PROVENANCE WEB MAGAZINE Spring - Summer 1997, Vol.2 No.2

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Neighborhoods and Places of Interest

East End Edens Chinatown and Strathcona

Vancouver's Chinatown is the third largest in North America. Many cultural and ethnic groups live in nearby Strathcona, Vancouver's oldest residential neighbourhood.

map of area

To get to Chinatown head east on Pender Street. In just 10 blocks you'll be in the heart of Chinatown. The main streets include East Pender and Keefer Streets, which run east to west, and Main, Gore and Carrall Streets, which run North to South. There are many wonderful shops here worth exploring. Wear walking shoes. Places of interest include:

Carnegie Centre Library. At the corner of Main and Hastings Street in the Carnegie Centre, the Vancouver Public Library Carnegie branch offers service to a wide range of local residents, including the homeless. Each chair and table is usually full with avid readers, in this historic building.

 Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, a tranquil oasis at 578 Carrall Street. 689-7133.

 Strathcona begins just on the edge of Chinatown. On Gore Street, head south to Union Street and turn left, heading east. You'll be in the 300 block. In 500 block, you'll come to Benny's Italian Market, which has been here for decades, and originally served the Italian community. There's a great deli section at the back, with wonderful imported cheeses and meats, and an outstanding selection of pasta. If you're lucky there will be fresh bagels. 500 Union Street.

 As you walk along the 600 block, the recent gentrification of the area will become pronounced. Three types of architecture will be noticeable: Edwardian builder style, Queen Anne, and cottage style. Outstanding renovations include the little rust colored Edwardian Builder at 630 Union, Jim Nicol's Queen Anne style house painted a wonderful orange-yellow with blue trim at 640 Union, and a wonderful completely renovated cottage style at 748 Union.

 At the end of the 700 block you will arrive at Hawks Street, a green space with lovely trees. To the left and across the street you will see a block of dark green row houses, renovated in the 1970s. Opposite are wonderful purple-blue coloured row houses.

 In the 800 block you will come to the Union Food Market, one of Vancouver's finest small grocery stores. If you're there before 11:00 a.m., you're in luck! There might be a few of Vancouver's best 70 cent cinnamon buns left. Owners Gloria and Andy are from Portugal, and offer an interesting array of fresh baked products, from what Vancouver restaurant critics claim to be Vancouver best yellow corn bread, to scones and great oversized 60 cent cookies. The home made pizza for $2.25 (serves two) is fabulous, and the fish balls are a treat.

 At 830 Union you'll see a cottage style house in perfect condition. It is owned by George Pratt, a well known Vancouver sculptor. The National Film Board has made a film on his life and refers to George as a "National Treasure." At 832, you'll see a perfect reproduction gray and white Queen Anne style house, complete with a colorful garden.

 Continue walking two more blocks and turn right. You'll be at La Casa Gelato International Ice Cream factory and shop at 1033 Venables, which makes and sells Vancouver's best ice cream and gelato. There are more than 50 varieties - from smarting lemon to chocolate hazelnut. If calories don't count try the chocolate peanut butter.

 Return the way you came. Walk down any alley and catch a glimpse of backyard vegetable gardens. Some of the Chinese and Vietnamese residents feed entire families from their gardens.

 Back at Hawks Street, turn left and cross Prior Street. You'll be at the Strathcona Community Garden, which offers local east side residents the chance for a little garden plot to call their own. Residents grow a wide variety of flowers, vegetables and fruits in this bucolic, well hidden setting. Guests are welcome in this magical garden that includes a rare apple orchard, bee keeping, peaceful paths, and a quiet little pond. It's a living tribute to what a dedicated neighbourhood can do with a few vacant acres. Prior Street at Hawke take the path through the blackberry brambles.

 Chinatown Restaurants

 Bodai Vegetarian Restaurant offers stunningly creative vegetarian food - including shrimp, duck, and other "meat dishes" which are really made out of tofu and other ingredients, 337 East Hastings Street.

