West 4th Avenue Food Crawl

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This is a guest blog post written by Ben Schach (@benschach) and was originally published on his Matters of Taste blog last week.

Inspired by Vancouver Magazine’s latest neighbourhood “must-try” food crawls, Eat the City 2011, here are my crib notes for the best along West 4th avenue in Kitsilano.

La Querica / La Ghianda
Some of the finest Italian cooking in the city happens at the corner of W 4th and Alma in these shoebox sized eateries. La Quercia (3689 West 4th Ave) is the original, dinner focused restaurant that brought Adam Pegg and Lucais Syme’s take on Italian to West Kits. An ingredient-driven menu changes daily but classics like Vitello Tonnato, risotto for 2, and dishes with sweetbreads are frequent standouts. Alla famiglia dining, seven or nine course tasting menus shared by the table, is a steal and ensures variety and value that is hard to match. It’s sister location, La Ghianda (2083 Alma St.), focuses on simple lunches and take-away dinners in addition to a selection of well-sourced pantry ingredients. House-made ciabatta is outstanding on it’s own or better yet as the base for sandwiches of mortadella and salsa rosa or veal with tuna mayo (Vitello Tonato re-invented). Don’t miss out on dessert – the traditional carrot cake is the real deal. Dinners rotate daily at La Ghianda and are served from 5 p.m. until they close at 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Aphrodite’s Cafe and Pie Shop (3598 West 4th Avenue)
Proffering some of the city’s best pies, this homey, eclectic, and organic restaurant also features brunch, lunch, and dinner offerings that should not be missed. All the classic egg dishes are done justice, especially when saddled with sides of Oyama sausage and well-seasoned home fries. Bennys are popular – the smoked salmon and avocado is a can’t miss. Artisan bacon, Avalon cheddar, oven roasted roma tomatoes, aioli, and arugula are sandwiched between their thick-cut house bread in one of Vancouver’s best versions of a BLT. A solid selection of salads, sandwiches, and pizzas is buttressed by an ever changing fresh sheet for lunch and dinner. Save room for dessert with pies (vegan & gluten-free available) better than your mom makes. Deep-dished and stuffed with organic fruit, they are properly enjoyed with two scoops of Mario’s vanilla bean gelato. Raspberry-rhubarb is arguably the most popular but don’t dismiss their over-the-top cream pies.

The Naam (2724 West 4th Avenue)
Line-ups out the door are a common sight at this vegetarian haven. The wait, due in part to the laid back service, is worth it to get your fill on wholesome and honest meatless cuisine. Salads, as to be expected, are outstandingly fresh and their Dragon Bowls are unique combinations of starch, veggies, and cheese that will more than satisfy any carnivore.  Daily specials include a Curry Dinner that often pleases and they take care to offer solid sides like sesame fries with miso gravy and nachos that are perfect late night snacks (they are open 24 hours). Apple crumble, on the menu since the restaurant opened more than 30 years ago, is a delight.

49th Parallel (2152 W 4th Avenue)
Coffee is never more than a block away in this city, but there may be no better cafe than this sleek and narrow temple of caffeine. What sets 49th apart from the rest of the pack? Perhaps it’s the perfectly roasted beans on their constantly evolving menu for both in-cafe consumption as well as at home use. Perhaps it’s the amazing people – from the affable Jones’ brothers who run the show to the city’s best cast of baristas. Or maybe it’s the spot on espresso-based libations, offering up a blend of comfort and jolt of energy that’s addictive. Serve the city’s finest beans, prepared at the highest level and you’ve got a winning formula. Add a selection of pastries from Thomas Haas to complete the package and it’s clear why this spot reigns supreme.

Maenam (1938 West 4th Avenue)
Chef-proprietor Angus An takes Thai food to another level at this stylish and bright room in restaurant row on W. 4th. An trained at Nahm, the world’s only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in London, and adds modern technique and local ingredients to classic Thai preparations. His visits to Thailand, made at least once a year, inspire the seasonal menu. Salads are constructed with the bright flavours of fresh herbs and dressings that balance salty, spicy, sweet and savoury. Stir-frys range from Pad Thai – made with a tamarind sauce that helps you forget ketchup has ever been associated with this dish – to spicy halibut cheeks with green peppercorns. Curries are rich and complex with the peanut laced panaeng a belly warming bowl that is sure to satisfy. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the bounty of the menu is through the chef’s tasting menu, a five course dinner offering that is shared family style. Desserts are no slouch either and the pot de creme shows off An’s classical french training. A cup of ultra smooth chocolate sprinkled with salt is served with the most addictive tamarind semifreddo; an indulgent and seriously satisfying way to end a meal.

Honourable mentions
Whole Foods (2285 West 4th Avenue): To many this outpost of the organic grocer will forever be known as Capers – the independent franchise that originally occupied this space. Solid selection of ready-made food, sandwiches, and salads are perfect for an impromptu picnic at the beach. High-end selection of groceries for everyday needs.

Refuel (1944 W 4th Ave): A modern, nose-to-tail butchery inspired neighbourhood spot satisfies with rich and hearty takes on classic comfort food. Special events, such as their pig feasts or spot prawn boils, are loads of fun. Grab a seat at the bar to watch all the action in the open kitchen.

Bistrot Bistro (1961 West 4th Avenue): Classic french cuisine served in a laid-back, family run location. Buttery mashed potatoes and chocolate mousse (served tableside from the daily batch) are suitably addictive. Great prix fixe value menu.

Romer’s Burger Bar (1873 West 4th Avenue): An independent entry into the casual burger scene, Romer’s holds its own thanks to their commitment to all-natural (and sometimes local) meats. Brioche buns sandwich the 14 burger options.

Italian Kitchen Trattoria (1850 West 4th Avenue): Glitzy, loud and popular Italian restaurant from the Glowbal Group impresses with simple, honest cooking. Kobe meatballs are legendary and one of the heartier pasta dishes in the city.

Last modified: April 11, 2011

8 Responses to " West 4th Avenue Food Crawl "

  1. Mary says:

    La Ghianda was all shuttered up when I passed by last week.

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Mary,

    I know La Ghinada have the blinds to keep the sun out when closed – makes it look shuttered perhaps. Also it’s closed Mondays in addition to not opening until 11. But rest assured, it’s open and it’s delicious.

  3. Ben says:

    Hi Mary,

    I know La Ghianda have the blinds to keep the sun out when closed – makes it look shuttered perhaps. Also it’s closed Mondays in addition to not opening until 11. But rest assured, it’s open and it’s delicious.

  4. Randy says:

    Great list – especially with La Quercia and La Ghianda at the top! Be warned that they are both crowded (allow 2-4 weeks to make a reservation at LaQ and expect a crowd and table-sharing any time at LaG).
    Bibo (4th between Burrard and Cypress) is a welcome addition to Kits for real, Neapolitan style pizzas. And Momento (4th @ MacDonald) another option for excellent coffee.

  5. Bill Barilko says:

    The Naam?

    Well there goes any credibility the blogger ever had.

    Capers is known as Capers because that’s what the store sign says and that’s also the name on top of the receipt I just pulled from my pocket.

    Capers was was part of a chain that Whole Foods bought-does this blogger have google-where did he do his research?

    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/capers/

  6. Stinky says:

    Bill, Bill, Bill… it’s “Capers Whole Foods Market” according to the link that you provided. You can call it “Capers” if you want but the author then has a license to call it “Whole Foods.” Whatever. It’s now part and parcel of the big, controversial American chain regardless, like so very many other formerly independent organic grocers. I, for one, do not welcome our new single-payer-healthcare-hating overlord.

    The article is a good, accurate survey of the West Kits culinary scene. Thanks!

  7. Bill Barilko says:

    “The article is a good, accurate survey of the West Kits culinary scene”

    Stinky-you need to get out of the double wide more often-and where is ‘West Kits’ anyway?

    1800, 1900 W 4TH as listed?

  8. Ben says:

    Bill – thanks for the contribution to the discussion. I was reminiscing about the days when ‘Capers’ was an independent company with four locations. WF was smart in keeping ‘Capers’ in the name of the stores they took over but as you’ve been inside ‘Capers’ and ‘Whole Foods’, it’s clear they are now one in the same. Luckily some of the classic ‘Capers’ creations, such as the power cookie, have survived.

    And West Kits is a made up location but one that adds some geography to our own little corner of the city.

    Glad you enjoyed the piece.