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Our friends at Vancouver Magazine show us around the city's historic district.
In the first edition of our five-part collaboration with Vancouver Magazine, we get the inside scoop on Vancouver’s oldest district.Now a shopping and dining mecca, Gastown is home to high-design shops (a must-visit for lovers of furniture and clothing alike) plus some of the city’s best eateries. Weathered brick, cobblestone, and century-old cedar are everywhere—as are the young video game designers whose studios are tucked throughout.
The superb menu at Wildebeest (120 W. Hastings St., 604-687-6880) may well constitute the most exciting dining experience in the city: how about roasted bone marrow with almond butter and tomato jam, finished with a sherry “luge” poured down the scraped-clean bone?Lee Cooper and Paul Grunberg have a winner with L’Abattoir (217 Carrall St., 604-568-1701), an elegant, French-backboned, but entirely unfussy gem that plays host to both the neighbourhood hipsters and the city’s big-money players. Cooper’s menu reads simply, which adds a wow factor to every plate. (Local, seasonal ingredients are given ingenious treatment, like roasted scallops with lemon marmalade.) Seats at the bar are highly prized.An ever-rotating menu of inspired Italian fare is on offer at Notturno (280 Carrall St., 604-720-3145). Share plates are the focus: sous-vide local octopus with fennel salad; tangy pork and veal polpette balanced with pecorino cheese; or the famed Long Board, a daily assortment of terrines, pâtés, and seafood. Cocktails are playful but brilliantly layered.Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House (562 Beatty St., 604-559-0611) is as cool as it sounds — nestled inside a converted warehouse, with long walls of exposed brick, taps and whisky bottles stretch as far as the eye can see. Tender smoked meats (brisket, chicken, duck) and delicious sides and starters (vegan options, too) make it the perfect drop-in at any time of the day.Tacos have never been trendier in Vancouver, and Tacofino (15 W. Cordova St., 604-899-7907) has more than a little to do with it. The entrance is through Blood Alley, an historic bit of Gastown that sounds much scarier than it is. Brave it, because the burrito and taco rosters offer up mouth-watering combinations like chicken karaage with black chili mayo, and chorizo with arugula and pickled onion.Find coffee’s perfect mate at the city’s favourite donuterie, Cartems (534 W. Pender St., 778-708-0996). Expect lineups for these crazy-good dunkers ($3 each; $30 per dozen): Maker’s Mark bourbon glaze and bacon shavings, anyone?SHOPThe massive Inform Interiors (50 Water St., 604-682-3868) is a three-level, 30,000-square-foot monument to the world’s most unique and covetable contemporary home furnishings. Not in the market for a B&B Italia sectional? Then peruse the city’s best-curated inventory of architecture and design books and magazines.Oak + Fort (355 Water St., 604-566-9199) is a surprisingly affordable, pared-down space filled with clean lines and soft, wearable fabrics. A collaboration between local and Korean designers (who oversee production in Korea), the shop also displays gorgeous, minimalist accessories, many designed in-house.Design-forward, well-heeled men make Roden Gray (8 Water St., 604-689-7302) a kind of ritual. They come for Moncler jackets and Jil Sander cardigans (and those mandatory local-born Herschel backpacks).Say it with us: “es-pass day.” Once you nail the name, the French décor collections at Espace D. (1108 Richards St., 604-662-3008) no longer intimidate. Minimalist yet playful home and office accessories complement cutting-edge furniture, textiles, and artwork. Parisian soaps add just enough je ne sais quoi.Denim specialist Dutil (303 W. Cordova St., 604-688-8892) was at the forefront of Gastown’s fashion revolution. (It opened in 2006.) Seemingly every available surface is covered with the wares of premium brands like APC, Rag & Bone, and its own house label.Around the corner is swish Neighbour (125–12 Water St., 604-558-2555), which stocks masculine labels like Our Legacy from Sweden and Mismo from Denmark, as well as an in-house line of rugby crewneck sweatshirts made by Portland’s Columbiaknit. Next-door Neighbour Woman (45 Powell St.) addresses the fairer sex.Hill’s Native Art (165 Water St., 604-685-4249) has the finest range of aboriginal totems, masks, and carvings in the city. Inspiring by any standard.The flagship John Fluevog Shoes (65 Water St., 604-688-6228) is as quirky and bright as its namesake designer. A glass ceiling arching between the exposed brick walls of the two buildings on either side makes the space feel like an outdoor art gallery, while the eclectic footwear ensures everyone will find an ultra-fashionable fit.Photos: David Strongman except header, afternoon beer (Gastown Business Improvement Society); Woodwards (Bob Matheson)For more Vancouver neighbourhood guides, check out vanmag.com