Personally, I always try to support independent businesses. Independent Vancouver restaurants offer local and regional cuisine that reflects the surrounding culture and landscape. Plus, they have ambiance that differs from chains. Independents often feature local art on the walls and local musicians on the stereo. You often get to meet the owners, who go out of their way to deliver exactly what you’re looking for.
I’ve done the dirty and expensive work for you and I’m here to share my favourite new-to-the-scene, independent restaurants in the mid-range category ($15-$25 entrées – similar to the cost of a main at Cactus Club).
- Green Horn Café and Restaurant (West End): It’s been open less than two months, and it’s already a hit. The cafe is an homage to three of the West End’s very first residents: John Morton, Sam Brighouse and William Hailstone. These three “English Greenhorns” bought the 550 acres that make up the West End 150 years ago, and were the first settlers and business owners there.
- Bao Bei Chinese Bistro (Chinatown): A funky, Chinatown-based restaurant offering non-traditional Chinese fare in tapas style. Bao Bei appeals to those who are looking for a modern, up-market version of the authentic Chinese experience. They have a really cool interior and interesting signature cocktails. The food is a modern (almost fusion) take on traditional dishes. Since it is tapas-style, they encourage you to order a number of dishes for sharing.
- Exile Café and Restaurant (West End): Exile certainly piques the interest of the healthy-eating cognoscenti, offering a modern menu with an emphasis on locally foraged wild, native ingredients. It detours around chicken, pork, beef as well as mono crops that don’t contribute to biodiversity. It’s upbeat and has bluesy music running through the small room (20 seaters). Don’t forget to try their holistic cocktails as well.
- Acorn Restaurant (Main St): A recent newcomer to the Vancouver food scene, the Acorn is a completely vegetarian restaurant from Brian Skinner, a chef who has completed a 6 month stint at world-famous Noma in Copenhagen. Food is seasonal and excellent, in taste and in presentation. Note that reservations aren’t accepted and this place is busy, busy, busy!
- Farmer’s Apprentice (South Granville): One of the many things that makes this restaurant unique is that dishes are delivered to the table by the chefs themselves, and explained in detail. It is such a wonderful touch that makes the experience special. The menu, which changes daily, highlights local and seasonal ingredients – resulting in dishes full of flavour.
- La Quercia (Kitsilano/Point Grey): A small, intimate neighbourhood restaurant located on the corner of Alma and West 4th, La Quercia offers exceptional Italian food and wine at reasonable prices. The 7 course alla famiglia (a chef’s menu that everyone at the table shares) for $45 is great value, but dishes can be individually ordered at a cheaper cost if desired. Book well in advance.
- Blacktail Florist (Gastown): Hidden gems and wild seasonal products are thoughtfully composed in innovative ways, and handpicked foraged edibles are respectfully prepared and plated. The menu offers a culinary journey, riffing on pop culture, presenting fresh perspectives on familiar dishes, and venturing into uncharted territory with traditional but as-yet-unsung delicacies.