Reviews of The Fun Bars of Vancouver
Yaletown, Downtowns Best Pubs and Lounges
Now, doesn't that look good. The beer, too!.
The gold medals are gone, but the party remains.
Downtown Vancouver, led by it's lively Yaletown area, is as gold as in a Canadian lager. And if you know where to go, you can use the many bars and pubs in downtown Vancouver as your own personal medal stand.
In many ways, Vancouver is reminiscent of a little London (certainly it's British heritage plays a large role in making is feel this way) with pubs tucked into spaces next to shops, hotels, businesses and bistros.
The Vancouver lifestyle is perfectly suited to the bars and pubs. People are largely casual here and they like to hang out with a few pints and friends. As a result, there are some really cool hangouts, a few of which mix in a strong singles scene that rivals that of the clubs.
There are fun times in Vancouver's bars.
Right after this photo was taken, a Corvette slammed into a truck. This is during the Molson Indy days in Vancouver.
Do expect to pay cover charges, even at the pubs and bars. This is $7-8 CDN on a normal weekend. The beer prices, range from $5.50-7.50.
Pubs of different character – and characters – are located throughout Vancouver's many neighborhoods as follows. The area of Yaletown is the most happening spot, at least until midnight or so when Granville takes the top spot on the medal stand.
There's also a fun little beach community called "Kits" that's featured here.
It's easy to have a good time in Vancouver's pubs and bars.
PubClub.com has a separate article on clubs and live music venues; click here for that story.
The casual but fun Cactus Cave features a dynamite DJ.
Yaletown, a rebuilt old warehouse district, is where Vancouver's young and trendy people live and play. This is one of Vancouver's defining small neighborhoods, presenting a distinct personality all its own. Residents in Yaletown like to dine on the small outdoor patios of the many restaurants and nearly every one of them has a dog.
The brick buildings house exclusive boutiques, small cafe-style restaurants such as the popular Milestones and the upscale Blue Water and a populated corner coffee shop, Blenz Coffee. Located on the east side of Vancouver between downtown and the Granville and Cambie street bridges, it is basically a two-block area of Richards and Hamilton Streets bordered by Drake and Helmcken.
Yaletown is primarily comprised of restaurants, many of which also create a buzzing bar scene. And as restaurants, they have no cover charges. What the do have is outstanding food served in a lively atmosphere.
A good vibe makes the Cactus Cafe a good place to be in Yaletown.
A PubClub favorite is Cactus Club Cafe. It's smallish bar area is dark and classy and the energy is friendly and positive. The food is good, the atmosphere intoxicating. Let's put it this way – the place just a good vibe. At night, a fun female DJ takes over the hostess stand and plays cool, hip music ideal for this setting (but this is not a dance club). During the Games, she will relocate outside and the patio will be rocking.
A similar setting in a much larger area is Earl's. A fairly upscale eatery, it has a bar section that starts to fill up around Happy Hour. At night, the place to be is the upstairs lounge, free of any cover charge. There's another Earl's on Burrard Street and it's happening, as well.
One of the social heartbeats of Yaletown is the Yaletown Brewing Company, a large microbrewery with good food, a pool room and a patio that overlooks Hamilton St. It is the neighborhood gathering spot, especially Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. To the right of the place is the restaurant, which is quite sedate when compared to the jumping bar to the left.
Clubbers finish the night across the street at Bar None, a comfortable club that resembles a living room (although on busy nights there are so many people it's hard to tell. It's brick-walled interior fits its Yaletown neighborhood. As a club/lounge is has a cover, $15 an up, depending on the night.
PubClub.com's Bartender party columnist loves going out in Vancouver.
The heart of Vancouver's pub life is downtown. This encompasses the primary shopping and hotel district of the city.
On Granville, home to Vancouver's young club scene, Doolan's Irish Pub (at Nelson) is the best place non-club bar. It's clean and so is the crowd. This highly popular weekend mingling spot where people sit in booths or lean up against the bar in big numbers. It also draws in the occasional crazy crew for a number of brews and DJ Paul plays good, fun "party music."
For an additional $4 cover (it's $8 to get into Doolan's on weekends) it includes The Cellar, a casual downstairs dance bar.
Ignore the fact the The Lennox Pub (Granville and Robson) is located beneath a Burger King. It's a clean, modern place that has the feel of a classic pub. A diverse menu makes it a popular lunch and dinner spot and its patio is perfect for watching the interesting activities of Granville Street. Past 10, the small patio is packed.
All up and down Granville Street are a number of small bars and restaurants, some of which actually become bars as people get ready to head to the clubs, or actually prefer these places to the clubs. For example, The Granville Room (957 Granville) has upscale fare in a bar setting and the Speakeasy (921 Granville) is another popular spot.
This will take the edge off at The Edge.
Want to cool, hip lounge in which to relax, have a good time yet not pay the typical downtown Vancouver cover charge? Then The Edge The Edge Social Grill and Lounge next to the Chateaux Granville is the call. It has couches, comfy seats, a cool and soothing DJ and a welcoming bar. It's not crazy and cranking like many other spots on Granville, but if a group wants a place to hang out and have conversations, then The Edge has the edge.
A fun diversion – especially for groups – is Commodore Lanes and Billiards. It's a small bowling alley (featuring a Canadian game called 5-pin) with a side area of several pool tables. The only bar is a little snack stand with two taps and a few other adult beverages in a convenient store-style cooler. Which, of course, its part of its charm.
Those looking for a warm, cozy pub have only to go as far as The Jolly Taxpayer (600 block of West Hastings). This British-style establishment is what a good pub is all about. It has an inviting entrance, is kind of dark, has leather chairs, a pool table, lots of wood and a bookcase (alas, the latter is fake).
The Jolly Taxpayer has "Old English Pub" written all over it, although the TVs give it bit of a welcome modern touch. It is very comfortable, the kind of place where one could walk in for a pint and stay for hours. Singles should note that Fridays are busy from 5-10.
Down the street, on Pender just near Granville, is a lively sports bar. In fact, it's Vancouver's Best Sports Bar because of the combination of the atmosphere and the games. Malone's is rustic, as all good sports bar should be, spots on many plasma TVs and people who are just out to drink and party and don't always care about what's on the tube. It's most crowded on Friday nights.
The Shark Club (Georgia and Beatty streets) is appropriately named, because it's full of land sharks as well as prey. Well, not really but it makes for good copy. It's really a kind of hang-out bar that plays club-type music weekend nights. Hockey fans like to stop in before and after Canucks games.
For a good game of darts, check out The Rose & Thorn.
Fo sports, especially on sunny days, is Mavrick's on the Waterfront (770 Pacific Blvd.) The build-your-own pasta bar is almost as popular as the beer. The place is absolutely bonkers in the afternoons following the Molson Indy on Labour Day weekend.
Looking for a good stroll? Robson Street's many restaurants, cafes and shops make it a popular early evening activity for the 20s- and 30s-crowd, especially between Burrard and Butte streets. Two main spots to stop at Catcus Cafe (younger crowd) and Milestone's.
Did we make a wrong turn and wind up in Amsterdam?
Each city seems to have an invisible force that attracts tourists like a magnet. In Vancouver it's Gastown. Maybe that's because it hugs Burrard Inlet, or because it's a short walk from Canada Place, or perhaps because it has a few of the standard tacky souvenir shops. It's also about the only place downtown where visitors should be careful of crime after dark.
Its cobblestone streets and miniature black lamppost-type fixtures make it seems as if one has made a wrong turn and wound up in Amsterdam. Certainly the coffeeshop-looking Cambie House Saloon on Cambie Street, located on the first floor of a youth hostel, adds to this perception. It's a collection of people one would easily find in, well, Amsterdam.
The Steamworks Brewing Company is a more conservative call for those who left the backpack at home. Its outdoor patio overlooking the water make it a hot lunch and afternoon drink spot.
Gastown has a couple of nightclubs – Shine and the Purple Onion – which are reviewed in our Clubs section.
The East Side/Main Street
The people in Vancouver love to cut loose in the bars.
Isolated from downtown, Main Street is a truly local area of Vancouver where few tourists ever have the pleasure of discovering.
It's known as The East Side and contains a pair of separate communities full of eclectic shops, bars and bistros. The crowd is classy yet casual and very local from the surrounding neighborhoods.
It starts just west of the Georgia Viaduct at The Brick House in the 700 block and continues to a place called Whip at 60th Ave. Here and in between is a real taste of the culture and diversity of Vancouver. The crowds here are home-based, and the businesses are small clothing shops and other family or individual-owned stores. The surrounding pubs reflect this identity.
The Brick House is a small, quaint pub where people go to hang out and play darts. Upstairs is a lovely little bistro offering incredible bargains such as a shrimp and noodle stirfry for $7. Weekends at the bistro are packed, often with a table wait of an hour or more. This is no problem, as the lively bar scene quickly passes the time. Thursdays feature poetry readings, Friday is martini night, and there are other special events every night except Mondays.
Further up Main Street is The Locust (25th and Main) is another quaint neighborhood watering spot and The Latin Quarter is a tasty tapas restaurant and bar. The Whip (6th and Main) is part art gallery and part pub that reflects the owner's love of art. It has a restaurant, live music and frequently features special events.
It's adjacent to Slickety Jim's, Public and Madison's, all favorite pubs of the locals.
Bukowski's, named after the legendary American writer Charles Bukowski who wrote the movie 'Barfly.' features poetry readings every Tuesday. It is located in the heart of 'The Drive' (more formally known as Commercial Drive), an area which is considered very much Vancouver's only bohemian/hip/cool neighbourhood, an area which the Utne Reader once referred to as 'one of the ten coolest places to hang in North America'.
The fun Kitsilano crowd is not always beach laiid-back.
California meets Canada at Vancouver's hottest beach area.
Locals refer to Kitsilano – located just west of family-packed Granville Island – as Kitifornia because it reminds them of a California beach town (except that Southern California gets about 250 days more of sunshine a year than does Kitsilano).
Here is where blonde-haired girls twinkle their blue eyes at muscle-happy men. Everybody here runs for exercise, so looking good is definitely a prime pastime. Such attention to physical detail must be displayed, and after the beach people do just that from the patio at Malone's. It overlooks the beach and is THE place to go after a day of sun, sand and surf (or any combination thereof).
Those seeking a quieter hangout go to Tangerine across the street. Tangerine is large on fun but small on space; it only has something like 15 tables.
The club in Kitsilano is Urban Wall, which features different themes each night.
On nearby Granville Island, The Sandbar has a funky dance floor and really popular patio scene.
There you have it – PubClub's guide to the Pubs of Vancouver. Want more!? Jump on The Party Bus below to go clubbing in Vancouver.