18 January, 2016
Gastown + Olympic Cauldron Waterfront ParkComments : 1 Posted in : Bars in Vancouver - British Columbia - Canada, Dining in Vancouver - British Columbia - Canada, Restaurants, Travel, Travel Guide for Vancouver, Canada on by : The Gourmez
In this post, we’ll take our last Vancouver walk together — this time with plenty of food and drink to make up for all of those burned calories at Stanley Park! My sojourn in Vancouver was made easier by having my two nights’ stay comped by Nightswapping, a travel app and website that sets up willing home hosts with willing house guests for free, earning their own free nights in exchange. With the code Gourmez-NS, you too can get a free night’s stay in Vancouver, or anywhere else with a willing host, from Nightswapping. Simply create a new account and type it into the “Add Promo Code” or “Add Coupon” section. I reviewed the Nightswapping experience right here.
And I’m concluding my blog series on Vancouver right here, in the dark.
We begin at the end of the Seaside Greenway, the urban extension of the Seawall Trail that rings Stanley Park. I’m an Olympics junkie, so I had to visit the Olympic Cauldron from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which is situated on the waterfront park where the trail terminates. I’m sure it’s an interesting sight in the daylight, but at night, lit up?
Enchanting. And it changes with each new angle as you make your way to the water itself. The views of Vancouver from that vantage point are simply stunning. You’ll find it at the junction of West Waterfront Road and Thurlow Street.
The view I didn’t expect, however, was this:
Yes, that’s a killer whale made of blocks. No, I have no idea what it was doing by the convention center, but it was fun trying to figure out the pattern of flashing lights on its body. I did not succeed. But I did get to ponder what it’d be like for a lone whale in the big city.
The city blazed after the sun set, and my hunger pains soon followed. Luckily, Anita, our Nightswapping host, had offered to meet us for dinner in Gastown and show us around one of her favorite neighborhoods. We walked past the convention center–
–and down Cordova Street to Water Street, where the city of Vancouver began in 1867 around a tavern.
Gastown has some of the trendiest blocks in the city now — and plenty of taverns and seedy streets as well, so don’t wander too far from the shiny lights. Anita, knowing I was a food blogger, recommended Tacofino (15 W. Cordova St, enter through the alley unless you want the burrito take-out bar), a food truck with a loyal following that expanded to a brick-and-mortar spot last year.
It was packed, so we put in our names for a 45-minute wait that was more like 2 hours. I said it was popular. Luckily, Anita had another, even newer, restaurant she wanted to check out for a pre-dinner snack, an excellent idea if I’ve ever heard of one.
Bao Down (12 Powell St.) is a specialist in fancy schmancy bao and other Korean street foods. Order at the counter and hope there’s room in the tiny balcony seating area. Then enjoy! The bao wraps are steamed perfectly, and the ingredients are excellent. Anita’s YVR was probably the best of the bunch, featuring the freshest tuna, wasabi mayo, baby pea shoot, avocado, kecap manis, and bacon.
My own Jaws, with coconut-crusted catfish, kimchi tartar sauce, microgreens, and Thai vinaigrette, was lackluster in comparison — I should have just had the tuna like Anita recommended.
At CAD $5 to $6 each, the bao were very affordable and quite large. Good thing we ended up waiting another hour and a half for Tacofino…
…which we made use of for exploring the neighborhood.
Of special note is the Gastown steam clock at Cambie St. and Water St., which was built in 1977 and recalls the style of mid-19th-Century clocks in England. It puts on a show every quarter hour and is one of only six in the world.
Also worth noting is this insane group of friends out for a bachelor party…in animal onesies. You be you, Vancouver.
Finally, finally it was time to get a seat at Tacofino.
Well, first we slid into an open spot at the bar and about ten minutes later our table was ready — our order was up practically before we were seated, which means service is fast even if seating is not.
I have to say, while there were interesting ingredient combinations, overall, I did not find Tacofino worth a two-hour wait.
Mostly, I was disappointed in the tortillas. The tacos came with flour ones, not corn, and they tasted stale and dry. For such a high-demand joint, I expected better. Now, I expect that the burrito to-go counter is, indeed, the way to go. But the cocktails were top-notch, so maybe aim for elbowing your way into a place at the bar?
I’m sorry, Vancouver. I’m Californian. We have taco standards. But I’m not sorry for the weekend I spent in your beautiful city, and I imagine there is much within your streets to stir my future interests — I didn’t even make it to the Olympic Village! And I hear there’s a beach of note on your southwestern side? And you have an island of a fairly large size?
See, Vancouver. I really know nothing. Discount my opinion of your tacos.
Visited October 2015.