I have a love hate relationship with Vancouver. I used to live there, when I was married for the first time, and visiting can be difficult (too many memories and all that). But this last visit was different; I’m happily remarried and pregnant, and this time I ate my way around the city, which has to be one of the finest culinary destinations in Canada

As with any major city, the restaurant scene in Vancouver changes al the time, but in the past few years it has grown in a number of interesting ways. Once sketchy neighborhoods have become cool, and opened the door for innovative new restaurants to create something special. Take The Red Wagon Café, a wildly popular breakfast joint on East Hastings Street (which gone from being junkie central to a respectable in parts, and colonized by young families and hipsters).

Here you’ll find the world’s most perfect hangover breakfast – pulled pork pancakes with Jack Daniels maple syrup. Eating there was a euphoric experience. 

I always enjoy visiting Chinatown. A sucker for a steamed custard bun, I always hit up the New Town Bakery on Pender Street when I’m there, and this visit I was brave enough to try chicken feet at the New Dynasty Restaurant (also on Pender) when coerced by a Chinese friend, as this is apparently the best under-the-radar dim sum place in the city. However, Chinatown has undergone a bit of a rebirth, and between the stores full of bamboo and lanterns there are now little boutiques and a growing range of non-Chinese owned businesses. 

Things started to get cooler in Chinatown around the time of the last Winter Olympics. The apothecary/ opium den styled Keefer Bar (on Keefer Street) is a prime example of how cool this area has become (there are luxury apartments upstairs that are rented out by the likes of Owen Wilson when he is filming in the city). They have a great locally themed cocktail list, all of which are mixed using house made ingredients, by very attractive bartenders. There’s also an inventive menu of bar food to pick at while you imbibe (Chinese style churros anyone?). Just up the street is Bao Bai, a truly excellent Chinese brasserie where a modern spin is put on traditional cuisine. The food is excellent, I advise ordering small plates and sharing so you can try as many of their offerings as possible.   

During my visit I spent an evening at the Dirty Apron Cooking School, where you can spend a day or an evening learning new culinary techniques and cooking up a gourmet meal (think lobsters tails and rib eye) that you’ll then share with other students. The wine flows freely, and the food is fabulous, which is why the school has had 20,000 people through it’s classes in the three years it has been open. I also got to eat an incredibly decadent meal at locals favorite Chambar, which serves up fine Belgian food and is an essential Vancouver experience.  

I’d also hoped to check out the city’s rapidly expanding food cart scene, which has only been in operation for two years now, but sadly I was there in bad weather and over a holiday, so I couldn’t find a food cart anywhere. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back and fill my face there again soon.