Another one of the great things about Vancouver’s food scene is the quality of vegetarian and vegan dining choices out there. Dishes at these establishments are inventive, often showcase local and/or organic ingredients, and, frankly, are delicious for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Well-known vegetarian restaurants include long-running The Naam (2724 West 4th Avenue) for its popular stir-fried Buddha’s Feast and various Dragon Bowls; Zend Conscious Lounge (1130 Mainland Street), which specializes in organic, gluten-free, nutritionally dense cuisine; and The Acorn (3995 Main Street), which has become one of Vancouver’s top, award-winning dining establishments. The restaurant offers creative and lip smacking dishes that highlight fresh, local produce. For example, their beer battered halloumi with a zucchini and potato pancake, smashed peas, mint yogurt, and lemon balm is a playful veggie rendition of English fish ‘n’ chips.
A couple weeks ago, the team behind The Acorn, Shira Blustein and Scott Lewis, along with co-owner Paul McCloskey, opened The Arbor (3941 Main Street), a vegetarian restaurant that aims for an accessible dining experience. The menu for this down-the-street sister restaurant is fairly affordable and comfort-food forward (even my meat-loving boyfriend is a fan). It’s a great spot for a low-key meal out with your date or a meet-up with family and/or friends. Here are my first impressions (and bites):
First of all, the space is lovely and perfectly suited to the Main Street area.
I would call it hipster chic, with its subway tile walls, wood paneled ceiling, and art deco-esque stained glass design accent in the dining area.
Lunch-time is counter service only, while at dinner, the restaurant offers sit-down service in addition to a take out counter.
The menu is divided into five categories: fried (eg fried lightly battered oyster mushrooms with creamy dill sauce); flatbread (eg a wild and cultivated mushroom flatbread with balsamic red onions, thyme, parsley, and goat cheese); familiar (eg spaghetti and “neatballs”); fresh (eg beet carpaccio salad); and finish (eg chocolate mousse parfait).
During my lunch visit, the restaurant was initially fairly quiet, but started to pick up steam as we were mid-meal. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so I’d recommend getting there closer to when it opens or during off peak hours (11am – 12am every day). Word is getting out.
We sampled a few of the items from chef Robert Clarke’s comfort food vegetarian playlist. The southern fried artichoke sandwich was a satisfying combo of deep fried battered artichoke, eggplant bacon, avocado mousse, spicy mayo (there was definite heat to it), cheddar cheese, jalapeño pepper – all on a ciabatta bun. Gluten free and vegan substitutions are possible.
A side of cornmeal crusted Spanish onion rings with housemade ketchup ups the deep fried goodness quotient.
The “Arburger” is the restaurant’s signature item with a house made, dry aged quarter pounder with lettuce, pickle, and chef Rob’s ketchup. Add a side of hand-cut Kennebec fries or coleslaw, and then get devouring. Cheese, vegan, and gluten free options are available as add-ons or substitutions.
When I visited, the daily mac ‘n’ cheese consisted of orecchiette with a broccoli and cheddar sauce. Gluten-free pasta and cashew cheese sauce are also possible.
Select beer, wine, and cider options have been curated to pair well with the casual fare.