Known locally as “Wai Sek Kai” or “Food Street,” Alexandra Road has been a dining destination created by locals for locals for as long as anyone can remember. Easily accessible by SkyTrain, Food Street is right in the heart of the Golden Village and runs from busy No. 3 Road to Garden City Road (between Lansdowne and Aberdeen malls.) It has evolved organically over the years, especially in the last decade, with new restaurateurs attracted by the success of their colleagues and new immigrants searching for a likely place to share the foods of their homeland.
Now nearly 200 eateries strong, cuisine ranges from humble noodle shops to grand Cantonese banquet rooms.
The street itself is a jumble of strip malls, each one a warren of eateries adorned with bright, colourful signs advertising hot pot or pho, dim sum or sushi. Interspersed among them are a handful of grand standalone restaurants and a single vacant field waiting for the next appetizing project. At peak hours, traffic slows to a crawl as hungry diners seek rare and precious parking spots. Wise diners leave the car at home and instead take the Canada Line and walk from either Aberdeen or Lansdowne station.
Hungry visitors will find just about every style of Asian and even some European cuisine along here, including Cantonese, Japanese, Hong Kong, Thai, Korean and more. The chefs here also engage in heated competition with each other; those who don’t offer great food, quality and value simply don’t survive on Food Street.
All that said, exploring Food Street can be intimidating for a first-time visitor. Where to start? (You could start the morning with some Dim Sum.) When to go? (Almost any time is good, from breakfast to late night, depending where you’re headed.) Do they serve booze? (They don’t always, so be prepared.) How to pay? (Bring cash, and expect to tip 10 to 15 per cent.) Perhaps most importantly, what to order?
Where to go, what to eat:
Here are some favourite places to check out along Alexandra Road, a.k.a, Food Street.
8351 Alexandra Road, 604-279-1513
Known for their baked (not steamed) BBQ pork buns, this busy Alexandra Road mainstay features dim sum seven days a week during lunch service and other Cantonese specialties in a comfortable setting. Expect fresh flavours and high quality from favourites such as har gow and siu mei.
What else you need to know: Moderately priced. Cash and credit cards accepted. Open for lunch and dinner.
105 – 8291 Alexandra Rd., 604-284-5181
Hungry? Really hungry? Then you may want to check out this super popular all-you-can-eat hot pot joint. You order your broth (the brave can try the super spicy one) and then try a vast array of things to dip in it, ranging from thinly sliced strips of beef to all sorts of seafood, vegetables, tofu, noodles, dumplings and more. The house-made meatballs are especially fine, and the plum juice is a must. Be warned though: This place is popular and can be a real madhouse, especially on weekends and holidays.
What else you need to know: Moderately priced (about $20 a head plus cost of broth). All you can eat. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. Beer and wine available. Open for lunch and dinner.
8511 Alexandra Rd., 604-249-0082
This is the grandest restaurant on Food Street, decorated in soothing greens and sparkling chandeliers, Jade is known for its exceptional dim sum, stellar seafood and the creativity of its chef, Tony Luk. He has a passion for high-quality ingredients and adds a modern touch to classic Cantonese fare: everything here is as fresh and flavourful as it can be. The dumplings stuffed with mushrooms are wonderfully tender and earthy, while the king crab with vegetables and the cold tea-smoked chicken can’t be missed. Dim sum is an extravaganza that simply must be experienced.
What else you need to know: Moderate to expensive. Credit cards accepted. Beer and wine available. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
8320 Alexandra Rd., 604-233-0712
The name means “grandmother’s house,” and guests can expect all the traditional Korean dishes here, including claypot cooking, spicy soups and barbecued meats. Dishes to try include the classic pork neck soup, as well as “japchae,” bean thread noodles with veggies and meat, and “bibimbap,” rice topped with veggies, beef, chili paste and sometimes a raw egg, then mixed together thoroughly. A great place to experience a cuisine that is rapidly growing in popularity.
What else you need to know: Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Beer and wine available. Open lunch, dinner and late night.
2170 – 8391 Alexandra Rd., 604-276-2882
If you’ve never experienced Japanese izakaya, this is a good place to start. Izakayas are basically lively, fun bars that serve food, usually tapas-style small bites, to accompany the drinks. At the cozily modern Manzo, the specialty is robata, delicious grilled items, as well as sushi, sashimi and a wide range of creative nibbles from the kitchen. It’s all designed to complement a drinks list focused on beer and premium sake.
What else you need to know: Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Full bar. Open for dinner.
8500 Alexandra Rd., 604-278-1213
It’s impossible to miss this casual, Beijing-style eatery – it has the brightest signage along Alexandra Road. Decor is simple, almost cafeteria-style, and the specialty here is all-you-can-eat hot pot, along with spicy, northern Chinese barbecue skewers. For those who like fiery foods, the chicken wings “bien tai” are a must – so hot, they come with a warning and a “fire extinguisher” side of frozen cherry tomatoes.
What else you need to know: Moderate prices. All you can eat. Cash only. Beer available. Open for lunch and dinner daily; late night Fridays and Saturdays.
102 – 4940 No. 3 Rd., 604-273-8208
This popular, classic Cantonese restaurant specializes in dim sum and live seafood. The place is huge, bright and always busy, with efficient and helpful servers. Dim sum is probably the most popular meal here, and features all the usual favourites done exceptionally well. Diners who come for dinner must try the signature dish of roast squab – pigeon marinated in secret spices then roasted until it’s crispy on the outside, tender inside – though western diners should perhaps be warned that it arrives with the head still on. Guests also can’t go wrong with whatever is fresh and swimming in the restaurant tanks, whether it be shrimp, geoduck or Alaska king crab, best served with minced garlic.
What else you need to know: Moderate to expensive. Credit cards accepted. Full bar. Open for lunch and dinner.
4940 No. 3 Rd., 604-278-7373
This popular chain has locations throughout Vancouver and North Vancouver and offers a reliable selection of the usual Thai fare: noodle dishes such as pad thai, fragrant curries, eye-wateringly spicy soups and tantalizing appetizers such as the boneless stuffed chicken wings. All that, along with the cheerfully casual décor and reasonable prices, keeps the joint hopping.
What else you need to know: Moderately priced. Credit cards accepted. Full bar. Open for lunch and dinner.
180 – 8400 Alexandra Rd., 604-207-8469
Looking for a late night bubble tea and electronic darts? Then this quirky joint is the place for you. It’s one of the biggest Taiwanese-style restos in the Lower Mainland, and features bubble tea, milky coffee, savoury waffles, noodles, hot pot and a huge list of other nibbles. It’s also just plain fun, with loud DJs, auto-majhong tables, TVs, Wi-Fi and more.
What else you need to know: Inexpensive. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol. Open lunch, dinner and late (until 2 a.m. nightly and 3 a.m. weekends).
2000-8580 Alexandra Road 604-284-5596
Located on the second floor of small strip mall on Alexandra Road, this husband and wife operated eatery features authentic homestyle Korean dishes such as hot pots, bibimbap, seafood pancakes, tofu soup, and BBQ short ribs. The restaurant has a homey feel and diners can expect attentive service as well as a limited bar menu and free Wi-Fi.
What else you need to know: Moderately priced. Credit cards accepted. Limited bar menu. Open for lunch and dinner.
8580 Alexandra Road, 604-278-9229
8391 Alexandra Road 604-370-4833