Like eagles to a certain towering redwood tree, many of Gastown’s finest restaurants have come to Carrall Street, together in a harmonious flock, to each stand majesctically on their own. Along with restaurants, you’ll find a few altruistic community based organizations that directly support women in life transition, including growing artists and writers. There’s great coffee here, well maintained historic buildings, friendly retailers and an aura that is different from any other street in Gastown. You can buy cowboy boots, then jump for joy and click your heels to the beat of the street. It’s Carrall, alright.
Ranked number 13 on Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants, L’abattoir has done more than put Gastown on the map; it has become the map. The definitive guide to service, food and décor, the experience is equal from bar to dining room to atrium. For those visiting Carrall, L’abattoir is a culinary experience which you must have. Suggestions include Baked Pacific oysters, Octopus grilled over charcoal and Pan-fried veal sweetbreads on toast as well as Confit halibut, Steak Diane, Lamb Loin Provençal.
Previously home to The Secret Location Restaurant, the lads from L’abattoir have brought us home a treasure from the ocean. Coquille Fine Seafood (Coquille is French for shell) is equally high end, as it is down to earth. Sidle up to the nautical themed bar for Happy Hour small plates, relax in a circular booth with friends sharing fish & chips and beers, or dress up a bit for the occasion and order a bountiful seafood platter flanked by a bottle of bubbly.
Six Acres is known for its lively patio and excellent view of Maple Tree Square. The pub is a great place to relax while still feeling part of the vibe on a Friday night. Choose from 15 craft beers on tap, ranging from popular local microbreweries to kegs shipped in from Oregon. There are high ceilings here with exposed brick and the feeling of being in a 1870’s saloon. The food is more than the obvious nachos or yam fries – have a gander at their Seared Bison Steak Salad, Lamb Meatballs or fresh Mussels.
Every great neighbourhood should, and usually does have, an Irish pub or two. The Irish Heather is a fine example of such an establishment. Owned and operated by longtime Gastown local, Séan Heather, you’ll find a cracking good whisky selection along with their gastropub styled menu of meat, cheese, condiment and themed plate selections. There are starters and mains as well, so everyone can feast, nibble, sip and savor the night away.
It goes without saying that Vera’s Burger Shack has a lot of burgers. It’s not a case of quantity over quality, as they offer so many different variations, each unique and deliciously prepared. Choose from over 20 varieties and add some poutine, fries or Jalapeno Bottle Caps.
East Van Roasters is pretty awesome in many ways. The interior invokes memories of 1930’s ice cream parlour with a little bit of Willy Wonka thrown in – they make their own chocolates in house right from the bean. Designed to provide training and employment to the women residents of the Rainier Hotel, East Van Roasters creates organic ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate and coffee roasted and prepared on site. You experience the magic of this coffee chocolate factory as soon you enter.
Nelson the Seagull is independent café culture at its finest. They run their own in-house bakery, producing fresh bread for sandwiches (also sold by the loaf). One of the more popular cafés in the neighbourhood, there’s plenty of space to sit, with a few communal tables and a lovely little patio out front. The avocado on bread is a must have.
Shebeen Whiskey House offers one of the largest whisky selections in Canada. The staff are knowledgeable and happy to assist guests in the art of whisky drinking. The Shebeen is a true snug – a small room where friends sit close to one another, enjoying intimate conversation while savouring fine whiskeys.
Dubbed “The Soul Of Ireland in The Heart of Gastown” – The Blarney Stone is perhaps one of the most well known and loved original Irish Pubs in the city. Three decades ago, the area around Gastown’s Blarney Stone was as close as you could get in Vancouver to Ireland’s fabled Temple Bar district without stepping onto a plane. Originally surrounded by a number of other Irish bars, the Blarney Stone is the only ‘original’ Irish pub in Vancouver that is still standing. (from http://blarneystone.ca/about/). They offer true Irish fare, a properly poured pint of Guinness and live traditional Irish music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Cead Mile Failte!
Like EastVan Roasters, Community Thrift & Vintage is a social enterprise initiative where all profits go towards the PHS Community Services Society. Women from The Rainier Hotel are encouraged to work during transitional periods of their lives, helping them to build skills in a supportive work environment. The shop stocks a wonderful supply of clothing and accessories spanning many decades, and it’s always rewarding to know that money spent here goes to those that can really use it.
Founded in Bondi Beach in 2012, Bailey Nelson has quickly grown into a global brand lead with boutiques in Australia, London, Canada and New Zealand. Despite their size, Bailey Nelson feels like a local shop, with service that’s friendly and personable. Bailey’s eyewear is designed in house, using quality materials like acetate from Italy, hinges from Germany, and lenses from Japan.
NiftyDo is run by a trio of passionate guys, Won, Don and WoWo, who are super friendly and honest. They carry great stuff for guys including lines like Saint James, Velva Sheen, Knickerbocker, Lady White Co. and their own Nifty Do produced brand – Merry Company.
The O.K. Boot Corral is like a western movie come to life. If you can find Gassy Jack, you have located the Corral on Carrall. Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and some random mean looking grifter stand outside, ready to silently greet (glare) at customers. The shop is one of the best in Vancouver to find quality crafted leather goods, snap button western shirts and cowboy hats.
Artspeak was founded in 1986 and has become a cultural epicenter for emerging visual artists, writers and critics. The not for profit art-house strives to exhibit contemporary art, and encourage a dialogue between visual art and writing. It is worth visiting when strolling along Carrall as there’s always something unique, challenging, though provoking, and interesting to discover. One of Gastown’s most vibrant and eclectic galleries.