The Village Taphouse

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Food: $13-20 mains $7-18 app. Drinks $$$
Menu

The Village Taphouse gets a ton of publicity solely because it is the only decent place in West Vancouver to grab a beer. Don’t get me wrong, the Taphouse does a lot well; but I feel that if any competition arose in west van, the Taphouse would then be reduced in public opinion to the generic underwhelming sports-bar that it is.

The bar was split up into a lounge/restaurant area, with tables and a fire place, and a bar area furnished with tall tables and a pool table. Both areas were decorated with rows and rows of TVs which, while the local hockey game is on, are turned up to a deafening volume. The bar’s logo, the crown from the keep calm poster, decorated the walls, menus, uniforms, and much more. The clientele were mostly older men, the after work crowd catching the game on the many TV screens. There were a few younger folk, but I think this was due to it being mid afternoon.

The Taphouse had quite an impressive list of beers. A row of taps lining the brick wall behind the bar and a long chalkboard overhead can be quite overwhelming for the average beer guzzler. Fortunatly, the Taphouse also has quite a few fan favorites. For the cautiously adventurous, the Taphouse also offers sampler planks; three small glasses of any beer for $6.

The food was nothing amazing, and terribly overpriced. The appetizers were almost as much, if not more than the entrees. I just can’t bring myself to ever pay $18 for basic nachos. A couple of highlights were the tuna tacos and the fat albert burger. I haven’t had the pleasure of consuming either of these, but every time I’m there someone goes for one of these and I’ve never heard anything but rave reviews for them. Plus, they are the only things on the menu that are remotely unique. The tuna tacos come in a soft shell and are dressed with a coleslaw and some kind of chipotle sauce. The fat albert burger has become somewhat of a challange among my male friends. Due to the heartclogging nature of the burger, and the shear amount of food on the plate, it is more than difficult to finish the entire thing. The burger is dressed with bacon, ham, sausage, crispy onions, and a few different types of cheeses. After witnessing the pained looks on my friends faces post consumption, I think I will avoid the challange myself.

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The Bimini

2010 west 4th ave
C+ $$$
Menu

The Bimini is one of those bars you hear about from your parents, that is, if you grew up in Vancouver. It was one of the old grungy hang outs in Kits, populated by greenpeace supporters and other dirty hippys. It became run down and was then the first pub bought by, the now famous, Jeff Donnelly. Unfortunatly, it burnt down shortly after, right after the renovations. It re-opened a month or so ago, after being rebuilt by the now all-powerful Donnelly group.
Unfortunatly, what this means is that the Donnelly’s have taken any individuality that was once in this icon and turned it into another generic Donnelly pub. Usually the Donnelly’s add some kind of differentiating feature to their pubs to minimize the twilight zone feeling when going to more than one in a night. At the Bimini, the Donnelly’s have framed photos of the bar burning down and hidden them behind large, overwhelming flatscreen TVs. Other than the photos, the Bimini shares the same traits as most other Donnelly pubs: dark wood panelling, chalk boards, Donnelly Group coasters and napkin wraps, and large flat screen TVs everywhere.
The food was rather pricey for pub fare. I had the sliders ($12) and my friends had the edemame ($6) and the mac and cheese ($12.50). All three were alright, not peticularly imagiantive or inspirational. They did have a few interesting menu items, like a waffle sandwich, but for the most part the menu items were old pub favorites with slight twists.
The cocktails, the same at every Donnely pub, were quite tasty and if you manage to get the cocktail of the week they’re actually affordable ($6.50). The cocktails were very well made; they were made with fresh ingredients, and generally without added sugar. The draught selection is what the bar really seems to be proud of. They claim, on their drink menu, that their selection changes so freaquently that they can’t print it on the permenant menu and so they have a paper slip with the seasonal draughts tucked in it. I didn’t have a chance to try any of them, but there were quite a few.
I can’t really say much about the atmosphere at the Bimini; It was around 9pm on a Tuesday when we went, and pretty dead once we got there. Overall, we had a nice couple of drinks and some food before heading downtown. I wouldn’t stay there all night unless it was the weekend, but it’s a nice stop off point. Also, it being a Donnelly pub, you know exactly what you’re getting into walking through the doors.

The Blarney Stone

216 Carrall Street, Gastown
B $$$
Menus

The Blarney Stone is one of those permanent fixtures in the Vancouver night scene. Located in the heart of Gastown, it is a staple for university students partying downtown. While the crowd is usually fairly young, it is generally a blend of personalities ranging from the relaxed pub go-er to the hyperactive club dancer. This mix creates a welcoming and energetic atmosphere, allowing pretty much anyone to feel comfortable while there. Unless, of course, you are over 25 in which case you just feel old.

The line at The Blarney Stone is usually quite formidable if you do not arrive before 9. The stone faced security do a fantastic job at keeping the peace, though sometimes they can be a little too thorough. The gentleman that inspected my ID insisted that it was a fake since the picture, taken five years and three hair colours ago, looked nothing like me. It took a few more pieces of ID for me to pass through the dark wooden doors. Once inside there was a woman at a desk, to which one payed their cover ($10), and another gentleman checking stamps. One large circular bar sat right at the entrance and another in the back by the stage and the dance floor. The security force were positioned strategically around the pub to ensure that people wouldn’t dally in bottleneck areas, giving the bar an eerie slaughterhouse feel.

