A food lover’s guide to south Main Street
South Main is as comfortable with old-school diners and holes-in-the-walls as it is with some of the city’s more modern rooms
June 1, 2016
It may be psychologically—if not officially—the place where east meets west, but South Main sits happily on the fence, as comfortable with old-school diners and holes-in-the-walls as it is with some of the city’s more modern rooms
No trek up Main Street is complete without the power of caffeine. Start with Kafka’s Coffee and Tea (2525 Main St., 604-569-2967), which features a counter of coffee-making contraptions that evoke a mad scientist vibe. If you want to know anything about optimal brewing, this is the place to ask.
Stroll south and top yourself up at 49th Parallel Roasters (2902 Main St., 604-420-4900), where you owe it to yourself to replenish with a damn fine cup of coffee and a calorie-worthy Lucky’s donut. And further up, at 21st Avenue, the trio of artists (including Rodney Graham) behind Liberty Bakery (3699 Main St., 604-709-9999) have refreshed and restyled a neighbourhood landmark into a bright and pleasingly quirky room serving Elysian beans and Nordic-themed menu items.
It may not look like much, but don’t pass by the Sunny Spot Cafe (2543 Main St., 604-872-1816)—try the hand-pulled northern Chinese biangbang noodles, or grab a spicy pork xian burger. For authentic home-style pad thai, curries and, yes, Bob’s own twist on poutine, you can’t go wrong with the always tasty Bob Likes Thai Food (3755 Main St., 604-568-8538).
These eateries, which are at the intersection of raised awareness and higher incomes, offer some of Main Street’s most accomplished and ethical cooking. The Acorn (3995 Main St., 604-566-9001), for example, has achieved the difficult task of presenting vegetarian, vegan and raw food in a way has even committed carnivores lining up to eat.
A fire may have closed it for a year, but Grub (4328 Main St., 604-876-8671) returned last fall to showcase produce from its own farm and serve up plates of smartened-up comfort food. And at Burdock & Co. (2702 Main St., 604-879-0077), chef Andrea Carlson stays true to her roots by using top quality local organic produce to create refined yet rustic dishes.
Nothing says South Main like these spots. Yes, they’re hangouts for the conspicuously hirsute, but they let even the most clean-shaven among us in.
Starting just north of Broadway, the delightful Dock Lunch (152 E. 11th Ave., 604-879-3625) offers one lunch option, dinner only on Fridays, and weekend brunch. In other words, it’s as Portland as Vancouver gets.
The much-missed Rumpus Room, meanwhile, has arisen as Uncle Abe’s (3032 Main St., 604-839-5780)—smaller (and with food from the kebab shop next door), but replete with sofas, bric-a-brac, board games, and picklebacks.
With the best jukebox in the city (and some pretty fine pies, too) Don’t Argue Pizzeria (3240 Main St., 604-876-5408) is seriously on trend—think bench seating, local brews on tap, and kale available as an extra. And while Slickety Jim’s (3475 Main St., 604-873-6760) is a SoMa mainstay, it remains unrepentantly original, serving up heaping meals with singularly creative names—“The Breakfast of Broken Dreams,” or “Charlie Don’t Surf”—to those willing to line up for their eggs.
On The Run
No time to dally? Make your way to The Fish Counter (3825 Main St., 604-876-3474) for ethically caught (and excellent) seafood—fish and chips, tacos, sandwiches—from sustainability guru Rob Clark, or head to Trilussa (4363 Main St., 604-558-3338) where chef/owner Alessandro Fonseca serves up slices of authentically Roman-style pizza.
If you need to quench a thirst you built up traversing south Main, try the The Shameful Tiki Room (4362 Main St., 604-999-5684). Dimly lit and kitch-tastic, it’s the perfect place for a secret assignation, getting squiffy on proper Mai Tais, or just rocking that ridiculous shirt with the pineapples and palm trees no matter what the weather’s like outside.