In between your West Coast gourmet dinners, perhaps you’d prefer to graze? Then you’re in luck. Vancouver does grazing as well as anyone, with stylish snacks and small bites all over the city. We’ve got the scoop on several smart eateries and the best little dishes to sample, with cocktail and beer pairings, too.
Yew Seafood and Bar
Love seafood? Then the place to nibble is at the bar (or in front of the stone fireplace) at Yew Seafood and Bar, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star restaurant in the Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. There’s always a selection of fresh oysters, from the West Coast and farther afield, as well as a seafood charcuterie platter, a snacker’s dream of cured meats and seafood, paired with local and artisanal cheeses. To drink, try one of their complex ocean-themed cocktails that draw inspiration from seas around the globe. There’s the Skookum-Chuk, a Pacific blend of locally brewed sake, sherry, aperol and peach bitters; the Indian Ocean-inspired Ganges Fan, mixing rye whiskey, cynar, tea and opium seed; or the Arctic Icy Pancakes, based on BC-made Okanagan Spirits aquavitus and Cocchi Americano fortified wine.
Gyoza Bar + Ramen
Most ramen shops are eat-fast-and-get-out joints, but this trendy Japanese ramen and dumpling bar aims to make this smart soup-slurping spot a downtown dining destination. With housemade noodles, the ramen at Gyoza Bar + Ramen is a fine choice (try the unusual tomato-saffron-seafood variety), but if you’re not terribly hungry, you’re here for the teppan pork gyoza. These delicate dumplings are filled with locally raised pork and served hot from the grill in a cast-iron pan, a dramatic and delicious presentation. Sake, shōchū or a creative Asian cocktail — perhaps the Gyoza Bar Mule, which combines oyster-infused vodka, ginger beer, lime, pine nut syrup and mango bitters — all pair well with these juicy snacks.
In a multilevel Gastown space with exposed brick walls that was once home to the city’s first jail, L’Abattoir now holds diners (and snackers) captive with an enthralling menu of contemporary creations. Pull up a stool at the front-room bar, or pick a hideaway table in the secluded backroom, to nosh on roasted scallops and mushrooms with sea urchin custard, panfried sweetbreads on toast, or grilled octopus with fennel and red pepper. To pair with your munchies, head bartender Shaun Layton concocts all kinds of cool libations, from the spring-inspired Avocado Gimlet (herb-infused gin with fresh avocado, schnapps and lime juice) to the Meat Hook, which blends rye, scotch, maraschino and Punt e Mes vermouth. If you prefer to do your grazing at brunch, swing by on the weekend for a fresh-baked scone — lavishly slathered with berry jam and clotted cream — and a Bourbon Cinnamon Toast Milk Punch.
Blacktail Restaurant + Lounge
In a historic space freshened up with blonde woods and planters of sprouts growing in the center of the dining room, Blacktail is a stylishly fun Gastown spot for a snack or a meal. A top-notch vegetarian small plate uses hyperlocal components: cubes of perfectly fried, pillowy soft tofu spiced with shishito peppers and greened with fresh pea shoots. If you like offbeat combinations, try the ducks and waffles, creamy duck liver mousse spread atop, yes, downhome waffles. To drink, there are lots of local craft beers, wines from BC and the Pacific Northwest, and a long list of complicated cocktails, like the Spank the Devil, which pours tequila, red vermouth, crème de cassis, Fernet Branca, scotch and peach bitters. Devilish, indeed.
Although it’s not an Asian restaurant, The Abbey, which opened in 2014 on the edge of Gastown, serves a particularly delectable Japanese-style bar snack. Their addictive version of chicken karaaae, a peppery fried chicken paired with spicy togarashi mayo, matches up well with a local craft beer. In this narrow modern space, with a long bar lit with dangling pendant lights, you might also find a rich foie gras parfait served with housemade brioche and pineapple jam; elk tartare paired with pickled vegetables and grainy mustard; or housemade sausage rolls that channel the appetizers you’d sample in a London pub.