7 Best Vancouver Restaurants To Try (On Your First Visit)
Vancouver is located on the West Coast of Canada in beautiful British Columbia. Just a short drive over the border from Seattle, it’s an easy weekend getaway for many Americans and also a dream destination for Canadians who live further east.
Vancouver is a vibrant city with plenty to do and see, but one of the best ways to spend time there is to try some of the diverse cuisines at local restaurants. With its location on the Pacific Coast, just across the waters from Asia, there is a huge Asian influence in Vancouver, specifically in its culinary scene.
Whether craving Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, or Mediterranean food, travelers will find it here. From the vendors at Granville Island Market to the charming hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Burnaby, eating in the Vancouver Metro Area is an experience to remember.
I’ve put together this list of the best places to eat in Vancouver for first-time visitors based on my experience eating my way through the capital of British Columbia. Here are the spots you can’t miss on your first trip to Vancouver, Canada.
Taco lovers rejoice because Tacofino, one of the must-visit Vancouver restaurants for first-timers, delivers every time. This trendy restaurant is located in Gastown (there’s also a Yaletown location) and is always busy, so be sure to call ahead for a reservation.
There is a beautiful outdoor patio area which is great for dining out on summer nights, but the interior of the restaurant is colorful and inviting. The menu is extensive with a West Coast take on classic Mexican favorites.
The fish tacos and the pork al pastor tacos are delicious, but there are so many taco variations beyond these more traditional styles to choose from. The Eggplant Taco and the Mushroom & Avocado Gringa also cater to the vegetarian and vegan traveler.
Address: 15 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C8
Phone Number: (604) 899-7907
If your flight is arriving late at night or you just need something to munch on after a night out bar hopping, look no further than Japadog. This Vancouver-based business (that now has one location in California) can be found all over the city, but the first stall that ever opened is still located on Burrard Street in the downtown core.
The concept behind Japadog is a traditional hot dog with a twist of Japanese-inspired toppings. For example, getting a hot dog with toppings typical of Takoyaki is a unique experience that really exemplifies the Asian influence that is so present in Vancouver’s culinary scene.
The menu goes beyond hot dogs, but as the name Japadog suggests, these are the feature item to try when visiting this Vancouver restaurant. The options are wild with some hot dogs coming with noodles or fried chicken as a topping.
To try a hot dog with fried chicken, order the Chicken Karage hot dog. For a topping of Japanese soba noodles ask for the Yakisoba hot dog. They also haveveggie dog options for vegetarians and a whole array of side dishes.
The various sides include Japachicken (Japanese fried chicken), Takoyaki, and fries. To embrace the Canadian aspect of this Vancouver restaurant, they also (naturally) serve poutine.
Address: 899 Burrard St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2K7
Phone Number: (604) 569-1158
MeeT is a must-visit Vancouver restaurant for first-timers just for the location in Gastown and the cool vibe alone. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll want to prioritize this spot because the menu is plant-based.
MeeT has locations in Gastown, Yaletown, and on Main, but we tried the Gastown location which had a lovely patio and extremely friendly staff. It’s in a convenient location for bar hopping or hanging out with friends after a meal.
The menu is packed with veggie comfort foods like plant-based mac n’ cheese and burgers. I had a delicious plant-based burger that was heaped with flavorful toppings. Don’t miss out on their funky cocktail menu too.
Each MeeT location has its own selection of feature cocktails, which really incentivizes the experience of hopping around to multiple MeeT restaurants across Vancouver on a Saturday night.
Address: inner Courtyard, 12 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 4K7
Phone Number: (604) 696-1111
Medina Cafe is a charming Vancouver restaurant located in the city’s Library District and is perfect for brunch or lunch on your first trip to Vancouver. We ate brunch here twice because we couldn’t resist trying the city’s best Belgian waffles a second time.
Besides incredible waffles, Medina Cafe boasts Mediterranean-inspired cuisine (Paella, Babaganoush) and a trendy coffee menu. Their Milk Chocolate Lavender Mocha and White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater Mocha drinks are just as mouthwateringly yummy as they sound.
Medina Cafe is open from 9 AM to 3 PM and the line can be long, but it’s worth waiting for a spot at this Vancouver restaurant.
Address: 780 Richards St, Vancouver, BC V6B 3A4
Phone Number: (604) 879-3114
No trip to Vancouver is complete without a visit to the Granville Island Market. The market is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM and there are tons of different shops and food stalls to check out during this time.
We had been told by a friend that one place we couldn’t skip while visiting Granville Island Market for the first time was Lee’s Donuts and now I’m passing on this same advice to you. These donuts are fresh, flavorful, and delicious.
There is always a lineup, so be prepared to wait, but the fun part is that you can see the donuts being made through the window while waiting. There are well over 20 different donut flavors and three types of bases: Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Cake, and Yeast.
Lee’s Donuts has something to satisfy every sweet tooth and also has rotating seasonal flavors. That means there’s always a good reason to try this Vancouver restaurant when visiting the city.
Address:1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9
Phone Number: (236) 335-4021
Phnom Penh Restaurant
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, but it’s also the name of a fantastic Vancouver restaurant. Located on East Georgia Street, Phnom Penh Restaurant always has a line up and absolutely requires a reservation to guarantee a chance to dine here.
We made the mistake of showing up without a reservation on our first night in Vancouver and after waiting in the lineup for twenty minutes decided to make a reservation for the next day instead.
It was worth the wait to enjoy this electric combination of Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant is spacious and the staff are very attentive. But the highlight is the food.
I’ve never had more difficulty choosing what to order before because everything on this menu sounds so amazing. What we eventually settled on for two people was the chicken wings, the beef lúc lắc, and the drunken noodles.
We also ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee which was made right in front of us at the table and was on par with everything else at this fabulous Vancouver restaurant. My favorite dish was the beef lúc lắc, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with anything they serve here!
Address: 244 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z7
Phone Number: (604) 734-8898
Joojak is a bit of a trek outside the city center to reach, but it’s well worth it. It’s a fantastic place to try Xian food, a type of Chinese cuisine specific to China's North West.
The restaurant is a small establishment with just four tables but an extensive menu. We were greeted by a waiter who sat us down and took the time to review the menu and make recommendations. Given her familiarity with the selection, we trusted her judgment and opted to try a few of the items she suggested.
For two people, we ordered the dumplings in spicy sour soup, the Xian pork burger, the hand pulled noodles, and the steamed chicken with chili sauce. All of it was high-quality, generous serving sizes, and really exceeded my expectations.
My favorite was the dumplings in spicy sour soup but the texture of the handpulled noodles deserves special mention for being the perfect level of chewiness.
Address: 3337 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5K6
Phone Number: (604) 563-8816
Overall, Vancouver’s restaurants are one of the top reasons to visit this West Coast Canadian city. With the largest Asian population in a city outside of Asia, it’s no wonder that Vancouver boasts a fantastic selection of Asian restaurants from Japadog’s Japanese influence on an American classic to the authentic North Western Chinese food at Joojak.
But even for travelers who don’t love Asian cuisine, there is much to be discovered on a first time visit to Vancouver. From the donuts and other sweets at Granville Island Market to the delicious Mexican food at Tacofino, everyone’s taste buds will be dancing by the time they’re done visiting.
Pro Tip: To avoid disappointment, travelers should plan ahead when visiting Vancouver and make reservations at these restaurants the day before they plan to dine. The reality is that to enjoy the best the city has to offer, it’s necessary to be proactive!