It’s no exaggeration to say the restaurant scene in Vancouver has changed dramatically in the last decade. We’re now nearing the status of a world culinary capital, with a reputation for fresh, local seafood and produce, authentic ethnic cuisines and progressive new restaurants. But that doesn’t mean Vancouver was a culinary wasteland in the past. In fact the roots of the current blossoming of foodie culture can be traced to some historic – and still operating – Vancouver restaurants.
In a fantastic article in the Vancouver Sun earlier this month, food writer Mia Stainsby takes a walk down memory lane, profiling some of the city’s legendary eateries. For anyone interested in taking a bite of Vancouver history, I’ve listed below a few of the oldies-but-goodies that are still operating today. And if you’ve got a favourite classic restaurant, please leave a comment below.
The Naam, 2724 W. Fourth Ave. Believe it or not, this vegetarian eatery has been operating in the same location in Kitsilano since 1968. Back in the day, it was a headquarters for hippies and counter-culture types. It remains as popular as ever today and hasn’t deviated from its mantra of vegetarianism and spirituality.
White Spot, Locations throughout the city. A fast-food joint may seem an odd choice, but White Spot is truly a Vancouver institution. The first one opened in 1928 at Granville and 67th Streets. Today White Spot – with its famous Triple-O burgers – has locations throughout Canada, as well as in Hong Kong, Seoul and Bangkok. The menu now embraces not just burgers but curries and an eclectic range of dishes.
Joe Fortes, 777 Thurlow St. OK – This one’s not that old. Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House opened only in 1985. But it was among the first of a new wave of upscale, destination-style restaurants in downtown Vancouver. Joe Fortes is still a perennially popular choice for seafood and special-occasion dinners.
Aki Japanese Restaurant, 745 Thurlow St. Opened in the early 1970s, this was quite possibly Vancouver’s first Japanese restaurant (many more would follow). Back in the day, sushi and raw fish were considered unpalatable in the city, so Aki focused on sukiyaki, chicken teriyaki and tempura.
Tomahawk Barbecue, 1550 Philip Ave., North Vancouver. Tomahawk has been serving hungry Vancouverites since 1926, when North Vancouver was still on the wild frontier of the city. The original log cabin – which was the city’s first drive-in restaurant – has since been replaced by a brick building. The restaurant today retains its First Nations theme and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Il Giardino, 1382 Hornby St. Started by Umberto Menghi in 1973, Il Giardino was among the first restaurants to bring authentic Italian cuisine to Vancouver. It’s still going strong today in its original location in the yellow house on the edge of downtown.
Got more examples of classic Vancouver restaurants? Please comment below.