#LoveVancouver Neighbourhoods: Mount Pleasant + Commercial Drive

We’re now several weeks into our #LoveVancouver Neighbourhoods series, and our next two areas are choc-full of character, giving our city a big boost of personality. One is a community known for its outstanding vegetarian spots and hipster-chic stylings, while the other is one of Vancouver’s cultural destinations, with a restaurant scene akin to the League of Nations.

Hop on the 99 B-Line, and let’s visit these easily accessible favourites.

Mount Pleasant

Localized on and around Main Street, this neighbourhood has always been approachable and friendly. From its humble beginnings as a settlement built around the location of a nearby stream, this perk of the area would shape the future of Mount Pleasant for years to come. Known at one point as “Brewery Creek”, the neighbourhood had a strong sense of community from early on due to local brewers taking full advantage of the flowing fresh water here. Today, there are more breweries than ever in the area bringing a renaissance of sorts to how things were when Mount Pleasant was originally founded. There are countless restaurants and tasting lounges to wander through while on a leisurely walk.

Dotted with new, open-air seating (thanks to our recent patio boom), there always seems to be a spot to stroll up to and start sipping. At the northern end of the area, just before you make your way into Olympic Village, you’ll be treated to some of the best breweries in the city. 33 Acres, Brassneck, R&B, there’s always an offbeat flavour of pint if you’re in the mood for a cold drink (and delicious zero-proof options as well). While you’re down there, after you’ve finished off your frosty mug of black lime lager at Main Street Brewing Company, you’d do well to hit up Swiss Bakery, home of the Frissant, the city’s original croissant/donut hybrid. A solid start so far, but there’s far more ahead of you.

At the opposite end of Main Street, at 32nd Ave, if you’re looking for unique home furnishings, we recommend stopping by Refind. Just about the quirkiest decor shop around, there’s always something to marvel over, whether it’s antique salon chairs, or a vintage neon Coke sign to glow up your breakfast nook. With your new one of a kind conversation piece under your arm, a stop by Nineteen Ten Home will round out the accents to go along with it. Subtle throw cushions, minimalist candle holders, you can depend on these domestic tastemakers to stylishly fill out your abode.

As mentioned earlier, Mount Pleasant has quickly become a right of passage for anyone looking for meatless dining options. When you get around King Edward Ave, you can’t help but notice all the green-forward eateries sprouting up. Whether you’re pining for wild fennel and mushroom ravioli from the award winning Acorn, or on a mission to get the famous southern fried artichoke sandwich at The Arbor, there seems to be a plant-based solution for all cravings.

Photo credit: Vancouver Mural Festival

If that weren’t enough, if you’ve got an appetite for the arts, the area is home to Goh Ballet, a renowned dance academy and youth company that showcases the outstanding skill of young Vancouver talent.
Take a detour down any side street and you’ll be greeted with massive displays from the art community care of The Vancouver Mural Festival. You can easily get lost in the sprawling colour, so it’s best to take the mural map with you. The neighbourhood is a fitting canvas as there is so much colourful personality and character here. A wander through is a surefire way to brighten your day in more ways than one.

Hidden Gems:

East is East: Our vote for the best chai in town, this Main Street staple might not exactly be “hidden”, but we wanted to give it a shout out anyway. If you’ve only experienced chai from a tea bag, this lounge will open your senses to a whole new world of spice.

Eugene Choo: Now that you’ve spent a good amount of time in the area, you’d better get dressed for the part. Eugene Choo is well known for their stylish wares and international labels that keep the community looking sharp.

Vancouver Special: Design enthusiasts will be smitten with the architecture books and modern furnishings here. If you need a household object but would prefer it in a sleek aesthetic, this is your spot.

How to get there:

Coming from East or West? Get the 99 B-Line along Broadway, and get out on Main Street.

Coming from North or South? Get the #10 Main Bus.

Learn more about Mount Pleasant by visiting www.mountpleasantbia.com.

