When I told people I was going to Vancouver, I got one of two responses: A. “Vancouver is so clean!” Or B. “So much good food!” Both are, for the most part, true (though people who responded with A. clearly never walked along the border between Gastown and Chinatown, which, due to gentrification, feels like a slice of Hamsterdam from The Wire).
To the Vancouver-bound traveler, I offer an additional piece of wisdom to consider: C. Canadians are nice. Like, super nice. And they love to give suggestions (even if you don’t ask). Baristas rattled off where to get lunch. Shopkeepers revealed their favorite pizza. Servers suggested other restaurants for dessert.
The recent trip gradually turned into a funny little scavenger hunt that showed off the beauty of Vancouver by foot. Follow this path for your own foolproof day up north, and burn almost as many calories as you take in.
9 a.m.: Musette Caffè. Vancouver is known for its love of coffee and bicycles, so start your day at this charming café/bike shop that claims “no cars allowed,” though it’s situated adjacent to a car dealership. The coffee is brewed from what are arguably the city’s best beans—49th Parallel—and the pastries are moistly memorable, like a dark brown banana bread that will shock you with its gluten-freeness, and a blueberry scone with tiny chunks of butter that almost function as faux chocolate chips.
10 a.m.: Granville Street Bridge. Most walkers would go north for a classic stroll along the seawall and a disappearing act into the woods of Stanley Park. Surely this is a trek not to be missed, but save it for another day. Heading south will take you across the Granville Street Bridge. You’ll avoid the tourist trappings of the island itself (while still getting to snap a few Insties from above), and get yourself in front of a life-changing samosa all the faster (see 11 a.m.).
11 a.m.: Rangoli. Vij’s is widely considered the best Indian food in the city, but its casual little sister is a way to avoid the original’s dinner lines. What you lose in ambience you gain in flavors that live up to the hype.
1 p.m.: Lucky’s Doughnuts. These may be the lightest doughnuts on Earth. Might we recommend the orange-honey-pistachio doughnut, and the apple-bacon fritter? And one more 49th Parallel fix.
2 p.m.: Mount Pleasant Shopping. Wander up Main Street, where you can pop into the endless shops of Mount Pleasant and pick out something cute for your kitchen at Much & Little or some secondhand reading for the trip home at Pulpfiction Books.
5 p.m.: Gastown Happy Hour. As the day begins to darken, start your dish-crawl through Gastown. First, hit up happy hour at Cork & Fin for stupid-fresh and cheap West Coast oysters ($1.50 each), then cross the street for an upstairs aperitif at The Diamond, where the Bicicletta #2—Campari, Italian vermouth, Gerwürztraminer and a grapefruit twist—will work wonders.
7 p.m.: Bambudda. Here, snack on skins—oven–roast chicken cracklings smothered in salt, pepper and citrus—and a cocktail from the creative mind of bar manager Buck Friend. If you want to double-down on animal hide, try The Boxer: walnut-infused tequila, Cointreau, lemon and ginger syrup, with a chicken skin rim.
9 p.m.: Pidgin. Enter the umami bomb that is the fois gras rice bowl (or pork belly, if you’re liver-averse) with chestnuts, daikon and unagi glaze. Cocktails here are great, too, but sparkling wine or sake may better cleanse that well-worked palate.