Vancouver Neighbourhood Guide: West End
Vancouver Magazine show us around Pride’s biggest stomping ground.
In the second edition of our five-part collaboration with Vancouver Magazine, we get the inside scoop on what the West End has to offer.
Arguably the most beautiful corner of Vancouver—equal parts beach town, downtown, and forest—the West End never fails to deliver diversity. The geographic mix attracts students, seniors, and most newcomers. It’s also the historic home to the city’s gay community. Only an eclectic hodgepodge of neighbourhood restaurants and green spaces could cater to the offbeat demo.
Shouty servers and a playful menu never overshadow the beautiful ingredients and disciplined technique on the plate at Kingyo (871 Denman St., 604-608-1677), a West End room that sets the standard for Japanese tapas with friendly service, sake-fuelled conviviality, and a diverse menu of delicious small plates. The sleek space, all lacquered wood and stone walls, conjures romantic images of feudal Japan. Dishes range from conventional (deep-fried tiger prawns dipped in spicy chili mayo) to bizarro (takoyaki-style seafood pâté with blue cheese, cabbage, red ginger, okonomi sauce and bonito flakes).
Neighbourhood gem Nook (781 Denman St., 604-568-4554) offers up simple Italian fare in the form of fresh pastas (campagnella with broccolini, pine nuts and Calabrian chilies) and pizzas (prosciutto with arugula and roasted garlic). A small but fine wine selection rounds out the experience.
Despite the mod interior, Milano (849 Denman St., 604-681-1500) is favoured by all-day coffee addicts who nurse espressos made from the 12-bean house blend roasted by owner and caffeine visionary Brian Turko. Summer brings an influx of newbies in search of Milano’s rare gelato flavours, like wildflower.
British Columbia’s wine scene is growing. Find that wine, and suggestions from an overwhelming number more, at stalwart Marquis Wine Cellars (1034 Davie St., 604-684-0445). Owner John Clerides is an outspoken, iconoclast expert.
Little Sister’s (1238 Davie St., 604-669-1753) has become an international legend for its decades-long struggles against censorship. Stop in to look for LGBTQ books, or focus on a prodigious and campy collection of buttons, T-shirts, and bumper stickers.
Stanley Park is a lush 1,000-acre oasis perched on a peninsula at the northwestern edge of downtown Vancouver. It would take days to view all the wonders, which include soaring old-growth fir trees, the vibrant First Nations totem-pole display at Brockton Point, nesting great blue herons and Canada’s largest aquarium.
Head to Denman Street at Davie for the stretch of sand called English Bay. Each summer it becomes a crowded three-ring circus, complete with show-off rollerbladers, smooching couples and noisy buskers. An ideal place to people-watch with an ice cream cone.
Sunset Beach provides a quiet picnic haven with more sandy real estate than English Bay, which is perpetually overwhelmed with sprawling sunbathers. Bike the scenic stretch of seawall on a weekday rather than the weekend, when you can take in the view instead of focusing on dodging clear-sky-dazed pedestrians toting bulky picnic hampers.
The Labyrinth at the 100-year-old St. Paul’s Anglican Church (1130 Jervis St., 604-685-6832. Stpaulsanglican.bc.ca) is a replica of the maze laid in the stone floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France. Parishioners and visitors use the winding, circular path as a walking form of meditation and a peaceful way to escape the bustle.
Photos courtesy of West End BIA except rainbow crosswalk (David Strongman), Stanley Park (Madeleine Deaton)