It’s time to get hungry again, Vancouverites! Our city has one of the most developed organic food cultures in Canada, proving once again that Vancouver is often one of the trendsetters in the dining and culinary culture business. The importance of organic dining is very easy to advocate. Foods made from organic, local, and seasonal products are healthier, taste much better, and support our economy.
Many of you will argue that there are some downsides to this kind of eating out, mainly financial, but if you compare the menus from the non-organic restaurants with those that serve organic food, you’ll find that the difference is far less dramatic than we’ve been told.
Vancouver is slowly becoming one of the Meccas of good food and the shift to organic products is inevitable. This article offers our perspective on the best organic restaurants in Vancouver. We’ve tried to pick very carefully, bringing you the top three musts in the city.
The Acorn (Map)
Although it was opened in July, the Acorn is still one of the hottest places to dine in Vancouver. The Acorn is one of the restaurants best suited to accommodating any special dietary requests. It offers gluten-free, raw, and vegan meals as well as a myriad of other vegetarian meals. The atmosphere is best during dinner time; however, it’s not possible to make reservations, and since the place is usually packed with hungry vegetarians and non-vegetarians who can’t possibly miss meat while dining here, you might wait a bit to be seated. For parties of six or more, a family table is available for an early or later seating. The staff in the Acorn is very swift, knowledgeable, and talkative but not in an intrusive way.
Your meals will be prepared by head chef Brian Skinner, former chef instructor at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. He and restaurant owner and musician Shira Blustein are quite new and exciting on the Vancouver culinary scene. The restaurant space is gorgeous, and the meals are pure food porn. Just go to their website, let the introductory slideshow run, and I guarantee that you’ll head to the Acorn within the hour — and you’ll find the same remarkably high standards sitting in the plate in front of you.
The Acorn also holds a liquor license. They stop serving dinner at 10:00 but very wisely keep the snacks flowing. My tip for the bar is their small but quality wine list. A glass with your friends at the Acorn can really light up your evening.
The fresh, local, and above all organic food in the Acorn is something I highly recommend. Let’s hope that the trend of restaurants like the Acorn will persist on the Vancouver dining scene. As they told us,
There’s definitely business. We’ve got customers regularly asking us for organic. In order to see more of this, however, you have to vote with your forks.
I think that organic products in our restaurants is something we should definitely support. The demand for organic restaurants, however, largely depends on suppliers as well.
The prices of the organic food are very high. There is a number of suppliers, but how easy and consistent the product is, that’s the other question. It’s easier for the featured items.
Finally, one tip for the best meal in the Acorn: I have a confession to make, I am in love with their Heirloom Zuni Bean Cassoulet with Confit Fennel, Apple and amazing Rustic Baguette. A tad too expensive, but totally worth it.
Organic Lives (Map)
Eat, shop, learn. Three things Organic Lives offers, and they do all three very well. Preet Marwaha’s Organic Lives is on the top of the organic food chain in Vancouver. Organic Lives is far more than the place to go for great food: they’ve embraced the whole philosophy of organic food. This was obvious right at the beginning of the interview with Preet, owner and founder of Organic Lives. I’ve never heard anyone talking about the importance of organic food so passionately. Preet is one of the major advocates of organic food. He has been involved globally in numerous projects, including the World Wellness Project, Safe Planet Campaign, and the United Nations Environment Programme, for which he spoke at the Bangkok conference. He also teaches Nutrition & The Environment and Holistic Food Preparation at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He believes that it is also crucial to take care of the means of production of our food.
If we don’t look after our soil, it’s hard to have good quality nutritions.
When I asked him where they get their ingredients, he explained that most come from small, local farms in BC, but in Preet’s opinion, there is still not enough of them. He confirmed what I began to notice some time ago when more and more of my friends started to talk about organic food.
[The organic food business] is absolutely growing. There is significant demand for organic food. We’re getting more and more customers coming to eat, but also talk about the organic food.
With growing demand like this, there is a promising future for organic farming in BC.
Organic Lives offers extremely good vegan food — even for non-organic and non-vegan diners. I sent one of my good friends to eat there, since I was curious how a ribs-loving chips fan would react to a place like this. To my great amazement, he wants to go back again as soon as possible. I must say the atmosphere is not exactly the thing he would want to go back for. There is room for improvement in that direction, but food-wise, it is a shrine to organic taste. The food also looks fantastic. The only thing that’s a bit unexpected, mainly for someone who isn’t used to eating in organic restaurants, is the high prices. When you enter, you’ll be seated almost immediately, and you’ll find yourself with a menu and water. This is a very comforting experience, and the waiters are extremely nice throughout your whole visit.
Homemade organic pizza
Preet told me (after a bit of urging to pick one) that his favourite item on their menu is their homemade pizza. I have learned that the dish the owner thinks is the best usually really is, and this time it worked again. The Organic Lives pizza is solely responsible for the vegan turnover of my chips-loving friend. Their macadamia-pinoli cheese on top is to die for! My advice: you also have to try the Pad Thai with the amazing coconut meat, their Coconut Avocado Velouté, the most incredible soup in Vancouver, and their desserts. Did you noticed that I haven’t singled out just one dish? There’s a very good reason for that. You have to try them all. I never expected to tell anyone that vegan dessert can be so tasty, leaving any desserts I’ve eaten before in the dust.
If you’re thirsty, definitely try the coconut water. Drinks in Organic Lives are quite pricey though.
Aphrodite’s Organic Café and Pie Shop (Map)
You know that you’ve walked into the right place immediately after you open the menu at Aphrodite’s. All the items are organic unless marked otherwise. As Lisa from Aphrodite’s said to us,
We are really proud that we can satisfy pretty much any dietary need of our customers. Aphrodite’s is especially wary of people on gluten-free diet. Almost every meal has a gluten-free substitution.
The atmosphere in the restaurant is very relaxed. The restaurant looks a bit boring from the outside, but the décor made by local artists is off the hook. It’s the kind of place that makes you use words like “ambiance” and the phrase “I can’t quite put my finger on it.” The staff is super friendly. Add all these positives and the result is a super busy place. (The fact that it’s on West 4th might have to do something with it). I have to warn you because several of my friends went there unprepared for the prices and it might be a bit strange for somebody not used to dining in organic restaurants. I cannot emphasize this more: it’s really worth it!
When we talked to Lisa, we were really impressed by the fact that in ten years, the organic business has expanded from one to three restaurants. No wonder, with such a combination of flexibility and quality (and brunch until 3:00 P.M. every day!). Lisa also told me that they make most of their meals in Aphrodite’s from scratch, but the one thing she seemed to be particularly proud of was their homemade hot chocolate. (And she definitely had a very good reason for that!) It’s very hard to find a good hot chocolate, but they managed to make it irresistible.
Let’s conclude this review with a recommendation. Lisa recommended their Huevos Rancheros, but Aphrodite’s Wild Mushroom Quiche is something that shouldn’t escape your attention either.