Neighbourhood Guidebook: The Best of Gastown (Eat, drink, & shop)
Gastown is one of the oldest neighbourhood that you can explore in Vancouver. Close to the waterfront and rich with heritage brick buildings, Victorian houses, and cobblestone streets, today, Gastown is one of the most charming neighbourhoods to see and visit once in the city.
Here you’ll find some of Vancouver’s best restaurants and cafes, where you can wander around for a delicious meal or just refresh with great drinks as you enjoy some of the scenic, Insta-worthy views around. Keep reading and find out which places you should not miss check-in on your next trip to this hood.
In between Gastown’s genuine Japanese and Mexican food, or any of the neighbourhood’s award-winning restaurant gems, you might have a difficult time deciding where to go for lunch or dinner once around. Skim through our shortlist and find the spot that best suits your taste for food.
Water Street Cafe
This is one of Gastown’s most popular check-in spots, where you can also enjoy some live music along with your meal. Need to take someone on a date? This would be a good spot to start with.
The Water Street Cafe has a view of Gastown’s famed Steam Clock, an antique-style clock that was built during the 1970s; it’s authentic since it runs on steam and it whistles when it gets to tell what time it is.
Here they serve some fantastic seafood and Italian dishes. Order their traditional West Coast Crab Cakes which is Pacific rock crab with baby shrimp, citrus, fennel, arugula, and saffron aioli. Try also their Crispy Pork Belly with wilted kale, white bean puree, caramelized onion, and smoked paprika vinaigrette. Continue with rigatoni with Italian sausage, which is nice and spicy, and they cook the perfect pasta.
Drinks: they have tasty wine here, but you can also opt-in for cocktails such as Raspberry Mule or Ginger Cosmopolitan.
What to order: West Coast Crab Cakes, Crispy Pork Belly, rigatoni with Italian sausage, Raspberry Mule, Ginger Cosmopolitan
L’Abattoir is a French-inspired restaurant that first opened in 2010, and is boasting a reputation for having the best bread in town. You’ll find it in a refurbished brick-and-beam building in the heart of Gastown, with classic tiles, driftwood sculptures, and industrial fittings. The menu, under executive chef and owner, Lee Cooper, is sophisticated, as are the drinks you’ll get at the bar.
Order their bread basket, which contains different pieces of bread; it’s an amalgamation of rich tastes… ham, cheddar, and even anchovy. It’s crispy and delicious. From the main dishes, have the divine steak Diane, or opt-in between cod or lamb. Whichever order you have, it’s perfectly cooked meat, with nice sauces and veggie pairings. Whether you want to go with chef Cooper’s favorite dish, it’s baked Pacific oyster with truffle purée, mushroom marmalade, and whipped garlic butter. Combine your order with some of the L’Abattoir diverse wine options or equally good and stunning cocktails.
What to order: bread basket, steak Diane, cod, lamb, baked Pacific oyster
For a bite of exceptional Italian food in Gastown, we recommend you try Di Beppe. You’ll also like their interior, with exciting vintage Italian posters that add to the great vibe of the place. The venue functions both as a daytime cafe where you can take a sip of true Italian coffee, and as a sit-down restaurant where you can grab lunch or dinner.
On their menu you’ll find always fresh seasonal salads and some fantastic selection of pizzas, pasta, and antipasti. You want to try their pizza Margherita with Fior Di Latte, although you also want to try their Margherita with Mozzarella Di Bufala, which takes it to the next level with its luscious mozzarella chunks made from buffalo milk. The dough is chewy and they always put plenty of cheese as well as a lot of tomato sauce. In case you are up for pasta, have their creamy and peppery Cacio e Pepe.
What to order: Margherita with Fior Di Latte, Margherita with Mozzarella Di Bufala, Cacio e Pepe
If you have tacos and melted cheese cravings, head to La Mezcaleria, the first Mexican restaurant to offer small-batch mezcal in Canada. Their food is excellent and vibrant, which matches their bustling vibe inside.
Served in a small stone and hot dish, the cheese fondue is a must-try here. Order their Amigos flight and you get three different dips (guacamole, octopus ceviche and pico de gallo). And their Baja tacos is no ordinary taco. For more than just snacks, go for a Ceviche Callejero with seasonal fish combined with tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro + extra chips. A real blast!
What to order: cheese fondue, Amigos flight, Baja tacos, Ceviche Callejero
Another uber popular hot spot for hanging out and Mexican food in Gastown is Tacofino. They have several locations in town and are absolute favourites among locals for the atmosphere and the tacos ? .
