicken.
Wildebeest provides patrons with a fine dining experience with innovative flavor combinations and a nose-to-tail approach. The restaurant has won awards including Best New Restaurant and Best New Design awards from Vancouver Magazine. Set in a 19th century building, Wildebeest comprises a main dining room, cocktail bar, lounge, and an open-kitchen so you can see your food being prepared by the chefs. All of the ingredients are sourced from independent artisanal suppliers to ensure freshness and flavor. On the menu are intriguing dishes such as spiced pork rinds, Sawmill Bay oysters, veal tongue, lamb tartare, roasted bone marrow, and seared venison.
Salt Tasting Room, Vancouver | Courtesy of Salt Tasting Room
The Salt Tasting Room on Blood Alley is built around the concept of tailored tasting plates. Each diner can create their own Tasting Plate and each day there are ten different meats, cheeses, and condiments chalked up on a board in the Tasting Room. Options are dependent upon what’s fresh, and what produce the chefs have available on a given day. Diners then choose three of each and the kitchen staff combines them to create a unique dish. There are also plenty of wines to choose from to complement your dish.
Pourhouse is located just southeast of the famous Gastown Steam Clock in a building that dates back to 1910. There are plenty of period features still within the building including a bar made from a 120 year-old Douglas Fir. Pourhouse has embraced the character of the building and developed a menu and wine-list that keeps in tune with this. The food is full of old-fashioned hearty flavors: you can choose from dishes such as smoked fish cakes, steamed clams with pork belly, Albacore tuna Nicoise, pork shoulder, 13 oz ribeye, or a selection of burgers. Moreover the wine-list is packed with zinfandels from Californian vineyards, the favorite wine of the 1910s and 1920s.
Situated on Alexander Street, diners at Guilt and Company are encouraged to indulge their senses. The restaurant doubles as a leading music venue in Vancouver, with regular swing and cabaret nights. The food here is all about big flavor combinations. The menu includes dishes such as bison steaks stuffed with mushrooms and goats cheese, and fried chicken wings served with mussels, chorizo, prawns, clams and tomato sauce. Ensure you save some room to indulge in their Red Velvet Cake—chocolate cake with layers of cream cheese.
Calabash is perhaps the most unique of Gastown’s dining venues, simultaneously a music venue, art gallery, restaurant and bar. The whole venue is inspired by the Caribbean—the drinks include the largest selection of rums in Vancouver. Choose from coconut dumplings, jerk chicken skewers, patties, ginger plantain, and oxtail with rice and peas. The gallery space is designed for local artists and hosts everything from reggae and hip-hop to funk. There is even an online radio station that broadcasts from Calabash.
Jules Bistro is a classic French bistro close to the Goldcorp Center for the Arts on Abbott Street, the thoroughfare that runs north to south through Gastown. The menu showcases real, authentic Gallic cooking and classic dishes. Starters include soupe a la oignon gratinée, and Alsatian caramelized onion tartlets. Among the main courses are moules frites, cooked in white wine, garlic and parsley, fillet de boeuf in a red wine sauce, and the classic entrecôte of beef with fries. For dessert there is crème brûlée, crème caramel, or orange blossom sorbet.
The Greedy Pig embraces the idea that seasonal ingredients and locally sourced produce are the key to great tasting food. Situated in a 100 year-old building, The Greedy Pig prides itself on the superb selection of whiskeys and bourbons on offer. The food provides big, fulsome flavors: you can try braised shoulder of pork with barbecue sauce; shepherd’s pie made with duck rather than lamb; braised beef shoulder; and a sandwich of roast beef with truffle oil. The drink menu includes Canadian rye whiskeys, Tennessee sour mash, and bourbons from Kentucky, which can be mixed and matched by the staff into trademark cocktails.
L’Abattoir sits in the center of Gastown close to Blood Alley and Gaoler’s Mews in a 19th century building that was once the site of the first jail built in Vancouver. Later, it was part of the main butchery premises in the city, which is where it gets its name. Now fully refurbished, L’Abattoir boasts a modern decor of glass, steel and tiles and is home to a bar, lounge, and dining room. The cuisine of head chef Lee Cooper merges classic French with American cuisine. Look out for dishes including barbecued octopus, foie gras, and pork shoulder cooked in milk.