Saturday, June 15, 2013

Vancouver, BC: 11 Bars in 2 days

Knowing nothing of Vancouver before coming here we had two days in town to explore and eat and drink before heading over to Vancouver Island. Here’s what we learned. First off we stayed at the Quality Hotel for about 120 USD a night . This is a great deal. A real hotel with coffee maker and non-sandpaper towels and safe parking and a view and nice pillows etc. Day One we went over to Yaletown and made our first stop at the Hookers Green (#1), which is what they call the bar at the New Oxford, which is on an alley that has several bars and restaurants and is nice and trendy and just pretentious enough. Lots of locals out on a Sunday evening. They had specials on beer cocktails, which I’d never had before, and were gross at first but got better as they went down. I should mention that most bars we went to we didn’t eat at, and we weren’t there during peak hours, so this report is very incomplete in that sense. But this part of Yaletown is certainly interesting and full of many eating and drinking opportunities. At this bar we met the first of MANY groups of local Canadians who were extremely friendly and nice and who completely helped to dispel the notion that all Canadians are basically slow adults. Next we walked toward the harbor and ended up at Steamworks Brewery (#2), which is probably the biggest tourist bar in the entire city. But my wife had to tinkle, so there we were. The beer was good and the view was good and I’m not going to criticize tourist bars when I’m a tourist. Next stop, the Pour House (#3) in the Gastown district. This is one of the best bars I’ve ever been to. Bartenders in Vancouver take their craft very seriously and the guys at this place honestly know way more than you do about alcohol and mixing and drinking. I had the Brown Derby, which was fine, but my wife’s Penny Farthing was good enough for me to take a picture of the ingredients on the menu in the hopes that I could replicate it back home. Probably the best cocktail I’ve ever tasted. The live jazz didn’t hurt either. Awesome bar. Best place we visited. Next we went to Tripadvisor’s top rated restaurant (bar) L’Abbitoir (#4) and had a couple cans of beer (Red Racer). The beer was good and reasonably priced but we did not eat here and were a bit underwhelmed by the barroom atmosphere. Not a bad place, but for drinking, it was nothing like our previous stop. The restaurant was very crowded. Getting dark now. On to Chill Winston (#5). Things get hazy. Had some cheese and cured meat and beer. Everything was just fine. Couldn’t tell if we were too early or too late, but the place was not busy, despite its great location. Watched a homeless guy get arrested. At least ten people involved in the process. Very nice service, as always. Canadians are great. Took a cab back to our hotel. $10 USD, no hassle, no problem.

Day Two: Raining. Went down to the harbor area thinking to have lunch at a restaurant overlooking Grainville Island, but there was nobody there so we didn’t stay. Ended up back in Yaletown at Subeez CafĂ© (#6), which was great. Excellent service and food in a big open space with lots of terrible artwork and horrible music. Salmon sandwich was great. Steak Frites was great. Beer bucket special. Guess we’re not going to see the Matisse exhibit after all. Next we headed to the Speakeasy( #7) on Grainville Ave. and sat on the sidewalk drinking beer. Lots of kids from dancing summer camp, and hostel-bound young travelers, and local students. Reminded me of Berkeley CA. Or Boston theatre district. Nice to be on vacation watching people on a stormy Monday afternoon. Good eighties music and a men’s room that smelled of urine and bleach. Quote of the day from someone who sat down near us: “Did someone barf here last night?” Onward. Through the mist. To the Pan Pacific Hotel (#8), which was recommended by the good folks at Hooker’s Green the day before. Unfortunately we didn’t have a view due to the bad weather, but we did have nice service and a reasonably priced half liter of local wine. Clearly this is a great place to come on a nice day, with views of the harbor and distant mountains (I’m guessing). Delicious salty snack treats free of charge. Then to Salt (#9), our second favorite place we went to. Huge sherry menu, which I got excited about and ordered from, and then realized why more places don’t have sherry menus. Disgusting. At least on the dry side. But the manager gave me some samples of the sweeter sherrys and I started to understand. Much has been written about this place. It’s nice and unique and original and a good value. Go there. We ordered a cheese and meat plate that was excellent. Continue to be Impressed by employees’ knowledge of the products they are pushing. Not much BS in the Canadian restaurant spiel. Moving on…to the underground. Guilt and Co. (#10). Beautiful underground venue that we showed up at probably four hours too early. Very friendly staff. The kind of venue you’d like to see transported to your hometown. Clearly we were not there for the intended party late night. Beautiful place. Then in an effort to hail a cab back to our hotel we ended up at one last great bar The Irish Heather (#11). Got some good history on the nature of whiskey, had a couple of shots and pints and then finally caught a cab with Jonny Onions, whose story I guess I have to write. Hope this helps. Vancouver is great. The people are great. Bartenders know what the hell they’re doing. Enjoy.

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