Retro-hip Sophie’s Cosmic Café (2095 W. 4th Ave., at Arbutus St., 604/732-6810, 8am-2:30pm Mon., 8am-8pm Tues.-Sun., $10-15) typifies the scene, with a definite cosmic look, but also provides a good value and fast, efficient service. Standard bacon and eggs is $8.50, and omelets are around $11. The rest of the day, check the blackboard above the food-service window for dishes such as a nut and herb burger ($10.50). Expect to wait for a table on Sunday morning.
Joe’s Grill (2061 W. 4th Ave., 604/736-6588, 8am-4pm daily, lunches $7-10), one block east of Sophie’s, has survived from the 1960s, serving up typical greasy spoon fare at good prices. A breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns is $7; the daily soup-and-sandwich special is just $7; the milkshakes are to die for; and coffee refills are free. In diner tradition, seating is at tables or booths.
Pacific Northwest Cuisine
Cantilevered over a cliff within lofty Queen Elizabeth Park, Seasons in the Park (access from Cambie St. at 33rd Ave., 604/874-8008, 11:30am-10pm daily, $14-37) is in a delightful setting where views extend back across Vancouver to downtown and the mountains beyond. It is a popular spot with tour groups, but the high standard of service, refined atmosphere, and quality of food attract many locals. Diners have the choice of eating in the romantic dining room or, on warm summer nights, on a delightful patio. The seasonal menu features contemporary North American cooking, with pizza from $14 and seafood and game dishes from $21.
A few blocks west of Queen Elizabeth Park, in VanDusen Botanical Garden, you’ll find a similar setting at the Shaughnessy Restaurant (5251 Oak St., Shaughnessy, 604/261-0011, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-8:30pm daily, $24-29). Located near the entrance to the garden, it offers sandwiches and salads in a bright and breezy environment decorated with original watercolor paintings and vases of freshly cut flowers at each table. At night, the restaurant goes a little more upscale, featuring a seasonal menu of West Coast cuisine that may include seafood cannelloni or slow-cooked lamb shank. One staple (thankfully) is mango and strawberry crumble. Reservations are required in the evening.
The much-lauded Bishop’s (2183 W. 4th Ave., 604/738-2025, 5:30pm-10pm daily, $36-40) is very French in all aspects. Owner and longtime Vancouver restaurateur John Bishop makes all diners feel special, personally greeting them at the door, escorting them to their table, and then describing the menu and wine list as required. Elegant surroundings, parched-white linen, and soft jazz background music complete the picture. The menu features French classics but changes as seasonal produce becomes available, such as salmon and halibut, Fraser River Valley vegetables, and fruits from the Okanagan Valley. Expect to pay around $150 for three courses for two, sans drinks. Reservations are required.
Whole Foods Market (2285 W. 4th Ave., 604/739-6676, 8am-10pm daily) is a large grocery-style store crammed with natural and organic foods. Off to one side is the Gourmet Deli & Bakery, with its own courtyard patio, where you can fill up at the salad bar or order anything from muffins to smoked salmon wraps.
At Maple Street, Las Margaritas (1999 W. 4th Ave., 604/734-7117, 11:30am-11pm daily, $14-20) boasts “mild or wild, we can add all the octane you wish.” The decor is Californian-style south-of-the-border: white stucco walls, Mexican hats, tile floor, tile-topped tables, and an outdoor deck. Throw back a couple of margaritas with your meal for the full effect.
Farther west, near McDonald Street, Topanga Café (2904 W. 4th Ave., 604/733-3713, 11:30am-10pm Mon.-Sat., $9-24.50) offers inexpensive California-style Mexican dishes in a homestyle atmosphere. Most main meals are under $20, including massive chicken burritos, complete with rice, beans, and corn chips for $16.
A throwback to the hippie era of the 1960s is Naam (2724 W. 4th Ave., 604/738-7151, 24 hours daily, $9-14), at Stephens Street, a particularly good natural-food restaurant in a renovated two-story private residence. Naam boasts large servings, excellent service, and an easygoing atmosphere that has become legendary.
Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Vancouver & Victoria.