Vegan Vancouver: 3 days in Canada’s third largest city. Things to do in Vancouver, vegan restaurants, shopping, and the great outdoors. What more could you want?
Earlier this month Kristy from Keepin’ It Kind and I headed off to the Great White North. Outside of quick one-hour jaunts when we were tweens, neither of us had spent any amount of time in Canada.
We both adore the Pacific Northwest. (Kristy and I have met up in Portland a couple of times, and Seattle moved way up the list of my favorite cities a few years back.) So we felt certain we’d love the Vancouver-vibe, as it is just 3 hours north of Seattle.
From all the pictures we’d seen of Vancouver, the coastline with a background of rugged mountains looked enchanting. Sadly, there were fires the whole time we were there, so the mountains were mostly just in outline.
Still, it was a stunning city with a great energy, and so much to see and do.
Vegan Vancouver Travel
Today I’m sharing vegan Vancouver travel highlights of our 3 full days there. (It was a Monday through Friday trip, but two of those days were for travel.)
If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, you will find no shortage of things to do on this list. And if you aren’t planning one, well, you may just be looking at plane fare by the time you’re done reading.
Stanley Park Seawall
We started our first day in Vancouver with a visit to the Stanley Park Seawall, which makes every list of top things to do.
The Seawall is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. You can go all the way from Canada Place to Kitsilano.
Most people rave about the 8.8 kilometer stretch around Stanley Park. It takes 2 to 3 hours to walk the portion of the Seawall around Stanley Park or one hour to bicycle. We walked just a small part of it, and then fate had other plans.
Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island Public Market is surrounded by several touristy shops, as well as an outdoor farmers market on Thursdays in the warm weather months.
Inside, there are fresh fruits and vegetables, handmade items, as well as places to buy prepared food. The feeling is very similar to every pier area, like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or Pike Place Market in Seattle.
I didn’t get much in the way of souvenirs while I was in Vancouver, but I did want to bring home a little something for David. When I saw glass straws for sale at the farmers market outside of Granville Island Public Market, I knew it was just the ticket.
We have a collection of glass straws that we use all the time. I love that they’re reusable, dishwasher safe, made by hand, and artwork that you get to use in your daily life.
These straws by Glass Sipper are decorated with a variety of characters and details – dogs, cats, pigs, cows, flowers… I got a straw with an owl detail for David, because he’s a huge Twin Peaks fan. (“The owls are not what they seem.”)
By the way, if you check out Glass Sipper’s Instagram Stories highlight reel, they have one section that shows how the designs are made on the straws. It’s pretty fun to watch.
False Creek Ferries
From Granville Island, you can hop on a ferry to get to other areas of Vancouver. The prices vary depending on where you want to go, but it tends to be around $3.50 – $6/one way.
You can pay with cash on the boats at any of their 9 dock locations, or with your credit/debit card at the Granville Island dock.
We took the ferry a couple of times – once to Plaza of Nations on our way to Chinatown, and once to the Science World stop on our way to Nuba.
Not only is it a convenient way to get from one place to another, you also get a bonus boat ride.
Because I’m from a state where vegan restaurants are a rarity, usually when I travel I prefer to go solely to vegan & vegetarian restaurants. However, whenever I asked anyone where I needed to eat in Vancouver, non-vegetarian restaurant Nuba was on every list.
I can see why. It was there that I had my favorite meal of the trip.
Very often the food that wows in restaurants is indulgent and heavy. A lot of oil, fat, and salt triggers those pleasure sensors and makes the meal stand out. But at Nuba, it’s all about letting the vegetables shine.
Nuba is a Lebanese restaurant with a focus on fresh, local, and organic ingredients. I ordered Najib’s special as a plate. (It can also be ordered as an appetizer or in a pita.)
The plate included crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt. It was served with hummus, salad, pickled cabbage, and olives. You also get a choice of organic brown rice, roasted potatoes, or both.
It comes with a side of tahini and a mind bogglingly good hot sauce for drizzling. The pita it came with was on the thin side and made me think of what would happen if fluffy pita bread and thin lavash got together and had a family.
