• Stephanie Joy

Eating in Vancouver: More than just Poutine & Maple Syrup

Updated: Oct 9, 2018

I didn't really know what to expect when it came to restaurants in Vancouver, but we learned quickly that "eclectic" is a great way to describe it, with a definite Asian influence. Looking back, I'm still a little confused and not sure what to think...but I know that for the most part, I liked what I tried!

Tim Hortons

490 Hornby St #101, Vancouver, BC


Since the Continental Breakfast at the Downtown Vancouver Days Inn was about seven fathoms below sub-par and we wanted to start our days off with something cheap and filling, our morning go-to spot was the Tim Horton's located less than a block from the hotel. For those of you who have never been to a Tim Horton's, it's essentially a Canadian Dunkin Donuts. They serve coffee (of which I was not particularly fond of), donuts, breakfast sandwiches, etc...you know, the usual breakfast stuff. It was inexpensive, fast and we were given polite service. Plus, you can't swing a dead cat in Canada without hitting a Tim Hortons, so convenience was a big factor in going there each day, even when we were out and about. What more could you ask for? It's breakfast, not High Tea.

“Mom, Canadian people are so nice.” - Sarah

I'll be honest with you...eating was not a big focus in Vancouver. Not because we were counting calories or not wanting to spend money, but rather that we were all coming down with something and our appetites were not what they would normally be...upon returning back to Florida, we were diagnosed with Bronchitis (me), Strep Throat (Sarah) and a Head Cold (Jason), but I'll give you a brief rundown of the places that we did go :)

The Cactus Club Cafe

588 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC


We decided to come here for dinner our first night in town based on the recommendation of the front desk clerk at our hotel, since our 14 year old daughter was unable to sit down and have dinner with us at the pub next door to the hotel due to local ordinances about places that primarily sell alcohol, but also serve food (who knew?). We were hungry, I hadn't found very many restaurants in the area at all that sounded like what we were in the mood for, so we decided to give the Cactus Club a go.

During the walk to the restaurant, which was a few blocks from the hotel, all I could think about was that the name sounded like a place from "The Flintstones" where Fred and Barney would take Wilma and Betty for dinner and a show. I didn't know that it was a Canadian chain restaurant and had no clue what was on the menu. It could have been roasted moose, beaver tail roasted vegetables with poutine on the side for all we knew. For the first time in a long time, we were totally flying blind and taking a recommendation on faith. We didn't know what to expect!

After a brief walk from the hotel, we got to the restaurant and upon first glance, it looked nice. They wouldn't have a crap restaurant in such a good location, right? Once we stepped inside, we knew this would be the right place for us. It had a subtle, yet distinctly Asian food smell due to the open kitchen concept and let me tell you, it smelled amazing! After a wait of about 20 minutes, we were seated and luckily we had flashlights on our cell phone, because this is one very dimly lit restaurant. It's great if you are looking for something on the down low, because, honey...ain't no one going to be able to see you sitting in a booth with someone from a distance. It's that dark...

Service was fast and personable, but seeing that I can't remember our server's name, it wasn't anything above and beyond (and yes, I do remember names of servers from way back!) We started off with 2 orders of steamed edamame (soybeans), our drinks (no cocktails, just soda this time) and waited for our entree's to come out.

Jason had the BBQ Duck Clubhouse Sandwich, consisting of Peking Duck, Roasted Chicken, Prosciutto di Modena on a delicious Pecan Fruit Bread.

Sarah chose the Spaghettini and Kobe Style Meatballs serive with a roasted tomato sauce, truffle mushroom cream, fresh ricotta cheese and garlic toast and holy crap, they gave her enough for 2 whole dinners. And it was fab-u-los!

and lastly, I had an "OMG, tasted so good you'd sell your own mama for a to-go order" of a Short Rib Sandwich, that in addition to the most tender and deliciously seasoned short ribs, were caramelized onions, beef jus, Emmental cheese served on a toasted fresh Brioche bun.

All prices below are in Canadian Dollars, so when you look at it from an American's perspective, the prices were very reasonable for the quality of food we received. I would highly recommend the Cactus Club Cafe and although we are not huge fans of chain restaurants, this isn't a place local to us and is definitely out of the norm for us. We would go back in a heartbeat. In fact, I just looked and they have a location in Victoria, BC, so we will be sure to got there for dinner when we stop there on our Alaskan crusie next year!

Give them a try the next time you're in Canada!

Menu for the Cactus Club

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ G3-888 Nelson Street Vancouver, BC


As far as I am concerned, you can never go wrong with grill your own food over an actual open fire....not just a heating element or cook-top like at some restaurants. I read about this restaurant on Yelp and although it is a chain of Japanese BBQ restaurants in the US and Canada, I had never heard of it and it look promising. Plus, it got great reviews!

We decided to go with the Kabuki Prix-Fixe menu for 3 people for $80 CAD and holy schnikey, that was more food than we could have ever finished! Of course we had to roder some edamame, because that is our favorite starter but we really should have skipped it. there was PLENTY!!

We recieved 3 bowls of white rice, I think we substituted the Calamari for soup because I know I didn't eat any of that and our entree consisted of the following, with the x 2 designating the serving sizes:

Filet Mignon x 2

Kalbi Chuck Rib x 2

Garlic Shrimp x 2

Basil Chicken Thighs x 2

Spicy Pork x 2

Garlic Spinach x 3

Broccoli x 3

By the time our server brought out the Spicy Pork, I don't think the three of us had any room left in our bellies. I know we cooked it, Jason ate like a piece just to test it (it was VERY spicy) and we took most of the veggies, leftover rice and spicy pork back to the hotel in a to-go box. It was fun, though, cooking our own dinner and it made for fun conversation, although I felt like my clothes had a smokey BBQ smell to them at the end of dinner. Would I go back? Sure, but it is not on my must do list. I guess you could say I'd keep this on my mental back burner of places to go in case there wasn't a better option. For the price though, you really can't go wrong!

The Fish Shack

1026 Granville St, Vancouver, BC (now permanently closed)

Well this review will be simple...decent seafood, the Bloody Mary's kicked ass they were so good (Jason enjoyed the Oyster Shooter on the side), but they are now closed, so there really is no point talking about the food. I have to say I am curious to know why it closed.

Peaceful Restaurant (Chinese)

602 Seymour St, Vancouver


We did go out for a very non-descript Chinese dinner one night but seriously it was the most forgettable dining experience I've had in years. I ordered Beef and Broccoli, which is Sarah's go-to Chinese food entree, hoping that would entice her into eating something, because she wasn't feeling well and barely ate a thing all day. Even she was unimpressed. The pan fried pork dumplings were bland and void of flavor. My husband can't even tell me what he had. What does that tell you? We like to eat and to just not remember a single thing about your entree speaks volumes.

Oh yes, it was a sit down restaurant that only took cash. How odd is that?

About the Joy Family

We're not a normal family. In fact, we're downright goofy, with just a touch of nerdy (well, maybe a lot of nerdy at times)...but we're fun, we care very much for one another and we LOVE to travel.

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