I love Vancouver, and frequently have people ask me for recommendations. Instead of writing this all down every time, here they are for reference:
Vera’s Burgers. The burgers are just straight up delicious. My favorite location is on Davie St at the beginning of the gay district. I personally love the pilgrim (turkey burger) but pretty much anything you try is great. You pick all of your own toppings, and they have plenty to choose from. Price: $8 - 10 per person
Cactus Club Cafe. I love this Canadian restaurant chain. It was started in Vancouver years ago and it’s now one of the most profitable restaurant chains in Canada. Good food at a reasonable price with great service in a trendy venue. It’s my favorite one size fits all place to go. If you go, try a Bellini and some west coast pockets.
Hapa Izakaya or Guu. Both restaurants deliver great japanese fusion. Hapa Izakaya is a little more on the classy / expensive side while Guu is on the “What did I just eat? It was Delicious!!” loud asian side. Hapa Izakaya is a safe bet for some great fusion if you’re timid about what you eat. Personally, I prefer Guu because I love the energy and I find the crazy food to be amazing. That being said, I’ve taken people there who were less adventurous and didn’t quite enjoy it like I do. It’s hard to suggest menu items at either place because they change often and are usually seasonal but if you go to Guu and they have Octopus Balls (Balls of Octopus meat), I highly recommend you try them. It’s just like being in Japan. :)
SUSHI! You will find good sushi practically everywhere. Rumor has it that sushi chefs from Japan come over to Vancouver in order to practice because we all eat Sushi rolls far more frequently. I believe it. I have had more fantastic Sushi in Vancouver than any city I’ve ever been to.. including Tokyo. Now, that being said, there is a wide range of quality. Some of my personal favorites are Kadoya on Davie Street (near Vera’s) and Tanpopo on Denman St. I go to Kadoya when I’m looking for fun, creative rolls with plenty of yummy. Tanpopo, however, has a great all you can eat weekend lunch for only $13.50. For the last 5 years, we have had a standing Sunday brunch at Tanpopo with anyone who happens to be in town. It’s tradition. :)
Japadog. Continuing the Japan craze, Japadog makes hot dogs with a japanese twist. My wife and I went there once and while I thought they were pretty good, she wasn’t a fan. I admit, fishy tasting hot dogs is probably not for everyone… but this place has garnered a lot of celebrity endorsements and has been featured on a couple of food tv shows. Not bad for a hot dog stand on the side of the street. You may want to check it out just to say you tried it. http://www.japadog.com/en/
Poutine. Ok, so.. if you haven’t heard of Poutine, bear with me. You take some perfectly golden french fries, cover them in fresh cheese curds and then pour on hot, delicious gravy. Anyone who doesn’t think fat, fat and fries would taste good needs their head checked. La Belle Patate on Davie and Bute is the place to go. It’s a Belgian fry house that serves nothing but french fries. Great late night food. I highly recommend you check it out… it’s about the only “canadian” food I can think of.
Carderos. Now we’re on the fancy side of town. Carderos is an upscale restaurant in Coal Harbour, right on the water. Great food and you’ll be looking out over the water at boats and trees. What more could you ask for? Try the seafood. http://www.vancouverdine.com/carderos0experience.aspx
Elbow Room Cafe. This is hands down my favorite breakfast place in Vancouver. Run by two old gay men, the restaurant specializes in good food and verbal abuse. It’s kind of hard to explain in words, but if you find yourself looking for a good breakfast I recommend you experience it for yourself.
Wow.. ok, that’s enough about food. I just sort of brain dumped. You should be able to google any of those restaurants for more information, and they’re all well known enough that a concierge or stranger could help you find them. Also, I’ve been away for a while so I may not be giving you the latest and greatest.
As for things to do, I mostly just recommend places to go. Robson St is the shopping district. Granville St is the main clubbing area. Yaletown is the more upscale restaurants and nightclubs. The Stanley Park seawall is pretty awesome. Check out the Denman and Davie area. I also recommend heading over to Kitsilano Beach and 4th ave. Vancouver has plenty of diversity, from beaches to museums. Take it all in.
Plenty of people seem to like the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The suspension bridge hangs over the Capilano river and can be exciting if you’re a little nervous about heights and they have a nice nature walk with some details of the area. Honestly, it’s all a little too safe for my liking. I prefer to visit the Lynn Valley one. The bridge is far more unstable and the trip is cheaper.
If you’re looking for great views, you can either catch the gondola up Grouse Mountain ($40 each) or drive up to the lookout on the way to Cypress Mountain (Free + Gas). If you’re a hiker and want to really get a workout, the Grouse Grind is a fun challenge. It take about an 90 minutes if you’re in good shape. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grouse_Mountain#Grouse_Grind) If you want nice views but don’t feel like leaving the city, check out one of the rotating restaurants. Personally, I’ve never eaten at them, instead preferring to just eat somewhere delicious nearby and grabbing an afternoon or evening drink there while enjoying the views.