In no particular order:
1. Pork ribs and topokki at Damso. This dish is so good it made me angry to eat it.
2. Whiskey hazelnut ice cream at Earnest Ice Cream. Ye gods.
3. The Paper Hound book shop. Like Pulp Fiction, this store is designed to make you want books. Unlike, say, Chapters, which is designed to make you want matches. And gasoline.
4. The Farmer’s Apprentice. Every detail of this restaurant, from its compact menu to simple seating to two windowed off tables, has been thought through to such a degree you’ll feel like a genius for spending money there. Also, it’s excellent. Hat tip to Jian for insisting.
5. Ice Cream Social at Fox Cabaret. Take an old porn theatre and gut it out, adding a small stage and long bar. Have a no cover dance night on a Monday to start the week off right, make it only three hours, play awesome, actual dance music, cheap beer - really, there’s no reason not to go. Hat tip to Åsa.
6. 33 Acres and Brassneck. Best places to drink beer, hands down. I’d venture to call 33 Acres the perfect place, but I’ll stop short of really, really great. Is it still a pub crawl if you just bounce back and forth between two venues?
7. Pho at Lam Hoa Quan. Possibly the best in the city. The broth sets it apart.
8. Tsuku-men ramen at Ramen Santouka. Opinion on ramen in Vancouver is divided when it comes to the best. My vote goes for this particular item at Santouka - the noodles are so good they brought a single tear to my eye.
9. Apple pie at The Pie Shoppe. The young lady that runs this place has the best attitude - we sat happily shovelling pie into our mouths after the shop had closed and she was making tourtières. Excellent coffee, too.
10. Crispy skin chicken and ma-po tofu at Gain Wah. Gain Wah will never win any awards, and is likely going to be subsumed by the wave of coffee shops marching steadily east. Before that happens, order the ma-po tofu and half a crispy skin chicken. What will you pay for this handsome meal from the gods? $16.
The Five Worst Things That Have Happened Since I Left
1. Closing of Little Nest. When one of the best businesses in Vancouver gets shut down by a 50% hike in rent, you know something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Little Nest was a kid-friendly cafe run by a beautiful woman (who happened to make our wedding cakes) and is now little more than a memory. In its place? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Infuriating.
2. The owners of Truong Giang moving back to Vietnam. If you never went to Truong Giang you not only missed out on the best banh mi in the city, but on seeing two salt of the earth people run a successful and, dare I say, socially ethical business in the heart of the downtown eastside. Part gracious eatery, part social work experiment, Truong Giang was a service to the city that we didn’t deserve. Alas, the restaurant is still there, with only the name scrubbed off, and the menu, while unchanged, is in the hands of lesser practitioners.
3. The luxury ghetto that is Gastown. Hypocrisy klaxon BUT how many coffee shops/cool stuff stores does one tiny area need? I love Japanese titanium camping gear as much as the next guy, but a little variety goes a long way.
4. The Vancouver Canucks. Ye gods.
5. Driving - it’s gotten worse.