Olympic Partying in the Bars of Yaletown

Cocktails with cotton candy are among the creative libations in Society, one of Yaletown's Olympic hotspots.

This is it.  You’ve got one last weekend to take part in the biggest party that Vancouver has ever seen.  When it comes to places to celebrate, the city’s suffering from a wealth of riches at the moment.  There’s the Granville Street entertainment district, the Olympic houses and pavilions scattered across town, not to mention the city’s official celebration zones.  But when it comes to finishing off the Games in style, my money is on Yaletown.

Dozens of bars and restaurants are strung along the two main streets of Yaletown, Vancouver’s trendy warehouse district.  The streets are car-free at night, when they fill with thousands of revelers, many of whom have turned Yaletown bar-hopping into an unofficial Olympic event.  For the most part, it’s hard to make a bad choice.  The bars and pubs are uniformly packed, attracting a young, sexy clientele eager to share the Olympic spirit.  But here’s a cheat sheet, just in case you need some inspiration.

Some of Vancouver's best sushi, and a drink list to match, is at Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar.

Today, I checked out the Olympic vibe in three classic watering holes, which might make a nice circuit if you’re in the mood for a festive evening.  I started out at the Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar on the corner of Hamilton and Helmcken Streets.  Now, Blue Water is one of the city’s swankiest restaurants, but it also has a great sushi bar where you can pony up and enjoy some sashimi and cocktails before the real partying begins.  Sushi chef Yoshihiro Tabo is internationally renowned and his tuna goma-ae (albacore marinated with sesame seeds and soy) has legions of acolytes in Vancouver.  The sushi pairs nicely with one of Blue Water’s signature cocktails, Weekend in May.  The drink combines cucumber-infused vodka with sake, yuzu juice and shiso leaves.

Once you’ve warmed up your taste buds and enjoyed a little sustenance, head one block east to Yaletown Brewing Co., on the corner of Mainland and Helmcken Streets.  This afternoon, there was already a short line of Olympic fans waiting to get inside.  Yaletown Brewing has a sports pub ambiance, with big screen TVs throughout and a selection of pub food.  What sets it apart is the beer – Everything is brewed on site.    For the last weekend of the Olympics, expect a high energy atmosphere, with a packed house eagerly downing pints before the big party winds to a close.

At Yaletown Brewing Company, all beers are made on the premises.

When you’re ready to kick your night into overdrive, make your way outside, push through the crowds, street vendors and souvenir stalls and head back to Hamilton Street.  Near the corner of Hamilton and Drake, you’ll find the Society Dining Lounge.   Although it’s impossible to independently confirm, the bartender inside assured me that Society has been the most packed, most in-demand and most insane nightspot in Yaletown throughout the Games.  The big-name client list backs him up.  Last night, actor Vince Vaughn partied until the wee hours in Society, which has a dark, scandalous feel – almost like a turn-of-the-century Parisian cabaret.  And Nancy Kerrigan, Nickelback and hockey great Cam Neely have all enjoyed libations there since the start of the Games.

Bustling by day, Yaletown's streets turn frenzied after dark.

Of course, there are plenty of other options for a memorable night out in Yaletown.  With bars staying open extra late during the Games, you might even have a chance to try them all.

Does anybody else have a favorite Yaletown nightspot?  How about a quick itinerary for a great night out in Yaletown?

Remy Scalza

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