On the face of it, the meal doesn’t sound like anything surprising, but eating it was revelatory. Every bite had nuanced flavor, a mixture of tastes and textures, and a real focus on the inherent beauty of vegetables.
The Mount Pleasant location’s design was inspired by Third World cafés of the 1970’s. There are lots of geometric patterns on the walls, opposite from concrete with airy openings. The aesthetic felt transportive to another place and time.
Looking at their other locations online, it appears that each one is a little different in its style. Another good reason to visit multiple times! Nuba’s other locations are in Gastown, Yaletown, and Kitsilano.
The Black Lodge
One day, Kristy mentioned that there were two vegetarian Twin Peaks-themed restaurants in Vancouver called The Black Lodge, after the TV show location.
Since the time of our visit, the location we visited has closed; however, the second location on East Broadway is still open.
We thought it would be fun to Facetime with David from the bar as a surprise. So we mostly went for that aspect. However, Kristy and I both ended up really loving it, and agreed we’d go again on future trips.
It’s really kitschy inside with a big mural of mountains and trees, a snow lodge style bar, and slices of trees for tables. (“One day my log will have something to say about this.”)
The cocktails are Twin Peaks-themed with names like Dr. Jacoby, One Eyed Jack, Lynch-burg lemonade, and a Fire Walk With Me shot.
I chose the Ghost Wood Forest, a gin and tonic with muddled fresh rosemary.
Most of the menu items can be prepared vegan, including a vegan cherry pie!
We saw poutine on the menu, and knew that we didn’t want to go back to the States without having some. On the menu, it’s listed as a vegetarian poutine that can be prepared vegan upon request.
This gluten-free poutine was made with crispy fries, and smothered in shredded Daiya and house-made gravy. The cheese was starting to melt under the hot layer of gravy, making for a deliciously gooey mess.
This was definitely a food highlight of the trip for both of us. Although, I’ve had poutine a few times (including one at Pig Minds Brewing Company in Illinois), this was easily my favorite.
The gravy was very smooth, making it easy to pick up with the fries. We polished off every last crumb.
Nice Shoes – vegan shoe store
Nice Shoes is a small vegan shoe store that also sells purses, wallets, and belts.
In addition to finding traditional vegan brands like Matt & Nat or Wills, they also have more conventional offerings like you might see at a mall shoe store.
Meet on Main
MeeT on Main is part of a chain of vegan restaurants in Vancouver. So even if it’s not convenient to visit the one on Main Street, you could still check out MeeT locations in Yaletown or Gastown.
Kristy and I shared a couple of appetizers – starting with artichoke spinach dip.
I often make my own vegan spinach artichoke dip at home. So I was fully prepared for a warm, creamy dip with tortilla chips for dunking.
This one tasted like it was cashew-based with miso paste for richness, a bit of nutritional yeast, spinach, and artichokes. Although, the artichokes could have been a little bigger for my tastes.
Next, we ordered hot chiggin’ things, vegan chicken wings in a spicy buffalo sauce. They were served with a side of creamy ranch dip.
You know how I feel about buffalo sauce from my recent buffalo Soy Curls recipe. So I was all in on this.
Very often vegan buffalo wings are made with seitan. Therefore, it was nice that this was a gluten-free option that both of us could enjoy, since Kristy keeps a gluten-free diet.
The “chiggin” had a bit of flakiness to it. Kristy guessed that they use Beyond Meat chicken strips for the filling, which is a smart, meaty, gluten-free swap.
MeeT also offers four different kinds of poutine. We didn’t get a chance this time, but on my next visit I want to try all of them – especially their veganized butter chicken poutine. (What is this sorcery?)
A few doors down from MeeT on Main is Chickpea, a vegan restaurant with gobs of garbanzos. (By the way, they also have a food truck, if you are out and about!)
We went a couple of times – once for a late lunch and another time for a very late dinner.
