Taste the real Vancouver; Places for authentic and unusual eats

CanWest News Service
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Finding a restaurant while travelling is a lot like looking for love.
a) You want something you can brag about.
b) You don't want to think that too many people have been there before you.
Vancouver boasts schools of fancy fish restaurants where fillets are stacked just-so atop rare root vegetables and drizzled with some sort of reduction or foam. And, while these high-maintenance lovelies are nice to look at, they're not the charming down-home locals that you could be getting to know.
Here are five independent Vancouver restaurants that are delicious and off-the-beaten path.

The Naam
2724 West 4th Ave., Kitsilano
There is almost always a queue outside this 24-hour vegetarian institution, and for good reason: The folksy ambience is rustic and comforting and the food is good enough to make staunch meatarians forgo the flesh. The Naam hosts live music every night and has had some 30 years to perfect its menu. Try the Golden Dragon Bowl (fries, cheese, miso gravy, steamed veggies, sprouts, carrots and deep-fried tofu) and Noh Pie (a banana-date-nut cream pie with no sugar, dairy or eggs).

Vera's Burger Shack
12 locations, including 1181 Denman St.
What started as a beach concession in 1977 has blossomed into a rapidly expanding chain. Tempting Vancouver's toned volleyball players and yogaphiles into sin, Vera's serves up calorific monstrosities like The Cantor (double patty, double cheese, double fries onions - double bypass) with a special sauce that's "made to make you want to drink it." Please don't.

The Tomahawk
1550 Philip Ave., North Vancouver
www.tomahawkrestaurant .com
Kitschy as all get out, The Tomahawk is a flashback to days when terms like Eskimo, Indian and Chinaman were bandied about. In 1926, then-owner Chick Chamberlain started collecting curios from the locals (often in exchange for food). These handmade pots, drums, cooking utensils and masks are still on display in the restaurant, which even has its own totem pole outside. The fare is traditional (think homemade pies and meat loaf), and the burgers are named after some of the aboriginal chiefs that Chick got to know.

The Reef
1018 Commercial Dr. and 4172 Main St.
Enough of the blasted Pacific Ocean! Ackee and saltfish, calypso oxtail strew and a johnnycake you won't soon forget are staples at this fun Caribbean restaurant. But what's especially novel is that The Reef also serves brunch on weekends. If you've never had a jerk salmon benny washed down with a passion fruit mimosa, wake up and smell The Reef!

Memphis Blues Barbeque House
Three locations, including 1465 West Broadway
You might say that only fools rush in to The Elvis Platter. It's true that when you and your accomplices have demolished it, you will hate yourselves. You will wonder how on Earth you crammed so much slow-cooked meat into your tiny stomachs. You will think back upon the tender brisket, the succulent pulled pork, the chicken, the ribs, the smoked sausage, the corn bread, the slaw, the fries, the beans and that rich sauce that you slathered over the whole shebang. You will vow to never eat southern barbecue again. But you will, for the same reason that drove you to eat like a posse of big fat Elvises in the first place: You want it, you need it, you love it.

Ottawa Citizen

Geographic location: Vancouver, North Vancouver, Pacific Ocean Caribbean Memphis Ottawa

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