Vancouver’s Coffee Scene On Par with Seattle and Portland’s

We don’t think of Vancouver as part of the Pacific Northwest because it’s in another country, but in reality, there are some aspects to the city that will remind you of Seattle and Portland beyond the weather.

The sheer amount of stylish and quality coffee places is intense. Two of them are within eyeshot of each other. It reminds me of that joke in Best in Show, “We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other.”

The first one I visited on my first morning (after drooling all over Purebread) was Revolver, located in the tourist-hub Gastown section.

It’s not a roaster, but they have a huge selection of the best micro-roasters in British Columbia. Thus, you pick your pour over coffee or espresso-based drink from a rotating menu of beans. The menu has all the coffee nerd-like flavor profiles — notes of hibiscus, butter tarts, bubblegum and toasted bagels.

The roaster I went with was Bows & Arrows from Victoria. I loved it so much I took a box home. I probably picked it because it had handsome packaging.

For my espresso choice, I went with Phil & Sebastian from Calgary, just because it was almost sounded like the band Belle & Sebastian.

The space has a small bar area with some fancy, brass equipment with a exposed brick background. The other room has a communal table with a library of art books to browse while you sip.

After that, I headed about 40 steps to Timbertrain Coffee Roaster. Similar in look in feel of Revolver, it’s a little bit of an industrial chic look with woodworking that’s similar to the Scandinavian/Japanese minimalism.

The coffee selection also relies on a menu of pour overs, just from their own blends and single origins.

On the second day, my first stop was at Nemesis Coffee, my favorite of the bunch. It’s another Scandinavian/Japanese minimalism with the light wood booths and counters with level and straight edges all around.

This places you show all your coffee geek tricks and jargon. It goes something like this:

Barista: What flavor profile do you prefer?

Me: I like everything. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like bright and floral, other times, earthy and chocolatey. I’ll do earthy.

Then, while I’m drinking my coffee and eating toast and house jam, the barista came over and offered me small tasters of everything. It worked because I bought a couple of bags.

If you visit, make sure you use the bathroom so you can see this:

For my afternoon fika, I headed to the Kitsilano part of the city for 49th Parallel & Lucky Donuts, a sort of hyrbid coffee and donut joint. Even at 4 o’clock on Monday, all the tables were filled. There are two other locations downtown and Mt. Pleasant. And you’re damn right I took donuts to go to have the next morning before my flight.

Vancouver is an Asian Food Paradise, Here are the Three I Ate At

When you read up on the vast array of Asian restaurants, it won’t prepare you for how many options you have. We’re not talking your simple cheap Chinese take-outs, sushi bars or even ramen joints. There are region specific from every corner of the Asian continent — Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Burma and the Middle East.

What’s a first time traveler to do? A simple Google search of “Best Asian Restaurant Vancouver” is pointless. My approach was to search while in the city depending on what I felt like at the time, while finding a place that would be unique and well-respected.

I’m all about dumplings. While I was done exploring Stanley Park, I did a cursory search for nearby dumpling houses that I can load up on the juicy, doughy morsels of goodness.

The result was Dinesty Dumpling House on Robson St., a small chain in Victoria that’s known for their soup dumplings, noodles and dim sum specialties. The foods comes out fast thankfully, because you want to get those bad boys in your stomach. Get those dumplings, some pork buns and a rice dish for a reasonably priced lunch.

For dinner, I read good things about Guu Original on Thurlow. It’s part of the Guu Empire that includes Guu with Garlic, Guu with Otokomae, Guu Garden, Guu Kobachi and Guu Izakaya in Toronto. There are so many Guu names that they are missing out on.

The O.G. Guu is about the size of my one bedroom apartment, which makes it THAT much more authentic to the Izakayas in Japan. To make it more in the Izakaya aesthetic, the staff are frantic making food, but completely friendly to the point where you’re laughing.

As for the food, the menu changes often so you’re up for a surprise. I had some sort of peanut encrusted chicken, seasonal pickles and spicy soba noodles. Better yet, Guu has their own beer, Guuud! Ale.

When you leave make sure you say goodbye to everyone like this:

Finally, for a little snack action, you can’t go wrong with JapaDog. There use to be a location in the NYC, but like trendy things, it fell out of fashion. Although, the Los Angeles location is still around.

