Northern Cafe and Grill: The hidden spot everyone is talking about

Feb 2 2023, 12:16 am

Earlier this month, Yelp revealed its Top 100 Places to Eat in Canada for 2023 and a Vancouver diner topped the list.

For those who already know about Northern Café and Grill, the attention it’s now receiving may seem delayed and out-of-touch – the kind of “duh, we already knew this place was great” reaction we have when under-the-radar spots all of a sudden find themselves in the spotlight.

And we get it – this place has been around since 1949 and already has a steady roster of regulars and other folks who warm its booths on a regular basis.

But for those who have only just heard about Northern Cafe, here’s a primer: the old café is hidden above a hardware store, inside a lumber yard, way deep in South Vancouver, and it serves some of the best diner-style Western and Chinese food in the city.

Make sure to park outside of the lumber yard! | Daily Hive

Daily Hive

In fact, it’s so south it’s nearly in Richmond, and it’s so hidden among the piles of plywood and moving forklifts that it needs several signs directing people to its front entrance.

Getting there is a journey, one that feels a bit like you’ve entered the world of Twin Peaks and maybe also gone back in time a little bit – but that out-of-place, out-of-time feeling that Northern Café generates is one of its best qualities.

Once you do get there (by walking through the lumber yard, climbing a set of steep stairs, and turning right through a marked door), you’ll be greeted by a bustling, warm space filled with the sound of clanking coffee cups and conversation.

Daily Hive

Daily Hive

Daily Hive

Best seat in the house | Daily Hive

We’ll start with how Northern Café looks: old red booths, rickety wooden chairs, vases of fake flowers, and strings of fairy lights fill the space, which is pretty much always busy no matter what time you go.

The floors are also very, very crooked – but what else would you expect from a 70-plus-year-old restaurant that’s propped up on top of a hardware store?

As for its menu offerings, Northern Café and Grill has an all-day breakfast with standard Western-style offerings like hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, pancakes, and the like, as well as burgers, fries, and sandwiches.

The Northern Deluxe Burger | Daily Hive

Daily Hive

All of these are great options, especially alongside a cup of coffee, but the cafe also has a seriously great menu of Chinese food that should not be missed either.

From wonton soup (the wontons are handmade right here, in-house) to fried rice to chow mein to sweet and sour pork, the dishes are delicious and made with care.

A warming bowl of wonton soup | Daily Hive

Besides the food and the obviously great ambience, what makes Northern Cafe so special (and probably one of the major reasons why it was named the country’s best) is that the owners are incredibly warm and welcoming.

This space feels like a home, one where everyone is part of an extended family.

Northern Cafe and Grill has been owned by the Mah family since 2008, and it’s their familial warmth, expertise in the kitchen, and community goodwill that make this place one that we want to keep coming back to.

Northern Cafe and Grill is open Monday to Friday from 7 am to 3 pm and on weekends from 8 am to 3 pm – just know that you may be waiting a bit for a seat.

Northern Cafe and Grill

Address: 1640 E Kent Avenue South, Vancouver


Daryn WrightDaryn Wright

+ Dished
+ Restaurants & Bars
+ Breakfast & Brunch
+ Best of
+ Hidden Gems