Vancouver’s top food festivals and culinary events

by Megan Jones

Hot-and-sour soup, oysters on the half shell, Thai green curry, farm-to-table salads – ambitious foodies can enjoy almost any type of dish (from any country) in Vancouver, where international and local cuisines converge to produce a diverse, flourishing culinary scene. “Vancouver is blessed with multicultural influences from around the globe,” explains Lucas Pavan, manager of Canada’s largest culinary festival, Dine Out Vancouver. “You can find excellent food pretty much wherever you go, and it’s always fresh, local and sustainable.”

Celebrating Vancouver’s world-renowned restaurants and eateries are dozens of annual events and festivals, which combine great food with unique dining experiences (and plenty of Instagram-able moments). From spot prawn boils to a citywide hot chocolate crawl, read on to learn more about Vancouver’s top culinary events. [Photo courtesy of Brix & Mortar]

Vancouver’s top food festivals and culinary events

Dine Out Vancouver

January/February – Various locations
Dine Out Vancouver invites more than 100,000 diners to celebrate Vancouver’s renowned food culture over 17 delicious days. Enjoy special, prix-fixe meals at hundreds of participating restaurants, or join in during a one-off ticketed event such as a brunch crawl on Commercial Drive. Three course meals typically range from $20 to $40, per person, and event prices vary. Participating restaurants have included Brix & Mortar, Boathouse Restaurant, Campagnolo Restaurant, Hapa Izakaya, Salt Tasting Room, PidginKeg Steakhouse + Bar and many, many more.

Gluten Free Expo

January – Vancouver Convention Centre
Canada’s largest gluten-free culinary event goes down at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where one can spend a day sampling and browsing hundreds of products from around the world while learning from experts in gluten free, dairy free, soy free, diabetic friendly, and low FODMAP diets. Tickets range from $12 to $20, and kids get in free. Past exhibitors have included Glutenberg Craft Brewery, Nature’s Path and Yves Veggie Cuisine.

Hot Chocolate Festival

January/February – Various locations
Vancouver's annual Hot Chocolate Festival is a whimsical wintertime occasion – which raises funds for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Job Training Program – presenting a walking tour of the best spots for sipping hot chocolate in the city. Participants walk from place to place, sampling hot cocoa varieties that range from traditional chocolate to bold mixtures with hints of chili or toasted pecan. Some of the city’s favourite neighbourhood cafés – including Bel Café, East Van Roasters and Chocolate Arts – have participated in this seriously sweet festival.

Vancouver B.C. Spot Prawn Festival

May – False Creek
A local delicacy found only in the coastal wilds, B.C. spot prawns are sought after for their unique, sweet flavour and hardy texture. The Vancouver B.C. Spot Prawn Festival takes place at the False Creek Fishermen's Wharf each May. Chefs from across the Lower Mainland serve spot prawns to ticket holders, and proceeds support the Chefs’ Table Society of British Columbia. Featured chefs have included Darren Brown and Alvin Pillay. Restaurants across the city also feature spot prawn dishes on their menus during the season.

Diner en Blanc

Summer – Locations vary
Imagine this: you’re leaving work when – suddenly – crowds of people dressed in white stream past you carrying tables, chairs and picnic baskets. Where are they going? Why, Diner en Blanc, of course! This much-anticipated, very chic annual event brings diners to a secret location for live entertainment and stargazing in the great outdoors. All participants must wear white and bring their own white table, chairs and food — unless they choose to purchase three-course picnics from Diner en Blanc’s talented culinary team, of course.

Ce Soir Noir

Summer – Crab Park
Those who didn’t reserve a coveted spot at Diner en Blanc can attend (for free) Ce Soir Noir, a grass-roots alternative spearheaded by local artist Graeme Berglund. It’s a casual and counter-cultural affair: picnickers dress in all black – or whatever they want – and head to a local park (it's been in Crab Park the past three years) for hanging out, eating off each other’s blankets, and plenty of irony and sass.

YVR Food Fest

June/July – False Creek
Vancouver’s top food trucks and pop-up eateries congregate for this summertime fest, which also showcases local bands, DJs, a cocktail and beer garden and the famous Street Food Showdown. It’s a casual, young-at-heart event that happens over one weekend near Olympic Village. Featured businesses have included Vij's Railway Express, Rocky Point Ice Cream and Aussie Pie Guy.

EAT! Vancouver

November – Various locations
A festival that fundraises for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, EAT! Vancouver is an evolving culinary extravaganza. In 2016, the event changed its format from offering samples and experiences in B.C. Place to a drool-worthy lineup of dining events across the city, such as pop-up dinners and live demos with top chefs. Featured restaurants have included Farmer’s Apprentice, Wildebeest and AnnaLena.

Vancouver Christmas Market

November/December – Jack Poole Plaza
While not specifically a culinary event, this delightful pop-up market provides an ample food selection that draws inspiration from traditional German Christmas fare. Head here during the holiday season to enjoy sweet breads like stollen, Bavarian beer and pretzels, and even slices of German pizza, while you shop for gifts and decorations. Expect to find plenty of authentic European food stalls – from gingerbread to crepes to kaffe! The outdoor event can be chilly, but thankfully there’s spiced gluehwine to warm you up!

Food festivals are not only a smashing good time – they also provide an ideal opportunity to experience the city through its food and the talented individuals who prepare it. There are plenty more awesome food festivals and dining events happening in Vancouver each month – this list is definitely not exhaustive. From Craft Beer Week to Chef Meets Truck and many other local festivals and events, foodies don't need to spend months sampling the city’s culinary community – they can do it all in a matter of (festival) days.

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