The first time that we went, I got the shnitzelonim. It’s a gluten-free dish made with battered and fried smoked tofu with Toscana spices and gluten-free breadcrumbs. The tofu was easily the star of this dish. It comes with sliced yam and avocado.
The meal can be served on pita, salad, on a bed of hummus, or on a platter.
I went with the hummus option, and they weren’t fooling around! There was enough hummus to serve a party. It was drizzled with olive oil, zataar, and paprika. On the side was a salad in mint vinaigrette.
The next time we went I ordered kasum, another gluten-free dish. This one was made with fried cauliflower in what tasted like a chickpea-flour breading. It was topped with a very turmeric-heavy layer of mushrooms and onions. I had it served on a salad.
Although I had high hopes for it, I wouldn’t order this one again. The cauliflower breading was pretty bland. I like chickpea flour coating and use it often for buffalo cauliflower, but it didn’t have a lot else going on here. The turmeric was really heavy handed on the vegetables without much else to balance the flavor.
I also ordered a side of baba ganoush, which was pleasant with bright notes of lemon.
Kristy ordered the chickpea fries, which can be served five different ways!
She went with the classic variety. It was topped with a sweet chili sauce, as well as a mango sauce, which brought a light sweetness to the dish.
She was impressed by how airy the chickpea fries were inside, since they can often be on the dense side.
The Regional Assembly of Text
Whenever I travel, I’m always eager to find unique stationery stores. I adore mail and everything that comes with it.
The Regional Assembly of Text on Main is way up there in terms of the best stationery stores I’ve ever visited. (Take a peek at their website, and you’ll get a small sense of what their store is like.)
Unlike so many stores, where you see the same cards as everywhere else, the designer owners make all of the stationery themselves. They have unique designs that are interactive, tactile, and clever.
Even though card giving occasions are far off for me and David, I still had to buy one early to save until then.
They had wooden telegrams that you could have mailed for you with a typewritten message, an in-store button making station, as well as a monthly letter writing club, where they provide typewriters for writing(!!!).
One small storage closet in the store, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s bedroom, was turned into a zine reading room with zines aplenty to choose from.
I could have spent an hour there, and it will definitely be a place that I return to on my next visit.
The Arbor is a vegetarian restaurant on Main Street, with a sparse, minimalist aesthetic.
(Its sister restaurant is the more upscale Acorn, which we had planned to visit but ran out of time. Next time we’ll be there for small plates!)
I ordered the southern fried artichoke sandwich, topped with eggplant bacon, avocado mousse, and jalapeño peppers. Those peppers made for a spicy surprise whenever I caught a bite of them.
What a good idea to put breaded and fried artichokes on a sandwich! I’m an enormous artichoke lover. So I don’t know why this hadn’t already occurred to me.
(I’ll be making up for lost time soon with my fried artichoke hearts in the air fryer. Look for a sandwich recipe in the future!)
Kristy got the Baja tacos with oyster mushrooms in what tasted like a tempura batter, vegan coleslaw, and guacamole. It was topped with pickled carrots, jalapeño, and fresh cilantro.
Coming from a landlocked state, I was eager to spend some more time by the water. So we headed to Kitsilano.
While we were there, we came across Hadden Park (a.k.a. Kits Point dog beach), where there was a dog park right alongside the water.
Kristy was missing her own pups at home, Maeby and Buster. So we decided to sit down on a log and watch the dogs play.
I seriously recommend this for any vacation. We spent at least 40 minutes there, watching as the dogs played fetch in the water, chased each other in the sand, and hobnobbed with the humans who were hoping for a cuddle.
There was so much joy in the air. It reminded me again how animals really have it right. They are so focused on the good things in life and being in the moment. There’s a lot we can learn from them.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada and the third biggest in North America. In addition to the usual draw of Chinatown, there are loads of vegan-specific restaurants and stores in the area.
Umaluma is a dairy-free and mostly vegan gelateria. (They do have some menu items with honey, but they are clearly marked.)
