With an impossibly idyllic name, coveted hilltop locale and mere 15-minute commute to downtown Vancouver, Mount Pleasant is the city’s next big borough. Founded in the 1800s as “Vancouver’s first suburb,” it is now attracting a faster crowd – including creative entrepreneurs and indie-loving city dwellers – for its cafés, restaurants and arts scene. While exploring, keep an eye out for vibrant large-scale murals, a souvenir from last year’s Vancouver Mural Festival, as well as sweeping views of the downtown skyline and North Shore Mountains.
In some buzzing neighbourhoods, the place to see and be seen and the place to actually eat well are not the same – but Savio Volpe is both. Chef Mark Perrier’s simple, slow food includes handmade pasta (think cavatelli with sausage, mint and whipped ricotta) along with spit-roasted local meats and fish. At Burdock & Co., chef Andrea Carlson turns out expertly crafted local small plates and natural wines in an intimate room with an ambient bonus: The custom B.C. pine-beetle-wood drop ceiling reduces noise for guests next to the busy open kitchen. Anh and Chi serves up authentic Vietnamese in a modern resto-lounge with interiors by designer Karin Bohn (check out the palm-tree wallpaper in the washroom). The restaurant, whose name means “elder brother and sister,” is run by siblings whose parents once operated Vancouver’s first pho spot in the same space.
Open since 1973, the Western Front, one of Canada’s top interdisciplinary artist-run centres, hosts regular contemporary performances. Steps away is the Fox Cabaret – it was the city’s last-standing adult theatre before reopening in early 2014 as a comedy and music venue. (Check out the moody Projection Room upstairs for cocktails and DJ nights.) On a sunny day, take a stroll to the (in)famous Dude Chilling Park. Yes, that’s its real name – what started with a prank sign by a local artist became a permanent fixture and symbol of Mount Pleasant’s laid-back vibe.
Beer is on tap all over the borough, and it’s no wonder why: In the late 1800s, the area was known as Brewery Creek, named after a river running through it that made the location ideal for beer production. These days, there are about half a dozen next-wave craft breweries, perfect for a walking tour. Two to try: 33 Acres Brewing, which draws the Instagram crowd into a whitewashed room bedecked with potted botanicals, then keeps them coming back with poached-egg brunches and to-go bottles of award-winning Belgian Tripel 33 Acres of Euphoria; and Brassneck Brewery, where the wood-panelled, 50-person space is always overflowing with visitors sampling stronger brews, like the Massive Aggressive (it clocks in at 8.0 percent ABV). Bonus: Detox from a brewery binge with a chlorophyll-packed Deep Green at the Juice Truck, one of the brick-and-mortar locations of the city’s first cold-pressed-juice company, or get buzzed on lattes and cold brew at 49th Parallel, Kafka’s or Matchstick Coffee.
Mount Pleasant’s major artery, Main Street, is a walkable bundle of boutiques emanating from Kingsway and Main Street (a nexus marked by the triangle-shaped indie coffee shop, Gene). Local designers are prized at Much & Little, where owner Sarah Savoy stocks greeting cards by Porchlight Press, jewellery from Wolf Circus, as well as B.C.-born candles, leather goods, textiles and clothing. For gentlemen, locals skip the smattering of shiny new barbershops in favour of a classic: Belmont Barbershop, owned by musician and senior barber Rich Hope. Design hounds flock to Vancouver Special, which sells a curated selection of art books, Scandi furniture and Japanese minimalist design (it’s the perfect spot to stock up on Hasami porcelain mugs).