Guide to the ‘Burbs: New Westminster

With easy access to downtown thanks to primo Skytrain placement, New West makes for an appealing alternative for those who don't want to give up the Vancouver life full-stop.

July 10, 2018

By Jennifer Van Evra

Hottest ‘Hood

Real estate marketers are making a serious stretch when they call New Westminster “the Brooklyn of Vancouver”—but with character streets, a growing stock of cool cafés and shops and lower rents and real estate prices, it has become the nesting place of choice for trendy Vancouverites with lighter wallets. For more upscale heritage, the Queen’s Park area is still king, but with its heritage fixer-uppers, more and more buyers are settling in previously overlooked Sapperton. But it’s uptown New West that’s seeing most of the action, with several glitzy condo and townhouse developments cropping up along the waterfront, all well within reach of SkyTrain. To the east, an unlikely mix of green spaces and outlet shops, as well as more affordable home prices, have transformed Queensborough from industrial enclave to growing real-estate hotspot—at least among those with a Zen approach to bridge traffic.

Landmarks

Queens Park Walking trails, playing fields, picnic areas, a dog park, a petting zoo, a kids’ playground, tennis courts and more make Queen’s Park an all-season favourite, while an outdoor fitness circuit tries to coax passersby into a healthier regimen. If you time things just right, you might also catch the New Westminster Salmonbellies lacrosse team in action, or a cutthroat game of pickleball.

“A few years back, when Sapperton refreshed their sidewalks it changed the feel of the east end of New Westminster and the brewery district has transformed an old industrial zone into a beautiful suburban neighbourhood.” – Adrian, 38, public servant

Anvil Centre With four levels of configurable space for conferences, trade shows and special events, the glassy Anvil Centre is looking to lure large groups away from downtown Vancouver and into New West, which is no small feat. Opened in 2014, the waterfront centrepiece also houses a 361-seat proscenium theatre, a new media gallery, the New Westminster Museum and Archives, a community art space and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

River Market A stroll along the picturesque Waterfront Esplanade leads to this bustling riverside market, which offers tasty takeout, the Paddlewheeler Pub, a Donald’s Market and more—as well as activities from finger knitting to Zumba. Feel like clowning around? Try your hand at circus arts at Vancouver Circus School’s state-of-the-art training centre, where they offer classes for both kids and adults.

Best Bites

Piva Packed houses are the norm at newcomer Piva, located on the ground floor of the Anvil Centre. There, the open decor matches the modern menu, which puts a fresh spin on Italian dishes, among them duck and fig wood-fired pizza, wild boar and morel mushroom meatballs and beet and kale salad, as well as veggie and vegan options.

Longtail Kitchen Sweet chili fish balls, bicol express and pad Thai prawns provide a tropical respite from West Coast rains at this buzzing River Market spot, one of two New West culinary offerings by celebrated Maenam chef Angus An (who won Gold at the Restaurant Awards for both his original outpost and for this one). Named after the iconic water taxis of Thailand, Longtail sticks almost entirely with home-grown B.C. ingredients, but stays true to Southeast Asian street-food flavours and styles.

Free Bird Also in the River Market, An dishes up two types of street-style roasted chicken by the quarter, half and whole at this popular—and hilariously named—takeout spot. The secret? The roasted chicken is marinated in coconut milk, fish sauce, garlic and soy sauce; the Hainanese chicken is salted for two days and poached, then heated on a rotisserie to draw out the broth.  

El Santo Contemporary Mexican food made from local ingredients, reasonable prices and a fresh interior have made El Santo one of New West’s main hotspots, and a Silver winner for Best Latin at this year’s Restaurant Awards. Make sure to try the salsas, made the traditional way—by dry-roasting the ingredients—and the tasty cocktails.

Angelina’s Weekend lineups are the norm at this top breakfast spot, best known for their Dutch pannekoeken and waffles, all made from scratch, as well as for their omelettes, sandwiches and soups. Those looking for great eggs benny should also try the aptly named Coming Home Café on Sixth Street.

“I was born and raised in New Westminster. I moved away once or twice over the years but have been back again for close to 8. Something always seems to pull us locals back. It has history (first capital!) and character, cherry blossoms and cobblestone streets, the amazing Queens Park and generally friendlier people than you find in Vancouver.” — Jennifer Turner, 39, Investigator 

Steel and Oak Coffee- and berry-infused Kaffee, Simple Things pilsner, Raincoats IPA and the floral Royal City ale are a few of the tasty brews on tap at the Steel and Oak tasting room, a perfect resting point on a riverfront stroll. Soon there will be more elbow room, too, because city council just gave owners James Garbutt and Jorden Foss the green light to expand the space by 20 seats.

Coming Soon

Pier West Two of the tallest waterfront towers in all of Western Canada will make for unmistakable landmarks on the New West skyline. Developed by Bosa, Pier West will feature 43- and 53-storey residential towers with high ceilings, kitchens designed by Inform and distant views of Vancouver and the North Shore mountains, as well as shops, restaurants and a childcare facility. But don’t expect any screaming good deals: at more than $900 per square foot, and over $2,000 per square foot for the penthouse spaces, Pier West’s prices aren’t far from downtown Vancouver’s—even though it’s still a 30-minute commute away.

Want to see more from the VanMag guide to the suburbs? Check out the rest here. 

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