The best local dishes from Vancouver highlight the city’s ethnically diverse population. The bustling seaport sits in the shadow of Mount Seymour and the Coast Mountains, the icy Pacific Ocean sloshing in on one side, snow-capped peaks rising to the other.

    The town is a bit of a foodie mecca in Canada. Just check out this guide to famous foods everyone should sample when they swing up Vancouver way. It's gotten salty oysters farmed from the ocean, creative Mexican-Canadian street food, and plenty of Japanese fusion cooking in between.


    B.C. roll

    Sushi with PNW salmon

    The B.C. roll is a taste of the Japanese-Canadian fusion food that's particularly popular in British Colombia. It's served up at many of Vancouver's top sushi restaurants, which you can find dotting the blocks of so-called Little Ginza in the Japantown district, just east of Downtown.

    The dish is essentially a classic uramaki roll – a type of sushi that has rice on the outside with nori and fish in the middle. But there's a twist because this one's British Columbian influence comes from the use of the famous regional salmon. It's thought the roll was invented by celeb chef Hidekazu Tojo at his acclaimed Vancouver sushi kitchen, Tojo's.



    Japanese food, only in a hotdog bun

    The Japadog is a collision of two of the world's most totemic cuisines – North American and Japanese. The clue's in the name…it's a combo of "hotdog" and "Japan". A uniquely Vancouverite treat, you can get your fix of the now-iconic brand at any one of the 12 central-city locations.

    The menu is a fantastic melting pot of East Asian flavors all artfully wedged into a hotdog bun. You've gotten the terimayo, a mix of teriyaki and mayonnaise in seaweed. There's the negimiso, which puts salty miso with turkey sausage. And there's the ume, which has a plum sauce and a sweet-spicy aftertaste.


    Candied salmon

    Canadian salmon but with a tangy twist

    Candied salmon harnesses the rich flavors of British Colombia's world-beating fish and adds in something a little unique. The end result is a big chunk of orangey-red seafood with a pungent bout of smokiness, sweetness, and salt.

    It's made by combining Canada's trademark maple syrup with plenty of seasoning and herbs. That's rubbed over precisely cut fillets of salmon and then left to rest. Finally, the piece is smoked and smoked some more until it picks up a deep, rich woodiness. Try this one at the market stalls in Downtown Vancouver and around Stanley Park.



    Canadian comfort food at its most comforting

    Poutine is actually the regional dish of Quebec over in eastern Canada. However, there are still plenty of top places to sample it in Vancouver – just drop into La Belle Patate on Davie Street, a Quebecois tavern that churns out Francophone comfort food until midnight.

    So, what's poutine? Expect a pile of sizzled French fries topped with mounds of cheese curd. That's all capped off by a dousing of thick and flavoursome gravy and, sometimes, shredded cheddar. This hearty dish is a must-try in these parts and has even been called Canada's national dish.


    Dungeness crab

    Sweet and salty meat from the West Coast

    Dungeness crab might be named for the port town of Dungeness over the border in the USA, but it's still one of the most prized seafood bounties of the Vancouver coastline. It's fished all up and down the region and is typically found living on grassy seabeds in shallower parts of the Pacific.

    It's considered a delicacy of British Columbia, mainly because just a quarter of the weight of any caught crab is edible meat. Said meat has a well-balanced sweetness and saltiness. It's sometimes cooked whole but can also be cut in half and then boiled. You can also purchase raw Dungeness crabs to cook for yourself at the Granville Island Public Market.


    West Coast oysters

    The bounty of the Pacific Ocean

    West Coast oysters are famously farmed in the Deep Bay area of Vancouver Island, just across the Strait of Georgia from the city itself. That means eateries in Downtown Vancouver get some of the freshest and sought-after shellfish. So, it's hardly a surprise that they're a celebrated must-try.

    Vancouver seafood buffs love to wax lyrical about the superior taste of the West Coast product. Rumor has it that these Pacific oysters are juicier and sweeter than their Atlantic cousins. They're supposed to be devoured in one mouthful with just a squeeze of lemon. Add some champagne on the side if you really want to get in the mood.


    Spot prawns

    You can enjoy them in various ways

    Spot prawns are the biggest of all the prawn species that are native to the western side of Canada. That makes them highly sought after, because they contain loads of edible flesh per serving. What's more, Vancouver is right there in the middle of the spot fishing grounds, which stretches from Santa Barbara in California all the way to the icy wilds of Alaska.

    There's no set way to eat these. Some will simply sizzle them up with a bit of chili and butter. Others will steam them and drop them into paellas or stir-fries. The locals’ favorite places to sample them in Vancouver is in the sushi joints of Little Tokyo, where spot prawns are often added to sashimi platters with zingy wasabi and pickled ginger.



    A Vancouver snack with a touch of spice

    Tacofino started life as a simple roadside food stall in the surfing mecca of Tofino, out on the wind-lashed, wave-splattered beaches of western Vancouver Island. These days, there's a whole chain of the brand, ranging from walk-in bars in Gastown to food trucks that pop up in Rocky Point Park.

    The menu is all about bringing local BC ingredients to bear on Mexicana cuisine. Look forward to sampling shredded chicken tacos with avocado and farm-grown radish salad. Get ready for fish tacos packed with Pacific Ocean cod and chipotle mayo. 


    Nanaimo bar

    The nation's dessert of choice

    The Nanaimo bar has been crowned Canada's favorite confection in the past. Despite being claimed by Maryland in the USA and other locations in the UK, Vancouverites will tell you it's 100% their own. That's why it bears the same name as the small port town of Nanaimo, which sits just opposite the city on Vancouver Island.

    The Nanaimo bar is one for sweet-toothed diners. Built in a trio of tasty layers, it starts with a crispy wafer at the base, which then gives way to a nut crumb of almonds and pecans and coconut, and finally tops out with a gooey chocolate ganache.



    A salty shot to remember

    Picklebacks are something to have on the radar when you hit the bars of Gastown and central Vancouver. It's thought that they were actually invented somewhere in Eastern Europe, and have found their way onto Canada's drinking scene by way of Scotland and Ireland.

    The idea? A combo of strong whiskey followed by a hit of salty pickle brine or even a bite of a whole pickle itself. Fans say that the burn of the booze is tempered by the herby liquid used to preserve the baby cucumbers. We'll let you be the judge of whether that's true.

    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

    Start planning your trip

    Back to top