Following the annual tradition for this column, below is a list of what I consider to be the best Dish meals of 2017. This list is not in random order; these meals are most certainly ranked, counting down from number 10 to the number one Meal of the Year.
Only four of the top ten meals were at newly opened venues, meaning that industry veterans were responsible for the majority of the outstanding dining I was privileged to experience.
10. Burgoo Bistro kicks off this year’s “Best Of” list with a great reminder to me in October of why comfort food bears that handle. Chef Teresa Meilleur’s rustic, boldly flavoured fare shines all year, but certainly makes winter, in particular, more manageable. Try the Fonduemental, a fantastic, Kirsch-scented Gruyere and Emmental fondue with fresh fruit and crusty bread. Burgoo.ca. ow.ly/yYfw30hiPfB.
9. Baker and Baron Cafe. The charm and hospitality of the owners of this Marine Drive breakfast and lunch only eatery are largely responsible for the consistently enjoyable meals I’ve had here. Fresh baked, fluffy scones serve as the base for an inspired Benny, while hearty roasts prepared in house feature on delicious, well-priced sandwiches. Bakerandbaroncafe.ca. ow.ly/1viv30hiPG2.
8. Amici Restaurant. It was a mighty Cioppino that stole the show at my September meal at Amici Restaurant in West Vancouver. The seafood-laden stew, with its deep tomato, fennel, garlic and white wine broth, was an excellent iteration of a San Francisco classic, served up in an old school white tablecloth environment. Amici.ca. ow.ly/wpjr30hiQ2Q.
7. Earnest Ice Cream. Okay, so an ice cream parlour is not typically ranked side by side with dinner venues, but for the sheer indulgent bliss it supplies, Earnest more than earns its place on this list. I have heard some people balk at the group’s rapid growth from independent East Van darling to multi-venue juggernaut, but the proof of Earnest’s worth is in the quality of the ice cream and the ethos of the company, both of which remain uncompromised in the wake of their undeniable success. This is phenomenally good ice cream, with an environmentally responsible edge. The Oatmeal and Brown Sugar flavour is still my categorical favourite. Earnesticecream.com. ow.ly/aGud30hiRpY.
6. Vaades Indian Restaurant. For too long this humble West 3rd restaurant was eclipsed in my mind by some of the showier, heavy hitters in this category on the North Shore. My April visit changed all that as I tucked into excellent Baigan Bartha (eggplant) and Fish Curry, both which delivered on my request for heat. Pre-order for pickup at Vaades.com. ow.ly/RaHZ30hiXEj.
5. Puccini’s Deli. I experienced Puccini’s Deli’s catering in conjunction with an October piece on at-home wine tastings and was blown away. Their charcuterie boards, curated to your taste and budget, are second to none. Puccini’s selection is enormous and its space inspiring. Be sure to try the outstanding espresso-rubbed BellaVitano cheese, if it is in stock. Puccinisdeli.com. ow.ly/m8mQ30hiYfl.
4. Glory Juice Co. supplied the most pleasantly surprising meal of the year with their outrageously tasty breakfast bowls, especially the inspired Cauliflower and Chickpea Glory Bowl that blended quinoa, roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, red onion, smoky tahini, hummus, pickled onions and cashew garlic dressing. The acai berry slush-based Original Glory Bowl was also a refreshing and energizing treat. You will feel great after breakfast here, despite (or maybe because of) the complete absence of staples like bacon, eggs or waffles. Glorious! Gloryjuiceco.com. ow.ly/6laN30hiYTt.
3. Sons of Vancouver. Business partners James Lester and Richard Klaus, the eponymous Sons of Vancouver, operate one of my all-time favourite businesses on the North Shore. They elevate the craft–distilling discipline to new levels with every release, from their signature, award-winning Amaretto to their potent Chili Vodka. Their tasting room (check the website for hours) is still far and away the best place for a cocktail in town, leveraging the magical collection of small batch, craft spirits from all over the world that informs their back bar. Sonsofvancouver.com. ow.ly/jDhl30hj1He.
2.Bridge Brewing. In second place this year is Bridge Brewing, with their cozy and comfortable tasting room, consistently excellent craft beers and, happily, their newly launched taco menu. The whole lineup of tacos (there are four, excluding daily specials) is excellent, but the Jerk Pulled Pork Taco with pineapple salsa, avocado crema and pickled red cabbage is especially good. Pair the tacos with a pint of seasonal ale made right on premise and you have one of the Shore’s more authentic, beguiling casual meal experiences. Bridgebrewing.com. ow.ly/YI4A30hiZK3.
1. Orto Artisan Pasta. There is no ambiguity in my decision to name Orto Artisan Pasta 2017’s Meal of the Year. The North Shore’s most professional front of house host and maitre d’hotel, Brigitte Raye, and her talented son Steeve Raye, who leads the kitchen, have created a true gem of a restaurant off the beaten path on Mackay Road. Orto occupies the space that formerly housed Ethical Kitchen, but the room and the spectacular garden that is attached to it, are unrecognizable under Raye ownership. In the summer, the outdoor seating in the herb and vegetable garden, which provides both inspiration and ingredients for the kitchen, allows patrons to dine in a simply unparalleled oasis. Hand made pasta, staggeringly fresh herbs and vegetables, and warm, engaged service conspire to deliver a dining experience that bats far, far above the prices of the menu. In winter, the focus is on heartier, boldly flavoured fare with a rustic Italian bent and the room gets a homey, country cabin vibe that makes you want to sit and linger. Ortoartisanpasta.com. ow.ly/6sKP30hj19E.
Honourable Mention. Rustique Bistro. In July I headed over to Bowen Island to experience the food scene there and was thrilled to learn how many great venues have been packed onto a small strip of town. Rustique Bistro presents beautifully prepared traditional French dishes and a thoughtful wine list, served in a charming and airy space. Rustiquebistro.wixsite.com. ow.ly/6sKP30hj19E.