Vancouver’s trailblazing restaurants have long relied on the local bounty of British Columbia’s lush ecosystem. An increasing number prioritize ingredients that are sourced responsibly and whip up genre-defying cuisine. And many distinguish themselves with innovative efforts that support BC’s most vulnerable communities.
An easygoing cocktail parlour in Gastown directs some of its proceeds to a local charity that provides 1,000 made-from-scratch meals to local residents on a daily basis. The city’s only Indigenous-owned and -operated restaurant is poised to open a second location in Vancouver International Airport. A revered Mediterranean chef’s boundary-pushing plates landed him the prestigious Order of the Star of Italy.
Reservations at these Vancouver restaurants don’t just mean indelible meals and one-of-a-kind experiences. They also offer the opportunity to uplift local neighbourhoods and protect the environment that feeds us. Seek out some of the city’s most unique meals by booking a table at these eight cutting-edge restaurants now.
The Diamond (Gastown)
This friendly neighbourhood cocktail parlour is known for innovative drinks plus unique meat and cheese boards (bonus points for vegan cheese options). Choices include British Columbia smoked gouda and Ontario triple cream brie—both pair well with spicy capocollo or fennel salami. But The Diamond is about more than just customizable charcuterie. It also stands out for boosting its surrounding community. By making a reservation through OpenTable’s Experiences, you donate $5 to A Better Life Foundation, a local charity that provides food literacy and 1,000 made-from-scratch meals daily to Downtown Eastside residents. Note that The Diamond doesn’t have an in-house phone so it’s important to book online. If you’re here for happy hour, selections from that menu direct partial proceeds to the Autism Society of British Columbia—yet another example of The Diamond’s altruistic ethos.
Fable (Various locations)
In response to the pandemic, Fable—there are three locations now, with the newest in Yaletown—created its own online delivery platform to meet the needs of Vancouverites who were (then) almost exclusively dining at home. Another pioneering Fable initiative: In March 2020, the restaurant group began offering a 20% discount to healthcare workers and first responders. The restaurants’ menus are just as thoughtful, featuring made-from-scratch comfort foods such as cafeteria-style poutine and smash burgers, plus roast duck gnocchi with housemade kimchi. To all that, add weekly trivia nights and unique, themed brunches (such as the Prohibition Weekend Brunch), making a meal at any of these three spots one of the most memorable in town. MICHELIN recognized Fable’s Kits location with a Bib Gourmand in October 2022.
Fable Diner (Mount Pleasant)
Fable Kitchen (Kitsilano)
Fable Diner & Bar (Yaletown)
1931 Gallery Bistro at the Vancouver Art Gallery (Downtown)
All proceeds from this inventive West Coast fusion spot go to the Vancouver Art Gallery, a museum known for groundbreaking exhibitions of contemporary and historical art from BC and beyond, with special attention to Indigenous artists. The bistro’s recently renovated terrace provides unmatched views of Robson Square. All the seafood served here, including the smoked salmon in the top-notch Benedict, is 100% Ocean Wise certified, meaning that it’s approved by the ocean conservation program led by the Vancouver Aquarium. Standouts include a banh mi croissant with lemongrass chicken, plus vegan treats such as a kale Caesar. The wine list is also extra special, featuring exclusively BC-grown and -made wines, such as the hand-harvested Skaha pinot blanc from the Okanagan Valley.
Neverland Tea Salon — Vancouver (Kitsilano)
This whimsical, chandelier-decked tea shop is one of the only ones of its kind in Vancouver. It serves elaborate afternoon tea daily, plus lunch on weekdays. Come for seasonal savoury tea sandwiches such as smoked paprika crab salad, scones with cream and jam, and a selection of pastries. Neverland’s rare brew selection includes an under-the-radar oolong from Kenya, seven types of rooibos, and unusual tisanes, such as lemon meringue pie with lemongrass, lemon myrtle, and vanilla bean. The cherry on top: For special events, diners are encouraged to show up in Alice in Wonderland-inspired costumes, and there are prizes for the best dressed. Owners and childhood friends, Terri Tatchell and Renee Iaci ensure their eclectic tea shop gives back, particularly to children, supporting a range of nonprofits such as the Children’s Organ Transplant Society. Neverland also donates a dollar from every bag of loose-leaf tea purchased to war relief efforts in Ukraine.
