Check out these lively izakayas in Vancouver

If you’re looking for a quiet, romantic dinner, you can skip the izakaya. These so-called casual Japanese pubs are known for being lively and raucous, where food and drink come hand in hand, staff shout their orders and bellow greetings to guests, and customers mix and mingle at communal tables. Here are some vivacious izakayas in Vancouver.

Guu With Garlic

1698 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7

Known as the pioneer of izakaya in Canada, Guu opened its very first Vancouver location on Thurlow in 1993 and the trend has gone viral ever since. You’re guaranteed a boisterous good time at any of Guu’s six Vancouver locations, five downtown and one in Richmond. While each has its own personality and focus, you’ll find consistently creative twists on the classic Japanese tapas, like karaage (deep-fried meat), sashimi and beef tataki.

Zakkushi On Main

4075 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P5

Vancouver doesn’t have a lot of options for yakitori — Japanese-style grilled meat on skewers — which means Zakkushi has the market cornered. That’s certainly not to say they settle for mediocrity. Expect nothing but the best yakitori, charred to mouth-watering perfection, from either one of their Denman or Main Street locations.

Kingyo Izakaya

871 Denman St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2L9

This West End landmark has a trendy, clubby atmosphere with inviting lighting, a wood-suffused décor and bumping dance music. That doesn’t mean the folks at Kingyo don’t take their food and drink seriously. Be sure to check out their signature tantan ramen dish and pair it with a tall, cool glass of Sapporo. Many consider this the best izakaya in town.

Hapa Izakaya

1479 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C1

You’ll be “hapa” to know that one of Vancouver’s original izakayas has not only been charming food critics since 2003, but has also made international “top izakaya” lists. And it’s with good reason, because all four Vancouver locations — three downtown and one in Kitsilano — promise a delicious and unforgettable combination of Japanese cuisine, mixology and after-work culture.

Itadakimasu Izakaya Sake Bar

4148 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P7

Get away from the downtown core after work and make the trek to this Mount Pleasant izakaya. Itadakimasu is a more low-key and intimate izakaya experience, but it’s more than lively enough to make it a great spot for a date. The corn and pumpkin croquette and tuna tacos are made for sharing, and the shōchū-infused Yuzu Fizz will get the conversation flowing.

Rajio Japanese Restaurant

3763 10th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6R 2G5

The quirky and trendy décor at this Point Grey izakaya is complemented by remarkably unique and outstanding dishes. Rajio is best known for their top-knotch kushikatsu — battered and deep fried meat, veggies or seafood on skewers. Order several kinds and wash them down with either a hibiscus lemonade with rum or one of their craft ginger ale cocktails.

Suika Japanese Restaurant

1626 Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V6J 1X6

The folks at Suika aren’t afraid to take risks, and you may find yourself feeling adventurous, too. Try their famous Dynamic Steak, which comes marinated in wasabi, if you’re looking for something spicy. Or stay on the safe side with their delicious ebi mayo, fried tiger prawn shrimp with chili mayonnaise.

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