Tasting Gastown’s Past – A Food Tour with a Side of History

In September, my second story for Edible Vancouver and Wine Country was released! It’s called A Taste of Gastown’s Past – A Food Tour with a Side of History.

In all the times I’ve passed through Vancouver’s Waterfront Station, I’d never noticed that half of the side pillars are flat. Nor did I know why: the Canadian Pacific Railway ran out of money for round pillars when they built the terminal back in 1914.

These factoids were entertainingly illuminated on a recent Taste Vancouver Food Tour of Gastown, the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Our guide Brent began the tour in the Waterfront terminal in front of Starbucks, one of a hundred such coffee shops in Vancouver. This Starbucks is notable, however, as the chain’s first establishment outside of the United States. It opened during Expo ’86, and before its business license was finalized, the owners had to smuggle their coffee beans over the border.

Brent tells us about Project 200, a late-1960s plan to tear down Gastown, Chinatown, and part of Strathcona to connect downtown’s core with the Trans-Canada Highway. Fortunately, the plan was scuttled due to local protests and lack of financing. Still, it breaks my heart to imagine Vancouver without this iconic olde-timey neighbourhood.

Our next stop on the food tour is Steamworks Brewery, on the northern edge of Gastown. We settle into seats on the lower level where brewmaster Tony Gratel is making beer. Over four-ounce pours of a German sour wheat beer called Gose, we learn that Steamworks sits on a six-mile system of steam piping installed in the late nineteenth century to provide heat to the neighbourhood. The steam came in handy when the building became a microbrewery in 1995, and today it’s the only brewery in Canada powered by steam.

The heavy brick building is framed with Douglas fir from Stanley Park and was originally used as a warehouse to supply the shipping, mining, and logging industries. Under Project 200, Brent says, “This would have been the first building torn down.”

Read more of my story about the Taste Vancouver Food Tour of Gastown by enlarging the image below.

Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.