Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On a budget? Spend less at these Vancouver restaurants, where $50 can get you dinner for two.

Although Vancouver has its share of high-end restaurants, the city is full of good-looking casual spots where "bang for the buck" vies with "creative cooking" as the unspoken credo. Still, to eat (well) for around $25 per person can be a challenge. Are we up to it? Oh, yeah.


This choice is a bit of a cheat. The narrow, darkly atmospheric (and almost perpetually packed) West End restaurant specializes in Spanish tapas, which means (a) each dish is relatively inexpensive, and (b) you'll often need a few of them to make a full meal.

But start with an order of the sublime crispy, anchovy-stuffed olives ($3.50) and whole fried local anchovies ($4), followed by three of the larger shared plates—the grilled octopus with chorizo or lamb merguez sausage with Moroccan lentils (both $9) are stand outs, and you'll be hard-pressed to go away hungry. Add a couple of glasses of Losada, a full-bodied Spanish red from the Mencia region ($7 a glass), and you're still under your limit. Just barely.

Nicli Antica Pizzeria

When it comes to serious pie, for years Vancouver lagged. That's no longer true, and today, you can hardly fling a brick of grana padano without hitting a VPN-certified pizzeria. Nicli Antica, the city's first serious Neapolitan pizzeria, arguably remains its best—and this buzzy Gastown room's warm, exposed brick walls and clean-lined modern interior make this much more than just another pizza joint.

As tradition dictates, pizzas are cooked in a wood fired oven for about a minute and a half, resulting in a slightly blistered edge and a soft, luscious center, hallmark of the real Neapolitan pie. Starting at just $7 for the basic marinara and going up to $14 for their salsiccia e rapini (Italian sausage, broccoli rab, two Italian cheeses), when paired with antipasti for two ($14), and a couple of glasses of the house red ($3.50 a glass), you'll likely still have room—in your budget, at least—to split a panna cotta ($5).

Vij's Rangoli

Marrying French technique with robust sub continental flavor profiles, Chef Vikram Vij changed the way North Americans looked at Indian food. While his flagship South Granville fine dining location recently moved to a shiny new berth on Cambie Street, Vij's Rangoli, his less pricey next-door establishment, continues to pack them in. The room itself is unadorned but not stark, with curving glass walls looking out over a street-side patio suitable for al fresco dining, weather permitting.

On the menu, expect exquisite unorthodox dishes like beef short ribs in kalonji seed curry ($12), or spicy pulled pork on sautéed greens ($10). Combine these with an order of lentil, paneer, and chickpea samosas ($7), and you're well under our $50 threshold, leaving room for a glass (or two) each of wine from a well-curated list. (Note: intrepid eaters may be disappointed to find that the Cricket Pizza is no longer on the menu. The rest of us? Not so much.)

Guy Saddy covers the Vancouver and other beats for Travel + Leisure.

On a budget? Spend less at these Vancouver restaurants, where $50 can get you dinner for two.

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