Eat Like a Local in Vancouver and Victoria

Like many cities, Vancouver and Victoria have embraced local eating and drinking. Yet even as “locavore” remains the rallying cry, both cities look for culinary inspiration beyond their borders, especially toward Asia and the Pacific Rim. This is what's popular with the locals.

Vegetables Go Glam

With this regional bounty, you’d expect that Vancouver would be a veggie-friendly city, but until recently, its vegetarian restaurants tended to be relegated to crunchy-granola Buddha-bowl varieties. Things have changed recently, and there are more vegetarian dining rooms that offer chic and sophisticated green cuisine. Trendy nonvegetarian restaurants are increasingly “vegetable-forward,” too, offering plenty of imaginative plant-based fare.

Drinking Local

British Columbia’s wine industry is concentrated in the sunny Okanagan Valley and on Vancouver Island, which supply many of the region’s dining rooms and wine bars. Vancouver and Victoria are now also home to several distilleries brewing spirits from local grains, as well as numerous craft breweries, too, so you can drink locally, no matter what your taste.

Side Trip to China for dinner

Vancouver has one of the largest Asian populations of any city outside of Asia, and the area's Chinese cuisine ranks among the best in North America. The go-to destination for Chinese food fans is Richmond, the suburban "new" Chinatown, less than 30 minutes on the Canada Line from Downtown. Here, stylish Chinese restaurants, vast dim sum parlors, and even grab-and-go food courts cater to the well-to-do Asian community and rival the best of Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Taipei.

Beyond the Sushi Bar

Vancouverites joke that they could eat sushi every day for months and never visit the same restaurant twice. While sushi bars are plentiful, though, Japanese food in Vancouver means far more than maki and nigiri. Vancouverites have fallen hard for izakayas (Japanese tapas bars), which combine the casual West Coast vibe with easy-to-share small plates. Ramen shops are also popular; witness the lineups at the numerous noodle purveyors in the ramen-central West End.

A Passage to India

Vancouver's Indian restaurants reflect the increasingly varied nature of the region’s South Asian population, offering regional specialties from across the subcontinent. The long-established "Little India," the Punjabi Market neighborhood on Main Street, is where you’ll find traditional Indian fare, but local chefs in both Indian and non-Indian eateries increasingly pair classic South Asian flavors with local Canadian ingredients, thanks, in part, to Vikram Vij, who shook up the Vancouver food scene in the mid-1990s with his still-popular modern Indian cooking.

Fueled by Caffeine

"Fuelled by Caffeine" is the slogan of the Bean Around the World Vancouver-based minichain of coffeehouses, but it's also an apt description of the city. Although the Starbucks invasion is extensive, there are plenty of more colorful places—from sleek and modern to comfortably bohemian. You'll find the same variety of coffee drinks that you can get across North America, though some spots refer to an "americano" (an espresso made with extra hot water) as a "canadiano." Many—but not all—provide free Wi-Fi, too.

Lunch on the Move

Food trucks have become an important part of Vancouver’s culinary scene, with mobile vendors offering quick, convenient lunches downtown and beyond. Many street carts celebrate the city’s unique Asian fusion, while others, champion the locavore ethic. Most trucks operate downtown during lunch (about 11 or 11:30 to 2:30 or 3).

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