Adventures on Main Street, Part 1: Restaurants

Mention trendy Vancouver neighborhoods and the list of usual suspects comes to mind:  Yaletown with its boutiques and bars; chic and understated Kitsilano; the West End with its commanding views of Stanley Park; etc.  But often absent from that list is one of my favorites: Mt. Pleasant, which sits at the southern end of Main Street, just outside the downtown core (Hipsters and marketing gurus have also dubbed this area SoMa, short for South Main)

Mt. Pleasant, unique among many of Vancouver’s ‘hoods, hasn’t lost touch with its gritty, working class origins.  At the same time, new restaurants and edgy shops have lent the area a bohemian vibe, with just a touch of sophistication.  Add to the mix deep ethnic roots – the zone was once home to a sizeable Chinese population – and you’ve got one of the city’s most eclectic neighborhoods: on the cusp of gentrification but still clinging (precariously) to authenticity.

In part one of a two-part post on Mt. Pleasant, I’m going to take a quick look at dining options along Main Street.  Most restaurants and shops are clustered between Kingsway in the north and 33rd Avenue in the south.  You’ll find few chain eateries:  Almost all of the restaurants are one of a kind, from mom and pop joints to trendier urban bistros.  Prices tend to be a bit more reasonable than downtown and the atmosphere less intimidating, a kind of come-as-you-are vibe.

Asian Dining: Before there was Richmond, with its world class Chinese food, there was Mt. Pleasant.  Today, the neighborhood retains several large, iconic Chinese restaurants, including the perennial favorite Sun Sui Wah Seafood and Congee Noodle House.  Fare tends to be authentic and inexpensive – not much atmosphere but the food more than makes up for it.  Sushi restaurants are also well represented.

Gastropubs: The concept of taking pub food beyond nachos and chicken wings originated in the UK, but it has taken off in Vancouver.  On Main Street, Habit, Cascade Room and Caffé Barney – all clustered within a few blocks – are great examples of pubs and bars pushing the envelope with fresh, sophisticated cuisine.

The Hip and Undefinable: Among the dozens of restaurants along Main Street, many don’t fit neatly into a category.  There’s The Reef, for instance, which offers Jamaican food in a beach shack setting.  The Main restaurant, while not strictly Greek, serves up some of the best souvlaki in Vancouver.  Meanwhile, East is East, with its low tables, floor seating and sumptuous tapestries, has great homemade chai and sampling plates of Indian cuisine.

This brief overview has really only scratched the surface.  Please weigh in below on any favorite restaurants on Main Street.  And tune in for the next installment:  Live Music on Main Street.

Remy Scalza

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