Explore the tastier side of this Vancouver neighborhood
Why go now: The Olympics hubbub has died down, but this neighborhood continues to boom with new shops, restaurants, and watering holes.
Its name comes from: Gold prospector “Gassy Jack” Deighton, who built the first tavern here in 1867.
The vibe: Once-gritty, now more SoHo than Skid Row.
Best place to chat with a local: Irish Heather Gastro Pub (210 Carrall St.; 604/688-9779), where a huge whiskey list helps along conversation.
Canadian soul food: Try poutine, french fried doused in gravy and cheese curds, at Boneta ($$$ U.S.; closed Sun; 12 Water St.; 604/684-1844).
Walk off that gravy: Head five blocks to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden ($14 U.S.; 578 Carrall; 604/662-3207).
Hot table: New Nicli Antica Pizzeria ($$ U.S.; 62 E. Cordova St.; 604/669-6985) is already famous for its authentic Neapolitan pies.
Get the inside scoop: Keep up on Gastown’s goings-on at gastown.org
Fine dining in Blood Alley: Upping Gastown’s name is new, swanky-industrial L’Abattoir (its name is French for “slaughterhouse,” a nod to the location near a former butchers’ alley). A see-and-be-seen crowd comes for killer cocktails, while the food is a happy marriage of modern French technique and local ingredients. $$$ U.S.; 217 Carrall St.; 604/568-1710.
One-of-a-kind finds: Most of what’s in the artfully curated Old Faithful Shop—custom teardrop terrariums, reclaimed-wood cutting boards, rosewood cheese knives—is handmade, so you can feel good about surrounding yourself with beautiful things. 320 W.Cordova St.; 778/327-9376.
Porchetta heaven: Queue up with a young 9 to 5 crowd at Meat and Bread sandwich shop. You’ll be treated to the cozy aroma of herby roasted meat and the shop’s addictive porchetta sandwiches-—crusty rolls that give way to juicy pork loin and crispy cracklings. $; closed Sun; 370 Cambie St.; 604/566-9003.
After hours: Climb the dark stairs to the Diamond restaurant and bar for a bird’s-eye view of Maple Tree Square, the epicenter of the neighborhood. This candlelit boîte has a speakeasy vibe, and the clever cocktail menu with categories like “proper,” “delicate,” and “boozy” gently guides you to your ideal drink. $$ U.S.; 6 Powell St.; di6mond.com
Make it a weekend: The Victorian Hotel may look a bit faded-rose from the outside, but inside, the newly renovated boutique hotel has 49 cushy rooms that blend fine antiques and modern details like contemporary crystal lamps and white chaises. From $99 U.S.; victorianhotel.ca
3 ways to get your outdoorsy fix without leaving city limits
Hike & forage: Harvest strawberries and miner’s lettuce in the wooded foothills of Fraser Valley on Swallow Tail Tours’ half-day hikes. You’ll learn how to identify the edible flora all around you, and finish with a three-course picnic. $57.33 U.S.; swallowtailtours.com
Pedal the park: Just a half-hour walk from Gastown is Stanley Park’s 1,000 acres of green space. Hop on a bike at Spokes Bicycle Rentals (from $17.50 U.S. per hour; 1798 W. Georgia St.; 604/688-5141) and cruise along the English Bay waterfront and under Lions Gate Bridge.
Leafy retreat: Walk 57 feet above the forest floor in a leafy rain-forest canopy at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, where the themed gardens stay uncrowded in summer. $8.34 U.S., plus $12.51 U.S. for canopy walk; 6804 S.W. Marine Dr.; 604/822-9666.