Carolyn B. Heller

Correspondent

  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Carolyn B. Heller is a Vancouver, BC-based correspondent who covers the city and Canadian travel for Forbes Travel Guide. She’s written two books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario (www.moon.com) and Living Abroad in Canada (www.livingabroadincanada.com), and contributed to more than 50 travel and restaurant guides for publishers including Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, and the Zagat Survey. Her articles about travel, food, and culture have appeared in LonelyPlanet.com, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, FamilyFun, Real Weddings, Hotel-Scoop, and Perceptive Travel, among others. She’s eaten her way across more than 40 countries on six continents, and when she’s not traveling, she enjoys theatre, beaches, and hanging out with her twin daughters.

  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What is the best way to get to Cypress Mountain from Vancouver?

    Cypress Mountain, a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and hiking, is located on the North Shore, about 17 miles, or 28 kilometers, from downtown Vancouver. The easiest way to get to the mountain is by car. Cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge, then follow Taylor Way to Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. Take Exit #8 off Highway 1 and then climb up the Cypress Mountain Road for another nine miles (15 kilometers).

    In the winter, you can also take the Cypress Mountain Express Bus, which picks up passengers in Richmond, Kitsilano, the West End, Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, and West Vancouver’s Park Royal Mall. Service is most frequent from Lonsdale Quay, so depending on your departure time, it may be quickest to hop on the SeaBus from downtown’s Waterfront station to Lonsdale Quay and then catch the Cypress bus there.

    There’s no public transportation directly to Cypress Mountain.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best local dishes in Vancouver?

    As you’d expect in a waterfront city, many of Vancouver’s best local dishes involve seafood, especially salmon, halibut, and Dungeness crab caught in the waters off the British Columbia coast. Some menus even feature other sea life, like salty sea asparagus or locally-harvested seaweed.

    Vancouver kitchens use all sorts of local produce, from greens, potatoes, and mushrooms to a summer bounty of fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. The city’s restaurants frequently draw inspiration from its location on the Pacific Rim, creating dishes pairing local ingredients with Asian flavors. And most of the Vancouver’s best eateries offer a selection of local wines, from BC’s Okanagan region, from Vancouver Island, and from the Fraser Valley just outside Vancouver.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best food gifts to buy in Vancouver?

    Head for Granville Island if you’re looking to bring home tastes of Vancouver. Several vendors in the Granville Island Public Market sell West Coast smoked salmon, packed for travel, as well as “salmon candy,” a slightly sweet cured fish that makes a great snack – and yes, you may find you’ll devour it like candy. Opposite the Public Market, Edible Canada sells a variety of local food products, from jams to chocolates to Vancouver Island salt. Head down the island’s Railspur Alley to the Artisan Sake Maker, where a bottle of this locally-produced Japanese-style rice wine would make another unique gift.

    If you need a food gift that travels well, stop into Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks, just off Granville Island, to pick up a cookbook by one of Vancouver’s top chefs.

    Or if your shopping time is limited, order a gift basket from the Gourmet Warehouse. Their “Local Culinary Heroes” box includes an assortment of BC-made treats.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best Chinese restaurants in Vancouver?

    For high-end Cantonese cuisine, top choices include Kirin and Sun Sui Wah, which both have locations in Vancouver and in suburban Richmond. Both are known for their daily dim sum as well as their traditional Hong-Kong style plates, especially fresh-from-the-tanks seafood.

    Another good pick for Cantonese fare is Sea Harbour Seafood, located in Richmond opposite the River Rock Casino. At both dim sum and in the evening, the menu includes a mix of traditional dishes and more innovative creations.

    If you like Shanghai-style cuisine, try Richmond’s popular Shanghai River restaurant (7831 Westminster Highway), where you can watch the chefs in the bustling open kitchen prepare long handmade noodles and steamer after steamer of fresh dumplings.

    Craving the heat of Sichuan cuisine? Richmond’s modest New Spicy Chili Restaurant (4200 No. 3 Road) serves classics like mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, and “water-boiled” fish, cooked in a pot of fiery chili oil.

    Need more choices for Vancouver Chinese dining? Check out our article, Where to Get Vancouver’s Best Chinese Food.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best restaurants for a business lunch in Vancouver?

    If you need a quiet but stylish spot for a business lunch, my top picks would be the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star West or the soon-to-be-rated Hawksworth. Both offer creative contemporary menus, comfortably spaced tables, and excellent service. West is in the South Granville neighborhood, while Hawksworth is downtown at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

    For a more classic ambiance, book one of the white-clothed tables at the French Le Crocodile downtown, where the polished service has that Gallic je ne sais quois. Another fine choice for a business tête-à-tête is Bacchus Restaurant at the boutique Wedgewood Hotel, which serves West Coast fare with modern French accents.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best Indian restaurants in Vancouver?