Tacofino indeed has some of the best tacos in Vancouver. Their Pescado Fish Tacos are a MUST-HAVE. It’s a good, flavourful portion of crispy fish on a soft taco stirred with a good amount of vegetables that compliment the dish. If you’re with company, go for the nachos and you’ll get one full with salsa, cheese, and extra chorizo, and the chips are super crunchy.
This Gastown location also has a take out burrito bar. You won’t be wrong to order their Crispy Chicken Burrito or perhaps a more veggie option of Spinach Cauliflower Burrito. And the very special recommendation we have for you–our absolute favorite from this place–it’s their chocolate diablo cookie.
What to order: Pescado Fish Tacos, nachos, Crispy Chicken Burrito, Spinach Cauliflower Burrito, chocolate diablo cookie
Meat & Bread is one more popular eatery that we recommend for your Gastown endeavours. They have several locations around Vancouver, although they’re an original Gastown brand, having opened their first venue in this hood in 2010. They are famed for their sandwiches ? and you can pair them with some great soups and salads. It’s the perfect quick bite and a break from your urban trekking the Gastown area.
The must-try is the Porchetta Sandwich. It’s the juicy and tender king of the Gastown sandwiches. The bread is soft, and it contains salsa Verde and succulent pork crackling which gives such a special crunch and savory flavor to the sandwich that it will immediately win your heart. Alternatively, you can order the Meatball sandwich. The meatballs are gigantic and absolutely delicious.
What to order: Porchetta Sandwich, Meatball sandwich
Pourhouse is inside a century-old warehouse; the atmosphere here is always lively and entering inside might feel like time-traveling in the past. They are well-known for their striking cocktails, such as their “bootlegged cocktails” (a clear hint to the roaring 1920s and the infamous Prohibition).
Even the food evokes feelings of the past. Such as their Scotch Egg, which looks as if it was taken straight out of a 1960s vintage cookbook. Give the Scotch Egg a bite, and it will be something you’ll want to come back to, craving and asking for some more. Another staple of the house is the Pourhouse burger which comes with spaghetti and meatballs. You should also have some of their liver with toast, seared tuna, or roasted bone marrow. Any of this will fill your mouth with lots of pleasant sensations.
This is a ‘nouveau’ Canadian gastropub that has several locations around Vancouver, including Gastown, where it opened in 2013. Expect good ambiance and pretty flavorsome food under chef Erik.
Start with some of the Flying Pig’s wonderful appetizers. Such as their braised short rib with bone marrow on the bone, carrots and mashed potatoes. It’s really soft and appetizing. The poutine is a little bit on the sweet side but you won’t regret it either. Erik’s Fried Chicken is also very tender and flavourful. Or perhaps you want to try their trout salad with quite some pungent dressing and their crispy salmon cakes that you’ll smash in a minute with that tartar sauce. This makes for a real gastro-extravaganza.
From their sweet treats: the superb chocolate banana bread pudding. It’s really yummy; the banana is candied on top along with some vanilla ice. Luscious.
What to order: braised short rib, poutine, Erik’s Fried Chicken, trout salad, salmon cakes, chocolate banana bread pudding
A popular brunch spot on Hastings Street is the Catch122 Cafe Bistro. Look forward to some stunning Canadian cuisine, and besides the nice food you can also enjoy their coffee or seasonal cocktails.
Their Dirty Breakfast makes for a real art of the breakfast/brunch food. It’s duck cassoulet and house made sausage with a biscuit and sunny side eggs on top. It looks good, it tastes good. Anything you order with eggs is in fact very beautifully served and delicious, so you won’t go wrong if you get the smoked salmon Eggs Benedicts with farm fresh eggs or Poached Eggs with yummy dark yellow yolks spread atop contents such as smoked pork shoulder or perhaps cheese and cauliflower.
What to order: Dirty Breakfast, smoked salmon Eggs Benedicts
Location: 122 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8
From a seemingly lonely window that sells some of the best matcha lattes in Vancouver with matcha brought from Kyoto to vibrant hipster-y coffee hotspots that sell top-notch avo toasts. Gastown is your promised land for great coffee (and great toasts and pastries) and many of the best cafes in the city.
Here’s our shortlist of the best ones!
The Birds & The Beets
This is a popular and cozy cafe spot, charmingly nestled in between Powell Street and Alexander Street. A perfect spot to refresh from your Gastown touristing with a yummy cup of cappuccino with almond milk or perhaps an oat milk latte. It also has one of the most aesthetic corners in this part of the city.
If you are a vegan you may particularly like it here. They also serve some great food and their meals are hearty. Get an avocado toast and feast on the pile of avocado you’ll get. Their vegan tofu banh mi is another gem, and you won’t even notice it misses the meat.
