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Where to Eat in Vancouver: The Fish Counter

Where to Eat in Vancouver: The Fish Counter

Wondering where to eat in Vancouver for a fabulous meal you can feel good about eating? Erin McGann checks out the Fish Counter.

I try and use all the leftover bits when I’m cooking. Vegetable peelings become stock, ends of sausages get chopped up for hash, a spoonful of peas goes into potato cakes – that kind of thing. That’s one of the reasons I was really intrigued to visit The Fish Counter. I had been hearing that the combination fishmonger and cafe used their leftover fish bits from the retail side in the bouillabaisse or the chowder, the parts too small to sell could be battered and put into fish tacos.

Not only that, all the utensils and take-out trays are compostable, they use mason jars for water glasses (it is Main Street after all) and you bus your own empties back to the aluminium trays above the compost bins. This all sounds very worthy, but would the resulting hot food be any good?

Oh yes, is the only answer I can give. Oh very much yes.

Where to Eat in Vancouver for Delicious and Ethical Food

There is a reason for that. The Fish Counter is the clever idea of former C restaurant executive chef Rob Clark and Mike McDermid of the Vancouver Aquarium, otherwise known as the two people who founded the Oceanwise program. I can’t think of two people I would trust more to curate a sustainable seafood place, whether restaurant or fishmonger. Luckily for us, they’ve done both.

I stopped by on a Thursday lunchtime, and had to wait for a space on a bench. There are high stools facing the window and a few benches around the edges of the cafe side. The menu, sketched out on butcher’s paper tacked up on the wall, includes fish and chips, bouillabaisse, chowder, oyster po’ boys, and fish tacos. You can pick your fish for the fish and chips, served with kennebec fries and house-made coleslaw. It’s made to order, and you can peer over the half wall and stare at the very professional-level chefs working away.

But is it Kid-Friendly?

There’s no specific kids menu, but things like fish and chips are very shareable. The bench seating is quite informal, there’s not really even a proper table, so no high chairs either. On the plus side, it would be easy to plonk a toddler on the bench next to you and share. No change tables in the washroom either. There are benches outside as well, under each window, so it would be easy to pull up a stroller out there on a nice day.

Unsurprisingly, the fish is incredibly fresh. The delicate halibut exuded that sweetness that only very fresh fish seem to have, and the batter was light and crisp, not claggy at all. I was not expecting much from the chip side of the equation really, but they came up trumps there too. Beautifully skinny fries, good potatoes, piping hot and gorgeous. Housemade tartar sauce was light and tangy, and a huge pool of it oozed next to my fish, no stingy little paper ketchup cups here. My one piece of halibut and a generous portion of chips was $11.90, plus tax – so not bargain basement, but quite reasonable considering all their fish choices are OceanWise.

Go Shopping

The Fish Counter isn’t only where to eat in Vancouver, but also provides an answer for where to shop in Vancouver.

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On the fishmonger side, the fish selection is good but limited by what’s in season and readily available. As it should be. In our age of grocery stores always fully stocked, it’s easy to forget that food is not actually in season all year round and there are lean times and times of bounty when it comes to farming, fishing and ranching. There are jars of their miraculously light tartar sauce, bags of bouillabaisse and fish stock, pickled mackerel, special salts and other seafood accoutrements. McDermid was manning the fish counter when I visited, and I got the sense if I wanted him to plan my dinner, he would have been up for it in a flash.

I’m looking forward to trying their chowder…

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3825 Main Street, Vancouver

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