What’s great about Vancouver is even if you’ve lived there your whole life, there’s always a place you’ve never been. Either a place that you’ve heard about but never had a chance to get to, or a new place opening up. Here’s a rundown of the top 5 bars to check out in Vancouver, for locals and for out-of-towner’s.
Crazy. It shouldn’t work. But it does.
An apothecary-themed bar with graphic medical pictures as decor, and exotic medical ingredients as a key component in cocktails? Sure, sounds like a greaaaaaat time.
Still, it works.
There’s even a tiny stage where they do burlesque in extremely close quarters once a week, thanks to Bartender Danielle Tatarin’s interest in the subject. She and her staff have an amazing, unique cocktail list which features ingredients chosen from local Chinatown apothecary shops. It goes back to the very beginning of bartending, when it was almost the same as being a pharmacist. There are tonics here for every humour, and a small, select, but very well-chosen food menu.
Some nights this is The Place and some nights you can have the place to yourself, which is a shame. The patio is cool and has a firepit, so it’s a great place for a group to bond. Used to be more fun when there was a Chinatown Night Market; well, if you like Asian opera, that is.
There is simply nowhere like it anywhere else.
The Irish Heather
If you can’t get to Ireland any time soon, this is the best place in town to come for a pint of Guinness. They make the pies from scratch, including the pastry crust. It’s served with home style fries and a most delicious gravy and the portions are generous.
The Diamond Vancouver is located on the second floor at Maple Tree Square in Gastown. It is kiddie corner to Six Acres, Chill Winston and L’abattoir. The Diamond is a great place for cocktails, happy hour and night cap. The Diamond, co-owner Josh Pape also owns Wildebeest with co-owner James Iranzad. Josh Pape was a bartender at Chambar previously and James Iranzad owns Abigail’s Party and Cartel Taco.
The ambiance at The Diamond is cozy and has an old school vibe with brass, brick wall and aged windows. Cocktails and highballs are skillfully handcrafted and there is a good selection of wine and beer.
I welcome Absinthe, Campari, Vermout, and Bourbon during Happy Hour (on a Tuesday that feels like another Monday.) Though the drinks are wonderful, I can’t seem to say the same about the food. We ordered an assortment of Prawn ceviche, four cheese dip and some hand-cut salsa and chips. All seemed very standard, bland and felt more from a branded jar at your local grocery store. French Fries are missing from the menu and would be a great additional – especially with some homemade ketchup! Nonetheless, nothing a great tasting Bicicletta or Moscow Mule can’t forgive.
Bicicletta #2 $10: Campari, Italian Vermouth, Gerwurztraminer, Grapefruit Twist. A boozy drink semi bitter but delicious. I do like an Old Fashioned finish from time to time.
Moscow Mule $15: lime juice, vodka, ginger beer. The Diamond uses premium Absolut Vodka hence the slap in price tag. This is a perfect summer drink. It can be easily made at home too with this simple Moscow Mule Recipe. I also recommend the Isabella: sparkling wine, mango and ginger basil. Or the Penicillin.
Tricycle Grapefruit Radler: Try this sweet / sour combination of a Radler from Parallel 49 Brewing Co. Pours a cloudy peach color with bittersweet profiles of grapefruit and less apparent beer lager base. Surely I could polish a few without feeling like I’m drinking booze. 3.0% alcohol slightly more than my favorite Grapefruit Stiegl Radler.
After a few drinks, are you grammatically correct? Cheers to a good night!
Depending on where you sit, you can have several different experiences here. All of them will be good.
Sitting at the bar will give you a social and sophisticated experience where you feel like you are right where everyone wants to be (because you are!). Bartenders here are good talkers, great mixologists, and the cocktail list’s only flaw is that it’s too short. They were one of THE places behind the revival of early 20th Century cocktails, and they do them very well.
Sitting on the sofa or the little boudoir chairs looking on the bar makes you feel more like someone who could be in that crush if she wanted, but she’s too elegant for mosh pits. I always feel like Dorothy Parker when I sit there, with the little marble side table for the cocktail. You can’t eat an entree there, because you would have to hold it in your lap.
In the main portion of the restaurant the vibe is Robber Baron’s Cafeteria. A bartender told me the fixtures are authentically old, not just repro. And it’s posh. Rough but posh. The food reflects that, being rich and macho, generally speaking. They have more veggie friendly options than they used to, but it’s still a meat and potatoes kind of place.
There’s a reason West is up there amongst Vancouver’s best restaurants.
The food is, without a doubt, consistently excellent. I cringe at the question “what’s good here?” because the answer is EVERYTHING. West doesn’t serve crappy food, the question should be “what am I in the mood for?”.
The service.. oh the SERVICE! They demonstrate what most restaurants in Vancouver lack. EXCELLENT attentive service without being in your face. Talk about anticipating your needs (but it’s actually quite simple). They fill your water glass before it’s empty, they refill your wine glass before it’s empty. The only thing you probably have to ask for is more wine but even then they will probably ask you before you think it.
I don’t come to West often but when I do, it’s so refreshingly enjoyable.
And while it’s not the cheapest restaurant in town, it’s much cheaper than flying out of town to find great service at top restaurants in other cities. Save your get away flight, come to West and go to a Hotel, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation.