Summer 2022 may be in the rearview mirror, but that certainly doesn’t mean there’s a moratorium on vacations until 2023. In fact, it’s the perfect time to escape the daily grind and plan a trip that’s just for the adults. Whether it’s a couple’s weekend or a getaway with a group of friends, Vancouver, WA, is the ideal city to relax in a beautiful setting and enjoy some amazing food and beverages. Here’s your guide to eating and drinking your way through Vancouver this fall.
Shan Wickham, owner of Rally Pizza in Vancouver, sings the praises of Elements Restaurant, a family-owned establishment. Chef Miguel Sosa, born and raised in Mexico, is classically trained in French techniques and combines these skills to create dishes with a Mexican-inspired influence. Dishes like Spanish octopus a la plancha, crab and brie fondue, and Kurobuta pork chops are among the most popular items on the menu. There are also excellent options for vegetarians and vegans, such as the vegan lobster mushroom risotto and the cauliflower steak. Plus, Elements’ dessert menu is the stuff of a sweet tooth’s dreams — the vanilla bean crème brûlée and lemon cheesecake are especially popular, as is the vegan option, lavender and rose panna cotta.
Wickham also offered an insider tip: after a meal at Elements, she loves to go vintage shopping at the nearby Most Everything Vintage, a boutique that sells men’s and women’s vintage clothes, shoes and accessories, in addition to home goods and vinyl records. “[Most Everything Vintage] is so cute and the woman who owns it is the sweetest person,” says Wickham. In addition to the store’s excellent everyday selection, the owner also does special events and pop-ups. For example, she recently hosted her annual “Mad About Plaid” event, featuring all her shop’s best plaid items to get ready for fall.
For a meal and drinks with a stunning view, head to the Vancouver Waterfront. Located on the Columbia River, the waterfront is one of Vancouver’s top attractions. After all, what could be better than enjoying a delicious meal while taking in a gorgeous view? Be sure to check out The Waterfront Taphouse. This restaurant is known for its tempting cocktails and the food menu offers everything from salads to pizzas to risotto. Other excellent restaurants on the waterfront include WildFin American Grill and Twigs Bistro, an ideal spot for dinner because it’s one of the best places to watch the sunset.
River Maiden Coffee, which recently celebrated its 20th year in business, is a coffee shop Wickham describes as a “hidden gem” in Vancouver. After losing their lease, River Maiden rallied and found a new home in an old bank.
“It has the bank drive-up with the depository still on it, [which] ended up being a huge part of their staying power during the pandemic because they were able to have people come to the drive-through,” says Wickham. In addition to the signature coffee, Wickham recommends the delicious sandwiches at this family-owned business.
“I can’t say enough good things about them,” she adds. “They go out of their way to source local coffee and local ingredients, and they hire a lot of kids in the neighborhood.”
Vancouver and the surrounding region boast a bevy of top-notch wineries. In fact, a new AVA (American Viticulture Area) application has recently been submitted for Southwest Washington. If approved, the Mount St. Helens AVA would cover over 2,100 square miles. The AVA is an official federal designation of a region that recognizes its potential for growing wine grapes in that area. Examples in America include our very own Puget Sound, as well as Napa and Sonoma. In Europe, districts such as Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux in France, as well as Sicily in Italy, have the equivalent of an AVA designation.
Roger Rezabek, owner of Rezabek Vineyards and Chair of the SWWA AVA Task Force, explains that there are about 30 wineries in operation throughout Southwest Washington, several of which are in Vancouver itself. A wide variety of grapes are planted in Southwest Washington, including but not limited to pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and gamay noir.
Rezabek Vineyards has a distinctly different atmosphere than the wine-tasting rooms found in the greater Seattle area. Many of the seating areas are in view of the vineyards and the winery itself is just a few feet away from some of the pinot noir grapes being grown.
“You have a good opportunity to get right in with the grape vines and enjoy some wine with that kind of environment,” says Rezabek. “Plus, being out in the rural part of the county you have the opportunity to see wildlife like hawks, swallows and deer.” The vineyard is also surrounded by oak trees and fir trees, creating a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere.
“It’s a natural pastoral setting, which is something you don’t get in a city, and that’s a real benefit,” Rezabek says. He notes that the fresh air and blue skies make the vineyard a wonderful place to sit and enjoy refreshments outside. Because the vineyard doesn’t have a food menu, Rezabek recommends that visitors bring their own snacks to pair with a glass (or more!) of wine. “Sit under the trees or on our deck and enjoy the fresh air,” he says.
The Loafing Shed tasting room at English Estate Winery is another lovely spot for wine and snacks. Bring a picnic and enjoy the fruits of the vineyard’s labor outside, weather permitting, or cozy up inside by the fire.
Not in the mood for a wine tasting? No problem. The city’s “Brewcouver” community (as it is affectionately called) does not disappoint suds seekers. Wickham highly recommends Fortside Brewing, a popular neighborhood spot among locals. “They have a taco truck outside for food which is also really great,” she adds.
If you’re looking to enjoy a beer on the waterfront, look no further than Ruse Brewing. Although beer is the main attraction, Ruse also serves up delicious pizza.
Vancouver Dining Month
Dine the Couve takes place during the month of October. Coincidentally, October also happens to be National Pizza Month, so you can’t go wrong at Rally Pizza. For just $35, Rally offers three courses: your choice of wine or a cocktail, a salad and your choice of pizza.
Although trusty standbys like margherita and pepperoni are the most popular options, Wickham is proud of the restaurant’s unique “bolognese” pizza, which uses bolognese sauce as a pizza topping. “It’s really popular because it’s not on other menus,” she says. “It’s a lot, so bring a friend!”
Although the lineup of participating restaurants for 2022 has not yet been finalized, the current list includes AC Lounge, Burnt Bridge Cellars, La Uva Fortuna Farms, Mahoney’s Public House, and Slow Fox Chili. Be sure to keep an eye on Visit Vancouver’s Dine the Couve page, which is updated every time a new participating restaurant is confirmed.
The Vancouver Farmers Market
Vancouver Farmers Market is a beloved staple in the city among locals and tourists alike. The Downtown Market is especially popular; it’s open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays through October 30. The Fall Market immediately follows on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the same Eighth and Esther streets location from November 5 through December 17.
Because Rezabek Vineyards is only open on the weekends, Rezabek recommends getting the fixings for a picnic lunch at the farmers market before heading to your wine tasting.
Wickham is also a huge fan of the farmers market, noting that Rally Pizza buys fresh, local ingredients from some of the vendors. Based on her firsthand experience, she says that vendors you’ll definitely want to visit include Flat Tack Farm, Red Truck Farm, Wobbly Cart Farm and Reister Ranch.
Visit Vancouver WA is the official destination marketing organization for Vancouver, Washington and greater Clark County. Learn more and start planning your trip at www.visitvancouverwa.com.