Photo: The $4.95 chicken souvlaki lunch special at Burnaby’s X-Site. Source: The Friday Lunch.
Inspired by the great deals of Dine Out Vancouver, we asked our readers for their favourite restaurants in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region that provide good value for money at any time of the year. Almost immediately we were given dozens of fabulous suggestions from old standbys to places we hadn’t even heard of. The response was so great that we couldn’t include everything in one blog post, so we promise to do a follow-up post in the very near future! So without further delay, spanning the whole region from the Sunshine Coast to the Fraser Valley, here are the restaurants which you have determined are the “Best Value for Money” in Vancouver, Coast & Mountains. Bon appétit!
Anton’s Pasta Bar – Burnaby
While many of us believe in the “quality over quantity” school of thought, there’s something to be said about the longevity and popularity of Anton’s Pasta Bar. This Burnaby institution is famous for their extremely large portions of pasta, and people have been lining up at their Hastings Street door since 1983, so they’ve got to be doing something right. It was @heterolysis who reached out to us on Twitter to give us the recommendation. He wrote, “About a month ago, 18 of us were served in about 20 minutes. Still same huge portions, moderate prices (around $11 lunch and $13 dinner), and a big menu.” If you find yourself at Anton’s, try their Bombay Penne – a shrimp/prawn penne served in a mild curry cream sauce. It seems to be a consistent favourite and rarely disappoints.
Benjamin’s International Cafe – Gibsons
Admitting that it can sometimes seem as if “food prices are jacked on the Sunshine Coast”, Duane Burnett – an expert on all things Sunshine Coast – gave us the head’s up about the value that can be found at Benjamin’s. This Gibsons cafe offers a diverse multicultural menu as well as a huge selection of daily specials. On Chinese New Year they offered a Year of the Dragon Chinese buffet dinner for $19.99! But their breakfasts also sound like incredible deals. One reviewer on Urban Spoon writes, “The prices are more then fair. You can get a breakfast starting at $3.25, and the best eggs bennie (with real Hollandaise) for $8.75 . For $10.50 you can a fully loaded 10oz burger and fries. Try the ribs, they speak for themselves. And the best is all you can eat halibut and fries on Wednesdays for $12.95. Specials are not budget breakers. You’ll love it.”
Bistro 101 – Vancouver
Feel like a fine dining experience without paying a fortune? Head to the entrance of Granville Island to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA) and treat yourself to a meal at their Bistro 101 - a restaurant that showcases the skills of their chefs in training. With a three course lunch for $20 and a three course dinner for $26, this is amazing value! And if that’s not impressive enough, you have to check out their menu. Just an example, their January 16 lunch menu featured a choice of acorn squash soup with apple and sage, five spice maple syrup quail, and a baby shrimp saffron risotto for the appetizer; pork tenderloin scaloppini, grilled cornish game hen, or lemon dill pepper lingcod for the entree; and your choice of an almond chocolate chip cookie with vanilla creme brulee, pineapple grapefruit cheesecake, or a chocolate orange mousse cake for dessert. For $20?! Sign me up!
Cazba – North Vancouver
The North Shore is home to Metro Vancouver’s largest Iranian community. It’s only fitting that if you’re craving authentic Persian cuisine, that you’d find it here in North Vancouver. But those in the know seek out Cazba in North Vancouver’s Central Lonsdale area for what’s arguable the best deal around. The comments are consistent no matter where you look. Sohayl L. on Yelp says, “This is a very affordable Iranian kebab restaurant. Actually, I think one could say it’s ridiculously affordable. A beef and chicken ‘sultan’s plate’ as they call it, can run you to twenty bucks at most places, here it’s under twelve!” Quddous B. continues, “Prices here can’t be beat and are about 30-50% cheaper than other restaurants.” Novaira M. boasts, “The average price of an entree is under $10 and the amount and quality of food you get for this price is amazing!” And N.K. of Coquitlam affirms, “In regards to the money you pay and the quality of the food you are getting, this place is THE BEST.” Enough said!
