10 Family-Friendly Vancouver Restaurants

I’m going up to Vancouver, BC, this weekend and thought I’d spill the soup on our favorite kid-friendly restaurants, those places we miss when we return home. Vancouver’s restaurants exhibit amazing Eastern flair, unsurprising for a Pacific-Rim city. Here are my 10 favorites – find even more places to eat in my new book, Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver.

1. Little Nest Cafe serves honest breakfasts and lunches to parents tired of lame-o kid meals and half-effort adult dishes. Fresh West Coast fare, super-cool décor and a kids’ play area filled with retro toys. Read my full write-up here.

Sciue's Roman pizza

2. Here’s how to enjoy downtown Vancouver’s Sciue. Get in line, behind the businessmen and businesswomen in fine suits.  Ask your partner to scout out seats for the family, either indoors or outside. Prepare to order fast. Ask the kids to point out which slices they want of the dozen thin-crust, authentically Roman pizza laid out behind the counter. Pick out your pizza, your salad and maybe a Fentiman’s fizzy drink from the UK.  Eat. Drink. Fall in love. A wonderful option for families staying in downtown, but check the open hours first.

3. Sushi and hot dogs – what would kids love more? The Japadog hot dog cart in downtown Vancouver offers wasabi mayo, nori flakes and other Japanese toppings. At the cart, you’ll see clippings of all the movie stars who’ve dropped by to pick up their transnational street food – and it’s famous for a reason. It might be the best hot dog you’ll ever eat. I look forward to trying Japadog’s new downtown storefront location (530 Robson).

4. Guu with Garlic brings the best of informal Japanese dining to Vancouver.  In Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, near Stanley Park and not far from downtown hotels, the streets teem with international students, tourists and couples out for a night on the town. Izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) offer simple feasts. Small plates of inexpensive, savory skewers and noodles are a hit with kids – along with removing your shoes at the door. This izakaya is my fave, because the noisy, bustling atmosphere works well for younger kids.

5. East is East. My family loves this restaurant’s exotic décor, from log seats made from real wood to pillow-packed benches set inside a sumptuous, tent-style dining space. The wraps and plates reflect the restaurant’s middle-eastern and Indian influences. A little spendy ($12-18/plate), but service is efficient and the food is plentiful. Locations in Kitsilano and S. Main neighborhoods make it an easy option for families on the go. Don’t miss the rather-questionably-named (but kid-pleasing) shakes: Kathmandu Hash, Ganges Nectar, Himalayan High (jeez mom, it’s just mango, pistachio, rosewater and cardamom).

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company

6. Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company provides family-friendly food with a genuinely welcoming equation.  At this Kitsilano restaurant, e kids can roll out their own pizza (Sunday and Monday nights) + play in the Waldorf-inspired wooden kitchen with felt food = perfect family dining. Coloring sheets decorate the burnt-red walls, and the toasty interior warms your blood on a rainy day. The restaurant’s organic flatbread crust is deliciously different from the typical thin-crust or deep dish-style base. An easy stop if you’re in the neighborhood for the Vancouver Maritime Museum or the Vancouver Museum (two of my faves).

7.  A short 5-minute walk from Granville Island’s Market takes you to Go Fish Ocean Emporium’s (1504 West 1st Ave) takeaway stand, where you can pick up sustainably harvested fish ‘n’ chips for the kids or salmon tacones for yourself. Messy, delicious and incredibly popular with families, visitors and locals. On sunny days, the view of the marina and mountains is amazing, and the kids can run around the outdoor seating. Not such a great choice on rainy days, unless you’re OK with in-your-car dining. Can be difficult to find, the first time — ask for directions from a local storeowner if you’re lost.

Vij's Rangoli

8. Vij’s Rangoli doesn’t have high chairs (space is too tight). The cooks can’t make the food less spicy (the sauces can’t be altered). So why go here? Because the restaurant makes some of the most innovative Indian dishes on North America’s West Coast and because it’s the informal, kids-are-welcome sister restaurant to the upscale, world-renowned next-door Vij’s Restaurant. Spice-averse kids can eat bread, fragrant rice and raita, if necessary – my youngest is always happy with a mango lassi in his hand. A few outdoor tables are also available in nice weather.

9. The original Splitz Grill is located in Whistler, BC, and offers a quick recharge for ski bums and snow babies. This location is fantastic for refueling your shopping batteries on S. Main, a street full of kids’ consignment, toy shops and bookstores. Order your beef, lentil or salmon patty, then choose from over 20 condiments (including hummus or Dijon mustard) for a bespoke burger. The 50s-style interior is fun and functional.

10. In Vancouver’s Chinatown, Floata Seafood’s late-morning/early-afternoon dim sum is an experience unique to Vancouver. Servers push carts around the restaurant’s floor, each cart stacked with small Chinese dishes in baskets and bowls. Little photos help you identify what you’re about to eat. Kids love choosing from the carts, but if you’re with a picky eater, they can always order off the menu. Please note – everyone has a favorite dim sum spot in Vancouver, and I won’t have the final word on the all-time family favorite. Another solid option is Sun Sui Wah on S. Main.

Look for this sign in Vancouver.

Do you want even more options? Additional ideas in Downtown Vancouver, close to hotels and Robson Street include: White Spot (1616 West Georgia St. location; straightforward fare that won’t tax anyone’s taste buds; kid meals arrive in the ever-popular cardboard “Pirate Pak”), Lilli’Q Cafe and Playhouse (family-friendly play space/coffee shop with smoothies and snacks: see write-up here) Cafe Crepe (1032 Robson St.; cheese and ham or sweet nutella wrapped in egg-and-flour goodness and mess-preventing paper; SLOW service in the seating area — order from the walk-up window) and Caffe Artigiano (artisan coffee chain that also serves nummy sandwiches and breakfasts; the stellar coffee can awaken anyone, even the mom of a 2-month-old baby).

And more options? Check out these blogs:

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Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.