Commercial Drive

The jewel of East Van, Commercial Drive has one of the richest tapestries of culture in the city. What began as a road for dragging lumber to the harbour, the street was originally named “Park Drive”, but was renamed “Commercial” in 1911, possibly because there were other “Park Drives” in Vancouver at the time. While it’s considered East Van now, in its heyday Commercial was closer to the centre of town, as Main and Hastings was typically considered the main hub of Vancouver. Back then the street was mainly a suburb, but saw a decline during the Great Depression. It was shortly after that many Italian and Portuguese Immigrants began giving the neighbourhood new life.

The ripples of these cultures settling into Commercial are still felt to this day, especially when you look at the plentiful food options of the area. Whatever cuisine you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it here. For outstanding folk Lebanese food, you’ve got to try the Makali (crispy fried cauliflower fried tossed in pomegranate molasses) at Jam Jar. Or suppose you’re in the mood for authentic Ethiopian fare. In that case, your best bet is to visit Harambe for Zizil Tibs (tender sauteed beef with onions and berbere spice, served alongside injera bread). We could fill this article up solely with food recommendations, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll quickly knock out just a few more of our favourites: the “best ever” chocolate chip cookie at Flourist Bakery, the Thai iced tea ice cream and Elephant Creamery, and the Leona Gayle vegetarian burrito at Bandidas Taqueria.

PHEW. Ok, with all that out of the way, it’s time to venture further down to the centrepiece of the drive, Grandview Park. Always bustling with activity, this is where the community comes to picnic, play games, practice yoga, or just watch the world go by. Upgraded in 2011 to include a new playground, stage, sport court, and field house with accessible washrooms, the park has never looked better. It even boasts Vancouver’s first dedicated bike polo court! Trust us, when a match is happening, it’s worth sticking around to watch.

As you no doubt have noticed with the other neighbourhoods we’ve featured, each one has a very healthy art scene. The Drive is no different with it’s independent galleries and performance spaces. Just off the main strip on Venables Street, The Slice of Life Gallery has weekly exhibitions of bold local artists just starting to make a splash in the community, while Equinox Gallery, with its sprawling space, is the perfect venue for massive prints and larger installations. For performance, one of our favourites tucked away theatres is actually nestled in the back of a restaurant. Near the rear of Havana’s Cuban Eatery, there’s a space for an audience of about 25, with a small stage. When shows are opened back up again, keep your eye on this venue for independent theatre creators, and hilarious improv shows. Further up the hill, you’ll find The Cultch, one of Vancouver’s premier stages for local, national and international performers.
If you’re up for something a little broader, then the Wise Hall is a historic performance & event space that hosts concerts, art fairs, and even the occasional wrestling show! Somehow it all fits perfectly with the patchwork personality of the area.

Oh, we didn’t even mention Little Italy! Vancouver’s own eight blocks of officially designated food, coffee and wares from the Mediterranean. A strong espresso and fresh cannoli is truly the only way to start a day here. There’s so much to take in on Commercial Drive, there’s likely more we missed, so we’ll have to swing by again soon for a tasty reminder.

Hidden Gems:

Sweet Cherubim: A family-owned organic grocer since 1980, this is the community trusted spot for fresh samosas, pakoras and really any other Indian delicacies you could ask for.

Pulpfiction Books: Who can say how many Commercial Drive readers have held your newly purchased page-turner? Pulp Fiction’s curated shelves of new and gently used books are sure to appeal to that niche interest you’ve been curious about for years.

Pepinos and Cafe La Tana: Not quite in Little Italy, but it’s got the same heart. While this spaghetti house-market combo is relatively new to the area, it’s quickly become a destination for one of the best bowls of pasta around. Pair a visit with a night at the York Theatre next door, and you’ve got the perfect date night all inside one block.

How to get there:

Coming From North or South? Hop on the #20 bus to get up and down Commercial, or if you’re coming from further out, the Skytrain Expo Line can drop you off at Commercial/Broadway Station.

Coming From East or West? The # 9 or 99 B-Line will drop you off right on Broadway and Commercial, or if you’re closer to downtown, jump on the #14 Hastings bus and hop out at commercial.

Learn more about Commercial Drive by visiting www.thedrive.ca.

Visit www.tourismvancouver.com/love for staycation inspiration and special offers for locals.



Comments are closed for this post

One Response to #LoveVancouver Neighbourhoods: Mount Pleasant + Commercial Drive