Salmon n’ Bannock (Fairview)
Vancouver’s only Indigenous-owned and -operated restaurant spotlights traditional foods such as bannock flatbread, wild sockeye on Ojibwe wild rice, and game meats. Expect stellar modern updates including a smoked salmon burger, gluten-free bannock, and cream cheese mousse with pemmican (in this case, bison and sage blueberries). The restaurant plans on adding a new location, Salmon n’ Bannock On The Fly, at the Vancouver International Airport; owner Inez Cook is leading a fundraising campaign to hire and train staff and to ensure the new outpost features works by Indigenous artists. Salmon n’ Bannock’s community upliftment doesn’t stop there: Through Cook’s Feed Your Spirit initiative, the restaurant gives back to BC by preparing meals for organizations such as Helping Spirit Lodge Society and RainCity Housing, which support people experiencing domestic violence, trauma, and homelessness.
Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market (Stadium District)
Sustainability plays a starring role at Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market. At this Stadium District spot, Manila clams and cucumber-slate-flavoured oysters are sourced from the beaches of Fanny Bay itself. Family-owned Fanny Bay supports the community too, sponsoring marine and environmental stewardship and educational non-profits plus groups researching and monitoring water quality and restoring local watersheds. Pacific mollusks, such as Kusshis and Sun Seekers, are amongst the favourite oysters here, whether eaten in-house or brought home. For those who choose to feast at the restaurant, chef Tommy Shorthouse offers up some of the city’s best—and most responsibly sourced—seafood, including shucked-on-demand oysters, yellowfin tuna tartare, and paella for two with whatever’s freshest.
This vegan restaurant, a June 2022 opening, uses a hospitality-included service and pricing model to ensure the restaurant stays viable. Staff receive a fair salary and benefits and don’t need to rely on tips. Open Thursday to Monday, Folke is known for laid-back patio hangs and à la carte and tasting menu dinners. Chef-owners Colin Uyeda and Pricilla Deo’s avant-garde shared-plate menus focus on whatever’s in season and freshest from BC farms. Recent dinner items have included plum- and hazelnut-enhanced beets and a pasta dish of maltagliati (rustic, irregularly cut noodles) with tomato, Romano beans, and fennel. For parties of six or more, Folke flexes its creative muscles, crafting a special tasting menu.
Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill (Yaletown)
For two decades, award-winning chef Giuseppe “Pino” Posteraro has transformed local ingredients into artistic plates at his acclaimed Yaletown restaurant. Posteraro was even honoured with the Order of the Star of Italy, an order of knighthood. While his menus do feature traditional dishes, such as the four-hour braised veal cheek with pappardelle, Posteraro is all about food for the future and he invents new dishes daily, highlighting the best of BC. He sources buffalo mozzarella from Vancouver Island, halibut from Haida Gwaii, and veal from the Fraser Valley. Some of what he uses in his restaurant is hyperlocal, including plums and eggplants from his home garden. He even provides Cioppino’s entire bay leaf supply from his own trees and invites chef friends to harvest what they need. Beyond the innovative approach to ingredients, the chef-owner embraces technology, too. Thanks to a massive spring-summer 2020 renovation, Cioppino’s is now equipped with a new open kitchen with state-of-the-art German ovens and a temperature-controlled, by-the-glass wine dispenser and preservation system, proving it’s a gamechanger on many levels.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer/photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism; follow her on Twitter at @TravelEater and Instagram at TravelEaterJohanna.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.