While there will be plenty of time to wander out and grab a leisurely lunch during the Design & Content Conference, you’ll likely want to stick close to the venue. Here’s a list of nearby spots worth a visit, whether you’re solo or with a group.
Fast & Cheap
With each of these options, you’ll get tasty food served quick. Have it to stay, or take it to go and eat in the park at Victory Square around the corner from the venue.
Omnivorous? Don’t miss this fantastic sandwich shop. Also, don’t be discouraged by the big line. It moves fast, and seats at the communal table clear quickly. You’ll almost always have food within 10 minutes, and it’s never a problem to find a place to sit. But just in case, you can also take it to go. (Pro tip: porchetta)
If you’re visiting from California (or anywhere else along the Mexico border) you’ll likely be disappointed by Vancouver’s Mexican food. However, La Taqueria stands out. Really well-executed and tasty taco staples with great options for vegetarians and omnivores alike. The line can be out the door, but it moves quick. The room is cramped, but you can always take a plastic plate to the nearby park if you’re willing to return it. (Pro tip: carnitas)
A hip sandwich shop that’s all about the fresh in-house bread. Sure they have soup and salads, but if you’re not doing the sandwiches, you’re doing it wrong. Vegetarian and omnivore options, and the coffee is excellent too.
There’s a certain homemade old school charm about the way Joe does pizza. (Not that there’s an actual Joe.) These are not thin crust Neopolitan-style masterpieces, these are hearty slabs of pane romano-esque pizza goodness, served by the slice in a spacious room, and with enough variety to keep vegetarians and omnivores happy. (Pro tip: Quebec-style, but only if you’re willing to indulge some Canadian nostalgia; if not it’s probably super weird, to be honest.)
Healthy eaters and vegetarians, look no further. Field & Social call themselves a salad bar, but don’t be fooled – they offer a set menu of carefully-crafted, flavourful and thoughtful plant-based fare. Sure, there are omnivorous protein options too, but the base salads are a well-considered meal that offer plenty of variety.
Sit-down, or To-Go
These ones tend to draw the lunch crowds, so they can be a little slower and it’s often hard to find a place to sit. You’re taking a risk with most of these if you show up with a crowd bigger than 4, but takeout is usually an option.
Modern Lebanese food with an extremely solid set of vegetarian pitas and platters, as well as some expected omnivorous options. Their big room does get full at lunch, but takeout is a breeze. (Pro tip: Najib’s Special fried cauliflower with lemon, or Mjadra lentil/avocado/crispy onion. Both available as pita or platter.)
One of the things that Vancouver is great at is serving traditional cuisines with a slight modern twist in a mid-scale location at a reasonable price. Haru is a great example of this, you’ll find a lot of traditional-sounding menu items, but served as individual portions for the sake of a relatively quick lunch. It’s a smaller room though, so the lunch lines can get lengthy.
Starting life as a single food truck, this local mini-chain now has a handful of locations spread out between Vancouver and the island (that is, Vancouver Island, for non-locals). The Gastown location offers two halves: a takeout-only burrito bar with long lines that move quick, and a very popular sit-down taco bar with an alley-facing patio. There’s not much traditional about the food, expect more modern and inventive takes on the classics.
Deceptively convincing as a nightlife speakeasy for a good reason (it is!), Pourhouse also offers a great lunch menu that is well-accompanied by one of their wide variety of tasty libations. With its dark and moody interior and well above-average lunch menu, this is a perfect option for a cloudy day.
A charming little teahouse that makes some ridiculously good sandwiches. The salads are good too, as are the drinks and pastries. But I am sending you here for one thing and one thing alone, the sandwich that many years after its debut I still consider the best in the city, namely their pear, prosciutto, roasted walnut, and blue brie baguette drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic. Don’t miss having one, it’s worth the (inevitable, and long-ish) wait in line.
