The fishing village where cool kids frolic among tall ships and craft beers.
A mere two hours from Seattle there is a village tucked inside of another town tucked inside of a country that is not our own. It’s called Steveston, British Columbia and it sits inside Richmond — otherwise known as Vancouver’s dim sum-dappled little sister.
As far as fishing villages go, Steveston is right up there with the best of them — boasting tall ships filmed in the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, an artisanal coffee shop that gives Italy a run for its money, and sexy-assed salmon fishermen with names like Brian O’Brien.
Start your Steveston tour with a stop in Rocanini Coffee Roasters. It’s worth ignoring the awkward name for a handmade cup of cold coffee brewed in much the same style as sun tea but in a much neater, Jacques Cousteau-like contraption. Their baristas are trained to taste and taste again so you’re not likely to receive an off-shot of anything. The décor has the comfortable minimalism of a Japanese spa.
Next, stroll the lazy block to the boardwalk and enjoy the commanding view of the sea punctuated by bobbing ship masts. Every other Sunday, there is a farmer’s market — but if you miss that and feel like fresh catch for dinner, hop off the boardwalk and walk the public docks of Fisherman’s Wharf to buy fish straight from the back of the boat.
During my visit, I ate live sea urchin out of a fisherman’s hand (3 for $10), and saw scads of bright fuchsia salmon roe, scampering spot prawns (hurry — the season is almost finished), and even an octopus which the harbormaster told me was an incidental catch (but still perfectly legal to sell). The docks are bustling with people making deals, children awed by the sights, and chefs from nearby restaurants carefully examining the fish for ‘Today’s Special’ back at the cafe.
Dining options abound. Want barbecue? Try the Pulled Pork Pancakes, a cult favorite from the Hog Shack, a Kansas City-style slow and low joint also featuring craft beers, smoky burnt ends and poutine worth smuggling across the border, even if you have to hide it in your tighty whiteys.
If you are more in the mood for local fare prepared with the traditionally French attention to detail, don’t miss Tapenade, just one street off the Fisherman’s Wharf. This unassuming joint has been called the best restaurant in the Lower Mainland by local media for good reason. It was easily the culinary highlight of my two-day, jam-packed media tour of Richmond and Steveston — largely because the award-winning chef, Alex Tung, knows when to leave well enough alone — and when to apply his expert touch to a raw ingredient to enhance its natural flavor. The Dungeness crab cakes with a healthy quenelle of crab remoulade on top will disappear off your plate so fast you’d better just order a second portion straight away, and the well-curated wine list features a variety of crisp Canadian gems.
Does this sound like an experience you’ve got to have? Go this weekend. The Ships to Shore festival will take place along with the farmer’s market, thus the Fisherman’s Wharf zone will be bustling with all the right kind of activity. If that’s not enough, clock-in (there is literally a vintage time-clock you can punch into) to the Gulf of Georgia Salmon Cannery which is now a historical site can school you on the mired history of salmon canning along the coast.
If you’ve got big plans to paint your toenails and watch the varnish dry and can’t make it up this weekend, fear not. You may win a prize package put together by Richmond Tourism that includes limo, hotel and dining fun throughout Steveston and Richmond. To enter, go to the Food in Richmond Web site for details.