Perhaps you have passed one of these unappreciated gems on your dingy neighbourhood street corner whilst walking to your weekly Zumba class. The wonderful underdogs of the food and corner store industry–undervalued by society and possibly shunned by health inspectors–are scattered about the city. With menus filled with grammatical errors and photos that are uncomfortably sun bleached, some of these forgotten stores are actually worth a visit.
Sunny Spot Cafe
2543 Main St., Vancouver
Tucked between the niche stationery stores and clothing shops that clutter Main St. lies a little slice of multicultural heaven. When googled, the Sunny Spot Cafe is described with two words: hashbrown and noodle. Blending a mix of greasy spoon classics and northern Chinese cuisine, this overlooked spot contains the perfect amount of grammatical errors on their menu and appropriately confusing signage. With items as low as $2.50 and an egg breakfast complete with bacon, toast, and hashbrowns for only $4.00, this is an ideal place for people with only the pocket change left over from last night’s bar crawl.
West Side Market
3870 West 16th Ave., Vancouver
West Side Market is typical corner store, located in the middle of a block across the street from a high school. It’s full of nearly expired ramen and contempt for the teenagers who often occupy the space. Bags of one dollar candy line the walls, and Dum Dums are sold for only ten cents. This magical land of poor nutritional decisions will fill you up with MSG and just about every other three letter acronym that health officials tell you to avoid. With enough coins fished from the bottom of your bag, anything is possible. Dreams come true at the West Side Market.
151 East Broadway, Vancouver
This place looks exactly like something out of Pulp Fiction, but with more pies. At face value, Reno Restaurant is pretty dingy, but their jukebox and low prices make up for the splits in their leather booths. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but it provides the perfect atmosphere to converse with friends, eat your feelings, or let your sketchy side roam free. Attempt to decipher the menu, make a selection of tunes, grab a slice of blueberry pie, and pick a spot that looks relatively clean. The laid back atmosphere and eclectic experience makes it entirely necessary to visit this spot.
Laura’s Coffee Shop
1945 Manitoba St.
Laura’s Coffee Shop is not so much a coffee shop but a strange fusion of mid 50s Americana, Chinese cuisine, and a corner store. You’ll find it inside a ramshackle white house, stranded in a mostly industrial area.. This place has a strange variety of menu items, ranging from the gum and lighters sold at the counter to the bubble tea to the innovative takes on greasy spoon classics. Normally Laura’s is busy, but having to wait for a table is rare, making it a nice alternative to busy spots like Nice Cafe. If this locale’s low prices and quintessential charm aren’t enough to put a smile on your face, take comfort in the fact that all their take out boxes are paper instead of styrofoam. Even if you’re clogging your arteries, at least you’re being environmentally responsible in doing so.
At first glance these shops may seem unlikely places to feast, but each one offers an entirely unique experience. Impress your date with your knowledge of these local hotspots. Take your entire family out for a cheap feast that will win your mom over (after she warily questions your knowledge of health codes).