VANCOUVER – Downtown Vancouver’s Art Gallery is a great spot, with a big patio out front and big steps and a feel, to me, anyway, of a public square in London.
The best part? Food trucks.
It’s not bad enough we don’t have a public square in Toronto as nice as the one in front of the Art Gallery of Vancouver (not in my mind, anyway). No, they have to lord it over us with trucks selling the most wonderful of foods; a definite poke into the eye of a city that simply can’t seem to find a way to do what half the world is doing.
I had been told to try the flank steak tacos at Tacofino, a bright (and ugly) orange truck that dispenses fish tacos and other stuff. Since I’d had my fill of red meat in the Yukon, I instead opted for the fish tacos. They were good, but there was too much seaweed for my taste and it overwhelmed the other flavours.
Better – far better – to my taste was the truck next door – Mom’s Grilled Cheese (see photo above). For about $7, I got a thick sandwich filled with prosciutto and goat cheese. It came with a kosher pickle and potato chips and I added a ginger-lemonade for a couple more dollars.
There are trucks all over town offering Asian, pulled pork and all sorts of great items. Not to mention the famous Japadog on Burrard St.
Hey, Toronto, get with the program already…
I also managed a great dinner at Rain City Grill on Denman in the west end. It’s a wonderful spot that pretty much pioneered the local food movement in Vancouver, and it also offers great views (including a small patio) of the beach and park at the always entertaining English Bay (see sunset photo).
I had their famous grilled Caesar salad, where they chargrill the romaine before giving it the usual treatment with Caesar dressing and shaved parmesan. It’s fun, but I think I prefer it cold. The pork belly appetizer was awesome; smooth and flavourful and delicious, and they serve a wonderful halibut main dish that’s cooked perfectly and served over fava beans and just right fiddleheads; a tricky thing to cook correctly in my experience. They also have excellent wines from B.C., including sauvignon blanc and pinot gris; usually my favourite for a B.C. white.
The front desk at The Burrard Hotel (a terrific, funky and fun spot; see my full story from the Toronto Star) suggested breakfast the next day at Joe’s Grill on Davie St.. They opened right on time at 7 and I had my food at 7:07 a.m.
“The Basic” came with two eggs, toast (try the sourdough), a large portion of perfectly crispy home fries (the top thing most breakfast joints get wrong in my opinion) and four fat sausages, all for $6.50.
A great deal, for sure.
MORE RAIN CITY
VANCOUVER – I was faced with a long to-do list with just a couple hours to spare in Vancouver last weekend. I couldn’t possibly cover Granville Island, the False Creek Aquabus, English Bay and Stanley Park in two hours. But then I remembered the hotel I was at, the newly renovated and wonderful Burrard (see coming story in the Star) had bikes for use for free for up to four hours. Bingo.
I hopped one a pretty solid city bike and scrambled over to Granville Island, where I scoped out the perfect, ripe raspberries and luscious blackberries and salmon and coffee shops and vivid flower stalls at the wonderful Granville Market; one of Canada’s best. Outside, a group of women was doing morning Yoga, bouncing up and down in place and looking a tad embarrassed by it all.
I’d cycled around Stanley Park before but this was the first time I took a bike over to Granville Island so I pedalled about on the south side of False Creek, cycling past enormous rhododendrons (more on those in a minute) and slick condos with million-dollar views of marinas, mountains and downtown highrises.
At the urging of a friend, I spent a half-hour zipping around False Creek on the Aquabus, which takes you all over the area, bouncing from marina to marina for $8. I was told you can get a day pass for $15, which allows you to get on and off and explore all over the area, stopping for Granville Island or lunch or a stroll through Yaletown; whatever you like. It’s a fun way to see the city, and the little, colourful boats are adorable.
I took their shuttle from Granville over to the foot of Hornby St., then cycled past the giant container ships that sit off English Bay and on into Stanley Park. I didn’t feel like burning the track around the perimeter, so I instead poked around a bit inside the south end of the park.
I had no idea there was such a cute pitch and putt golf course. Nor had I heard of the rhododendron garden. This being spring and the blooms being a tad late around here from what I’m told, the rhodos were in absolute peak colour; a riot of deep and light pinks, fuschia and pale orange. Some azaleas were out but most had faded, I’m sad to say. Still, it was stunningly serene and beautiful. Stanley Park sadly lost a lot of tall trees in some big storms a year or two ago, and the stumps don’t look pretty. But it’s still Canada’s best urban park by a country mile.
As I rode past the lake with the fountain in it I surprised a raccoon, who I hadn’t expected to be out and about at 10 a.m. He was on the shore, puttering around in the shallow water near some rocks. A large raven was none too pleased and repeatedly swooped down towards the raccoon, cawing his displeasure.
It was the only sour note I heard all morning.