The drinks were fantastically over priced. After hearing an announcement for 2 for 1 shots, my friend and I went to go get some. I asked for a light one and the bartender shot me a judgmental look before pouring, from what I can tell, a shot of juice with some alcohol sprinkled in it. What was truly appalling was the $12 price tag. They had a rather good selection of beer on tap, however, the beer that was on special still came out to $5.50 a sleeve. They seemed to have some drink specials, though they were fairly arbitrary and were not posted anywhere. The bar-tending was amazingly quick, however, despite the crowd.

The music scene was an interesting mix. There was a cover band that would play around five or six songs at a time before giving way to the DJ. Generally the music was an odd mix between 90’s rock and modern top 40. The dance floor was generally full all night, and had a more of a group vibe than a meat market one. Overall, The Blarney Stone was a great place to go after you’ve had a couple drinks to dance and socialize. Don’t expect to be able to sit and chat, and don’t drink there unless you’d like to break the bank.

The Metropole

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320 Abbott Street
Menu

As a fair warning before I start on this review, I am a little biased when it comes to The Met. This pub is my group of friends’ weekly stomping ground. For the last two years we have been coming here at least once a week. This, of course, resulted in us befriending the bartenders and DJ. After so many good nights in one place it is hard to write a fair handed review.

The food at The Met is really nothing special, however, the prices are what are extraordinary. The Met has a scaled food menu, the cheapest set of food options starting at $2.50 and the most expensive being $8. It is all typical pub food (pretzels, garlic fries, burgers, etc). Food specials, such as the $6 burger and beer, are common every day. While the food is not fantastic, it is not the over-greased and fried and salted food that you get for much more at other pubs.

The Met, like most pubs, have daily drink specials. They’re fairly simple, singles doubles and sleeves of beer, but they also have month long killer specials. For example, last month it was $3 September; all well drinks, lager, and certain hard bar were only $3. They also have nightcap, or just starting out, specials such as the beer and a shot for $8. On Tuesday the Met has it’s famous $2 beer night, which can understandably get a little rowdy. Other than the specials it’s nothing fancy.

The atmosphere at the met is very relaxed and casual. It is a neighborhood pub in a humble neighborhood on the edge of downtown so you could get anyone from a suit grabbing a beer after work to grubby punks rolling in around midnight. The DJs are all very friendly and take requests. The two regular bartenders are great guys but dislike “bros” so be warned. On slower nights they have a super Nintendo and an N64 hooked up to a couple TVs for people to play as well as free shuffle board. On weekends they clear out most of the tables to create a makeshift dance floor.

What I love about The Met are the characters. I have seen people from every class and creed in that dark little pub, however, I’ve never seen a fight. I have never seen someone teased, or shoved out of the way in the drink line, or threatened. People there just want to have a good time, and that’s why I go back there every week.

Raglan’s

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15 Lonsdale ave
C- $$$

Raglan’s is a bit of a North Shore legend. So much so that since I had moved to North Vancouver I had heard about it so many times I had to see what the fuss was about.

The exterior instantly let the patron know that this was a themed pub. The patio was surrounded by a bamboo gate and covered with thatched roofing, giving the impression of a beach-side bungalow. The bamboo theme carried on inside where fake palm trees, tiki masks, and surfboards welcome you. A large projection screen plays surf videos on the back wall and beach murals cover the walls. The menus are made out of a woven substance and the text is painted on.

There are really only young adults in this bar and the menu reflects it. Jäger is served on tap there and there are drink specials every day, displayed on a bamboo framed chalkboard on the wall. The food is your usual pub fare (burgers, sandwiches, pizza) with an “island” theme. What doesn’t reflect the youthful atmosphere are the prices. With $8 drinks and $12-18 appetisers, this bar would only be affordable to teens with too much money or carrer-ers (30-40).

Unfortunately, the prices do not reflect the quality of the food. The food is generally quite greasy and flavourless, over-fried and over-sauced. There are very few vegetarian options and all of the plates are overloaded with meat and starch, leaving you feeling bloated and disgusting. This place would be great as a hangover dive, if not for the prices.

What Raglans is most famous for are their fruit drinks. They come in three sizes: squall (single), hurricane (double), and monsoon (bowl). Once the kitchy appeal of a bowl of fruity alcohol had worn off, it was quite apparent that the drinks were made up of mostly concentrated fruit juice, sugar, and a bit of alcohol. These cocktails are tasty, but more than one or two will leave you with a terrible sugar headache. They have a very basic selection of beer, a list of which can be found on the wall rather than on the menu, all in bottles rather than on tap.

I’ve never stumbled upon a bar that was so well spoken of, yet so horribly disappointing. I’ve been to this pub three times now, each time on recommendation of different friends, and each time I’ve left with a sore stomach and an empty wallet.