The eco-conscious Canadian city serves up vegan meals, open-air markets, and responsibly sourced seafood.
Vancouver has deservedly earned a reputation as one of North America’s most health-conscious, eco-friendly, and outdoor-loving cities. That ethos extends to the culinary scene, where chefs incorporate local, organic, and responsibly sourced ingredients. “Vancouver offers a fantastic food culture that’s quickly becoming a global hot spot,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Tanya Patterson.
Bring On the Prawns
After two years of virtual events, Vancouver’s annual Spot Prawn Festival is ready to celebrate the tasty crustacean in person in 2022. Founded by local chef Robert Clark, the Granville Island festival in mid-to-late May marks the beginning of British Columbia’s spot prawn season with live music, cooking demonstrations, tasting menus, and family-friendly events. Plan your visit during the four- to eight-week season – it ends when the sustainable harvest catch limit is reached – to sample spot prawns, which are firm and have a slightly sweet taste reminiscent of lobster.
When he’s not founding festivals, Clark turns his focus to Canada’s sustainable fish and seafood movement. The Ocean Wise Seafood conservation program, which he cofounded, encourages responsible seafood sourcing through education, recommendations, and recognition. More than 700 Ocean Wise partners (and most Vancouver restaurants) now proudly display the Ocean Wise symbol to designate their menus’ best choices. The program earned Clark the Order of Canada – the country’s highest honor – in 2020. For a taste, grab a bench outside The Fish Counter, founded by Clark and marine biologist Mike McDermid, for great fish-and-chips, soups, sandwiches, and tacos using local and responsibly harvested seafood.
Eat Your Vegetables (and Enjoy It!)
“Vancouver is definitely a foodie heaven for anyone vegan or vegetarian,” says Patterson, who considers Canada’s third-largest city among the world’s best for a plant-based lifestyle. For eco-conscious comfort food, head to Vancouver’s West End neighborhood for Korean fried chickpea burgers and kale Caesar salads from BeetBox’s 100 percent plant-based menu. Multitasking travelers can pair a meal with culinary souvenir shopping, including BeetBox’s jarred sauces, pickles, and vegan chocolate bars made with crunchy carrot, parsnip, and beet chips – a collaboration with award-winning Vancouver chocolatier BETA5.
The Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Botanist restaurant serves high-end vegan meals in a pastel setting of plant life and floral-print seats. Executive chef Hector Laguna’s vegetable-forward menu celebrates the science of botany and the bounty of British Columbia, with recent menus featuring cavatelli pasta shells with tomato confit, basil, and toasted pine nuts. The inventive Cocktail Lab mixes nature-infused drinks, such as What the Flower with gin and cherry blossom tea or the woodsy Council of Trees with alder, birch, cedar, cherrywood, and oak moss elements.
From Downtown to Granville Island
Cruises to Vancouver, a popular port-of-call for both Alaska and the West Coast, dock beside a landmark of sustainability: the Vancouver Convention Centre, with Canada’s largest living rooftop; it’s home to more than 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses. The pier also marks the start of the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path, known locally as “the seawall,” stretching from the heart of downtown northwest to Stanley Park’s 1,000-acre temperate rain forest. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and maybe even a whale while cycling or strolling the waterfront.
For more edible adventures, head southwest to Granville Island (technically a peninsula). Hop on one of Vancouver’s tiny passenger ferries: the rainbow-colored, bike- and wheelchair-friendly Aquabus or the tugboat-like, blue and white False Creek Ferries. Highlights of the island and its extensive public market include charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Co.; Peanut Butter Awesomeness cookies at British Columbia’s first certified organic bakery, A Bread Affair; and the new Alimentaria Mexicana restaurant, which sources non-GMO, heirloom corn from 32 communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. Book a two-hour market tour to sample 20 regional foods from specialty shops and the Granville Island Public Market. Bumper cars, toy stores, and candy shops at Granville Island’s Kids Market entertain younger travelers while adults browse artists’ studios and restaurants.
A Taste of Asia in the Pacific Northwest
The Richmond Night Market offers a different kind of deliciousness on weekends and holiday evenings from spring through fall. Since 2000, the market founded by entrepreneur Raymond Cheung has grown to nearly 400 open-air stalls of trinkets and finger foods, as well as a 50-foot stage featuring live music and dance performances. The vendors and options change every year, but you can count on plenty of Asian street food, including handmade sticky-rice mochi balls, Malaysian-style roti, and spicy grilled squid, alongside Canadian specialties such as poutine and BeaverTails’ warm, flat doughnuts.
Where to Stay
Choose from Virtuoso’s six downtown Vancouver hotels. For foods grown right upstairs, try Fairmont Waterfront, where the hotel’s rooftop garden and bees provide fresh herbs, veggies, and honey for the Bee’s Knees Sundae and Bees Knees cocktail at ARC restaurant.
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