Sweet Obsession & Trafalgars Bistro, opened in 1993
The search for sweet treats ends here, with some of the city’s finest cakes, pies and other sugary delights. Opened over 20 years ago by owners Lorne Tyczenski and Stephen Greenham, Sweet Obession’s wares can be enjoyed during a seating at the duo’s fine dining establishment Trafalgars just two doors down.
Well ahead of the locally-grown curve, Raincity Grill opened in 1992 in the West End and boasts a menu enlivened by ingredients sourced from near and not far. An emphasis on organics and sustainability has been integral in shaping a menu that includes favourites like Saltspring Island Rack of Lamb and Portabello Poutine. Even the wine list showcases a great respect for Canada’s West Coast.
Don’t-miss dish: The tasting menus, comprised of ingredients from only B.C. farms
Executive Chef Andrew Richardson now oversees the contemporary Italian cuisine at this Robson Street eatery that has – for years – been a great spot to people watch and even catch a glimpse of the occasional celebrity. From pasta to risotto, the restaurant excels with all it serves, but the wood-fired pizzas are a staple that must be tried.
Don’t-miss dish: Wood-fire pizzas at the bar are simple and delicious.
Somewhere between dining in a carnival funhouse and bellying up to the bar at your aunt’s annual rummage sale, this Kitsilano favourite has been dishing up comfort food on 4th Avenue for over 25 years. Besides an obvious knack for hospitality, founder Sophie Dikeakos also has great taste in art. Their patio features work by Governor General Award-winning Eric Metcalfe.
Don't-miss dish: Anything topped with Sophie's homemade hot sauce
Portion control will go straight out the window when you head to Stepho’s Greek Taverna in the city’s Davie Village – but bring plenty of patience. Famous for its long lines, the restaurant serves platters of traditional Greek dishes for surprisingly low prices and the crowds continue to flock year after year.
Vancouverites have long flocked to this downtown spot for steak, seafood and a seat in the lovely rooftop garden – but many visitors don’t know that the restaurant’s namesake – Joseph Seraphim Fortes – was actually Vancouver’s first official lifeguard, keeping a watchful eye on bathers in near English Bay.
The 1980s were kind to Kerrisdale. In ’85, burger heaven materialized on 41st Avenue when the Red Onion opened its doors. New ownership is now in place but the burgers, hot dogs and signature double-cooked French fries are still as reliable as ever.
Don’t-miss dish: An “old-fashioned” milkshake with your meal
Founded in 1983 – and residing at its current home since 1996 – this simple diner is a staple for breakfast and lunch in the downtown core for good reason. “Food and service is our name. Abuse is our game,” they proudly declare. Come armed with a good sense of humour and prepare for a verbal sparring or two with your server.
Tony Mauro relied on his roots in Southern Italy to help shape the charm – and value – of Anton’s. Opened in 1983, the restaurant is famous for enormous portions of handmade pastas and the heartiest of sauces. Diners often take home doggy bags large enough to feed hungry souls for days, but the bravest souls can venture to win the coveted Anton’s pen by polishing off an entire dish in one sitting.
Don’t-miss dish: Chicken cacciatore is a staple, served with your choice of pasta
It’s been over 30 years since Athene’s opened on Broadway and became an instant favourite of both the city’s Greek community and anyone in search of delicious souvlaki, mousaka, kalamari and more. Traditional frescos adorn the establishment’s walls and reinforce the welcoming, lively mood set by staff throughout.
A summer meal on Bridges’ waterfront deck could now be considered a rite of passage for Vancouverites. The English Bay view is finest at sunset and patrons can soak it in from the fine dining room upstairs, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, or from a more casual spot in the bistro and bar on the building’s main floor.
Don’t-miss dish: The salmon burger with tzatziki made in-house
Featured on a recent episode of Food Network Canada’s You Gotta Eat Here, this Tex-Mex establishment was the answer to the Zallen’s family own longings. Transplants from Los Angeles, they strived to build a menu rich in the California cuisine they missed from back home. While new owners are at the helm now, the restaurant’s original motto – “good, hot food fast.” – continues to prove true.
