One of the most enjoyable activities when visiting a
different city or country is sampling the local cuisine. In the type of places I usually
go, this involves taking along a large supply of Imodium and Cipro, but then again I like
to travel to the out of the way places that most people try to avoid. I have spend many a
night sitting on the can, after eating from a street vendor in a 3rd world country. Such
is life. Fortunately, your chances of getting sick while dining in Vancouver is almost
nil. The health standards here are extremely rigid and you can safely drink water straight
from the tap.
Canada does not have a "national"
cuisine as such. There are typical Canadian dishes, but you do not hear Americans
saying, "lets order in Canadian food tonight dear". What Canada does have, is
probably the widest selection of restaurants featuring ethnic foods from elsewhere in the
world. Since we are a country of immigrants, this is not surprising. I have found most
North American cities, with some notable exceptions, a wasteland of culinary adventure,
this is decidedly not the case in Vancouver.
Vancouverites spend more per capita dining out, than in
any other city in North America. The city has an incredible variety of restaurants, and
the good news is that it is cheaper to eat out in a good restaurant here, than in almost
any other North American City. Many experts feel Vancouver has the overall finest
selection of Restaurants in North America. There are of course a few establishments which
will almost require you to take out a mortgage, but most good restaurants charge anywhere
from $15 to $25 dollars Canadian for an entree. They tend to make their money on drinks. A
bottle of wine in a restaurant generally costs twice what it costs in a liquor store. You
are not allowed to take your own booze into a restaurant, and not all restaurants are
licensed to serve alcohol. You can of course eat for much cheaper. If you like Oriental
food, you will be in heaven here. Not only is it cheap, but there are tons of Oriental
Restaurants and its difficult to find a bad one. You will find restaurants representing
nearly every cultural culinary experience you can imagine. Oriental restaurants are also a
good choice for lunch. You can often have a full meal for less than $5 Canadian.
All the major fast food chains such as Burger King,
McDonalds, etc. are represented. White Spot actually still has car hops. If you did not
grow up in North America in the 50's, a car hop is someone who delivers your meal to your
car on a tray.
A somewhat unique type of restaurant you will find all
over Vancouver is the "Chinese Smorgasbord". I know is conjures up visions
of blonde Oriental Vikings, but they are actually quite a nice experience. There are 3
large ones located in Surrey at 152nd & 100th, 64th & 120th and on 72nd just east
of King George Hwy. You can try hundreds of different dishes for one entry fee.
Another feature of Vancouver is the "Food
Fair". You will find these in most large malls. They are a conglomeration of small
food outlets, and are quite reasonable.
Tipping is generally 15% on the total of the bill,
excluding the 7% GST Tax. This usually works out to about 10% of the entire bill including
the tax. Many people erroneously tip 15% on the bill total. I have never encountered a
restaurant where a service charge is included and most Waiters & Waitresses rely on
tips to make a decent living. Waiters & Waitresses have to pay income tax on tips. I
find this irritating, since I've already paid my share of tax on the money already. I tend
to try and tip in cash, even if I am paying on a charge card. I figure this way, they have
some option to not declare all of it.
Vegetarian & Vegan:
Vancouver has a reasonable selection of Vegetarian Restaurants. You will
find a couple of links in the table below to a listings for many of them. Vancouver also
has a large Chinese & East Indian population and a corresponding large number of
restaurants associated with those 2 ethnic groups. Fortunately for Vegans, these
restaurants offer a large selection of Vegan & Vegetarian dishes. The best part is,
you can attend with your carnivore friends who can pig out on sweet & sour pork, lemon
chicken, & ginger beef (sorry Vegans, my mouth is starting to water), while you dine
on rice, Tofu & Broccoli. One new Vegetarian Restaurant I can recommend is the Olive
Cafe located in the funky Commercial Drive area of East Vancouver. It opened in late 2001
and is run by Turkish University students. You can find it at 1716 Charles Street just 1/2
block east of Commercial Drive. My partner & I went there with Turkish friends
recently & had a great time. You can experience typical Turkish dishes and can end
your meal lingering over Turkish Coffee or tea for an hour and no-one seems to mind.
Vancouver has strict smoking laws with regards to Restaurants. Its
banned in most establishments.
Drinking laws in British Columbia are somewhat archaic. Restaurants have
to have a liquor license in order to sell alcohol. You cannot bring your own liquor into a
Restaurant, liquor license or not. Most restaurants do have a liquor license, but many
smaller ones, do not. If a glass of wine or a beer with your meal is a necessity, you
might want to check first.