Warm glazed donuts and a hot flat-white coffee for breakfast, smoked salmon and parmesan-and-herb focaccia for lunch, and juicy Okanagan cherries as an afternoon snack — all with the deep-blue waters of False Creek as a backdrop. Regardless of your dining/sightseeing dreams, the delightful scene on Vancouver’s Granville Island is sure to deliver.
With its location right across the inlet from downtown Vancouver, Granville Island has several undeniable advantages. The big bay-and-bridge views come to mind, as does the salty sea air. Indeed, the scenic peninsula in British Columbia’s largest city would be worth a visit for its natural attributes alone.
But when you add in dozens of vendors offering some of the best seafood, desserts, and fresh fruit around, you have the makings of a true treasure. I enjoy exploring public markets wherever I go, and I’m especially fond of the Granville Island Public Market for its cool vibe that attracts both locals and tourists, its nonstop entertainment by local musicians, and its over-the-top selection of tasty foods.
Based on my numerous visits over the years, here are 10 delicious foods (and drinks) to try on Vancouver’s Granville Island.
1. Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut — Lee’s Donuts
The line of customers that stretches out the door will be your first hint that Lee’s Donuts is an iconic destination on Granville Island. Then, as you near the counter, the rows of glazed and sugar-dusted circles of goodness will answer any remaining doubts you might have about the place that has been providing handmade donuts since 1979.
Whether you’re a fan of the classic raspberry jam-filled, the decadent Bavarian chocolate with dark chocolate custard, or the glazed vanilla and chocolate cake varieties with colorful sprinkles, the creations at Lee’s Donuts will more than satisfy a morning craving for something sweet and indulgent.
I couldn’t resist the glossy icing on the chocolate glazed donut for my breakfast treat. I highly recommend it — especially with the setting of the Burrard Street bridge in the background.
2. Flat White Coffee — Petit Ami
For some flavorful caffeine to go with your donut, the cute little coffee shop Petit Ami is known for its flat white coffees. Especially when the Vancouver weather turns chilly, the hot drink with double espresso shots and a layer of velvety micro-foam is a sure-fire way to warm up.
The coffee shop uses coffees that are direct from small-lot farmers, and then it roasts the beans locally, ensuring a fresh flavor.
3. Candied Salmon — Longliner Seafoods
Named for the long-liner wooden fishing boat that company founder Jim Moorehead used as a commercial fisherman, Longliner Seafoods is an institution at the Granville Island Public Market. A sign reminds customers that the Longliner Seafoods stand has been in the same spot since the market opened its doors in 1979.
Although you could get virtually any type of seafood at Longliner — from shrimp to halibut to fresh salmon — a visit to Granville Island wouldn’t be complete without a sample of the tasty candied salmon. For me, the sweet/salty/smoky salmon specialty is the signature flavor of Granville Island.
Pro Tip: Along with making a great addition to a Granville Island picnic, the salmon can also be packaged for worldwide distribution.
4. Parmesan + Herb Focaccia — Terra Breads
Hand-shaped loaves scored with the baker’s mark are among the features of Terra Breads, a bakery with multiple locations in Vancouver and the surrounding area. The bustling Granville Island location offers creative bread selections such as fig plus anise and cranberry pistachio, as well as pastries like cinnamon cardamom cruffins and peach rosemary tarts.
The loaves and pastries all looked wonderful, but I found that the individual parmesan plus herb focaccias — light and airy, yet rich with flavor — made the perfect picnic bread.
5. Clam Chowder Pot Pie — A La Mode
Pies of every conceivable variety are on display at A La Mode, a long-time favorite at the public market. From coconut cream to key lime to traditional apple, sweet-pie lovers are sure to find their favorite — sold by the slice or by the whole pie.
Or for something different, A La Mode also serves an assortment of savory pies and pot pies. Its signature dish for years has been the New England-style clam chowder pot pie, rich with baby Manilla clams, smoked bacon, russet potatoes, and a creamy homemade broth — all topped off with a puff-pastry top crust. The pot pies are heated to order and served with a side salad for a complete box meal.
