When I first moved to Vancouver back in February of 2009, I asked a friend from the area for advice on which areas to live and hang out around, and which ones to avoid.
“Stick to anywhere west of Main.”
Now, for those of you who know Vancouver, you know that much has changed in the past five years. While I’ve always felt safe in East Vancouver, having moved to the east side in 2010 and staying on this side of town ever since, I can’t deny that things are just simply not the same as they used to be. More shops, more restaurants, more people, more development, and more buzz – East Vancouver has kept all the good, and evolved into a lovely grown up version of itself. The only downside? The price to live here surely isn’t what it used to be.
For those visiting, whether from another part of the city or another part of the world, here is how I would recommend spending your day as a local in East Vancouver.
10am – Brunch at Bandidas Taqueria
East Vancouverites are lazy, they sleep in, they don’t have jobs, and they don’t answer to anyone. Jokes. But if stereotypes are your thing – ensure you don’t roll out of bed until at least 9am, then stumble down to Commercial and East 12th Avenue for a delicious breakfast at Bandidas Taqueria that’s also easy on the wallet. And if you don’t make it for 10am, not to fret; Bandidas has breakfast ALL DAY.
My recommendation? One of the benny’s. They’re served on house-made cornbread instead of the traditional english muffins, and come with warm tomato or tangy tomatillo sauce instead of the heart-attack inducing hollandaise. While (and I repeat) breakfast is served ALL DAY, this menu item is technically part of brunch and is available only until 3pm. So don’t sleep in toooooo late.
Oh, I should probably also mention that in true East Van style, this place is also vegetarian (and vegan-friendly)… which I can’t complain about because I’m vegetarian. How typical of me.
12:30pm – Namaste Chill with Yoga at Mount Pleasant Community Centre
East Vancouver has a reputation for being more laid-back and liberal than other parts of the city. It is highly unlikely you will find a chihuahua stuffed into a Louis Vuitton purse in this part of town. Yoga is a big part of Vancouver’s culture (read stereotype), but it can be tough to find the right class.
I’ve taken many a yoga class in my day. Sometimes the vibes are good, sometimes they’re quite the opposite. Especially when the class feels more like a competitive flexibility/fashion show than a form of spiritual practice.
This is why my favorite place to take a class, whether it’s just to drop-in or partake in an entire series, is the Mount Pleasant Community Centre. The classes are laid-back, adaptive, and far from pretentious. Get here easily from Bandidas by taking the 99 b-line bus from Broadway & Commercial and getting off in only three stops at Broadway & Main.
2:30pm – Coffee & Doughnuts at 49th Parallel
Not ready for a full meal but need a little afternoon pick-me-up? 49th Parallel is your spot. Stroll south on Main to East 13th Avenue to find them serving their house roasted coffee (which is popular among many cafés across Vancouver), perfectly crafted lattes, and the notorious Lucky’s Doughnuts.
The doughnuts could really have their own blog post. They’re. That. Good. My personal favourite for many years has been the Coconut Bismarck. I remember when I used to be in the acting world, I used to reward myself with one of these bad boys after almost every audition. Needless to say, I ate a lot of doughnuts, but I was also 21 at the time and certainly enjoyed the benefits of having a roaring metabolism.
Back to the doughnuts. The selection rotates monthly, but there is always something drool-worthy. My most recent visit saw me devour a Creme Brûlée within minutes. This custard-filled doughnut complete with a burnt candy shell was pure joy. They are also well-known for their Apple Bacon Fritter, but as a vegetarian, I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of experiencing it for myself.
One last note before we move on to our next stop of the day – the interior design. I could spend an entire day at 49th Parallel. The shop is filled with natural light, decked out in a cozy rustic-industrial style, has a massive communal table perfect for large groups (but good luck getting it on busy weekends!), and an outdoor patio that extends the space onto East 13th Avenue.
4pm – Mural Walk in Mount Pleasant
This past summer, Vancouver started to show signs of shedding its ‘No-fun City’ reputation. In a city where street art has traditionally been frown upon by city officials and was quickly painted over after its debut, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about Vancouver Mural Festival. The festival saw the creation of 41 permanent murals by 39 local and international artists that were showcased during a one-day street festival on August 20th.
The Present is a Gift (Part I). One of the murals created in Vancouver's first Muralfest in 2016, embellishing the East Side. Work by artists @drewstuff @jaysenetchko @mik__el_bock. #muralart #muralist #mural #murals #streetsrt #streetartphotography #urbanwalls #artderue #artdelarue #vancouvermuralfestival #vancouvermuralfestival2016 #arttakesover #vanmuralfest @kafkascoffeetea #drewtyoung #vancouvermurals #vancouverart
The majority of the art is located within the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, from Main and Terminal all the way up to Main and 16th Avenue, and is best enjoyed by foot. For a complete list of where to find the murals, click here.
6pm – Dinner at CHAU VEGGIEXPRESS
Don’t be fooled by the name, CHAU VEGGIEXPRESS is not just another quick East Van take-out staple. Informal? Yes. Hip with delicious vegetarian Vietnamese meals in a nice setting? Also yes.
Most of the dishes will only run you $10-$12, and the portions are more than decent. I’d recommend the Bai Sao Beach Chips to start – hand-cut taro chips served with a spiced paprika garlic and organic tofu dip, and because I’m a huge fan of any type of rice noodles in soup, my main staple is the Candlelit Lantern Pho Soup. Interesting fact: Each of the dishes is named after specific experiences that were shared between two friends while they travelled throughout Vietnam. Other dish names include Diving for Pearls Soup, Rickety Rickshaw Bowl, and the Midnight Swim Bowl. Sounds like good times to me!
For the full menu click here.
8pm – Cocktails at The Shameful Tiki Room
Let’s head back to Main Street to cap (or start) the night. Walking into this place immediately makes you feel as though you are no longer in Vancouver. It’s Dark, it’s humid, it’s foggy, and the tropical Polynesian vibes are rampant. While you won’t find ‘buckets’ at The Shameful Tiki Room, you will find bowls. Bowls that are big, delicious, alcohol-filled, and are brought out to your table to the sound of a gong.
If you’re not into sharing a massive mystery-style drink with someone, their regular cocktails are a sure bet, and with a legend that tells you how strong the drink is, picking your poison is pretty easy. My choice is The Painkiller – a mix of rum, coconut juice, and fruit juice. Think pina colada, but better. And for some reason, the name of the drink makes you really feel like you’ve earned it, haha.
And there you have it, a day as a local in East Vancouver. I now suddenly want to do all of these things again soon. *Closes laptop and heads to 49th Parallel for doughnuts*