November weather is erratic, but one thing we can count on this month is a healthy dose of colourful art via the 23rd Annual Eastside Culture Crawl (November 14-17). This year there are over 400 artists, designers and all sorts of makers participating in the neighbourhood’s biggest public art event, scattered across 68 venues from Main Street to Victoria Drive. If you’re going to make the most of it, you’ll need to keep your energy up, so we mapped a bunch of spots to pair with your Crawl itinerary…
VV TAPAS LOUNGE
After you’ve finished a day of ‘Crawl-ing’, come to a full stop at Strathcona’s slick new wine bar for a glass of wine and charcuterie board. The bright 45-seat VV Tapas Lounge is located in the recently completed Strathcona Village condo complex. The wine list has over two dozen options by the glass and the boards are customizable (with vegan cheese options).
If you’re moving East-to-West this weekend, fuel up with an early-to-midday meal at the Middle East-inspired Aleph Eatery. Pancakes with sweet rose syrup or savoury zaatar and herbs, or a Medi Benny on saj, along with some cardamom-infused Arabic coffee will get you good and zippy!
BISTRO WAGON ROUGE
There’s nothing like tucking into some classic French comfort food – Beef Bourguignon, Onion Soup, Moules, etc. – to sate a healthy post-weekend Crawl appetite. Fortunately, one of the city’s most reliable restaurants, Bistro Wagon Rouge, is located on the eastern ESCC perimeter. Tip: Whatever you do, make sure that someone at your table orders up some frites!
If all of your art-adventuring has inspired some unconventional eats, then head to Finfolk, which is encircled by no less than a dozen Culture stops. Pizza crust provides the canvas for toppings like house smoked oysters, halloumi and lingonberry caramelized onions and a solid rotation of BC taps reminds you you’re in Yeast Van territory.
After you’ve hit up the easternmost Culture Crawl stops, push on a bit further (you can do it!) for dinner at neighbourhood spot Dachi, located on East Hastings at Nanaimo. Some sake and cheddar buttermilk biscuits are a delicious way to start turning up your inner thermostat.
Warming up with some steamy soup and dumplings along with a glass of wine at this Commercial Drive spot is a no-brainer. The restaurant’s location and hours (slightly north of Graveley; every day during the Crawl from 6pm until late) makes it the perfect place to fill up before your Thursday or Friday art trek and/or wind down over the weekend. Pro tip: If you want something especially tasty and memorable try the “Staff Meal” chalkboard special. There’s no hidden agenda here; just simple hunger satisfaction.
While you’re Crawl-ing this weekend, take a lunch break at Strathcona’s airy new The Garden cafe to dig into one of their nourishing vegetarian grain bowls, which are loaded with goodness to keep you energized – like kale, mushrooms, all assortments of pickled things, veggies and seeds. Then feel extra good about grabbing one of their city-famous vegan salted chocolate chip cookies for the road.
Hand yourself over to the spirits experts when you’re deciding where to spend your obligatory mid-Crawl intermission or post-Crawl cocktail session. Resurrection Spirits’ lounge hours are perfectly aligned for your drink fix if you’re Crawl-ing Thursday through Saturday (they’re closed on Sunday, but otherwise open from 6pm to midnight). Good art and good booze go hand-in-hand after all, especially if you’re looking to strike up some unfiltered conversation about what your eyeballs have just absorbed.
THE PIE SHOPPE
Allow yourself to get sidetracked by the delicious smell of freshly baked pies wafting from Powell Street’s The Pie Shoppe. We’re only human, after all! Besides, a warm slice of seasonal pie or one of their special “gems”, along with a hot coffee, is just the thing to get you reenergized mid-Crawl, before making your way west from Victoria.
THE DOWNLOW CHICKEN SHACK
If you’ve done the Crawl proper, then you’ve covered a lot of ground. You deserve a treat! May we suggest adding the Downlow Chicken Shack to your itinerary for one of their hot chicken sandwiches and fries? You don’t even need to break your stride if you order in advance and grab ’em to go. Bonus: the Shack is open on Sunday from 11am until 4:30pm, so it’s also a great spot to sop up your weekend libations with some greasy goodness before heading back out on your final Crawl lap.
PEPINO’S SPAGHETTI HOUSE
The newest restaurant from the Savio Volpe team might not be easy to get into (it’s pretty damn popular), but it’s worth checking out just the same if you’re down with classic Italian-American fare like spaghetti with meatballs, calamari fritti and tiramisu.
Located in the heart of the Crawl zone, Havana restaurant is the perfect place to slip into for a transportive tropical margarita and a proper Cubano sandwich.
HUNNYBEE BRUNCHEONETTE / SOAP
You can have your Crawl and brunch, too! Hit up Hunnybee Bruncheonette, located super conveniently on the Union Street bike path at the corner of Gore, to start your Crawl right with some yummy shakshuka and ricotta pancakes. Then circle back after you’re all Crawl-ed out when the cafe is transformed into the hip night spot, Soap.
The first of its kind in Canada, Callister is a brewery that contracts its facilities out to up-and-coming brewers, which means that the beer drinker can expect to find a good range of styles, from crowd-pleasers to experimental brews. Currently taking over two of the twelve rotating taps, which include three cask engines, is Altitude Beer Co. They also serve up real old fashioned house brand sodas for the kids and non-imbibers. Bonus: you can always expect an assortment of impressive local art adorning the small space’s walls. In fact, Callister is home to the Goldmoss Satellite gallery, so you can check one off your Culture Crawl list while you sip!
STRANGE FELLOWS BREWING
Strange Fellows is no stranger to the arts. Christine Moulson’s signature illustrations adorn everything from growlers to the washroom doors, and the tasting room’s adjacent Charles Clark Gallery hosts monthly art shows. Although the space isn’t included in the Culture Crawl, it’s still a natural pit-stop on your route to enjoy a glass of my go-to brew, the Talisman West Coast Pale Ale, or any of their other solid selection of beers on tap.
Whether you’re done for the night or in the midst of it, this Mexican spot on The Drive fits the bill on account of their variety of tacos, share plates and deep shelves of tequila and mezcal. We’re partial to the queso fundido with chorizo and a classic, summery margarita.
Yolks’ bright Campos Studios designed space, within the spiffy Boheme building, is easily within the Crawl’s boundaries. Get in there and warm up with hot coffee and some fried chicken and waffles! Bonus: take advantage of their beer and cocktail list, if a pint of suds, a Bloody Mary/Caesar (they have four!) or “Breakfast Sangria” sounds up your alley.
This hugely reliable neighbourhood spot is always on our Crawl radar. Sneak in for a Negroni, some crispy ceci and a delicious plate of tagliatelle with pork ragu and pecorino.
While you’re touring the Strathcona neighbourhood, take some time to slow down (it’s a Crawl, after all!) and warm up with a coffee and lunch fix at Finch’s Market. Weather-permitting, their baguette sandwiches are the perfect parcel to take around the corner to Maclean Park for an impromptu autumnal picnic.
JUKE FRIED CHICKEN
After a Thursday or Friday evening of gallery and studio hopping, Juke is the perfect landing spot to wind down with some comfort food and a drink. The Chinatown establishment is located at the westernmost point of the Crawl, so if your route started in East Van then you definitely need to reward yourself by filling up on some tasty fried chicken, good cocktails and killer tunes.
A neighbourhood institution that’s a bit off the beaten Crawl track – but next to the train tracks – the Alibi is also within easy walking distance to no less than six Culture Crawl stops. Its communal set-up, warm and woody interior and convivial atmosphere make it the perfect evening spot to converse about art over dinner and a paddle or pint(s) of stellar craft beer. Try to score table #11 if you can.
One of the most consistently excellent pan-Asian restaurants in Canada. Chef Steve Kuan and his kitchen crew are always up to something interesting, and the cocktails are the best on this stretch of Main Street. It sports the coolest communal table in town — a Scott & Scott designed suspended concrete beauty (if it’s packed then try for a seat at the bar).
STRATHCONA BEER COMPANY
Pouring plenty of quality beers in a large, modern, well-lit, Simcic & Uhrich-designed space dotted with booths and high-top communal tables, this brewery looks like a proper restaurant ever though it’s a counter-service operation. Bonus: they make ridiculously good pizza.
LUPPOLO BREWING CO.
Located within eyeshot of Parker St. Studios, this Italian-themed brewery just celebrated its third birthday at the beginning of the month, so if you haven’t been in for a pint yet this is a perfect occasion to toast to the milestone occasion.
Given it’s location near Main Street, The Union makes for a good place to either start or close your crawl. Warm up with their kimchi fries or some fried rice paired with one of their delicious and exotic cocktails.
If you’re looking for a bit of seasonal creativity on your dinner plate, The Mackenzie Room is the place to find it. Chef Sean Reeve’s ever-evolving chalkboard menu of deliciousness is a joy to explore in any season, but this time of year it gets hearty. Dig in! Bonus: excellent cocktails.
HASTINGS MILL BREWING COMPANY
The hearty burger, a plate of fries and a pint of Pat’s Classic Lager are all legend to those who live in the area. If there’s a game on, know that this is where die hard Canucks/Crawl fans will retreat for a period or two. There’s also a bank machine to replenish your Crawl funds. Bonus: Griswold Winter Ale & Scottish Ale might be available – ask nicely.
Slip in for a cheap and warming wontun soup at this no frills pan-Asian (mostly Thai/Vietnamese) cafe on The Drive. It’s piping hot, restorative, intensely flavoured, and merrily cheap at $5 a bowl.
Located in Railtown close to Oppenheimer Park, Dosanko serves a selection of home-style, Japanese comfort food — ideal for fill-ups between studio visits.
We’ve been huge fans of this small but extremely capable Thai restaurant since its launch. Scott & Scott designed, it’s a good looking spot to while away an hour between studio visits with some sour cured pork ribs, Pad Thai and local craft beer. (Take note, Kin Kao is closed on Sundays.)
The Famous Perogy Lunch Weekend is going down at the Strathcona Ukrainian Hall smack in the middle of the Eastside Culture Crawl territory (Pender and Hawks). Dig into generous helpings of homemade perogies, sliced sausage, cabbage rolls and bowls of borscht. Don’t be put off by the line-up at the door. It moves fast and you might make friends (perogy eaters are generally a jolly bunch). Also expect crafts, baked goods and all manner of trinkets. Details here.
Putting your chilled face over a steaming, wood-fired, certified Neapolitan pizza at this neighbourhood joint is one of the low-hanging fruit options during the Crawl, especially if you start or end yours near its easternmost boundary. Open a bottle of wine and breathe in the smells of proper dough and hardwood smoke as you reflect on what you saw over the course of your evening’s adventure.
Grab a sandwich and a drink here as you wander the streets of Strathcona looking for crows and yellow balloons (the two tell-tale signs of a Crawl studio). They have a take-out counter at the back of the shop with some quality snacks. We recommend the pastrami and the hot spot sandwiches, and if they have their potato and bacon soup going, pounce on that hot acton! If nothing else, Janet and Ramon will point you in the right direction.
Right in the middle of the Adanac bike route and ground zero in the most densely populated area on the Crawl map is The Union Market. Slip in for some traditional Portuguese chicken (Gloria always makes extra chicken on the Crawl weekend) or a not so traditional (but totally addictive) curry pocket. Enjoy the handful of outdoor tables under cover.
A mid-crawl cocktail is a grand idea. Make your way to the lovely tasting room at Odd Society Spirits on Powell Street for a Sour Owl or an Odd Aviation and calm your nerves after even the most crowded of studio visits. Odd Society is open 1-11pm from Thursday to Saturday, 1-7pm on Sunday and is located a stones throw from The ARC building – which is jam packed with Culture Crawl artists.
Fujiya is great for take-out sushi. It’s nothin’ fancy, just fast, healthy and cheap. Sometimes that’s all you need! You can even order your sushi online and pick it up.
HARVEST COMMUNITY FOODS
This little noodle cafe and grocery store is located one block east of Main Street, directly on the Union Street bike path, making it particularly convenient if that’s your method of Culture Crawl transportation. Harvest’s small menu makes the most of local produce and a bowl of noodles with some on-tap kombucha will nourish and warm you (on cool days when the door is closed the space gets especially steamy) so you’ll leave feeling revitalized for the continuation of your Crawl.
A hot cup of coffee can go a long way in making the Crawl a warmer, more enjoyable experience. The jolt of caffeine doesn’t hurt, either. Ideally located in the thick of it, Agro – which roasts their own beans – is our neighbourhood go-to.