Vancounver's Chinatown

I’ve just started to do some very preliminary Googling for a trip next year (it will be my 70th birthday present to myself), which will include a small number of nights in Vancouver.

Living in a metro area with one of Europe’s most significant Chinatown’s, I was interested in visiting the one in our Commonwealth cousins. However, a quick look at Tripadvisor suggests that it is a complete shithole - a run down area of the city with lots of homeless drug addicts on the street and not a place to be strolling around. Are there any HOs with knowledge of the city who can confirm that, or otherwise?

It’s now a shtehole. It was very busy and vibrant in the 80’s and 90’s. Richmond became the new Chinatown. Not sure when you will be there… the big night market thing takes place in spring and summer. See link below.

Nothing ever happened to me but it could be an unnerving experience for some.

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@Harters We happen to be here as I write this. We’re staying in a neighborhood bordering Chinatown (namely Strathcona). The last time we were in Vancouver was 2014 and we, too, feel like there are more homeless folks, engaging in unsavory activities. But, this being Canada, we have not felt unsafe, even walking right past these folks with spring onion in tow. On our way home yesterday, though, we took the bus and B was happy to bypass these areas. We’re used to “rough” neighborhoods but we don’t necessarily want impressionable spring onion to see too much.

Since this is a milestone birthday for you, I would suggest avoiding strolling certain areas of Chinatown and stick to main thoroughfares such as Robson, which is quite lively (particularly the Korean restaurants were bustling last night). There is Kissa Tanto that looks a little rough from the outside but is supposed to be wonderful (we did not go).

We’ve had a short but fun stay in n the city. We head to Vancouver Island later today - can’t wait. I’ll be posting my trip report soon.

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Thanks for this, Digga. By co-incidence, it was only yesterday that we’ve committed to the trip.

The Vancouver bit is either side of an Alaska cruise. We’ll have a total of four nights in the city - hotel is just off the southern end of Robson. Trip isnt till May, so it’ll be a while before I’m back asking for restaurant reccs. I do know I have to find a “special occasion” Italian - we have another family member travelling with us whose birthday is on one of the days.

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Savio Volpe seems like a nice-ish Italian place. It bit too fancy for us and maybe too casual for your crew, but the food looks fab.

Hi John.
Vancouver’s Chinatown is very different from the more touristic versions in other cities. You’ll see casual cafes and restaurants, a few food shops, and some dry goods and clothing retailers; many of which are not Chinese. The neighbourhood is very adjacent to a few blocks of the city which are, sadly, the centre of services for people with multiple health and social issues… and therefore visitors will see many folk who are down and out. Pender Street and south are where you want to be; Hastings is to be avoided.
That said, there are some very good guided tours of Chinatown available which can provide interpretation of art, architecture and food from the neighbourhood. Wok Around Town and Vancouver Food Tour come to mind. Also, in May, the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown may have started up their free outdoor Saturday Mah Jong street parties. We like Jade Dynasty, New Town Bakery, and Gain Wah for Cantonese meals. DD Mau for Vietnamese.

You may enjoy a visit to Richmond, a southern suburb which is easily accessible via CanadaLine train (Brighouse direction). Some of the best regional Chinese food is served there. Vancouver Food Tours offers the “Dumpling Trail” walking tour. (no I’m not affiliated, but a friend is a guide).
Happy planning, and feel free to DM if you have specific concerns.

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Thanks for the guidance, Karen. Appreciated. I had spotted the food tour options and that may prove to be a good idea. We’ve just started to have a think about what we might do with our time in the city.

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While the old Chinatown in Vancouver isn’t as frequently recommended as Richmond, I would expect there are still some decent restaurants and shops. It is a poor neighborhood, and you will probably see panhandlers and drug addicts, but I’m sure you’ve dealt with similar people elsewhere. I don’t have specific recommendations. I did visit on one of last trips to Vancouver, around 2005. My friend and her husband would buy BBQ duck to take home in Chinatown, since it was closer to North Vancouver than Richmond. It’s still a place to visit and get a meal.

We have a similar situation in Toronto. The 2 downtown Chinatowns are poor, rundown to some degree and often overlooked. There has been a bit of a Renaissance in the Dundas and Spadina Chinatown over the last 3 years, with some bright new restaurants catering to mainland customers, but the neighborhood is still gritty. Most Chowhounds and former Chowhounds rave about the Chinese restaurants in the suburbs half an hour north or northeast of the core. These restaurants are in strip plazas and malls, built in the 1970s and 1980s. The Chinatowns downtown have more character .

I mostly eat in the downtown Chinatowns which are closer and poorer. I only go to destination Chinese restaurants outside Toronto proper when I have visitors or we have organized a group meal, usually for Peking Duck or Lobster 4 ways.

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You are most welcome, John.
Living in the city centre, and having lived in the Vancouver region for 60+ years, I am becoming more active in promoting organic revitalization of some of our neighbourhoods.
Much of what is happening in Chinatown/Strathcona is that new businesses are moving into the cheaper real estate. But the businesses are not what one might consider “traditional” Chinese type businesses. i.e., sandwich shops (Say Hey), upscale cafes (i.e. The Union), & bars (Keefer Bar, Bao Bei), rather than dumpling bars or noodle houses.(New Town Bakery, Jade Dynasty, Phnom Penh, Gain Wah). Older buildings which provided low cost housing have been replaced, rather than upgraded, and the new units command much higher rent. And unfortunately, the one great community centre is smack dab in the middle of the most desperate-looking block. But that is all for another thread on another forum…

Foodwise… there is a really nice knife shop, Ai & Om, on Pender. Skwachàys Lodge is an Indigenous-run guesthouse, which has really beautiful art in the lobby. There are lots of places to get good food, but not necessarily Chinese, or even Asian. Bestie, for example… good to very good sausage in the European tradition, local beers, and yummy currywurst. Matchstick and Propaganda coffee bars. Dalina Italian deli. Kissa Tanto for Italian/Japanese fusion. You could do worse :wink:

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Also… May 22

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