    You’ll find Vancouver’s most innovative Indian fare at Vij's, a perpetually packed dining room in the South Granville neighborhood. They won’t take reservations (no matter how famous you are), so plan to join the line-up and cool your heels at the bar. The creative Indian dishes, from the signature lamb “popsicles” to locally-inspired fare such as BC spot prawns “masala” paired with wheat berry pilaf, make it worth the wait.

    Owners Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala also run Rangoli, a more casual Indian eatery next door to their flagship dining room. While the ambiance isn’t quite as charming, the food is equally good, and you usually don’t have to endure a lengthy wait for a table.

    For more traditional Indian cuisine, a good choice is Maurya, on Broadway just west of Granville Street. Their popular lunch buffet is fine, but I’d recommend visiting in the evening when you can order dishes like chaat tikki (potato cakes served with chick peas and several chutneys) or chicken curry with kalonji (nigella) seeds from their extensive a la carte menu.

    Many Vancouver Indian restaurants specialize in northern Indian fare. One notable exception is Chutney Villa, in the Main Street neighborhood, which serves dishes from Kerala and other parts of south India. Try the dosas, the manga thenga sundal, which pairs green mango, coconut, and chick peas, or the unusual (for Vancouver) kothu rotti, in which chopped parata (bread) is stir-fried with onions, chilies, and your choice of meat or veggies.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best sushi restaurants in Vancouver?

    The long-established favorite for Vancouver’s best sushi is Tojo’s, where devotees sit at the sushi bar, order omakase (chef’s choice), and put themselves in chef Hidekazu Tojo’s uber-capable hands. The fish is among the freshest around, and Tojo’s creations are always interesting. Expect to pay top dollar for this top-quality product; the sake selection is first-rate, too.

    You don’t have to lay out big bucks, though, for great sushi in Vancouver. The city has lots of local, neighborhood eateries purveying fine Japanese fare. My picks are Tsuki Sushi Bar, a relative newcomer on the edge of Gastown; Shiro, an unassuming spot in a Cambie Street strip mall; and Ajisai Sushi Bar, another tiny dining room, this one set back from W. 42nd Avenue in residential Kerrisdale.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best restaurants in Vancouver’s Chinatown?

    Vancouver’s Chinatown is a neighborhood in transition, where contemporary Chinese restaurants, as well as an eclectic array of non-Asian options, are joining the traditional Cantonese eateries.

    A good choice for classic Cantonese dim sum is the modest Jade Dynasty Restaurant (137 E Pender St.), where popular dishes include niangao (chewy rice noodles that the English menu calls “stir fry rice dough with XO sauce”) and the stuffed eggplant with shrimp paste. Another long-standing Chinatown favorite is Phnom Penh (244 E Georgia St.), which serves Cambodian and Vietnamese fare.

    For contemporary Chinese-inspired cuisine, the go-to joint is the cool Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, which pairs innovative cocktails with small plates designed to share. With dishes like wok-charred octopus, served on a salad of watercress, daikon, apple, and pickled Sichuan peppercorns; pork jowl with a chili bean-plum glaze; and “kick ass” fried rice, you’ll know Bao Bei is not your grandmother’s Chinese restaurant.

    Another modern Chinatown eatery is The Union, where the friendly staff serve up fun pan-Asian eats like peanut noodles, Thai green papaya salad, and Vietnamese “cha ca” fish (cod served with fresh greens and rice vermicelli in a turmeric-ginger-coconut broth).

    You’ll even find some of Vancouver’s best pizza in Chinatown – at the tiny Pizzeria Farina. Go early in the evening, since they close their doors as soon as the dough runs out.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What stores are on Robson Street in Vancouver?

    Many North American chain outlets have branches along Robson Street, Vancouver’s main downtown shopping street. You’ll find clothing stores like the Gap, Roots, Banana Republic, Zara, American Eagle, Lululemon, and many other brands, and there’s a cluster of shoe stores as well. The largest concentration of shops is in the three-block stretch between Burrard and Jervis Streets.

    For higher-end labels, duck around the corner to Burrard and Alberni Streets, where you’ll find Brooks Brothers, Tiffany & Co., Hermes, Coach, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton. If you’re looking for bargains on designer apparel, head for Winners, a large discount department store at the corner of Robson and Granville Streets.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best places to see a play in Vancouver?

    Vancouver’s top professional theatre company is the Arts Club, which performs on three stages around town. Their mainstage – and more mainstream – shows play at the Stanley Industrial Theatre on South Granville Street, while their more contemporary productions entertain audiences at the Granville Island Stage and the Revue Stage, both on Granville Island.

    You’ll find contemporary plays and other events at other Granville Island theatres, too, notably the black-box Performance Works and the larger Waterfront Theatre.

    For avant garde theatre, head to the city’s East Side, where the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, known locally as “The Cultch,” plays host to an eclectic variety of local and international plays and other theatrical events, as well as dance and musical performances. You never know quite what you’ll find on the two stages at the Cultch, but it will always be interesting.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best bookstores in Vancouver?

    Pulpfiction Books, an independent bookseller with branches on Main Street, in Kitsilano, and along Commercial Drive, carries an excellent assortment of new and used books.

