The locals' guide to Kensington-Cedar Cottage & Little Saigon
Welcome to the Local's Guide to Vancouver. We're unearthing the city's hidden gems to show you just how satisfying it can be to support local businesses.
Going big in Little Saigon
"I can tell you where to get the best Vietnamese sub in the neighbourhood." Bold words from Tee Haynes, considering that we're standing on a stretch of road dubbed "Little Saigon".
I'm hanging out with Tee to get a better look at his neighbourhood. Tee and his housemates live in Kensington-Cedar Cottage. Little Saigon is the stretch of Kingsway between Fraser and Nanaimo.
Tee is a project manager, having kept things running smoothly for the Shambhala Festival, then Tidball Projects, and, most recently, his kinetic household.
It's not just about the bánh mi, though: we're exploring Kensington-Cedar Cottage, whose aesthetically-challenged exterior belies an embarrassment of riches when it comes to good food and drink.
We turn onto Kingsway at Glen Street, where Tee makes a sharp turn to the left. "Down there is a great Dai Tung. When I got my first pay packet for my new job, I went there."
We then turn back, heading southeast down Kingsway. We walk past Aree Thai ("simple and good") to the parking lot at Kingsway and Inverness, which I'm told is the place to pick up prostitutes in the neighbourhood. "It has multiple entrances, so it's like a drive-thru."
Household goods for the household's good
Kingsway, for the uninitiated, cuts through Cedar Cottage as a six-lane road, with tiny parking lots dotting each side. This forms a colony of pocket-sized strip-malls. Again, to get at the good stuff here, you have to look past initial appearances: you are not in Gastown anymore.
As we walk, Tee points out Midland Liquidators, which he describes as "unbelievably handy" for his collective house's ongoing DIY and art projects. Next to that is an innocuous-looking post office. "They cut keys. Useful for a house with eight people."
Are we at the Vietnamese sub place yet? Not yet.
The heart of Cedar Cottage
Tee describes Kingsway and Clark as the heart of the neighbourhood. On a sunny Sunday, you'll see families and couples hanging out and watching the world go by. Across the street is Cedar Cottage Coffee House, which Tee says does a great Americano.
We walk past the coffee shop and head to the Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood Pub. We walk down the stairs and rock up to the bar, all in the name of local-business cartography. They have Shock Top on tap. Don't mind if we do.
The pub has a neon Foster's sign, but does not serve Foster's. The specials menu on the digital sign is in Comic Sans, but the Cedar Cottage Pub makes up for it by playing 10,000 Maniacs on the stereo. This spot doesn't have a huge amount of competition in the neighbourhood: there just aren't a lot of bars around here. Maverick's Sports Bar is further northwest, right by the Biltmore Cabaret.
Tee is telling me that Sal y Limón is his top pick for Mexican food around here, but you have to call ahead as it gets really busy. I can't believe I've not yet tried that spot.