It was nearly impossible to choose from the tubs of gelato. They say that they limit the samples to three, but luckily I didn’t notice the sign until afterwards, and they didn’t call me on going over! Haha!
Even though every single one that I tasted would have been worthy of a scoop, I sided on drunken cherry. It had a wonderful fattiness and sweet notes of cherry.
I’ve had vegan scoops of ice cream all over, but I’m going to have to rate this as number one.
By the way, in addition to scoops and standard cones, they also have charcoal cones, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Across the street from Umaluma is Vegan Supply, an all-vegan grocery store. They sell books, shirts, and stickers, as well as shelf-stable and refrigerated groceries.
I was particularly enthralled with their enormous cheese selection, offering many cheeses that I’d either never seen before or had only seen online.
It took all of my restraint not to load up on vegan cheeses. However, we were still going to be out and about that day, and I didn’t have immediate access to refrigeration. I didn’t want to spend a small fortune on non-dairy cheese only to have it go to waste. So I had to admire longingly from outside the refrigerator case.
I did pick up a few of my favorite candy bars, Eli’s Earth Bars in the Dream Big flavor, which are strangely hard to come by. They’re on my list of best vegan junk food, and always a must whenever I see them.
Although we had heard loads of good things about Virtuous Pie, it wasn’t a certainty on our itinerary. After all, good pizza can be found lots of places. So it didn’t seem like a “must” for our 3 days in Vancouver.
Then as we were walking past Virtuous Pie, an all-vegan pizza place, we stopped to check the menu. While standing in the doorway, the smell of fresh pizza wafted out. We spied the pizzas cooking in the fiery oven, and sparkling water on tap.
It was all over. I couldn’t stop thinking about it until we went back for pies of our own.
(Look at the moss underneath to catch any errant droplets of water!)
Their 10-inch pizzas include house-made nut-based cheeses, and hand stretched dough.
I was vascillating between Stranger Wings (because that name is just too good) and a superfunghi. Stranger Wings is topped with buffalo cauliflower, fried shallots, and a vegan blue cheese drizzle. Sounds amazing!
But I ended up choosing the superfunghi with cashew mozzarella, herbed potato cream, truffle almond ricotta, wild mushrooms, and a bed of arugula on top.
Serious mushroom lovers only need apply! This had loads of mushroomy goodness in every bite.
(Want to make it at home? Grab the superfunghi pizza recipe here.)
Kristy opted for the meatball + chèvre pizza with chorizo meatballs, creamed spinach, lemon herb chèvre, basil, and fresh parm. Sneak a peek on her Instagram.
In addition to their Chinatown location, Virtuous Pie also has locations in UBC Wesbrook Village in Vancouver, Toronto, and Portland, Oregon.
Gastown is a touristy, brick-paved area of Vancouver, most widely known for its steam clock and its founder, Gassy Jack. (Maybe if he’d eaten vegan gelato instead of dairy ice cream, he could have just been Jack…. Full stop.)
The steam clock was built in 1977, and the clock’s mechanism is actually powered by electricity. Only the pipes on top are fueled by steam. Every 15 minutes it sounds off, and each hour it plays a little whistling symphony.
Heirloom is a quiet, airy restaurant with homey artwork in a vintage style.
This vegetarian chain has two other locations outside of this one – a small, takeaway juice bar also in South Granville (mentioned below), and a sit down/take out location in Ambleside.
Kristy and I both ordered the vegan version of the avocado benedict; although, Kristy got hers gluten-free.
The avocado benedict is made on sourdough bread with a layer of avocado, green garbanzo beans, avocado feta, and a dollop of crumbled tofu.
The use of sourdough bread strayed from the typical English muffin, and it put me more to the mind of a loaded avocado toast.
It’s topped with a crisscross of hollandaise, and served with both hash browns and house greens.
I was expecting a saucier hollandaise, more like a gravy, but this one was squeezed on, which was a little disappointing. I prefer my benedict to feel cozier. It wasn’t bad, but for $18, I wouldn’t hurry back to get it again.