    Food-lovers gravitate to Barbara Jo’s Book to Cooks, which stocks the region’s largest collection of cookbooks, food memoirs, and cooking magazines. The west side shop, a short walk from Granville Island, hosts cooking demos, chef talks, and other food events, too; check their website for details.

    The best place to buy reading material for the little ones in your life is KidsBooks, a well-stocked children’s bookstore with locations in Kitsilano and North Vancouver. Ask the helpful staff to recommend titles; they’re all booklovers who really know what kids and teens enjoy.

    Chapters/Indigo is Canada’s big chain bookseller, and while their several Vancouver locations don’t have the personality of smaller independent stores, they do sell a wide selection of books in all genres. The most convenient branches are downtown on Robson Street and on South Granville.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best parks in Vancouver?

    Vancouver’s best urban green space is right downtown: the 400-hectare (990-acre) Stanley Park. A waterfront walking and cycling path circles the park perimeter (with great views of downtown and the North Shore mountains), and you can swim or sun at several beaches or in the oceanside Second Beach Pool. Other attractions are here, too, including the Vancouver Aquarium, and the First Nations totem poles at Brockton Point.

    A visit to Pacific Spirit Regional Park, near the University of British Columbia campus on Vancouver’s west side, is an escape into a dense, green rainforest. The park has more than 73 kilometers (45 miles) of trails for hiking, and many are open to mountain bikers as well.

    Lynn Canyon Park, on Vancouver’s North Shore, has great hiking trails, several waterfalls, and popular swimming holes, but most people visit to test their nerves as they cross the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. Admission to the park and bridge is free.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best historic hotels in Vancouver?

    Opened in 1939, the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver was one of the grand railway hotels built across Canada in the first half of the 20th century. It’s now one of four Fairmont properties in Vancouver, appealing to guests who prefer a traditional atmosphere. The more than 550 guest accommodations range from rather small standard units to grand multi-room suites. Located in the heart of downtown, the Hotel Vancouver is just off Robson Street, near the Vancouver Art Gallery.

    Reopened after an extensive renovation and expansion, the property that’s now the Rosewood Hotel Georgia was originally constructed in 1927. The luxurious lobby recalls the hotel’s heritage, while the guest rooms are much more au courant. The hotel’s Hawksworth Restaurant is one of the Vancouver’s top tables, and the Reflections Lounge – an outdoor oasis in a fourth-floor courtyard – is an excellent spot for summertime drinks.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best waterfront hotels in Vancouver?

    Opposite the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Asian-modern Fairmont Pacific Rim is one block from Burrard Inlet, but many of the rooms on the higher floors have water views. All the 377 rooms are packed with high-tech gadgets, from Nespresso machines to iPads, and the solicitous Fairmont service is standard.

    Cruise ship passengers often choose the waterfront Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place, directly connected to the cruise ship terminal. Soaring glass walls in the lobby, restaurant, and lounge overlook Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains, as do the harbor-facing guest rooms.

    The Westin Bayshore, on Burrard Inlet, faces the North Shore mountains and Stanley Park. The rooms sprawl across two towers, and although the exterior looks a bit dated, the interior finishes are contemporary, with the usual Westin amenities. The Westin is popular with conventions and groups, especially mid-week.

    The mid-range Granville Island Hotel, a small inn tucked away at the end of Granville Island, sits directly on the False Creek waterfront, and many of the rooms overlook the water and the downtown skyline. On a sunny day, Vancouver has few lovelier spots for a cocktail than the hotel’s Dockside Pub.
  • On June 30, 2013
    Carolyn B. Heller answered the question: Carolyn B. Heller

    What are the best boutique hotels in Vancouver?

    If eye-popping colors and bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling street-facing windows get your hotel heart pumping, book a room at the Opus Vancouver in Yaletown. Refreshed in 2013, the 96 sexy guest rooms are done in deep purples or pinks, vibrant lime greens, and bright oranges, and include modern amenities like in-room iPads and Herman Miller chairs. A complimentary car service will shuttle you around downtown, or you can hop on one of the free mountain bikes to explore the city on your own.

    Traditionalists will gravitate to the serene Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, an 83-room downtown boutique property with a small but pampering in-house spa. Beyond the expected flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi, amenities include homemade cookies, morning newspapers, and twice-daily maid service. The hotel’s Bacchus Lounge is a popular spot for power breakfasts or cocktails with colleagues.

    The Loden, in a steel-and-glass tower a short walk from the Vancouver Convention Centre downtown, operates under the radar. It’s not as flashy as the Opus or as stately as the Wedgewood, but its spacious earth-toned rooms feel like a contemporary pied à terre; the nicest units have private garden terraces.

    While less posh than the other boutique options, the Listel Hotel on Robson Street distinguishes itself with the one-of-a-kind local artwork on display throughout the property. The hotel showcases west coast First Nations art on its museum floors and has partnered with the local Buschlen Mowatt Gallery to install original contemporary artwork in its gallery-floor guest rooms.