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Top 5 Favorite Restaurants Within Reach Of Vancouver
Growing up in a fairly large family two things were inevitable as I grew older. First, I learned how to fight for myself in everything from business to Settlers of Catan (if you don't know what that is, please pause everything, buy it, learn it and let it dictate your life for the next 3 months). Second, food is always and has always been on my mind at any given time. When I wake up I try to plan out my meals for the day, daydreaming about food combinations, flavors, food groups and even as I write this down my mouth waters just thinking about ... thinking about it. At fourteen I moved from Kenya where food was so flavorful and complicated, like taking a trip with your mouth every meal. Now that Vancouver is my home I thought it best to share with the world my favorite places to partake in my favorite pastime.
I must keep this list in no particular order because preference is fleeting and your appetite goes hand in hand with your mood, the weather, who you're eating with and for what meal. Throughout my short travels around the Pacific Northwest though there have been a handful that have kept surfacing when considering all my choices.
I'll start the list off as most of us start our day, or at least should, with breakfast. Though it's not quite in Vancouver the traditional birthday breakfast destination with my closest friends and I has always been Gravy. Sitting on a trendy street in Mississippi (and yes I do the jingle in my head every time I write it), with only a handful of tables, so get there early, is one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. Without fail I get the challah bread french that comes with thick slices of house made challah bread, frosted with powdered sugar, a big dollop of melting butter and maple syrup. It's closer to doughnuts than other french toast but don't let anyone tell you it's anything other than a complete breakfast. Combine that with their greek omelette, split both with a friend and you have a wicked combination of sweet and savory and a great way to celebrate someone special, including yourself.
Next on the list takes us to the heart of downtown Vancouver right to Woody's Tacos. If you've never been brave enough to venture into the world of the aptly named "fish taco" category, you may want to try something else before Woody's, otherwise you will be ruined for life having started with the best and never quite be satisfied with anything else. And that's just their fish tacos! Try their carnitas, their pork their chicken, anything on their menu is just delicious and makes for a great lunch or dinner outing.
If you're not in the mood for tacos or burritos how about a Ban mi? Ban mi's are Vietnamese meat sandwiches with vegetables, jalapeños and shredded carrots with vinegar all sitting on a small, crunchy baguette. You can find these delicious and cheap sandwiches at Tan Tan Cafe off of Mill Plain. The price is great to get more than one if you have a big appetite or want to enjoy two different types of meat on the Ban mi. You can also get fantastic Pho that comes in giant bowls with ingredients you get to add in yourself so you know they're fresh. All in all Tan Tan cafe was a most pleasant surprise and an often visited lunch destination of mine.
Keeping with the international theme and taking a quick trip across the river yet again to a place that appeals to the adventurous, the brave and the enlightened. If you were to ask me what my favorite food on the planet is, I would hesitate only to breathe in and respond immediately with "Ethiopian". Most have never tried it and that is why I feel sorry for most. Somewhat akin to Indian food with it's spiciness and consisting mostly of lentils and curries, Ethiopian is truly a flavor experience. It is the only meal on the face of the earth that I will push past the screaming in my head to stop eating just so I am not kicking myself the next time I am hungry knowing I left food on the plate. The meal is served family style all together on one plate lined with a slightly sour, spongy bread called "njera" that also comes in rolls to use as utensils to gather the food on the plate. The sourness cuts into the spice just enough to let you taste more of the flavors than just heat and at the end of the meal the lining that has been soaking in all the different dishes can then be eaten by itself. The perfect ending to the perfect meal. Growing up in Kenya there were Ethiopian Restaurants on every corner, but it took close to ten years to find somewhere near Vancouver that would transport us back to Kenya. On Division in Portland is a small restaurant called Enat Kitchen. The decor is the same, the servers and most of the guests are Ethiopian and the food does not just remind me of real Ethiopian food, it IS real Ethiopian food. Try it and fall in love with what I consider the greatest food on planet earth.
Ending our list is a Mumley family and friends staple, the place that offers enough variety to keep you on your toes but not too many options that overwhelm, Twilight Pizza. Located off of 192nd it is home to what I consider the best gourmet pizza I've ever had. And when I say gourmet, I mean unique and obtuse combinations that will scare you away if you're not careful but reward you intensely if you step out in faith. Pizza like "The Good Karma", with zucchini, roasted garlic, goat cheese, artichokes and white sauce. Or try "The Jester" with a combination of barbecue sauce and marinara base, pepperoni, pineapple, chicken, bacon, garlic and honey! Not a fan of barbecue sauce pizza? Me neither! Yet you ask me what I got the last time I went and I'll tell you with a sly smile, "The Jester". Even if you're not in the mood for pizza they have an extensive entree menu that has a seafood mac and cheese, a BLT with jalapeno aiol and even a potato gnochi with sausage and onions. Mouth watering yet? Me too. Combine all of this with a fully stocked bar, a full tap list of classics and rotating beers, TVs in the bar and a number of tables in the dining room and you get a great outing for any occasion, with any appetite and any picky eater. Take your family, take your friends, take your date or a client and you will not be disappointed.
From Vietnam to Ethiopia, from tacos to pizza, you will find whatever your heart (or stomach) desires within reach of Vancouver. Fifteen minutes from downtown Vancouver will take you to any one of these fantastic restaurants and the only hard part of writing this piece was limiting it to five. Get out there, be adventurous, try new things and enjoy all that the area has to offer. Just because we have to eat to sustain life doesn't mean we can't thoroughly enjoy ourselves while doing it.
Born and raised in "sunny" Washington state, AJ's favorite thing about living in Vancouver is that it is an hour and a half from EVERYTHING (beach, mountains, outlet malls, etc). He also loves that Va....