We’ve all heard the tired mantra: Location, location…location. It’s all about location, right? Especially for restaurants. How else does one explain the profusion of lacklustre dining experiences that dot our waterfronts like an angry infestation of black ants?
But the opposite can also hold true. For these daring loners who are forced to rely on (gasp) good food, good value and good service, the bad location—meaning no close proximity to a large shopping centre, entertainment strip or waterfront—means less competition and the grateful patronage of local residents who appreciate not having to hoof through three districts for a decent meal.
Les Faux Bourgeois | 663 East 15 Ave | 604-873-9733
It’s a bustling French bistro set in the Bermuda triangle between Fraser St., Kingsway and East 15 Ave.. Surrounded by plenty of cheap pho spots, dubious repair shops and a large bible store, it’s the classic story of the little restaurant that could. The menu is as straightforward as you can get. Confit, pâtés, escargots and steak frites are staples. Mains are all under $20 and portions are hearty. The wine list is select and well chosen with glasses hovering between $6 and $12.
Campagnolo | 1020 Main St | 604-484-6018
The location isn’t quite as exciting as the corner of Main and Hastings, but the huddled, unwashed masses of the DTES pass by with regular frequency and the restaurant’s proximity to a Skytrain station also doesn’t help with the glamour factor. But all is forgotten when you walk through the doors and taste the dishes of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont regions, made with fresh, local ingredients. Items like crispy ceci (deep-fried chickpeas) and fried pigs’ feet are bestsellers and both are less than $10. Pizzas, pastas and mains are all below $20, and the housemade salumi is so popular, it’s featured on menus all over town.
Accents | 1967 West Broadway | 604-734-6660
The location may not be quite as remote as some of the others listed here, but you’d never know this is one of the last bastions of quality Russian dining in Vancouver—and by that I don’t mean perogies and borscht. In fact, you may not have even known a restaurant existed there, as the signage is practically non-existent and the windows are heavily curtained. But the value is some of the best in the city—everything is on a prix fixe system that maxes out around $30 for three large courses—and the lamb Karski and goat cheese strudels are second to none. With 50 appetizers, and almost as many mains to choose from, you’ve got a good excuse to come back a few times.
Two Chefs and a Table | 305 Alexander St | 778-233-1303
Situated in Railtown, the no-man’s land between trendy Gastown and the DTES, this is not a location to attract the hordes. And yet, the simple, revolving menu of fresh, inventive dishes and high-value meals—try the five-course chef’s menu for $44—keeps a steady flow of regular diners and intrepid tourists walking in. The $8 mac ‘n’ cheese lunch comes with salad and fries, and the charcuterie selections are solid.
Au Petit Chavignol | 843 East Hastings St | 604-255-4218
Located a couple blocks west of Clark, the fine folk of Les Amis du Fromage decided to open a licensed charcuterie restaurant in an area that smacks of pre-Olympic expansion and lost souls. No matter. The inside is cozy, chic and usually busy, and the menu covers everything from duck terrines and triple-cream wonders to Croque monsieurs and warm baked cookies. Get a “flight” of cheeses starting at $11 or the poutine with peppercorn gravy for $10.
Bombay Bhel | 4266 East Hastings St | 604-299-2500
It’s not the fact that it’s located on East Hastings near Boundary that makes this location so problematic, so much as the fact that it’s right next door to Anton’s Pasta Bar, the famous home of multi-pound pasta portions for around $15. But when it comes to high value dining, the Bhel wins big. Dishes like goat kebob curry or Karahi lamb are well priced and presented and the line-up isn’t as long as the one next door.
An Evening in Provence
On Aug. 19 at 6 p.m., Hart House Restaurant at Deer Lake will be holding its annual garden party celebrating French wine and Provençal cuisine. The first hour will be a tasting, followed by dinner served al fresco in the gardens. Tickets $45. Call 604-2984278.