Cookie’s Grill – Chilliwack
It was Chilliwack’s Robina Scoular who recommended Cookie’s Grill to us on our Facebook Page, and we’re glad that she did. We knew it was a good sign when we looked up this Chilliwack diner on Google when their name showed up with a solid five out of five star rating based on six reviews. The reviews are equally favourable on Urban Spoon and TripAdvisor where their quality home cooked meals, warm hospitality, generous portions and fair prices have made Cookie’s Grill a Chilliwack favourite amongst those in the know. And now you know!
Dinesty – Richmond
Craving authentic Shanghainese cuisine? Get yourself to Richmond’s Dinesty. This is definitely one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in all of Richmond, and for good reason. Follow Me Foodie‘s Mijune Pak details a recent experience on her blog where she suggests Dinesty as the perfect place to start familiarizing yourself with Shanghainese food because the menus are user-friendly and everything looks appetizing. She writes, “I really loved the set up of the open kitchen and menu, and it’s definitely excellent value. The portions are smaller and extremely affordable so it makes it easy to order a decent variety with fewer people.” Further proving the point is one reviewer on Yelp who writes, “Highlight of the night: ten dishes cost less then $70. Great value!”
HK BBQ Master – Richmond
Tucked underneath the Canadian Superstore on No. 3 Road is HK BBQ Master – a nondescript restaurant which is so well hidden, you’d never know it exists. But this tiny restaurant has a loyal following of Chinese BBQ lovers who travel far and wide to satisfy their craving of the restaurant’s signature char siu. Their Chinese BBQ pork is considered some of the best you’ll ever taste and you’ll soon understand why the line-ups are frequently out the door. Rated 4.5 stars out of 5 stars in the combined 57 reviews on Yelp, it’s not all hype, it’s also a pretty good deal. Order one type of meat for $5.99-6.99, two meats for $7.50, or three different kinds of meat for $9.50, all of which are served on rice with broccoli. Sure, you can find cheaper combos, but not for this kind of quality.
KOZO Cafe – Squamish
“Sushi? Coffee? It’s a sushi cafe!!” So says the text when you first visit the KOZO Cafe‘s website. No, this isn’t your average sushi joint, that much is clear, but Squamish’s newest Japanese restaurant is proving to be making a big impression in the community of 15,000. Just last week Arts & Rec Productions created a video and wrote a blog post called “The Tastiest Sushi I’ve Ever Had” where they champion KOZO’s sushi chef (and rock-climbing enthusiast) Hiro Kitaura for breaking free from the expectations and stereotypes of Japanese cuisine, and for creating new and dynamic food that’s inspired by local BC materials. Even Mountain Life Magazine calls KOZO’s sushi “absolutely exquisite”. So next time you’re in Squamish, skip past the fast food and treat yourself to some of the best quality sushi you’ll ever taste.
Nuba – Vancouver
Oh Nuba, how we love thee! If you’re seeking fresh, healthy and flavourful food that won’t break the bank, drop by your nearest Nuba. This Lebanese restaurant was recommended to us by several people on Twitter. Although not the cheapest, they’re excellent value given the high quality of the food – both the ingredients and the preparation. Personal favourites include the Mjadra pita ($7.25) which is stuffed with organic green lentils, rice, onions and jalapeno, topped with caramelized onions and avocado. Another crowd pleaser is Najib’s Special ($11) which is a plate of crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt, served with a green salad, hummus, pickled cabbage, olives, pita, and your choice of brown rice or roast potatoes, with a side of tahini and hot sauce. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong at Nuba.
One Mile Eating House – Pemberton
Pemberton has become a model community amongst foodies, admired for its organic farming practices and for its sustainable hundred-mile diet culinary practises. And nothing captures this culture more than Pemberton’s One Mile Eating House. We were told by a Pemberton insider that the One Mile Eating House offers ”incredible value for money, has a locally-inspired menu, has welcoming decor, and serves both lunch and dinner with one of the best views of Mount Currie”. The Pique named them Best New Restaurant in Best of Pemberton 2011 and they were recently awarded Best New Business by the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce. Items like gourmet burgers and hot dogs (made with Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef) grace the menu, as well as designer mac & cheese, poutine, hot sandwiches, garbanzo burgers, salads, and more. And you know what? They’re proving that eating local is better. With an 89% approval rating on Urban Spoon based on 46 votes, you’ll see why they have a loyal following. Or simply skim through the titles of their dozens of reviews: “Best Burger EVER” or “Mouth watering just thinking about it” or “THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING!”. Indeed!
