It’s not all about what’s new, hip, fresh and trendy in Vancouver–at least when it comes to food. For a city that’s 130 years young, we have managed to support a handful of restaurants, bakeries and the like for several decades, which is no small feat considering how hard the biz can be.
From a familiar family-friendly chain to funky old cafés with a new lease on life, here are the 10 oldest restaurants in Vancouver.
True, this isn’t a restaurant in the traditional sense, but this pastry shop has been serving up treats for 90 years and is still going strong. Though Notte moved from its original Granville Street location several years ago, it is still in the hands of the Notte family. They specialize in cakes, including custom orders and wedding cakes, as well as several other kinds of pastries and baked goods. Sit down in their tea room for a nibble Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Address: 3150 West Broadway
White Spot (1928)
Vancouver’s veteran White Spot chain goes way (way, way) back in the city’s history. Nat Bailey and his 1918 Model T-turned-mobile lunch counter was a food truck before it was hip, and he soon went brick-and-mortar with the first location on Granville Street at 67th Avenue, serving up chicken dinners. By the 1960s, British Columbians were chowing down Triple-O burgers with relish (pun intended). Things have evolved at The White Spot, but it is still as Vancouver as you can get when it comes to affordable family dining.
Find traditional German fare with a few multi-ethnic twists at the Deutsches Haus at the Vancouver Alpen Club. Here the German beer and wine are flowing, and the menu has you covered from Bratwurst to Strudel. The Club is also home to banquet facilities for event rentals, and is a prime destination for Oktoberfest festivities.
Address: 4875 Victoria Drive
Ovaltine Café (1942)
While other restaurants of the Ovaltine’s peer class have long since faded away, this diner is a survivor story. Mother-daughter team Grace and Rachel Chen took over in late 2014, and have since brought on industry pros to help expand not only the hours of the longstanding greasy spoon, but also its appeal. Still going strong, the menu continues to include affordable diner classics and a very no frills setting.
Address: 251 East Hastings Street
The Northern Cafe & Grill (1940s)
Formerly known as the LT Cafe, this easy-to-miss diner is atop a hardware store on the site of Northern Building Supply. While the National Post calls this Canada’s oldest most rundown restaurant (it’s not the oldest, for certain), the son of the building company’s founder claimed a few years back the diner has been feeding folks since the 1940s, but the diner’s modest web site dates itself to the 60s. Longevity is longevity, but there’s nothing old being heated up here; the food is made fresh and from scratch on site.
Address: 1640 East Kent Avenue
Argo Cafe (1954)
Things have evolved at the Argo Café since their greasy spoon days. For the last decade the owners have focused on serving “slow food, fast,” at an affordable price. In addition to comfort classics, Argo puts out several daily specials, which are shared with fans via email and social media.
Address: 1836 Ontario Street
Nick’s Spaghetti House (1957)
It doesn’t get much more old school red sauce Italian than Nick’s Spaghetti House. Massive portions of pasta (and prices many may find a bit out of proportion) and a comfy run-down vibe have kept Nick’s a staple for families and eaters fueled by nostalgia. And, yes…they’ve got red-checkered tablecloths and shakers of parmesan.
Address: 631 Commercial Drive
The Diner (1958)
Simply called The Diner, West Point Grey has had this go-to spot for over five decades for traditional English breakfasts served up in a room packed with British memorabilia. In fact, you can get their hearty breakfast plates all day, in addition to fare like fish and chips, mushy peas, and Yorkshire Pudding.
Address: 4556 West 10th Avenue
Hy’s Steakhouse (1960)
The steakhouse is a special category among restaurant genres, and Vancouver’s Hy’s is one of the few left from the heyday of the dark-paneled rooms and special occasion beef-centric dinners. The Hy’s legacy began in 1955 in Calgary, but it wasn’t long before founder Hy Aisenstat took his restaurant and his family further west to Vancouver. First came Hy’s at the Sands in the West End, then Hy’s Encore, which remains in the same location, with many of the same furnishings.
Address: 637 Hornby Street
Helen’s Grill (1961)
Helen’s Grill is another long-lasting star in the pantheon of Vancouver’s diners. All-day breakfast served up greasy spoon style is on the menu here, and on weekends it remains a popular pick for hungry crowds of eaters eager for plates of eggs and mugs of diner-issue coffee–often to quell a hangover.
Address: 4102 Main Street