If you check-in on Wednesday night, you can get an exclusive, perfectly-fresh, fermented grape juice. This is the latest from The Birds & The Beet’s Wednesday night pop-ups. Freshly fermented grape juice is all the rage in Europe right now and it’s apparently conquering the world and Vancouver, too.
What to order: avocado toast, vegan tofu banh mi, grape juice
A great majority of coffee shops in Gastown serve 49th parallel, which is awesome, but in case you want different roasts, head to Milano Espresso Lounge. Their La Futura blend is an award-winning, and it tastes fantastic both as a latte and espresso.
It’s a cafe of ample size, with a sense of modern-industrial style, and since there are so many tables and chairs inside, you’ll never feel like the place is too full of people. It’s in the center of the neighborhood, but enough away from all its super-busy intersections so it doesn’t feel too busy outside the cafe either.
What’s also great here is that you can pick the espresso beans you’ll have in your drink. The dark roast pour over is excellent. They also serve amazing mocha, such as Hedgehog mocha (hazelnut) or Lavender white chocolate. If you like your mocha a bit on the sweet side, here it just might be the perfect deal for you.
What to order: dark roast pour over, Hedgehog mocha, Lavender white chocolate
Nelson the Seagull is a chill coffee shop that alongside delectable coffee, serves some mouth-melting pastries as well. Get a coffee with oat milk or perhaps an iced americano.
At their open kitchen, you can catch the action and order fresh bread ? and tasty baked goods. But what they are best known for and what you really MUST have while at Nelson the Seagull is the avocado toast, which we listed in our ultimate Vancouver food bucket list. For your sweet tooth, perhaps chocolate chunk macadamia nut oatmeal cookie or their warm, freshly-baked croissants.
Whether you were wondering about the name of the cafe, it’s inspired by an old English folksong and Nelson Mandela.
What to order: avocado toast, chocolate chunk macadamia nut oatmeal cookie, croissants
Timbertrain serves some of the best coffee in Gastown, and it’s on our best coffee shops in Vancouver list. The cafe is inside a big Gastown heritage building and the atmosphere is always jubilant.
Watch out for their fancy coffee machines that make brewing look like almost an attraction, and enjoy some of the best pour overs in town. Their almond milk latte is perfect, stirring a smooth coffee flavour and some of the best almond milk you’ll find around. Their nitro cold brew with rich foma is also fantastic. Don’t miss their marshmallow cookie either.
What to order: almond milk latte, nitro cold brew, marshmallow cookie
Revolver is crazy popular and it seems to be one of those never-dying Vancouver brands. Here you’ll find some of the finest coffee, and coffee offer that is always rotating. They source their beans from the best roasters around North America. Put this place on your bucket list especially if it’s your first time in the city.
Watch out for their tasty latte with a perfect layer of micro-foam and eye-catching latte art. Order a flight of espresso and you get to choose from two out of the three options listed on the Espresso menu. It can really get crowded during busy hours but the service is quick and friendly. Revolver is also on our list of best coffee shops in Vancouver.
Last but not least, Iktsuarpok, which is sporting an Inuit word that means ‘anticipation while waiting for someone to arrive’ as its name–is a rising star coffee stand where you can grab some really nice Matcha Latte with matcha from Kyoto. This is a small Japanese cafe on a spot that previously sold hot dogs, and although it’s a very young brand, their coffee is soooo delicious that we had to add them on our best Vancouver cafes list as well.
Plus it is always a joy to chat with Kento and Rika, who hailed from Montreal and are here fulfilling their dream of having their own coffee shop.
You can only take coffee-to-go at Iktsuarpok since there is no sitting area and you can claim your order via the big window facing Carrall Street, that is the stand. They use beans from the Moving Coffee Roastery to stir their coffee magic. After you try their Matcha Latte, return for some of their top-notch espressos.
If you are looking for a great spot to catch up with friends and that also serves specialty coffee in the Gastown neighbourhood, one place to check out is the Buro Espresso Bar. It opens early and has many options for breakfast. The indie music playing in the back adds to a chilling ambient, and you’ll want to come back, now with a copy of your book to sit around for hours and have some great time alone as well.
Buro was not always a coffee shop, however. Back in the 1990s, Gastown hosted a thriving clubbing scene, and the place used to be one of the main clubs. Now renovated, one of its unique features is that it overlooks three different Gastown streets that you can watch while you take a sip of your Spanish Latte. Their latte is authentically prepared as espresso on condensed milk + it’s topped with steamed milk. It’s not too sweet and it goes perfect with a croissant or perhaps a tasty chocolate chip cookie.
What to order: Spanish Latte, croissant, chocolate chip cookie
What can be better than coffee and cookies? It’s coffee and cookies at Nemesis in Gastown. Nemesis is one of the best coffee shops you can find in town and because their coffee is really special, coming from a rotating selection of beans, we have them featured on our 10 Best Coffee Shops in Vancouver list.
Try some of their pour overs or some of their espresso. Combine your coffee with their stunningly luscious chocolate cookie. And if you are a bit more hungry than that, a salad, avo or french toast will do it.
What to order: pour overs, espresso, chocolate cookie, salad, avo or french toast
This Gastown location is a glorious deliciousness of pastries, of creme brulee buns which make a cracking sound as you take a bite, of butter tart that is flawlessly crumbly but not extra luscious, of massive amounts of pastries abundantly glazed with fruits or frostings. And whatnot.
So, you can have a brunch + coffee at Nemesis or any of the other Gastown coffee shops and brunch spots and then drop by at Purebread and satisfy your sweet tooth and pastry cravings (or just come directly here). Besides the incredible spread of baked goods, anticipate a lovely decorated venue and an overwhelming, all-consuming smell of vanilla and baking.
What to order: creme brulee buns, butter tart
Location: 159 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H5
Beer, wine, more beer, more wine, tasty cocktails, vibrant patios, and steamy dancefloors. Yes, Gastowners make for a happy nation. Looking back, even “Gassy” Jack Deighton, an early settler in the area after whom Gastown picks its name, earned his living by selling booze. But that was in the distant 1860s. Now it’s time to see our list of five best places where you can get your evening going and have some booze and fun in Gastown today.
Steamworks Brew Pub
Ready for pub crawling Gastown? Start with Steamworks. Famous for their beer, they have been present on the beer scene since the 1990s. They are one of the favorites both among Vancouverites and visitors.
The name Steamworks takes after the well-known Gastown steam line that passes from here. They actually produce their beer on steam and the heat gives a genuine beer taste. Get a 10 Tap Taster and try 10 different beers. There is Pumpkin Ale, Cucumber Ale, or perhaps just Pale Ale. Or what about a Heroica Oatmeal Stout?
If you are feeling hungry, there’s something for everyone, from chicken wings to pizza. Cheers!
What to order: 10 Tap Taster, Pumpkin Ale, Cucumber Ale, Pale Ale, Heroica Oatmeal Stout
If you are a wine person, head to Gastown’s Salt Tasting Room. You’ll find this place in one of the neighborhood’s dark alleys known as the Blood Alley. It’s called the Salt Tasting Room since it specializes in artisan cheese and small-batch cured meats which you can pair with some fantastic wine options.
Since they have so many cheese and wine, time will melt on the clock quickly as will all those flavors melt in your mouth. You’ll be asked to choose 3 different combinations of cheese and meat + 3 condiments.
You can also boost your order with a salad which might mean even more cheese (there’s some pretty good goat cheese in the arugula salad). Have no idea which wine to take. Ask the staff and they’ll give you some really great recommendations.
What to order: artisan cheese, small-batch cured meats
Location: 45 Blood Alley Square, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C7
If you really want to boost your happiness hormones head to Gringo, also on Blood Alley. It’s a joyous, sweet non-pretentious little hipster Mexican spot in Gastown, and as many Gastowners will tell you, there is no way not to feel happy when you go inside Gringo.
This place is bustling and has a super-friendly atmosphere boosted by a rainbowy palette of neon lights. The beer does not even cost $5, or if you don’t want beer–you can always go stronger by grabbing one of their sand buckets. Perhaps with a Bourbarita which is a bourbon mixed with juicy watermelon + is served with some tempting gummies as an extra. Or some of their cocktails which are a bit pricier but totally worth it anyway. Combine your drinks with some of their tacos. It’s first-come, first-serve.
What to order: Bourbarita, tacos
Location: 27 Blood Alley Square, Vancouver, BC V6B 0C4
Rumor has it that The Diamond has one of the most gorgeous spaces in Vancouver. It’s dark decor and dim lighting that fit perfectly with the place’s brick walls, plus you have an open view of the hood. It’s really the place where you want to down some drinks on a Friday night, perhaps celebrate your birthday or bring in your date on a more casual weekday evening.
Expect some boozy cocktails such as a Lion’s Tail which is something like a whiskey sour and it tastes delicious. It won’t be long before you start feeling tipsy and moving your hips to the DJ. If you feel hungry you can also order something from their appetizing menu. It can get crowded and you may need to make reservations if you are planning to come here over the weekend.
Local Gastown is one of those jubilant neighborhood places that get really busy on a Saturday night and predestined to give a terrific evening to any accidental visitor that may happen to drop by.
Their patio is always lively and full of people, and they also have an ever-rotating tasty selection of draft beer. Wine is on tap. Grab some cheese pierogies as an appetizer–it’s cooked to perfection. And get a bottle of crisp Chablis, that is the wine you don’t want to miss here.
What to order: draft beer, cheese pierogies, Chablis
Other fantastic spots to grab a drink in Gastown that we’ve mentioned in the restaurant section, would be L’Abattoir, Pourhouse, and La Mezcalaria.
Best Shops in Gastown
Some of the best home assets and furniture you can get for your home in Vancouver come from Gastown. Whether you want something more expensive or something more wallet-friendly, there’s a plethora to choose from. And here you have some awesome shops to buy nice gifts for your friends, too. Take a look at the four neighborhood shops you should not miss, below.
You recently bought a house in Vancouver? Perhaps it’s somewhere in Vancouver or perhaps the beautiful Mount Pleasant nearby? Wherever your new address is, or even if you are just looking for a new piece of furniture to refresh your old apartment, check out Inform Interiors. This is an old, well-established, high-end furniture brand from Vancouver that has been based in Gastown for some 15 years now.
They sell top-notch Danish furniture designs and some of their pieces really look like out of this world. An interesting bit of Inform Interior’s history: its founder, Niels Bendtsen, has designed the Ribbon chair, which has been accepted into the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
From comfortable and fancy armchairs to sophisticated marble bowls you can multipurpose either to place a candle or keep personal items, the things you’ll find at Inform Interiors are truly aesthetically appealing and will induce new aura to any home.
Old Faithful Shop is another confirmation of why Gastown hides some of the best shops where you can buy items that really rejuvenate your home.
You’ll love their exclusive art prints as much as you’ll love their warm and lovely amber tumblers or sophisticated Japanese kitchen crafts. Or, get yourself a pair of OFS Canadian classic wool socks to survive a cold Canadian winter or perhaps a beautiful ceramic dish for shaving you would actually be sorry to use it for shaving. There’s so much more to explore (and want) at the Old Faithful, so your time here will be certainly worth it.
Looking for quirky mugs, lamination, beautiful art, funky socks? Check out Kimprints, a lovely offbeat shop that’s located in the old Hotel Europe building, one of Gastown’s iconic buildings.
Kimprints specializes in custom framing so if you have artwork that needs framing this is the place to go. They have many frames to choose from and the staff is certainly helpful. It’s a small shop but one filled with so many cool gifts that you can easily lose track of time once you come around.
Plants, pottery, clothing, food jigsaw puzzles? Check in to Out & About which is all about minimal, aesthetic and sophisticated gifts and apparel, a lot of which is Asian and European brands.
So, you’ll find Japanese glass work and wooden crafts or cool bags that merge Nordic designs and Kenyan techniques. From butter bath bars to natural room sprays, you can for sure find here something that will really make your day.
If you are looking for some pleasing facial hydrating cream or ointment to treat your skin, Aesop is the right shop to visit when in Gastown. It’s a perfect shop to wander into if you want to find special gifts, or travel kits if you are a frequent flyer or just nice smelling aromatizers for home. Their skin products are suited for different skins, plus their special is men’s cosmetics, so from shaving lotions and serums to shaving gear and everything.
Looking for a passport holder, a new money belt, or tees, hoodies, crewnecks, or cool shorts and pants? Or perhaps you need to completely upgrade your luggage and travel accessories. Herschel Supply Co has its flagship store in Gastown, and they have a great and diverse offer of apparel.
For all things pretty you need to check Latest Scoop and you can easily get obsessed with everything you’ll find on offer there. You’ll love this boutique if you haven’t discovered it yet.
As a plus, you can also find something nice for your home such as decorative furniture or decor items like candles or ring holders and what not. You’ll also enjoy the vibe and design of the store. It’s top-notch done, from the curtained dressing rooms to the brick walls and wooden floors.
The old heritage feel and close proximity to transit and the water makes Gastown a prime spot to stay at. Staying in the neighbourhood would mean easy and convenient access to all the delicious food spots too! Below you’ll find accommodations that are available in the area.
Gastown is pretty popular and during busy hours it can really get frustrating to navigate around. But now you know the coolest spots where you can stop by and take some rest from all that action, or if you are the people person, you also know the places where the crowd never dies. Wherever you go, enjoy!
Gastown is one of the reasons why Vancouver is so special, and it’s one of those neighborhoods you don’t want to miss seeing, especially if this is your first time in the city.
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