Restaurant 62 – Abbotsford
Looking for a special occasion fine dining experience without taking out a second mortgage? Make a reservation at Abbotsford’s Restaurant 62 and prepare to be wowed. It was Michael H. in his Yelp review who described it as “Fine dining in Abbotsford, with all the quality but at half the price of similar restaurants in Vancouver.” Many share this sentiment, including 604foodie who names Restaurant 62 “the best restaurant in the Fraser Valley – hands down”. And although Restaurant 62 offers incredible value year round, they’re currently hosting Dine Around Abbotsford until February 4 where guests can experience a three course menu for $30. The Dine Around Abbotsford menu features elegant regional cuisine from the Fraser Valley prepared by award winning chef, Jeff Massey. The menu looks absolutely tempting to yours truly, especially the sage, white bean, and smoked chorizo soup with goat cheese cream; the slow braised organic beef Bolognaise over taglietelle pasta with roasted mushrooms and fennel; and the chai scened creme brulee… and that’s just a sampling!
Shandhar Hut – Chilliwack
This family-owned “very authentic” Indian restaurant has been serving Chilliwack and the outlying areas since 2004 and has become an absolute favourite from lifelong Fraser Valley locals to British expats seeking a “proper curry”. We were told by an insider that Shandhar Hut is “great place to go with the family and share a variety of dishes. You will not be disappointed, hungry, or broke!” Ranked 5 out of 5 stars out of the 10 reviews on Yelp, all the reviews rave about the authenticity and high quality of the food, especially the spiciness of the Chicken Madras. Live Chilliwack blogger Dale Johnson lists it as one of the 5 Chilliwack businesses you need to visit. He writes, “An evening at Shandar Hut is a total dining experience, from the unique and eclectic atmosphere to the out of this world food, you’ll be craving more right away. Offering both take-out and dine-in options, reasonable prices and friendly wait staff, today is the day to make your first visit for Indian cuisine.”
Vancouver Tibet Kitchen – Vancouver
Vancouver’s first and only Tibetan restaurant opened on Fraser Street a few years ago and was recommended to us on Twitter by Mark Devereux. “Great food, very reasonable prices” he told us. “[And the] Tibetan Momos (dumplings) are awesome!” While they serve some Indian and Chinese-inspired dishes, the reason to come here is for the authentic Tibetan dishes that you simply can’t get anywhere else. Be sure to try the traditional Tibetan butter tea – a savoury tea based on the Tibetan staple Yak Butter Tea. Seeing how Vancouver lacks yaks (no pun intended, I swear!), it’s mixed with milk, butter, and salt to replicate the taste. According to food blogger Krispy Bites, a pot costs $3.99 which gets you about 4-6 cups of the strangely alluring tea. And while the food’s the main reason to come here, almost universal in all the reviews is the warmth and hospitality you’ll encounter from both the owner of the restaurant and his staff, all of whom are eager to share their love for Tibet with Vancouver.
X-Site Grill & Bistro – Burnaby
It was Tourism Burnaby who put X-Site on our radar claiming that the Burnaby Heights bistro is ”popular with students due to its proximity near SFU” and that it’s “well-known for its cheap meals (and cheap drinks)”. Upon further research, we learned that X-Site is famous around the entire Lower Mainland for their $5.95 Monday-Thursday night dinner specials and their $4.95 lunch specials. And we’re not talking fast food either, but proper entrees like grilled salmon, chicken souvlaki, or steak. Local food blogger Chowtimes admits that X-Site is ”not a place for a food snob” so have appropriate expectations, but if you’re craving a burger, they’re “very satisfying” and fairly priced from $5.95 to $7.95. If you’re coming for the lunch special instead, food blogger The Friday Lunch recommends the chicken souvlaki. They explain, “This really is an enormous amount of food. They could easily get away with a smaller portion at a higher price. The sheer volume blows away all competitors and the fresh, quality ingredients make it stand out as one of best in the area.”