Secret Meals: Underground Dining in Vancouver

UndergroundDining-22Underground dining has come a long way in Vancouver.

Back in the day, you used to have to “know somebody” to gain entree to these clandestine restaurants, operated secretly out of people’s homes and apartments.  Locations were kept carefully hidden and a series of clues led you to your dinner destination.

These days, underground restaurants are hardly off the radar.  In fact, some of them even have their own web pages, where you can browse menus, look through a gallery of photos and even make a reservation for an upcoming meal.

Last week, I checked out one of Vancouver’s best-known underground restaurants (if that’s not an oxymoron): the Birds Nest.  Once a reservation had been made, emailed directions sent me to a historic apartment building in the South Granville  neighbourhood.  I buzzed the designated apartment, the front door unlocked and I wandered inside and got into a creaking elevator.

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Secret Meals: Underground Dining in Vancouver

For Budget Wine Drinkers: Top 5 Cheap Corkage Deals in Vancouver

Photo credit: alexbrn | Flickr

Photo credit: alexbrn | Flickr

It’s Vancouver’s dirty little secret: Wine in restaurants can be just a wee bit on the pricy side.

But oenophiles in Vancouver have their own secret weapon: BYOB.  For the last two years, wine drinkers have been able to bring their own bottles to select area restaurants and pay a special “corkage” fee for the right to drink it on premises.

Before you head to your next dinner reservation with your favourite vintage, however, keep in mind that these corkage fees also tend to be rather high, generally in the $20-$30 range.  In other words, in many cases it costs as much to bring your own bottle as to buy one off the restaurant’s wine list.

But there are some important exceptions.   Continue reading:
For Budget Wine Drinkers: Top 5 Cheap Corkage Deals in Vancouver

Dine Out – With Friends!

Delectable morsels of delight featured at Hawskworth, one of the over 200 participating Dine Out Vancouver 2014 restaurants. Photo: Shawn Conner.

Delectable morsels of delight featured at Hawskworth, one of the over 200 participating Dine Out Vancouver 2014 restaurants. Photo: Shawn Conner.

It’s Dine Out Vancouver time again. Now in its 12th year, the festival has become one of the city’s premiere culinary events, and for 2014 features over 260 participating restaurants. Besides prix fixe menus at many of the city’s top eateries, Dine Out is also featuring dozens of special food-related events.

To help build excitement for the festival (Jan. 17-Feb. 2), Tourism Vancouver corraled a number of journalists, photographers and bloggers into sampling food and drink from some of this year’s 200+ participants. (Restaurants began taking reservations yesterday, Jan. 7, so if you have been thinking of going, hurry!)

On the evening in question, the assorted media types, including yours truly, gathered together at Tourism Vancouver HQ before dividing up into eight differently themed groups to be whisked away to various destinations. My group’s theme was Dine Out With Friends, and our destinations were… well, read on.

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Dine Out – With Friends!

Iconic Hard Rock brand returns to Vancouver

The Hard Rock brand is coming back to Vancouver. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.

The Hard Rock brand is coming back to Vancouver. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Casino Vancouver.

The Hard Rock brand has already invaded Vancouver once before. In 1995, a Hard Rock Café opened up on W. Hastings. The music memorabilia-filled restaurant lasted five years before closing up shop. (Something called a “Pop Opera Nightclub” is there now.)

But come December of this year, the iconic brand will return when Coquitlam’s Boulevard Casino is transformed into the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver (2080 United Boulevard).

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Iconic Hard Rock brand returns to Vancouver

Dining on Commercial Drive

Tasting Plates Vancouver

The cooler at Via Tevere as part of Tasting Plates Vancouver, June 19 2013. Photo credit: Shawn Conner.

The East Vancouver neighbourhood of Commercial Drive is home to a great number of restaurants. Some have been around for decades, a result of the area’s Italian roots, others have sprung up in recent years.

This week, local food blogger Richard Wolak took several dozen people on a tour of some of the eateries in the area. As the publisher of the foodie website Vancouver Foodster, Wolak organizes Tasting Plates tours of different Vancouver neighbourhoods several times a year. Here are some of what we experienced on an overcast but not rainy June evening.

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Dining on Commercial Drive

Forage brings sustainability—and a little bit of Main Street—to Robson

The savoury clams at Forage Restaurant. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

The savoury clams at Forage Restaurant. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

A new restaurant on Robson is making efforts to be one of the most sustainable in the city. That, along with a cozy and intimate atmosphere and creative menu items, make Forage more like a place you might find on Main Street in Vancouver than on the busiest shopping district in the city.

Forage, which opens Tuesday Nov 20, is located in the Listel Hotel. The privately-owned hotel, one of two Listels in B.C.—the other is in Whistler—has been christened Vancouver’s “most artful hotel,” owing to sculptures, paintings and other objets d’art in the lobby, halls and rooms. The Listel is also notable for its association with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival; since the fest’s beginning in 1986, the hotel’s former restaurant O’Doul’s had been a hub for musicians and fans.

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Forage brings sustainability—and a little bit of Main Street—to Robson

Top 5 Thanksgiving Dinner Spots in Vancouver

Photo credit: Denise Oz | Flickr

Wondering where to get turkey and all the fixings in Vancouver this Thanksgiving?  These five restaurants promise diners Thanksgiving bliss without having to spend all day in the kitchen.

  • West: Traditional holiday flavours meet contemporary West Coast cuisine at this Vancouver fine dining institution.  The Turkey Tasting Menu is a five-course feast that can be accompanied by wine pairings.  Start with a Lytton pear salad with Farmhouse Castle blue cheese.  Then move onto the spiced turkey consomme, followed by braised turkey leg cannelloni with black truffles.  The main course is butter poached turkey breast with Yukon Gold potato puree.  And top it all off with pumpkin flan, caramelized pears and orange chiffon.  Oct. 5-Oct. 8; $68.
  • Bacchus: The swanky dining room at downtown’s Wedgewood Hotel is famous for its lavish Thanksgiving spread.  The three-course Thanksgiving Dinner Menu offers up the best of the local harvest.  Start with roasted corn and lobster veloute or organic arugula and baby spinach salad with poached pear and crumbled blue cheese.  The main course is roast free-run turkey with cranberry compote, apple and chestnut stuffing and chive-whipped potatoes.  For dessert, save room for the spiced pumpkin tart with cinnamon ice cream.  Oct. 7-Oct. 8; $55.  Continue reading:
    Top 5 Thanksgiving Dinner Spots in Vancouver