Ever since I was a kid, I knew I was destined for the city.
I used to plaster photos of cities on my wall, lying underneath them, buried in books of success and loss under impenetrable skylines and God-graced architecture. I used to trace my fingertips over the planes of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and make my grandmother frequently retell the story of Koln Cathedral withstanding the brutality of war. Moreso than the grandiose buildings and their history, I was enamoured with the people. Fascinated by their stories, I made it my childhood mission to learn as much as I could about what we do and why we do it. I wanted to learn about how a woman raised in Venice was different than one forged in the darker south side of Chicago, and why Catholicism thrived among the Protestants. I wanted to know the good and the bad and how those things interlaced through history, and how they created the cities we have today. I was obsessed with not only the truth, but reputed fiction. I still have a battered copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, worn by years of use and bearing more orange highlights than virgin passages. It wasn’t until I moved to the city that I discovered a huge aspect I hadn’t before considered: the food.
It’s no surprise then that I spent my adult life traveling and living in large cities. Particularly, the city of my home state – New York. The years I spent living there really helped shape me as a person, but also fed into my love for all things architectural and historical. And, even moreso, gave me a spectacular range of food from multiple cultures with various types of cuisine. New York isn’t known just for pizza and bagels. It’s the place you can go to get a genuine Turkish coffee or Korean BBQ without actually going to the foreign country itself. My job at the time allowed me to explore the city in depth and learn as many things as possible about various neighborhoods – though, admittedly, you can live in New York your whole life and still only know about a fraction of it. But fundamentally, whenever I visit or live in a city, the food is probably the most important to me.
This summer, we’re going to be going back home – to New York! – for a visit. So to whet our appetites (ha), my husband and I drove into the city this past Sunday to do some exploring and get him a little more used to the city and devour some good food in the meantime. My husband is a quiet, strong mountain man who prides himself on forest knowledge and keeping to himself. He’s taken survival courses in the Yukon, whereas I have taken survival courses in Brooklyn, so you could say we’re different. While he’s so flippin’ excited to check out my home city, it will be a lot for him to take in. We planned the day well in advance, wanting to walk along the sea wall, but it had been blocked for a marathon. So we just thrifted, walked around, and ate a lot.
We took it easy in the city and checked out a few places to eat, and I have to share about at least two of them: Tacofino in Gastown, and The Pie Hole off Fraser. We love a good taco and have no problem scouring North America for the best one. While my favorite is still in Brooklyn, Tacofino’s tacos swiftly became my favorite in Vancouver. Possibly favorite outside of New York, period. And I have enjoyed a lot of tacos and burritos, my friends.
Tacofino is in a charming vine-and-brick location within historical Gastown, and the interior is significantly larger than I expected. Their decor is Mexican-rustic, with wide inviting tables for groups, and a charming patio in the back. They boast a burrito bar in the front for quick meals, but it’s well-worth the time to sit and enjoy the outdoor space. While admittedly, I devoured my taco before grabbing a photo, I had to snap these beautiful nachos – unlike any I’ve had before. Their chips are undoubtedly house-made, and smothered in cheese, feta, fresh tomato salso (think: pico de Gallo), jalapeños, cilantro, and an unidentifiable, yet mouth-watering cream sauce. My mouth is salivating as we speak. Everything we ate was fresh, perfectly spiced and seasoned, and the whole experience bordered on being a religious one.
Somehow, we managed to find some semblance of self control and did some thrift shopping before hitting up the next spot: The Pie Hole.
The Pie Hole is nestled in a residential part of Vancouver, and if you weren’t paying attention, you’d miss it. The building is nothing pretentious and rests on the corner of a block, making a little pang in my stomach for home. A lot of the best joints are nondescript, modest places that put more effort into their food than decor. That’s not to say The Pie Hole lacks in care of appearance; they’re fashioned into a ’50s style diner without the tackiness that often accompanies reimagined diners. We didn’t stay for a bite, but took a 9-pack of miniatures home to try out various types, as well as two meat pies. My husband and I are lovers of pie so much so that our wedding had a formal pie (in lieu of cake), and miniature pies for guests. Birthdays here don’t get cake, they get pie. It’s a thing.
We enjoyed a chunky monkey (a banana cream type with chocolate base), raspberry cream (my husband’s favorite), key lime (my favorite), apple (a classic), a butter pecan (a throwback to my southern side of the family), and a pie called “Fat Elvis” (banana, peanut butter, chocolate, and nuts).
They were frickin’ delicious – we could only manage bites of them and have many leftover, but we even summoned the strength to share with others. They were fantastic. For dinner, we took two of their meat pies home – a steak and stout and a chicken carbonara. They were also pretty damn good. The Pie Hole was delicious, but I was slightly underwhelmed at how far I traveled and what I paid for them. Not terribly overpriced by any means, but I can get incredible pie much closer to home for a little less. So while I was pretty satisfied, I won’t put them on my must-stop list when I venture into the city next. Tacofino, however, has me considering going again very soon just for them.
Do you have some spots in Vancouver that you love? I’ll probably be sharing some of my places further east into the Fraser Valley soon, so hang tight!