 Kent's Kitchen has simple Cantonese cooking at budget prices in a down to earth setting at 232 Keefer Street.

 Hon's Wun-Tun House offers an extensive menu, from great soups to shrimp chop suey in a curry sauce, all at rock bottom prices. The place is always packed. 268 Keefer Street.

 Pink Pearl, a very popular Chinese seafood restaurant, which serves Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine, seats up to 700 people in a very modern decor. The prawns in black bean sauce and the vegetables Lo-Hon style are delicious. 1132 East Hastings Street, Vancouver.

 Commercial Drive Area

 Originally home to Vancouver's "little Italy," the area is undergoing rapid change as upscale young urbanites flock in.

 The best way to see "The Drive" is to walk. You'll pass countless Italian Coffee Bars. Make sure you visit a few. Don't miss Magpie Magazines if you want to get caught up on everything from the latest in GUIs to politics at 1319 Commercial. The nearby East End Book Company is also worth a visit. "In" places include Juicy Lucy's Good Eats at 1420 Commercial, and WaaZuBee Café at 1622 Commercial Drive.


Any of the Italian restaurants on "The Drive" will provide a wonderful meal. Favorites include:

Arriva Ristorante at 1537 Commercial,

IL Corsao at 920 Commercial Drive,

La Rocca at 1565 Commercial, and

Spumante's at 1736 Commercial.

Great Greek food can be found at Le Grec at 1447 Commercial, and

fine Mexican at Tio Pepe's at 1134 Commercial.

For lunch, Graffiti's at 1408 Commercial has good pizza.

The best dinner time pizza can be found at Lombardo's at 1641 Commercial, where its cooked in a brick oven.

 Main-Fraser Area

 If you head south on Main Street, you reach Vancouver's "Antique Row" which covers several blocks. Favorites include Michel La Rouche at 3958 Main Street, Mariah's Antiques at 4172 Main Street, the Antique Market at 4280 Main Street, Sugar Barrel Antiques at 4285 Main Street, Farmhouse Collections at 4362 Main Street, Deelers Antiques at 4391 Main, and Second Time Around at 4428 Main Street.

 If you get hungry, head to Solly's Bagels at Main Street and 28th Avenue (189 E. 28th and Main), for what many Vancouverites say are the best bagels in town. Or go to the Thai Sawasdee Restaurant at 4250 Main Street and order a wonderful bowl of soup and a few appetizers.

 If you continue down Main street, at Main Street and 49th Avenue you'll be in the heart of the Indo-Canadian community. Don't miss visiting the little grocery markets, which offer an outstanding array of spices, imported food items, vegetables, and cooking utensils, not readily available elsewhere in the city. On many occasions, friendly, helpful shop keepers and customers have located ingredients and explained the preparation for me.

 Relish the feeling of being in a far off exotic place. There are sweet shops, clothing, jewelry, and video stores all catering to the Indo customer. And there are wonderful restaurants. My favourites are:

Indo-Canadian Restaurants

 Ashiana Tandoori Sweets Shop & Snacks

Considered one of Vancouver's best East Indian restaurants, Ashiana serves low fat, low cholesterol cuisine. The naan is the best in town. From biting curries, to flavourful Tandoori, you'll always have a great meal here, at low cost too. 6560 Main Street. 325-3031. Another location is at 1440 Kingsway. 874-5060.

 Bombay Sweets. More than a sweet shop, this little place serves great samosas. 6556 Main Street. 321-1414.

 Natraj. For the best rice biryani, mouth watering curries, and great desserts, all at reasonable cost, this is the place. 5656 Fraser Street. 327-6141.

 Zeenaz. Specializing in East African/Indian cuisine, this little restaurant is located in what is reminiscent of a ski lodge in the Rockies. (It was a former steak house). The weekend buffets (all you can eat for $10.95) offer chapatis, a variety of curries including chicken, vegetable, and the best mulligatawny soup around. The curried nuts and bolts appetizers are really good. 6460 Main Street. 324-9344.

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