Simply but, it’s just weird Japanese hot dogs, mostly with a lot seaweed, kimchi and miso. Check the menu and you will get the idea. “The popular hotdog that was listed as “one of the must eat items in the world”. The juicy kurobuta sausage elevates the flavours of the terimayo sauce.”

Storm Brewing in Vancouver Has the Right Ideas, A Sense of Humor and Pay As You Want Samples

You can visit Vancouver from different perspectives. There’s Asian-foodie experience, where every cuisine is representative from the East. The Asian population are almost the majority in the city.

Then there’s the Hollywood North angle since a good portion of American movies (Deadpool) and TV shows (X-Files) come to Vancouver for cheaper production. Plus, it’s Seth Rogan’s hometown and now provides the voice of the transit system. Hopefully, his annoying laugh is not included.

Finally, and probably the reason I dedicated a good portion of my time doing, the city is the unofficial craft beer capital of Canada. Not many names come from Canada into the USA, the few being Vancouver’s Pipeworks, Unibroue from Montreal and the proverbial Molson macrobeer.

For my craft beer experience, I made sure to visit the city’ first, Storm. It’s a bit east of the Gaslight district among warehouses so just take the bus along East Hasting Ave. Don’t walk it, because you’ll pass plenty of homeless encampments. Once you get to the area, there five breweries within four blocks.

The set-up and philosophy is unique in my experience. You’ll notice right when you enter the space how different Storm Brewing is — there’s no taproom. There’s no bar, tables, stools, merch area, food menu or cute chalkboard of what’s on tap. It’s a production space with some space to stand. You’ll be hard pressed to find a flat surface to set your beer. Try next to the toy rat in a jar.

Then the other unique quality — pay what you like for six 4-oz. samples. The theory is that you’ll pay for growler. You’ll get a card to keep track. Since I wasn’t doing it, FREE BEER! Joking, $5CAD spot was my donation to the cause.

Without all the brewery trappings, Storm Brewery allows you to mingle with the staff and locals because there’s not much else to do besides stand, talk and drink some great beer.

And the beer is all experimental small batch concoctions. Cucumber beer? Sure! Here’s what I had:

  • Black Plague Stout
  • Highland Scottish Ale
  • Precipitation Pilsner
  • Vanilla Whiskey Stout
  • Apple Pie Ale
  • Watermelon Basil

That could be beer or an ice cream menu.

When you visit, make sure you check out the wall of their Yelp reviews — good and bad.


The Cannibal Cafe is Where Locals Go for Burgers in Vancouver

For the cynical traveler, Vancouver can just be an extension of Pacific Northwest stalwarts Seattle and Portland. Case in point, the funky and punky eateries that dot the trendy East Vancouver area of the city.

Located among like-minded business and near the community college, the burger-minded diner The Cannibal Cafe has walls lined with every rock band you listened to back in the day but forgot about because you are old and washed.

As I do with any city, I determined the best burger joint and since this popped up often and had the punk rock angle, this was my place. Then, it was within walking distance of some breweries and divey-drinking holes.

The burger was big, and intense I went with the Bacon Bad — Bacon & cheddar stuffed patty, applewood smoked bacon, Canadian cheddar, maple bacon bourbon jam, roasted garlic mayo, L.O.T.P. For reals, Canadians love their maple products.

Oh, Canada, indeed. #hamburger #vancouver

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And because I overeat while I’m traveling — poutine mac and cheese, because it’s POUTINE MAC AND CHEESE.

While you inhale your burger, you can read the walls.

Purebread in Vancouver — The Only Bakery You Need to Visit

When you visit the same bakery three times in four days, you know it’s a thing of beauty. It’s worth the embarrassment when the person behind the counter says, “Weren’t you here yesterday?”

As with any major city in North America, there will be dozens of quality bakers from the local legends that have been there for decades to the up-and-comers.

When Purebread came up in my search to get my breakfast pastry, the website photography was so beautiful that I need to head right there on my first morning.

I asked the staff what they known for, which they explained that while they have popular items like the carrot cake and almond cookies, they switch up their selection every day to keep people interested and bakers inspired.

As you can tell with the spread, they have anything with any flavor — scones, croissants, muffins, tarts. For the late-afternoon tea nosh or save for later dessert — cakes, pies, cookies, brownies. Then whole loafs for you weekly carb intake.

