Fiorino Italian Street Food.
IT’S THE MOST wonderful time of the year—this, for many Vancouverites, being the Eastside Culture Crawl. Now in its 26th year, the fest of visual arts, design, and craft will see some 500 artists open their studios for drop-in visits over four days. To make a full day or evening of it, fuel yourself with good food and beverage before, after, or along the way. The area bounded by Columbia Street, First Avenue, Victoria Drive, and the waterfront is as diverse as the fest itself when it comes to places to eat and drink. Below is a glance at a few bricks-and-mortar standouts.
Plus, look for food trucks. Over at Parker Street Studios will be several, including Chickpea, Melt City, Mollie’s Minis, Green Coast, Bistrovan, and Camion Café), while Henry’s Hip Eats is rolling on over to Mergatroid. At Eastside Atelier, find Melt City.
Uprising Breads Bakery Cafe.
Uprising Breads Bakery Cafe.
More than 45 years in, this neighbourhood mainstay is still going strong, up and at ’em early every morning to bake not only healthy loaves (try the whole wheat raisin bread) but also goods like brownies, tarts, croissants, turnovers, muffins, mini bundt cakes, banana bread, cinnamon buns, cookies, tarts, pies, Danishes, squares—the list goes on—all sweetened with honey or molasses. Grab a table at lunch inside or on the patio for a sandwich, salad, wrap, samosa, Jamaican patty, bowl of soup (made with stock prepared in-house and fresh local produce), veggie chili, dahl… The café serves the whole range of espresso-based drinks using beans from Salt Spring Coffee Company. Best of all, the place keeps its prices in check (no pies for a ridiculous $40 here, and yes they use real butter). There’s a lot to love about this little place.
Tamam: Fine Palestinian Cuisine
Palestinian-born Sobhi Zobaidi (a former filmmaker) and his wife, Tamam (self-taught cook and former theatre actor) serve the food of their homeland in this welcoming Hastings-Sunrise restaurant. There’s mutabal, a smoky eggplant dip; rolled grape leaves stuffed with minced beef and parsley, or warak; saffron-baked cabbage rolls; golden fried halloumi over cucumber-tomato salad; slow-roasted lamb, chicken, and fish served with earthy, ancient grains; and more. You’re likely to see art on the walls by the couple’s elementary-school aged daughter—perhaps a future Crawl artist?
Strange Fellows Brewing.
Strange Fellows Brewing.
The official beer sponsor of Eastside Culture Crawl, Strange Fellows Brewing is one of the multiple venues hosting NEXT, a salon-style curated exhibition exploring the aftereffects of living through a pandemic and what’s ahead with works ranging from painting to sculpture to video and beyond. (It’s also happening at The Cultch, Firehall Arts Centre, Alternative Creations, and Pendulum Gallery; dates vary by location.) Strange Fellows hosts an opening reception on November 10 from 6 to 8 pm, with works by Andrea Des Mazes, Anne Gaze, Brigitte Potter-Mael, Cat Mudryk, Colette Tan, Dorothy Doherty, Dzee Louise, Janine Schroedter, Julie McIntyre, and Marney-Rose Edge on view until November 20.
The brewery pours sour and barrel-aged beers, hopped-up ales, stouts, sessions, traditional Belgians, classic pilsners, seasonal fruit brews, and more. Then there are its vintage beers, like REYNARD Oud Bruin, a Flemish-style sour beer blended from several barrel-aged vintages spanning three years, cherry-kissed with hints of oak, chocolate, malt, and spice.
There’s truth to the cliché “something for everyone” here, with the Fellows also serving up Strangers red, white, and rose wine as well as Orchard, an English-style dry cider. They’ve got great taste in food, too, offering Nicli pizzas (from pepperoni to a vegan buffalo cauliflower); a board of assorted cured meats, cheeses, olives, fig tangerine jam, and mustard served with a toasted baguette from beloved Commercial Drive bakery Livia; Tall Shadow pretzels and cheese buns; Elbo Jamaican patties; Scarlito’s Way cookies, and then some.
Two food trucks will also be on-site at SFB during the Crawl: Top Rope Birria, “Vancouver’s OG quesabirria tacos”; and Kyu Grill, Home of the Hero.
La Casa Gelato.
It needs no introduction: the one and only La Casa Gelato is celebrating 40 years of Italian frozen dessert in the unmissable bubble-gum pink building that has close to 600 flavours in its recipe box and 238 options available on any given day, earning the family-run venture a Guinness World Record. Whether you’re a fan of lavender, pumpkin pie, or figs and almonds or you fancy flavours like wasabi, gorgonzola, or red beans and tofu, it’s always ice cream o’clock in East Van.
Another Vancouver icon, Fujiya opened its doors in 1977, with founder Shigeru Hirai wanting to make Japanese food accessible to all. Mission accomplished, with three more outlets having since joined the family (downtown Vancouver, Richmond, and Victoria). It’s a food lover’s dream, with freshly prepared sushi, nigiri, Spam musubi, udon, donburi as well as all kinds of goods imported from Japan: fresh seafood, Wagyu, Mazuma wasabi fruit (including crown muskmelon from Shizuoka Prefecture and Muscat grapes from Nagano Prefecture) alongside condiments, candy, snacks, tea, seaweed, sauces, instant soups, noodles, and tons more. Like shaved-ice machines.
Recently named a Bib Gourmand by MICHELIN in its inaugural Vancouver guide, Fiorino came to be after Giovanni (Gio) Mascagni moved to Vancouver from his native Florence and had a hankering for the kind of sandwiches he grew up with made with a flatbread called schiacciata. He went back to Italy for a six-month internship with a master bread maker, his team at the Chinatown restaurant making batches from scratch each morning. Italian classics such as chicken piccata, Tuscan tomato basil soup, panzanella, house-made potato gnocchi, tiramisu, and semifreddo are on the approachable menu; so are purely Italian wines and cocktails (including seven types of Negronis).
Pals Ben Ernst and Erica Bernardi started out with an ice-cream tricycle in 2012 and have gone on to form the hottest ice-cream shop in town, in part because of the way the company is run, with values including sustainability, accountability, and inclusivity. The product itself is as premium as it gets, made in the business’s Frances Street location in small batches with local, seasonal ingredients. There are multiple vegan options, with take-home pints served in returnable, refillable glass jars. Flavours vary by location; we’re partial to Cookies + Cream, Espresso Flake, Salted Caramel, Vegan Peppermint Fudge Brownie, and Vegan Chocolate.
Pastry chef Eleanor Chow Waterfall, whose CV includes roles at Lumiere, Chambar, and the Dirty Apron Cooking School and Delicatessen, among many other hot spots, is the culinary artist behind this bakery/café. Here’s where you can pop in for a slice of cake or a stuffed, double-baked croissant and watch so many goods being made from scratch from start to finish while you eat. The menu is ever-changing, but you might be faced with deciding between sweet and savoury Danishes or treats like cream puffs and mini mousse cakes. There are packaged “grab ‘n’ go” goodies, too—which might be just the thing to have handy for your Crawl.
Gail Johnson is a Vancouver-based journalist who has earned local and national nominations and awards for her work. She is a certified Gladue Report writer via Indigenous Perspectives Society in partnership with Royal Roads University and is a member of the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards judging panel.
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We are grateful to live, work, create, and play on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.