When I was planning my three-week Canada trip, I didn’t really bother with finding places to eat in Vancouver. From my research I’d learned that “Canadian cuisine” is heavily influenced by immigrant cultures and varies widely from region to region; with Vancouver being such a diverse city, I thought I’d just try whatever looked interesting.

Luckily for me, I ended up exploring Vancouver’s food scene with the help of locals. My partner James’s cousin, Luke, has lived in Vancouver with his family for over a decade and so they showed us what it was like to live here – while also taking us to all the best restaurants in Vancouver!

Without further ado, here are 8 food spots + 3 coffee shops in Vancouver that you should check out.

Fritz European Fry House

If you’ve visited Canada and never tried poutine, did you really visit Canada? Poutine is this hot mess of fries, gravy, and cheese curds that originated from the French province of Quebec but has since spread across the country and is hailed as Canada’s national fast food staple.

Best poutine in Vancouver: Fritz European Fry House

Luke claims that Fritz makes the best poutine in Vancouver, and online reviews agree. Not that I’ve tried that many poutines, but I liked that Fritz’s isn’t too salty – I managed to finish my entire Medium size order, sticky fingers and all. This nondescript shop on Davie street opens from afternoon until late, so plan your visit for supper.

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Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro

For various historical reasons, Canada’s First Nations in the western provinces have been more successful in preserving their heritage. Still, Salmon n’ Bannock is the only First Nations restaurant in Vancouver and you can look forward to wild-caught salmon, game meat, and of course bannock, all in a cozy setting. This was a restaurant I really wanted to try, but they’ve switched to dinner-only hours so I missed my chance 🙁

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Nuba

Najib’s Special, Nuba Lebanese restaurant, VancouverI was lucky to get to visit Nuba on my very last day in the city. I didn’t know it, but it turns out this Lebanese restaurant in Vancouver is a favorite among locals. Luke insisted we get the Najib’s Special, which looks hardly edible but is in fact the ultimate redemption for a brassica as unloveable as the cauliflower.

We had some other dishes as well that aren’t too photogenic but are incredibly flavorful and, frankly, better than the Lebanese food I’ve tried in places like Dubai. Do make reservations, as Nuba gets pretty crowded.

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Sen Pad Thai

This new food spot on Granville Island is opened by the same chef behind Vancouver’s multiple-award-winning Maenam Thai restaurant. As the name suggests, Sen Pad Thai serves variations of Pad Thai from different regions in Thailand. I did wish for more flavor, as well as smaller and cheaper servings, but sitting at a bench outdoors and wolfing down Pad Thai is nicely analogous to the roadside stall experience in Bangkok.

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Tacofino

Another BC food truck turned local institution, Tacofino is known for its generously stuffed tacos and burritos, as well as yummy nachos. Slightly pricey (to me, at least) if you want a feast but worth the farts, oh yes.

Tacofino

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Congee Noodle Delight

I’m understandably picky about Chinese food, whether it’s a Michelin-starred restaurant or a zi char (stir-fry) hawker stall downstairs. For a Cantonese food place in Vancouver, Congee Noodle Delight is authentic to what you’d get in a Hong Kong char chan teng diner, but with western serving sizes (i.e. enough for two meals). Fantastic if you’re traveling and really need a comforting taste of proper char siew rice or wanton mee.

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Cafés: Where to drink coffee in Vancouver

Although the city isn’t known for coffee excellence, there are a few specialty cafés in Vancouver that I liked. Luke isn’t a coffee geek, so my shortlist was a mix of recommendations from Sprudge, Eater, and barista friends. Out of seven cafés, these are the best three.

Elysian Coffee Roasters, 7th & Ontario

Elysian Coffee Roasters, 7th & OntarioI’m not sure if I got lucky here or was simply caffeine-deprived. Since I was at MEC I decided to come here for my first coffee in Vancouver, and it was a lovely uplifting houseblend that tasted like granola.

When I brought James to Elysian Coffee’s downtown shop (at Burrard Hotel), however, we couldn’t deal with the over-extracted cappuccino. Stick with the 7th & Ontario branch and hopefully you’ll get a good experience like I did.

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Matchstick Coffee

I didn’t actually visit Matchstick, but both Luke and James did, and apparently it’s worth putting on this list if you need your specialty coffee fix. Besides roasting its own beans, Matchstick bakes its own bread and pastries daily and its outlets have a bright, welcoming feel.

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49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

49th Parallel is like a upscale, hipster version of Tim Hortons. It lures you in with its pretty and decadent doughnuts, then tops it off with a satisfying cuppa (though Seattle’s General Porpoise still makes better coffee, sorry!)

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters in Vancouver
I love the alfresco area, which is perfect for whiling away the afternoon. The photo above, however, is of their newly opened downtown location – which offers a brunch menu! Try it and let me know if it’s any good.

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If you’ve been figuring out where to eat in Vancouver, I hope these local recommendations will please your palate! Let me know your favorite food spots as well – I will definitely be heading back.

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