I had 21 hours. That was the length of my layover in Vancouver, excluding the time it took to get out of the airport. My goal in Canada’s western city: eat and drink.
Here’s my conversation with Canadian immigration:
Immigration officer: What brings you to Canada?
Me: 21-hour layover.
I hit my goal right out of the airport. Before catching the airport train to the city, I stopped at the Japadog stand in front of the parking deck. I was hungry and Solo Travel Girl suggested I give it a try.
Now, I think I’ve tried Japadog in NYC, but it is a Vancouver company. I ordered their Kurobuta Terimayo, which is supposed to be one of the more popular specialty hot dogs. Maybe it’s the years of going to Crif Dogs in NYC or the exhaustion from my flight, but I wasn’t impressed, especially considering the price at almost $7. At least it held me over until I could check in at the hostel and find a restaurant while waiting for my friend.
After checking in and dropping off my belongings, I got directions to downtown and hoped to find a cafe along the way. I chose the wrong streets down which to wander. All I found was Tim Horton’s. While, I would have preferred a small, quiet cafe, I was fine with a cheap cup of coffee to get me through the day. It was enough to keep me walking until I needed to find a toilet, which happened to be at a bar.
I came across a bright and airy bar just in time. Malone’s Bar had its large windows open to the street for people watching, and it was happy hour.
I was surprised first by how many people were in bars in the early afternoon, even on a Friday in August. I was pleasantly surprised by the extensive tap list at Malone’s that included plenty of local brews. It just took me a while to decide what to order as I was unfamiliar with almost every beer on the menu.
After talking with the helpful bar staff, I ordered the Bridge Brewing Quaywi Sour. It was a refreshing sour beer on a warm day from the North Vancouver brewery, and at 4.6% it wasn’t going to wear me out in the afternoon.
While finishing my beer and deciding whether to have another, my friend messaged me that she would be able to meet up just before dinnertime. It was more convenient to meet in Gastown, and she suggested the Black Frog as a meeting place.
The Black Frog is a great meeting place as it’s near the Gastown clock and has a public bike station right outside. It’s also at the end of a dead end street, making it a little quieter with fewer people walking past. The open space allowing the midday air in made it more comfortable — I always prefer outdoor drinks when the weather allows.
Again I had to talk about the beer options with the bartender as I was unfamiliar with the local microbrews. I decided to forego the porters and stouts as I thought they may put me to sleep with my jetlag. My first beer was Four Winds Saison out of Delta, BC, which was a little more earthy than I was used to. I was pleased with the earthy flavor rather than the sweeter wheat that comes with most saisons.
While waiting for my friend to arrive, I ordered one more — Parallel 49 Brewing Ruby Tears, a local Vancouver brewery. This red ale is malty and a little sweet up front with a dry finish. It wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but it was still worth trying. It also went well with the poutine I ordered because I wasn’t sure how soon my friend would arrive for dinner. Fortunately, she showed up just in time to share the poutine, otherwise I wouldn’t have been hungry enough to enjoy the dinner we found.
My friend and I wandered around Gastown in search of dinner — she had wanted to try a vegetarian restaurant, but the wait for a table was over an hour. We checked out some other nearby restaurants, but had difficulty finding something that looked good at a reasonable price. That is, until we came across The Sardine Can.
It wasn’t the name that caught my attention, but rather the aroma wafting out the door. The modern European decor was enticing as well. After checking the menu, we decided a variety of tapas at this quaint Spanish restaurant was worth a go.
I wanted to order more than we did, but what we ate was enough for dinner. Of course, I had to get the smoked sardines on toast. The most unusual menu item I had to try was Diablos Espagnoles — smoked ham wrapped prunes stuffed with Mahon cheese. These little delicacies were sweet and savory, and more impressive than they sounded.
We also ordered calabasin con alcachofas, which is zucchini carpaccio, marinated artichokes, and roast tomatoes, along with paella a la casa, which was a small pan of paella with chorizo that added a great flavor and spice. The zucchini and artichoke was the lightest part of the meal and worked well as a taste in between everything else in front of us.
Altogether, dinner at The Sardine Can came to about $32 for the two of us. Of course, had we both not been suffering from jetlag, we might have had some wine to go with the meal. With more energy, there’s a chance we would’ve spent a lot more time in that little restaurant trying everything on the menu.