Next to this publicly-accessible cooking school is a seriously great deli that offers a wide range of sandwiches, salads, pastries, and daily specials ranging from lasagna to stir fries to stews. (Pro tip: crab & shrimp baguette)
To say Jinya is near the venue is a stretch, you’d have to really want ramen to venture the 10-15 minute walk away. But it’s the best somewhat-close ramen option if that’s what you’re craving, and Vancouver tends to do ramen very well. Lines can be daunting at lunch, so call before you set out to get your name on the list and you should be able to walk right in when you arrive. (Pro tip: black ramen)
A wide variety of fresh and inventive sushi, specializing in aburi-style, or pressed oshi sushi that has been lightly seared. In a beautiful room with an amazing view of the waterfront, Miku is on the higher-end side of the scale, but as a lunch option it’s far from unaffordable.
What Peaceful lacks in ambience, it makes up for with its extensive menu of northern Chinese traditional cuisine. Their lunch menus are geared toward quick and easy decision-making, but if you go with a group definitely skip them in favour of the full menu, and order about 1.5 dishes per person and share family-style. (Pro tip: chili garlic eggplant, thousand chili chicken, or beef roll)
Classic thin-crust Neopolitan-style pizza, along with the certification to show they’ve gone the extra mile in sourcing ingredients and not only refining their cooking process, but also their kitchen inventory including an oven originally made in Napoli. But okay, the real question is whether that attention to detail translates to great pizza, and the answer is absolutely it does.
Further Afield / Specialty
Maybe you’re in town a few days on either end of the conference? If you find yourself wanting to travel, or just find yourself near these places, here are a few more lunch options. - Hokkaido Ramen Santouka - The Ramenman - Motomachi Shokudo - Marutama Ra-men
Vancouver has a lot of ramen, but if you want the best options, head to this corner of the city. With 8 shops in a 3 block radius (and another 3 more if you cast the net a bit wider) this is the true ramen nexus of the city. For my money, these are the four top choices anywhere in town, and they’re all within arm’s reach of each other. - House Special - Anh and Chi - Mr Red Cafe (2 locations)
There are a lot of cookie cutter Vietnamese phở shops in Vancouver. That’s not a bad thing, the quality is generally great across the board, it’s just that there isn’t a lot to differentiate one from the next. The three on this list offer something unique: House Special and Anh & Chi are both more modern interpretations of Vietnamese staples, whereas Mr Red takes the classics and executes to an extremely high level of authenticity and flavour.
Heritage is a fun modern take on a small handful of Asian classics. Chose your serving type, whether it’s bowl or bao (steamed bun) and a selection of toppings both omnivorous and vegetarian alike. Don’t worry about compromising anything if you choose the latter, I find myself getting the shiitake or eggplant bowls far more than the rest. Also there’s brunch on the weekends, and it’s excellent.
Basically all the things I said above about La Taqueria, just with a different set of owners and this one is by the beach.
Fun little noodle shop that mixes Asian influences and creates something of its own house character with a carefully-chosen menu, a roster of sauces and toppings made and pickled in-house, and fun sides.
Thai classics and modern interpretations alike. Served in a fun room with great drinks in a neat part of the city.
Unlike most local legends, Vikram Vij has managed to gain a profile outside of Vancouver too. His flagship restaurant a few blocks down remains an excellent dinner option, but the little sister restaurant Rangoli is a fantastic lunch destination if you’re in the mood for modern interpretations of Indian ingredients and cooking techniques. If there’s one place on this list that’s worth the trip, it’s Rangoli.
Okay so hear me out. Yes, it’s a hot dog stand. Yes, it’s Japanese. No, the two shouldn’t work together, but they do in surprising and inventive ways. Teriyaki-mayo sauce on a beef dog? Shredded daikon with onion and bonito on pork? All-shrimp or all-salmon sausage? Those and more. There are a half dozen or so Japadog locations across the city, but the original cart on Burrard still stands and should be on your list as a quintessential Vancouver cheap and cheerful lunch.
As with most cities, when a place gets popular enough, illusions of a chain creeps in and so other locations start popping up around town. Railtown Cafe has been a sleepy off-the-beaten-path Vancouver institution for over 5 years thanks to their focus on ingredients and preparation. House-made everything, counter-side carving stations, and build your own salad from a dizzying array of ingredients are part of the reason this sandwich & salad shop punches far, far above its weight. Thankfully the expanded locations sacrifice none of the quality of the original, but if you’re going to visit one, the first location on Railway is where I’d send you.