Don’t-miss dish: Tacos or tamales – take your pick
Founded in 1975, this Kerrisdale favourite has had a simple recipe for success: hearty food full of Mediterranean flavours. Pizza, pasta and a huge selection of Greek treats have kept tables full for over three decades.
Don’t-miss dish: Baby back ribs, prepared in Minerva's “secret” homemade sauce
Founded in 1975 by Mexico City native Efren Martin, Pepita’s has been tossing sombreros on birthday revelers and serving traditional Mexican favourites ever since. Colourful decor and frequent live music help create a vibrant atmosphere at this Kitsilano tradition. Head over before catching a flick at the Fifth Avenue or knock back a margarita over nachos after escaping the hustle of the downtown core.
Don’t-miss dish: Even online critics exclaim their margaritas have a “kick"
Now found at the entrance of Granville Island, the Afghan Horsemen opened as the country’s very first Afghani restaurant in 1974 at an original location on Broadway. The new digs have done nothing to dim the restaurant’s incredible reputation for culinary creations incorporating fine spices and fresh ingredients.
Don’t-miss dish: Aushak, the Afghani take on cheese ravioli
In determining Martini’s most brag-worthy asset, it’s a toss-up between the heavenly whole-wheat pizzas and the daily – and value-oriented – drink specials. Diners have been feasting on steak, ribs, salads and more in this cosy, wood-paneled establishment on Broadway since 1973 – and the eatery still boasts a mission to provide affordable quality day in and day out.
Don’t-miss dish: Whole-wheat pizza with any variety of toppings
The incredible tapas at La Bodega are just the beginning – of your meal and of the long list of delicious Spanish dishes prepared at this Howe Street staple for over 40 years. Paella, ceviche and aged cheeses are among the favourites of patrons who have enjoyed the charm of the traditionally decorated space. Leave the traffic of Howe behind, enter a little bit of Spain – and come hungry.
Born of Kitsilano’s funky, hippie roots, this vegetarian eatery is the city’s oldest “natural foods” restaurant. In addition to an extensive menu of healthy grub, local musicians take to the small stage for three hours nightly. And – for night owls – the restaurant closes only on Christmas Day, serving dishes 24 hours a day throughout the year.
Don’t-miss dish: Start the day with their hearty oatmeal porridge
Diners don’t come more homey than this. Opened in 1961, Helen’s Grill at the intersection of Main and King Edward does more than simply sling hash. Customers can revel in tiny jukeboxes at each table and hand-pick tunes to partner with the restaurant’s “greasy spoon” best. It’s certainly free of frills but not lacking in personality.
Still able to proudly declare itself Chinatown’s oldest Chinese restaurant, Foo’s Ho Ho has been serving traditional Cantonese cuisine in various incarnations since 1954. Its unpretentious decor and dependable menu are so beloved that three years back – when a pending closure loomed on the horizon – a group of local citizens dubbed themselves Friends of Foo’s Ho Ho and worked diligently to ensure the restaurant’s continued success.
Founded in 1926, this North Vancouver eatery has had a long-standing friendship with the First Nations chiefs of the area, with dishes named in tribute to many of founder Chick Chamberlain’s friends. Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2012, the joint can boast the title of “oldest family-owned restaurant” in all of Canada – and once employed a teenaged Bryan Adams.
Don’t-miss dish: The Skookum Chief Burger, complete with egg, wiener and, yes, even bacon
From kitsch to chic, here are 21 legendary Vancouver dining establishments you need to experience
As Vancouver neighbourhoods have materialized and morphed over the past two decades, many dining establishments have failed to last, swallowed up by major development in the area or simply due to a lack of business acumen. Bucking the trend, these Vancouver-area mainstays can still be counted on.
Even though it’s fun to check out the newest and hottest restaurants, if you’re looking for a meal that’s sure to satisfy, grab a table at one of these 20 Vancouver restaurants that has survived over 20 years (they must be doing something right).