Neighbourhood Guide, Vancouver: Commercial Drive

In Vancouver, we’re lucky to have a unique map of neighbourhoods with distinct personalities. Laid-back and ethnically diverse, Commercial Drive is a great place to enjoy a change of pace and discover something new. A bit of a hippie haunt, and popularly known as “The Drive,” this is the place to go if you want the toughest decision you have to make all day be which restaurant you want to eat it.

Commercial Drive is known for its local, eco-friendly shopping. Whether you’re looking for a sex toy, a skateboard or sustainable seafood, the Drive is a great place to find high-quality goods from locally owned businesses with a conscience. At the north end of the Drive, you’ll find the city’s favourite sex shop, Womyns’ Ware, a great spot to pick up some naughty goodies with your lady. Head south up the block and you’ll stumble upon Dream Designs, a lifestyle boutique that stocks sustainable housewares such as bamboo duvets and buckwheat pillows. There’s not much clothing shopping for men on the Drive, but Mintage Vintage often has some funky one-of-a-kind finds and Blvd Skateshop is the place to go for comfy kicks and casual street clothes. The home to many artists, Commercial Drive is also a fun place to admire art in many forms. In the summer, you can check out the buskers and artisans selling their handmade goods on the strip. And rain or shine, pop in to Doctor Vigari Gallery for an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture and jewelry by Canadian talent. There’s more than a dozen food markets on the strip which runs from Broadway to Hastings, including newly opened The Daily Catch, the first fish shop in Vancouver to exclusively stock Ocean Wise seafood.

There is only one place on The Drive that offers live music seven nights a week: the Libra Room. The popular music lounge features promising young talent and Vancouver jazz giants, with two acts performing every night. You can catch a flick at the city’s premier independent cinema, the Rio. Built in 1938, the theatre has been gussied up and boasts the best seats in town with adjustable arms, perfect for sharing a tub of popcorn with real butter. Good times can also be had at Café Deux Soleils, a vegetarian eatery that hosts a variety of events including slam poetry, improv, comedy, live music and open mic nights. For soccer fans, catching a game at one of the Drive’s Italian cafés (there’s one every two blocks) is a must.

From Italian to Ethiopian, Commercial Drive boasts a worldly selection of restaurants. Vancouver’s Little Italy offers a number of Mediterranean choices. Federico’s Supper Club offers excellent fine dining and dancing, while Marcello’s is a bustling pizzeria. Bandidas Taqueria serves up some killer Mexican food and offers an enticing Tequila Tuesday. For authentic Ethiopian — eaten without utensils — head to Harambe. And when you feel like something different, the newly opened Sorry Babushka offers no apologies, just tasty, inexpensive Ukrainian fare.

One of the city’s best patios, Havana, is located in the heart of Commercial Drive. This Cuban eatery is known for its mojitos, but in the summer sample the sangria, which comes in four varieties: Rojo, Blanco, Tropical and Champagne. (Havana is also home to a theatre and gallery. Check for upcoming shows and make it a night.) BierCraft and The Charlatan are great spots to meet friends for a round, and between the two you can find any beer you want. Cheers!

Image courtesy of ZedZAP.

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