6. Halibut Fish And Chips — Tony’s Fish & Oyster Café
It’s not fancy, but Tony’s Fish & Oyster Café is widely known to serve the best fish and chips in Vancouver. With only six tables, Tony’s is “casual and unpretentious” with a fun atmosphere, according to its website. The little restaurant located at the entrance to Granville Island lives up to its reputation.
When I visited on a busy lunch hour, the service was friendly and quick, and my fish and chips came served in a paper-lined basket, complete with crispy-fried halibut, lightly dressed coleslaw, thick-cut fries, and paper cups of ketchup and tartar sauce. And, as advertised, the fish was flaky and flavorful, and some of the best I tasted on my trip.
Pro Tip: Although I opted for the traditional fish and chips, I had second thoughts on my choice when I noticed several fellow customers dining on Tony’s seafood platter of clams, mussels, prawns, and scallops in garlic butter, served with breaded oysters and deep-fried cod. Definitely something to try on my next visit to Tony’s!
7. Local Sweet Cherries — Sunlight Farms
From tomatoes to raspberries to blueberries, all of the produce is stellar at the Sunlight Farms stand. But the local sweet cherries are perhaps the stars of the market. Piled high in their paper baskets, the deep red cherries are hard to resist, and I always end up buying a pound or two when I visit Granville Island. They make a great dessert or a quick afternoon snack.
The farm’s website describes itself as a place for “one-stop shopping for all your produce needs,” and Vancouver’s tourism website says the market draws top local producers from Fraser Valley to Okanagan. “No wonder Vancouver chefs are often spotted shopping here for high-quality and rare ingredients for their menus,” the website adds.
8. Smoked Salmon Tostada — Alimentaria Mexicana
From the cool seaside setting of Granville Island, the beautiful Alimentaria Mexicana restaurant delivers on its promise of an “immersive journey into the heart of Mexico — its cuisine, its culture, and those who sustain it.”
Located on a prominent corner just across from the public market building, Alimentaria Mexicana is sure to catch your eye with its lovely patio screened by flowering plants and colorful mosaic murals. And the cuisine more than lives up to the pretty setting.
Housemade tortillas crafted from heirloom corn sourced from small Mexican farming communities serve as the base for specialties such as carne asada con queso, a trio of cheese-crusted tacos of charbroiled skirt steak, charred onions, and avocado. Or, for a wonderful blend of Canadian and Mexican cuisines, I loved the smoked salmon tostada, a creation that tops a crispy corn tortilla with locally smoked chum salmon, cucumber cream, and pickled red onions.
9. Westcoast IPA, Granville Island Brewing
If beer and a bite are in order, Vancouver mainstay Granville Island Brewing is the go-to spot. Billed as Canada’s first microbrewery, Granville Island Brewing has been producing local brews since 1984.
Favorites include the Westcoast IPA, a fruity, floral, citrus mix of flavors, and the English Bay Ale, an ale with caramel malt sweetness and low bitterness. For weekend brunch, pair your beer with the breakfast “sammie” of thick-cut bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, and fried egg on a brioche bun. Or try the pub-fare food choices like sea-salted fries or the local favorite poutine, made with fries, chicken gravy, cheese curds, and green onion.
10. Old Fashioned Puff Cream — Popina Canteen
If you still have room for dessert or if you’re just out for a sweet indulgence, the Popina Canteen is definitely the place to treat yourself. Playing off the traditional cream puff dessert, Popina features puff creams — a soft-serve ice cream rolled in a variety of toppings and topped with a soft cream puff shell.
Puff cream flavors range from the Violet B that features freeze-dried blueberries with a cornflake crunch to the Malteser topped with crushed chocolate-covered malted milk balls. For a truly decadent treat, try the Old-Fashioned topped with sea salt toffee sauce and toasted slivered almonds.
Puff creams are not the only treats available at Popina. The canteen reportedly was the vision of a team of celebrated chefs who came together to serve Vancouver four things they craved most: the perfect lobster roll, the best fried chicken, amazing falafel, and the city’s best burger.
- More of a peninsula than an island, Granville Island can be reached on foot in the south, or by ferry from downtown Vancouver.
- Although there are plenty of scenic outdoor dining spots at the Public Market, another fun option is to walk a half-hour or so to Kitsilano Beach and have a true seaside picnic.
There are many opportunities for adventure in and around Vancouver. Consider: