Alberni Food Crawl

April 2, 2011

Rub elbows with the downtown powerbrokers at lunch (and order seafood—lingcod or halibut in spring) or sit at the bar for a concoction of barman Jay Jones's choosing (though we're always partial to the ginger margarita with ginger lime and ginger salt) at posh Market by Jean-Georges (1128 W. Georgia St., 604-695-1115. Shangri-la.com)

The Glowbal gang has mastered sizzle, and Coast (1054 Alberni St., 604-685-5010. Coastrestaurant.ca) is see-and-be-seen dining at its frenzied best. Need proof? Book an upstairs table on a Friday night, look down at the massive seafood towers and the buttressed cleavage, order salmon or sablefish or oysters on the half shell, and see if you can make yourself heard above the din. You may not remember what you ate, but you won't forget that you were there.

In a town that takes its noodles as seriously as its nigiri, the recent arrival of Ramen Sanpachi (770 Bute St., 604-609-9938), a Hokkaido-based chain with upwards of 70 locations in Japan, set hearts aflutter. What sets this ramen house apart? It's licensed, for starters, and it offers imaginative bowls like butter corn (served with, literally, a block of butter) and negi ramen (noodles topped with mounds of thinly sliced leeks or green onions). Dinnertime sees tables full of effervescent Japanese students hungrily slurping away—always a key endorsement.

The latest outpost of local coffee giant JJ Bean (1188 Alberni St., 604-254-3724. Jjbeancoffee.com) is its most architecturally striking, but let's face it: you're here for a buzz. Order a Bodum of their Milagrosa Microlot brew-a deep, dense, organic Colombian coffee-grab a seat on the upper mezzanine level (prime people watching out onto the street and over the bustling espresso bar), and spend a leisurely afternoon with the New York Times.

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