Gastown is unlike anywhere else in the city. Steeped in history and spilling over with culture, the neighbourhood is a rare microcosm within an ever growing and changing Vancouver.
It can be challenging to root out the best places to eat, shop and hangout when visiting unexplored territory. Who doesn’t want to share in the sacred knowledge kept only by locals and those who frequent hallowed haunts?
The “best” is never advertised, it just is; those diamonds in the rough, the golden places easily passed by in the rush of the maddened crowd to go where they are told to go. Trust your gut. Always. But some sage advice from the locals will go a long way.
At any time of the year, Gastown is a wonderful place to go. Forever changing yet always the same, there’s something special here and a guarantee that you’ll want to come back again.
It’s time to Gastown like a local for our special Memorial Day Weekend Edition.
Death Before Decaf.
Perhaps we in Gastown live by such a terse dictum when it comes to the black gold, but why shouldn’t we? Life is too short to drink bad coffee. The Pacific Northwest is known for its fine coffeehouses and high quality roasts and Gastown is a shining example.
Our cafés are largely independent places, each with its own character. Locals tend to hangout at their favourite joint but also hop around to neighbouring establishments.
It’s common in fine weather to see folks hanging out sipping and socializing or just enjoying a break to themselves.
Cafés to visit include:
Hey! There’s an Outlet Mall at the next exit!…..Keep Driving till you get to Gastown.
No offence to malls of any kind, we just don’t do malls. Gastown is shopping as it should be – adventurous, exciting and satisfying. Our shop owners are proprietors, merchants and curators of quality things made here at home and abroad, many in small runs and limited numbers. There are clothes, shoes, accessories and home décor items that are difficult to find anywhere else. Gastown is known by locals to be the best area in the city for menswear and there are quite a few shops for women as well.
Eat, Drink and be a Gastowner
Gastown is a food lover’s paradise. We cater to all budgets and tastes; such is the true nature of diversity found here. You can go on a happy hour crawl or tuck away in a secluded corner booth, savouring privacy, great service and high quality dishes. The selection of cuisines is immense and the variety of atmosphere will ensure that everyone finds a comfortable place to dine with a desirable menu.
Gastowners are often seen dining at these restaurants:
Sweets for My Sweet (Tooth)
Perhaps you may be inspired to treat yourself to something indulgent. Locals enjoy nibbling on petite handmade chocolates made from single origin beans at East Van Roasters.
Throughout the year, and particularly in summer, Soft Peaks on Alexander Street is highly recommended, specializing in ice cream made from locally sourced organic milk with local premium toppings like a fresh piece of Okanagan and Fraser Valley honeycomb.
Or why not have dessert first, then dinner? Mosquito is the neighbourhood’s de facto dessert emporium with fantastical sugared imaginings such as the Venezuela Chocolate Soufflé, Milk Chocolate, Apple & Honey, and Floating Island Thai Basil & Raspberry Chocolate Bar and Pistachio Mille-feuilles.
Recently opened this year and quickly becoming a local hotspot, Caffe Di Beppe serves incredible Affogatos made from acid free Italian dark roast and soft serve gelato. You must also try their freshly made cream filled Apolini’s. OMG.
For those about to game…..we salute you!
For the gamers in your group, there are lots of amusements in Gastown.
There’s an awesome Pinball Gallery at The Lamplighter Pub. Choose from around 9 tables with the latest themes. Every table is free to play each Wednesday from 7pm on for their weekly event: Replay Pinball – Canada’s largest free weekly pinball tournament Hosted and DJ’d by Mary Mac.
The Metropole Pub is a well-known local hangout with cheaply priced food and a nice collection of 8 pinball machines.
If you’re looking for that basement rec room experience, just like when you were a kid, head over to The Back and Forth Bar. It’s like hanging out at best friends house after school where you’ll find vintagecouches and wallpaper while enjoying snacks and playing video game consoles, board games and on a bunch of ping-pong tables.
Speaking of board games, you can barely see in the window of 131 Water Kitchen & Bar. This fun little spot has a great menu, intimate seating and a collection of over 100 board games. Balderdash anyone?
End the Day with a Nighty Nightcap
Where do the locals go, you ask, to imbibe fancy cocktails and watch the world go by? Well, we’ll tell you and you may end up visiting more than one of these places.
Decorated like a prohibition era speakeasy, Pourhouse is lavish, dark and rich with a sublime cocktail menu comprising many original recipes using premium liquors and exotic ingredients. Locals have been coming here for years and know that the house makes a good pour. Cocktail selections include: Green Giant – Absinthe, Cuban Rum, Lime, Cuffs and Buttons House-spiced Bourbon, Honey, Orange Blossom, Orlean’s Bitters, and La Creencia – Chilean Pisco, Cherry Heering, Belgian Wit, Lemon, Rosemary, Angostura. Other local spots for a good stiff drink include:
The Diamond – upper floor hideaway with exposed brick and chandeliers. Cocktails include: CHRYSANTHEMUM –Premium aromatized wine, Benedictine, Absinthe, LONDON FOG –Gin, Lillet blanc, grapefruit, black tea, egg white, CUBAN QUEEN –Cuban rum, Italian vermouth, black tea, pineapple, Peychaud’s bitters.
La Mezcaleria is a traditional Mexican restaurant with a particular focus on mezcals – a distilled spirit made from many distinct agave plants, roasted underground with wood, giving it a smoky character. Cocteles include: Mujer de Fuego– rum, mango puree, mango shrub, lime, firewater, Despacho– Tequila, blue corn, coconut, lime, Inca bitters, and Coquito– blanco tequila, coconut tequila, mescal, lime, mint.
For more tips on how to Gastown like a local during the weekend, check out these posts: