Grazing Vancouver

For the curious of palate, a trip to this British Columbia restaurant row is de rigueur

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The ol' boys down at Memphis's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest thought it was a hoot that these two guys from Canada were nosing around the smoking pits, peppering everyone with questions about woods and rubs and sauces. So the cooks' guards were down and they pretty much spilled the beans. Which allowed George Siu and Park Heffelfinger to fly home to British Columbia and open a totally credible outpost of Southern barbecue, Memphis Blues Barbeque House, on Vancouver's West Broadway.

Well, maybe the wine pairing suggestions are over the top-Siu raves about German Riesling with barbecue. But you learn to expect surprises while grazing the Broadway neighborhood's conglomeration of ethnic dining, where the flavors of the kitchens span the globe-Afghan, Chinese, Filipino, French, Greek, Indian, Jamaican, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Mexican, Russian, Vietnamese ... and Tennesseean. In the cultural bouillabaisse of Vancouver, you may hear Mexican music in a Vietnamese cafe and learn that the owner of the wholly authentic Jamaican place bears Chinese ancestry. It may be confusing, but it's delicious.

Thanks to Canada's liberal immigration policy and Vancouver's strategic place in the Pacific Rim economy, the city has become a mecca of multicultural dining. Think San Francisco with parking. And menu prices shredded by the favorable exchange rate. Although Broadway boasts at least one famously expensive restaurant, Lumière (2551 W. Broadway; 604/739-8185), two can feast on lunch at most places for less than $20 U.S.

Nice 'n' Spicy Reggae Cafe offers one of Broadway's liveliest ethnic dining experiences, with Jamaican curries, spicy jerk chicken, and very spicy pork stew with a hint of cinnamon. Owner-chef Andrew Yap-Chung has no formal training; it's just the down-home Caribbean chow he learned to cook from his family. "There's real food, and then there's artificial food," he says. "I don't go in for fancy presentations, like parsley sprinkled on things."


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