Heirloom Juice Company
Heirloom Juice Company, a vegetarian juice bar in South Granville, offers smoothies and small bites for takeaway. They have a couple of stools at the front window, if you prefer to stay in and eat.
Kristy and I visited a couple of times.
The first time, I got a vegan sunrise bagel, which was topped with avocado, tomato, and red onion. Plus, a dash of salt and pepper.
It was pretty straightforward, but with tomatoes being in season, the tomato did just fine at center stage.
On our second visit, I got a half order of avocado toast. It was lightly seasoned with avocado, lemon, salt, and dukkah.
Kristy went for an acai bowl topped with granola, coconut, and fresh fruit.
On our last morning in Vancouver, we headed to Bandidas Taquería, for a filling breakfast. Knowing that I had a long travel day ahead, I wanted something that would stick with me through any travel hiccups that should occur along the way.
(Little did I know I’d have an unplanned 5-hour layover in Denver. Silver lining: It allowed me to update my Denver Airport vegan travel post. Check it out if you’re heading through DIA.)
Brunch is served at Bandidas from 9 am to 3 pm every day. They also offer a few breakfast options all day long.
Bandidas is a non-vegetarian restaurant. However, any breakfast can be prepared vegan by replacing eggs with butternut squash and tofu scramble, dairy-based cheese with Daiya, and vegan sour cream that’s made in house. Most items are gluten-free or can be prepared that way.
I ordered the Hick’s Benny, which is a Southwestern take on an eggs benedict.
It’s served on cornbread muffin tops instead of English muffins. It’s then topped with their butternut squash and tofu scramble, and a choice of ranchero sauce or salsa verde. (I went with both, but next time I’d get the salsa verde alone.)
It comes with guacamole, pinto beans, and a rosemary-heavy potato hash. I added veggie sausage to the dish, but that was entirely unnecessary. There was plenty of food as it was, and the sausage was a little lacking.
Kristy ordered the French toast, made with gluten-free bread, and served with house-made apple compote and maple syrup. She was happy that the compote wasn’t overly sweet.
General Vancouver travel tips:
In high tourist season, book lodging early. Places start filling up, and prices creep higher.
A passport is necessary for U.S. citizens to visit Canada. Make sure yours is up to date, and bring it along.
I was a little worried about what kind of foods would be allowed going through customs in and out of Canada. But for regular light snacks and treats, I didn’t have any problems crossing either way.
Things are largely automated at customs. Customs declaration forms are filled out at computerized kiosks, as opposed to with paper and pen while you’re on the plane.
Also, you go through customs for your return to the United States in Vancouver. Once you’ve gone through customs in Canada, you are officially in the U.S. That makes it easy once you reach a connecting flight in the U.S. that you don’t have to go through customs there before continuing on for the rest of your trip.
For that reason, plan to get to the airport at least 2 hours ahead of your departure.
If you’re coming from the United States, you will have to turn your cell phone to roaming while in Canada for it to work.
Some major cell phone carriers in the U.S. have Canada/Mexico specific phone plans. Luckily, mine did, and I was able to easily add it to my plan for the days I was there. It was just an additional $5/day, and I didn’t have to worry about crazy expensive charges for using my phone for data, texting, maps, etcetera.
Everyone says that the public transit is easy to use and inexpensive in Vancouver. However, Kristy and I mostly used our feet. The city is pretty walkable, and when it was outside of a walkable distance, we used taxis. (They don’t have Lyft or Uber currently; although, they will sometime in 2019.) Definitely bring some comfortable walking shoes!
Because of the smoke in the area, we didn’t do anything mountain-specific on our trip. (We knew there wouldn’t be much in the way of views.) However, if the skies align on your trip, Grouse Mountain sounds well worth a visit. And if you’re not height-averse, the Capilano suspension bridge gets high marks.
If you’re looking for a guidebook to read on the plane or carry in your bag, Lonely Planet Vancouver was very helpful.
Thanks to Kristy Turner for the pictures of me at Granville Island, the Seawall, and Hadden Park!