While Montreal and Toronto duke it out for the title of Canada's top destination, Vancouver has quietly developed into a serious foodie draw, from local food trucks and neighborhood corner eateries to upscale hotel restaurants. British Columbia's abundance of rivers, lakes and coastline, not to mention some of the country's most agriculturally rich acreage, results in a wealth of farm produce and fresh seafood for this city located between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Throw in Vancouver’s reputation for environmental stewardship and commitment to sustainable living, and you have the perfect scenario for some of the best farm-to-table dining this side of the Rockies. Here are five noteworthy restaurants that will leave your tastebuds singing.
The 5-year-old eatery in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant district is the quintessential neighborhood hotspot. Andrea Carlson, founder and chef, has gained a citywide reputation and a following as a champion of British Columbia cuisine.
Carlson's menus, built around seasonal delicacies, feature many vegetable-focused dishes. Everything from the salmon roe to the sugar snap peas are sourced from local farms, fisheries and foragers. The restaurant's equally interesting wine list features a varied selection from local organic wineries.
ARC sports the tag line, “Life is complicated. Good food shouldn't be.” This trendy hotel restaurant, which bills its fare as “urban artisanal,” has a Pacific Northwest-focused menu showcasing the products of local suppliers, from fish farms to cheese crafters.
But besides the chance to savor some seriously fresh local delicacies, diners also get the opportunity to help a local charity. The Fairmont Waterfront hotel donates a portion of the purchase of certain menu items to Growing Chefs, a local nonprofit that helps educate children, families and area communities about healthy eating and sustainable food practices.
The menu at Forage, on Robson Street in the city’s downtown, is a celebration of all things grown, harvested and foraged in British Columbia. And that includes the region's distillers, winemakers and brewers. The menu creatively catagorizes its offerings under “Land,” “Soil” and “Sea” and references where the ingredients come from. Examples include Berezan shrimp, Qualcium Bay scallops, Alpindon cheese and Two Rivers turkey sausage.
Beyond crafting a delicious menu, the Forage also is committed to investing in the local community, donating 50 percent of the proceeds of all sparkling or still water sold to the Cheakamus Centre, an ecological reserve and education facility in Squamish, north of Vancouver, that runs annual experiential programs for up to 6,700 students focused on environmental stewardship.
Vegans take note. The focus of Wildebeest in Vancouver's Gastown neighborhood is all about, you guessed it, meat. Located in a refurbished 19th-century building, the restaurant’s farm-to-table menu is prepared by noted executive chef Ian McHale. Diners can indulge in the likes of house-cured, smoked and preserved heritage-breed pork and game, hand-carved steaks, bison, elk and bone marrow all ethically sourced from local farms and butchered in-house. The private dining room can accommodate groups of up to 155.
Vegetarians, vegans and all veggie-loving diners should make a beeline for Acorn, located on Vancouver's busy Main Street. This award-winning restaurant, which has snapped up a slew of dining awards, including the top spot in Big 7 Travel’s 2019 ”50 Best Vegan Friendly Restaurant in the World." As Big 7 noted, “This is the sort of place you would happily dine in every day for the rest of your life — it's just that tasty."
The menu is hyper-focused on locally sourced seasonal ingredients and makes a point of naming the sources, as in the Saskatchewan Pinto Bean Paté, Hannah Brook Farm Spring Radishes, Cropthorne Farm Sweet Peppers and North Arm Farm Cauliflower. Every month the restaurant selects an emerging local artist to feature and creates a card of one of their works that is handed out to guests at the end of their dining experience. "Our hopes are that they take it home as a memento of the Acorn but also as a foray into what is being created by some of our city's finest emerging and established artists," says the restaurant's website.