The local's guide to Strathcona: Discover your new favourite neighbourhood
Strathcona Safari: The Downtown Eastside is beautiful.
Across the road, on the southeast corner of McLean Park, is a bench built by furniture designer Arnt Arntzen for use by anyone who needs to sit down for a moment or three. That often means someone who just scored drugs down on East Hastings. "We are the Downtown Eastside," says Gregory, "We're V6A. There's a stigma to that."
The row of trees you see were planted by the grandfather of one of Gregory's clients. When people move to Strathcona, they tend to stick around. Sometimes they put down actual roots.
Blue, blue, 'lectric blue
Gregory's dog Ziggy is along for the journey, and is generally pretty chill. However, he gets ahead of himself when he sees a grey-and-white cat. Ziggy makes a move, the cat runs, and the chase is on. It's a teaching moment, really: Ziggy shouldn't have chased the cat, the cat should have stood his ground. This is how we grow as people/animals.
Strolling down Hawks Ave, we pass another friendly neighbour, who's watering her garden (and her dogs). Gregory tells me that winter officially begins only when the banana tree in the front yard gets its leaves wrapped. The house itself is like something out of a cartoon: improbably bright and impossibly blue. Strathcona has such houses shoulder-to-shoulder with dilapidated husks.
Just past the hazardous chicane of the Adanac bike path, we find the Labyrinth. Gregory met its creator, who I guess is the Jareth of Strathcona, the first time he walked it.
While he wishes the Labyrinth saw more neighbourhood use, he tells me that it really comes into its own on Halloween.
The best custard tarts in Vancouver
We call into the Union Food Market, which is renowned in Strathcona for its homemade snacks and meals. Apparently I have to try the custard tarts--- actually, holy crap, these custard tarts are amazing. If I lived within a mile of this place, I'd not be able to fit through the door.
On Union's patio, we meet yet another of Gregory's neighbourhood friends, whose dog is hopelessly entangling himself in his own leash.
We head along the Adanac Bikeway, west on Union Street, which is where we are about to meet Benny and learn the history of his store. Along the way we pass a table piled with... stuff. A jacket, a tiny dress, an ottoman. Apparently the only rule is that you can take anything except for the table itself.
We reach Benny's, where we chat with the man himself and greet his daughter-in-law. Benny's is not only a grocery and deli, but also a supplier to other local businesses.
Vancouver comes to Strathcona
Only a street away is the new Finch's, which has opened a shop in Strathcona. This is perfect for the locals, who have a bit of a reputation for not leaving the neighbourhood.