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The restaurants we list are the cream of the crop in each price category.
In Vancouver, where several thousand eateries represent almost every cuisine on the planet, deciding what to eat is as important as deciding what to see and do. Vancouverites are a health-conscious lot, so light, organic, and vegetarian meals are easy to find, and every restaurant and even most of the pubs in the province ban smoking indoors and out. Good coffee is everywhere—downtown you'll never have to walk more than half a block for a cup of high-test cappuccino. You won't find much street food in town (only hot dog vendors are permitted on city streets), but you can grab takeout and picnic at any city beach or park.
In Victoria and on Vancouver Island, many chefs work with local organic farmers to create a distinctive regional cuisine; Whistler has some of the most highly regarded, and priciest, restaurants in the province. Elsewhere, excellent food is available even in the most out-of-the-way places, as chefs passionate about their ingredients locate close to the source and let their diners come to them. Neighborhood pubs, both in and outside cities, are your best bet for a casual meal. Many have a separate restaurant section where you can take kids.
Although the Canadian dollar is no longer the steal it once was, dining in British Columbia is still one of North America's great bargains. To be sure, high-end entrées, especially where seafood is involved, can top C$35, but C$20 to C$25 is more the norm. Bargains abound: the densest cluster of cheap eats in Vancouver is along Denman Street in the West End. Another budget option is to check out the lunch specials at any of the small Asian restaurants lining Vancouver's streets and shopping malls. They serve healthy hot meals for about the same cost as a take-out burger and fries. But even though food is a deal in B.C., alcohol is pricey. A bottle of wine can easily double your bill.
Meals and Mealtimes
Despite dwindling stocks, wild Pacific salmon—fresh, smoked, dried, candied, barbecued, or grilled on an alder wood plank in the First Nations fashion—remains British Columbia's signature dish. Other local delicacies served at B.C.'s upmarket restaurants include Fanny Bay or Long Beach oysters and Salt Spring Island lamb. Another homegrown treat is the Nanaimo Bar. Once a Christmas bake-sale standard, this chocolate-and-icing concoction has made its way to trendy city cafés.
Most upscale restaurants in Vancouver, Victoria, and Whistler observe standard North American mealtimes (5:30 to 9 or so for dinner, roughly noon to 2 if open for lunch); though some offer a lighter tapas-style menu (or, in Victoria, afternoon tea) in the afternoon. Casual places and pubs typically serve food all afternoon and into the evening. Restaurants that do stay open late (meaning midnight or 1 am) usually morph into bars after about 9 pm, but the kitchen stays open. In Vancouver, the West End and Kitsilano have the most late-night choices; pubs are your best bet if you're eating late in Victoria.
Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed in this guide are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Credit cards are widely accepted, but a few smaller restaurants accept only cash. Discover Cards are little known in Canada, and many restaurants outside of Vancouver do not accept American Express. Our restaurant reviews indicate what credit cards are accepted (or not) at each establishment.
Reservations and Dress
Regardless of where you are, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can. In some places, it's expected. We only mention them specifically when reservations are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. For popular restaurants, book as far ahead as you can (often 30 days), and reconfirm as soon as you arrive. (Large parties should always call ahead to check the reservations policy.) We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie. In British Columbia, smart casual dress is acceptable everywhere.
At the hottest restaurants in Vancouver, Victoria, and Whistler, you need to make reservations at least a few days in advance, especially if you want to dine between 7 and 9, or on a Friday or Saturday night. On weeknights or outside of the peak tourist season, you can usually secure a table by calling the same day. Just showing up can work, too, though there's no guarantee you'll get a table.
If you want to dine, but not sleep, at one of B.C.'s better-known country inns, such as the Sooke Harbour House, the Aerie, or the Wickaninnish Inn, make your reservation as far ahead as possible. Guests staying at these inns are given first choice for dining reservations, which means spaces for nonguests are limited. Remember also to call the restaurant should you need to cancel your reservation—it's only courteous.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
Though little known and virtually unobtainable outside the province, British Columbia wines have beaten many more established regions in international competitions. A tasting tour of B.C.'s Okanagan wine region is a scenic way to experience some of these vintages. British Columbians are also choosy about their beer, brewing and drinking (per capita) more microbrewed ales and lagers than anyone else in the country. The liquor stores sell a daunting selection of oddly named brews, but many cottage breweries produce only enough for their local pubs, so it's always worth asking what's on draft.
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