Delicious calamari dishes in Vancouver

One of the more popular appetizers on any given menu, calamari may have originated in Greece, but it’s found fans across the globe. Innovative Vancouver chefs are serving octopus and squid — whether fried, grilled or seared — with unique flavours, garnishes and sauces. Take a global culinary tour with some of these standout calamari dishes.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House

777 Thurlow St, Vancouver, BC V6E 3V5

This classic seafood and chop house on Thurlow just off Robson is your best bet in the city for old-school charm and excellent food. They’re known for their fresh and extensive selection of oysters, but don’t overlook the calamari. Simply deep fried and scattered with chilies, it’s served with a savoury sun-dried tomato aioli. It’s the perfect plate of food to share with a friend after work over two chilled glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, setting the right tone for the start of the evening.

CinCin Ristorante & Bar

2-1154 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1B2

Sadly, many palates have come to recognize calamari as the rubbery, greasy breaded rings served in divey pubs across the Lower Mainland. We needn’t stand for this level of octopus cookery! For a truly transformative experience, try the fire-grilled octopus from the award-winning CinCin. Served with spicy pork sausage bruschetta with salad of fennel, celery leaves and orange with parsley and olive oil, this is fine-dining calamari with none of the regret. They use only wild BC octopus and put their wood fire to excellent use in this transcendent dish.

Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna

1124 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1N1

We can’t highlight a calamari list without mention of world-famous (ok, Vancouver-famous) Stepho’s. Hugely popular and known for its ever-present lineup down Davie Street, Stepho’s is classic Canadian-Greek cuisine, specializing in souvlaki, moussaka and of course calamari. Thickly breaded and fried to a dark golden brown, you’ll want a plate of this classic Greek appetizer at this classic Greek restaurant as a reward for your line-up patience.

Italian Kitchen

860 Burrard St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1X9

Lively, classy and boasting a menu stocked with amazing Italian fare, this versatile Alberni Street restaurant is an excellent option for a girls night, a date night, a special family dinner or a business meeting. There’s loads to choose from, whether you’re craving pizza, pasta, fish or meat and all of it evokes the flavours of old-world Italy while displaying modern flare and technique. Start with crispy calamari served in a welcome spicy Sicilian tomato sauce. You’ll be licking and kissing your fingers in no time.

Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar Co

150-1055 Hastings St W, Vancouver, BC V6E 2E9

For those of you who have made the trek into Kits only to wait in line for a seat a Chewies, rejoice at the downtown location’s ample space and still-delicious menu. The oyster bar features New Orleans’ classics like po’ boy sandwiches, hush puppies and even alligator. But this is about the calamari. They do theirs pan seared, which means no breading, making the already light and fresh dish (it’s served with a cucumber, mint and jalapeño salad, crème fraîche dressing and remoulade) not nearly as sinful as some of the other Southern comfort food on offer.

Aburi Restaurant

1118 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2T9

For another unique take on this popular appetizer, head to swank Minami in Yaletown. This stunning dining room focused on impeccably made sushi, sashimi and aburi, or flame-grilled, sushi, does a tempura-battered squid you won’t want to pass up. Served with this past year’s superstar ingredient, Brussels sprout chips, as well as pickled tomato and a tosazu (vinegar) sauce, the dish is bracing, original and highly addictive.

Hapa Izakaya

1479 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1C1

Still in the realm of Japanese-style calamari, Hapa Izakaya’s grilled squid marinated in sake, soy and garlic is one of the most popular dishes at this high-energy, super-lively Japanese tapas restaurant. Plated as a large tube, sliced into rounds, the squid presents a pleasant charred look and flavour, is tender in the mouth and tempered with a dollop of slightly spiced mayo. It will be only one of many dishes you sample here, just make sure you get enough for the entire table.

Martini's Whole Wheat Pizza

151 Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1P4

Returning to a more Western style of calamari is Martini’s offering. The popular and very casual 45-year-old restaurant on Broadway between Columbia and Manitoba does a straight up version — tubes and tentacles and a side of tzatziki. It’s nothing fancy but it’s tasty and reliable and the platter for two at $12.75 will leave you seriously satisfied. Pair it with, what else, one of their signature martinis and the stress of the week will instantly be behind you.

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