The chocolate cake was amazing, the apple pie was amazing, the carrot cake was surreal, the scones were magical. I can go on.

It almost made me sad that I didn’t have enough time to go on my last morning before my flight.

There’s one large location in the centrally located Gastown Vancouver and two in the original location in Whistler.

Vancouver Has the Meats, Especially at Siegel’s Bagels

After a cross-continent flight, a frustrating journey to my AirBnB and discovering that Vancouver doesn’t have Uber or Lyft, I needed some late eats in meat form.

One of the most coveted food items that Canada does well beyond poutine is smoked meats. We’re talking pastrami and corned beef. Montreal is the epicenter of the Jewish deli meats, but you can find a quality eatery in all parts of country.

To kick off my stay in Vancouver, I made it to Siegel’s Bagels, the 24-hour destination for amazing Jewish meats and breads. The open all night location is in the Kits Points section on the south island, south of downtown. Tucked in an unassuming strip mall, it’s a place that locals go pre- and post-night out drinking.

Starting with the bagels, the Montreal-style is smaller than it’s American-counterpart and a bit denser. As you can see with the posts before, you have basic flavors along with my more flavorful varieties.

For your filling, you can go no thrills with cream cheese and lox, which I was debating getting one to go. Or, go for the meats, pastrami, salami, turkey, etc. Smear it with some spicy mustard, pickle and cole slaw and ohhhhhhhh baby. As the locals say, “Oh yah, that’s ahhh good.”

For dessert, you got a rainbow of rugelach that with only set you back a dollar. I went with the cinnamon and chocolate.

While the joint is rather small and later on in the night, the tables do get packed and messy, it’s a little slice of heaven. If it just gets crowded take it outside and sit on the sidewalk. Rough it a little.


BrewDog Columbus Poised to be America’s Premiere Craft Beer Destination

Finally, my last post on my epic, career-defining beercation road trip. I end it the state capital that is synonymous with good times …. Columbus?

To back up, BrewDog is one of the reason I’m a craft beer fan. When I visited Edinburgh in 2012, my first night I visited one of their first bars and instantly fell in love with their punk rock attitude towards beer culture. Above anything, above their philosophy and design aesthetic, they make some of the best beer in Europe. Since then, every time I’m near one of their pubs I have to stop in to see if there’s something I haven’t had.

Now they are setting themselves up to take over America. Previously, you had to search specialty bottle shops to find their imported goods. Last year, they completely their first American production facility and tap room in Columbus, OH.

Welll, it’s not EXACTLY in Columbus. It’s just outside of the city in Canal Winchester. You pass a few large strip malls on the way there. It was about 20 minutes from the center of the Columbus.

When I did there, the ground had just broken of the BrewDog Hotel, which will feature a beer fridge in the shower.

More importantly, the beer brewed there was being served. In the past couple of months, the beer is being distributed outside of Ohio.

Which is why the BrewDog crew settled in that area … central location in America, and probably some tax breaks from the state.

The BrewDog Columbus tap room is the largest one I’ve been to. It has a full-service restaurant, game room, meeting center and merch shop. I threw down some coins on the Star Wars pinball game. Anytime I can drink some craft beer and pinball is alright by me.

The place feels like a wonderland of everything good about craft beer, good food and having a laugh. Case in point, you buy a $5 beer for the chefs and they will cheer in return. I did not, but somebody else did. You then hear a big holler from the kitchen. Not sure it was worth $5, but anything to lift their spirits.

As for the beer, four of the flagships are being brewed in the USA. Only Punk IPA was available to go in cans, but since then, all is available where ever craft beer is sold.

Here’s what I had:

  • Punk IPA
  • Jet Black Heart Sout
  • Elvis Juice IPA
  • Hazy Jane IPA
  • Hop Fiction Pale Ale
  • Dead Pony Club
  • Cocoa Psycho

The BrewDog Columbus also serves guest taps as well. Depending on when you go, they might import in a few special releases from their Scotland facility.

This is a new beer mecca in USA, alongside Hill Farmstead, all of Portland, Russian River, Stone, Sierra Nevada, etc. Once the hotel is built, the place will surpass any other brewery operation.