Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House
By Michelle Hopkins

A Vancouver landmark

Joe Fortes was a larger-than-life kind of guy who became a legendary lifeguard credited with saving more than 100 lives. In 1985, a century after Joe came to Vancouver, a restaurant was named after him – Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.

Since then, this multiple award-winning seafood restaurant has become just as famous as its moniker. Consistently ranked as one of Canada’s top 100 restaurants on TripAdvisor, this landmark restaurant serves some of the best seafood to go along with a heavy dose of atmosphere.

When former long-time owner and legendary restaurateur Bud Kanke founded Joe’s, his vision to combine an oyster house with a premier dining destination based around seafood and a very social environment was an instant success. The 15-seat, three-tiered oyster bar, complete with back-lit mirrors, takes centre-stage in the 70-seat dining room (the upstairs seats 170 inside).

We serve approximately 1,000 meals a day, so the ingredients are the freshest possible, My cooking style is 'don’t over-complicate and keep it simple.' - Wayne Sych, executive chef
Wayne Sych is the executive chef at Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House.
Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

Simple, fresh, local

With more than 20 different types of freshly shucked oysters to choose from, Joe Fortes satisfies those who are obsessed with oceanic delights. “Each day, we offer five or six different varietals of oysters from East to West, and sometimes we have some flown in from Europe and the Unites States,” says Scott Garrett, Joe Fortes’ general manager.

Joe Fortes’ culinary landscape is, as much as possible, all about über-local ingredients, unpretentious, simply prepared fare and sourcing fish from our backyard – so says the eatery’s Red Seal executive chef Wayne Sych. “We serve approximately 1,000 meals a day, so the ingredients are the freshest possible,” says Wayne. “My cooking style is 'don’t over-complicate and keep it simple.'”

In 2017, having spent nearly two decades at some of Vancouver’s best-known seafood establishments, such as the iconic Cannery and Stanley Park’s Fish House, Wayne has perfected the art of platting mouth-watering dishes. “I have a great team of 70 in the kitchen and I’m very hands on. I actually run the line sometimes,” adds the easygoing chef.  “We have five people making all of our stocks, dressings and prepping our vegetables at any given time. Everything is made in-house.”

There are so many standouts – the trio of fish, Miso Marinated sablefish, crab cakes, lobster bisque, crisp calamari, braised lamb shank  – you could go on and on. “If I tried to take Joe's Fresh Seafood Cioppino off the menu, I could have a massive protest on my hands,” he quips.

Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House serves oceanic delights like oysters.
Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

An extensive wine list

Joe Fortes’ extensive wine program is refreshed weekly, offering customers an opportunity to try unfamiliar wines. “The wine list stands at 380 different labels, which is 85 per cent from the Pacific Northwest, California, the Okanagan and a few Old World,” adds Scott. Local stock brokers are renowned for taking over the bar during happy hour. “Our happy hour is one of the busiest in the city,” Scott insists. “By 4 pm it’s hopping in here.”

If you prefer a cocktail, note that their signature Caesar, handcrafted with fresh, house made horseradish and topped off with a lemon pepper rim and a fresh prawn, is perfectly executed for maximum taste. Or indulge in a Chophouse Lemonade, a delicious mix of fresh lemons, limes and deluxe whisky finished with grapefruit bitter.

Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House serves locally sourced, fresh food.
Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

Imbued in history

Boasting heavy brass columns, high ceilings with oversized chandeliers and rich wood throughout, the stately two-storey restaurant is best described as having turn-of-the-century classic decor. The black and white photographs adorning the walls depict Vancouver’s rich history, including one of the legendary lifeguard himself outside his English Bay cottage.

In the summer, the sprawling award-winning rooftop garden patio garners rave reviews and is the perfect locale for people watching. “We like to call it the rooftop to the sky,” says Scott, adding that their patio seats 55.  With a bar, cozy fireplace seating, tables, a green wall and plenty of blossoms, it makes you feel like you’re far away from the busy downtown core. Grab a cocktail and a plate of steamed clams and savour the moment; Joe Fortes really does offer an unparalleled West Coast cuisine experience in downtown Vancouver.

Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House offers a beautiful patio with quite the view.
Photo courtesy of Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House
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