I'm doubly lucky, because I also work in Mount Pleasant, so my commute is as, well.. pleasant as my neighbourhood. I seldom even have to get on a bus, unless I'm running late. And when I'm on a break, or after a long day of teaching music, or when I'm just mooching around the neighbourhood on a day off, I know the 'hood always has my back when it comes to places to eat.
Which is why moving away is a mixed blessing.
It's time to have my own place, at long last. I like to think of myself as an independent woman, since I left home at 18, but the truth is, very few of my adult years have been spent living alone. There was a mostly blissful 5 years in a basement suite off Main Street (also in Mount Pleasant, come to think of it). A year or two in my university days in a cute little Kitsilano bachelor suite, for which I think I paid a whopping $375 (it was a long time ago). Three months in a wonderful sublet just before I moved to my current location. But mostly it's been sharing: with roommates, friends, and even, for the last 3 years, family.
So I've found the perfect place, and I love the neighbourhood: it's in east van (gotta be east van!), it's right off Commercial Drive (so much good food!), it's got a gas stove (lots of meals at home!)... But I'll truly miss my Mount Pleasant haunts, so I'm extra glad that I'll still have to come here all the time for work. Here are some of the places I know I'll keep coming back to:
I'd been eyeing this cute little restaurant for a while, but it took a really snowy Saturday to propel me through its doors at last. I walked all the way from my house to the farmers market in some very odd (for Vancouver) weather... and all the way back, too. When I was almost home, hunger- and the need for warmth- hit hard. I wanted someone to coddle me just a bit. Well, I picked the perfect spot, because Oka-San has comfort food. It didn't take me long to choose the Carbonara Udon to warm me up from the inside out. If the idea of Japanese-Italian food strikes you as odd you're probably not alone, but it was delicious. Cream sauce, generous hammy pieces, and a sprinkling of seaweed garnish over udon noodles, with a nice green salad besides. I'm definitely going back to try the Spam Musibi as well... and that's the cool thing about Oka-San: there's definitely a Hawaiian vibe (think Poke bowls and the aforementioned Spam) as well as the Japanese food at play here.
Oka-San is at 3578 Fraser Street
CARP SUSHI BENTO
Carp has been my go-to lunch spot when I'm working ever since I discovered one of my colleagues eating one of their rice bowls. The bright red salmon, crispy cucumber and smooth avocado looked so pretty! And they taste even better. Yes, they have sushi as well, but I'm a sucker for the rice bowls, especially since you can have a mini one for a mere $6. A mini will satisfy anyone looking for a light lunch; a full-sized one is great for those HUNGRY days. There's tuna, salmon and a few other options as well. I still love the spicy salmon bowl best (it's not very spicy), but I've loved everything I've had at Carp. The best thing is that their food always makes me feel great, since it's protein-rich and not greasy. Only one slight caution: they are not currently debit card-friendly, so bring cash or credit.
Carp is at 2516 Prince Edward Street
Speaking of greasy... I have to give a shout-out to PEACEFUL RESTAURANT, which is just too damn close to my workplace to be safe for my waistline. I have loved northern Chinese food ever since I discover Shaolin Noodle House years ago, and Peaceful does it even better. Highlights include the green onion pancakes, which always burn my mouth because I can't wait for them to cool; the wonderfully-named Peaceful Beef Roll (beef rolled in flatbread with Hoisin sauce), and the Dan Dan noodles. But recently I discovered something even better there. It was another snowy day, and classes at the music school were cancelled, allowing me to leave four hours early! Another comfort-food day for sure... so I walked a few blocks to Peaceful. But what to have? I needed something warm and soothing as the day was dark and snowy. Not too much spice, not too much grease... I decided to try the Xi'an White Lamb Stew. "It's traditional Chinese dish," warned my waitress sternly as she took my order. "No noodles!" "That's okay," I said brightly, and quailed as I waited for my order to arrive. Would I not like it? Would it be filled with something that my Western pallet would find unpleasant?
When the lamb stew came, the only problem was how to cool it fast enough to get it in my mouth. A light broth, packed with little chunks of lamb, cabbage, wood ear mushrooms (my favourite!), and many small pieces of flatbread, all flavoured with large sprigs of cilantro. It was a large bowl, and I ate the whole thing.
Peaceful Restaurant is at 43 east 5th, among other locations
There are many more places I love to go in Mount Pleasant, and I hope to write about them in the future, after I cover some of the best nibbles on Commercial Drive. Stay hungry, everybody!