Note: This blog post is slightly out of date, yet it's perhaps the most popular blog post I've ever written. Rather than let it sit stale, I've updated this blog post on my new blog: http://www.bcrobyn.com/?p=1709
I actually made a map of grocery stores in downtown Vancouver.
You'll have to click on it to see it in its proper size, but I whipped up this map in Photoshop after reading numerous posts on travel forums about where to find grocery stores in downtown Vancouver.
Think about it. So many of the people who are visiting and working during the Olympics are staying in downtown condos. When you're staying downtown, you aren't going to bother with a car - you're going to rely entirely upon walking or public transit. And rightly so, people will be interested in the nearest, most convenient grocery stores.
So I figured, what the heck, why not make a map to visualize it?
Go on. Click on it!
The map features 12 different large full-scale grocery stores downtown Vancouver.* For more information on each individual grocery store, including hours, exact street address and a sense of what they offer, click on the name of the store to get to their website.
Otherwise, here's my quick and totally biased overview of these grocery stores:
1. Capers Community Market. It was recently purchased by Whole Foods but is still thought of as a Vancouver-based natural food store. Great for organic/health foods. They have a nice deli and fresh food items to go. I rarely shop here because it's on the other side of downtown, but I wouldn't hesitate to go here if you like quality items. I'd probably shop here more often if it was closer. It's much more convenient if you're in the West End or Coal Harbour, especially if you're based around the western blocks of Robson Street.
2. Choices Market. I shop here all the time because it's a block away from where I live. It's a local company and expensive for what it is, but it's another great option for organic/natural foods and for people who have dietary restrictions (ie: they have a rice bakery for gluten-free diets). It has a limited deli, meat/seafood selection (mostly pre-packaged items) but a fantastic organic and regular produce section. Also a good fair trade coffee selection and teas. It's kind of a yuppy grocery store, but it's convenient for those in Yaletown and it's short walk from the Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line station.
3. Costco. You'll need a Costco membership and a car to really take advantage of Costco. Of course, they're closing down the roads to traffic around here during the Olympics, so maybe not so convenient. Costco is Costco. It's cheap, it's behemoth, and it's all about large quantities. It makes sense for longterm stays or if you're feeding many mouths. It's only convenient if you're around Yaletown or Gastown and it's nextdoor to the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station.
4. Granville Island Public Market. Open until 7pm every day, it's a foodie's best friend. Lots of artisan shops here and well worth a visit. It's not a tourist trap so don't avoid it even if it's on every tourist site's must-see list. Great for fresh produce, local seafood, fresh meat, fresh pasta, gourmet cheese, charcuterie, fresh breads & desserts, exotic spices, locally-roasted coffee, locally-made chocolate, fresh donuts, etc. It's the most fun you'll have grocery shopping in Vancouver. Take a water taxi to get here (fast and fun) or take the Canada Line to the Olympic Village station and then hop on the free street car that will b-line you right there!
5. H-Mart. It's easily missed as it's upstairs and you have to take escalator from a Korean frozen yogurt/dessert shop, but it's a full Korean grocery store (an international chain, apparently) with a produce selection, some unique take-out options (Korean sushi anyone?), and Korean items you typically won't find in regular grocery stores. Don't let that scare you - it also has regular North American items and an entire food court offering Korean and Japanese items (very popular at lunch time). It offers a nice alternative to the IGA a block away. It's really only convenient for people along the eastern blocks of Robson Street.
6. IGA Marketplace. These stores tend to be smaller versions of the IGA's found in the suburbs but they still include all the departments: the deli with takeout options, the bakery, produce section, bulk foods, fresh meat, etc. Good prices, nothing out of the ordinary, but IGA Marketplace is a good standby to pick up everything you'd need and therefore it's very convenient. The location on Smithe and Robson is larger (and has 2 floors) than their tiny location wedged in beside the Westin Grand on Robson and Richards.
7. Nesters Market. I prefer Nesters for convenience foods (pre-made sandwiches, quiche, etc.) and for their meat section - it's much more affordable here than most places downtown and the quality is typically good. The produce section isn't fantastic, but a it's good place for picking up drinks, desserts, breakfast foods and the basics. They often have sales, and again, for this BC-based chain of stores, it's usually good value for downtown. One location's in a relatively central location on Seymour and Nelson, which is convenient for those in or near Yaletown looking for something slightly cheaper and less specialized/yuppy than other Yaletown grocery stores. The other location's in the new Woodward's building which is really the only grocery store option in Gastown.
8. No Frills. Never shopped here (although maybe I should!) but it's bargain grocery shopping in the West End, cleverly hidden away in Denman Mall under the Coast Plaza Hotel. It's owned by Loblaw's which means they likely have No Name products (ie: dirt cheap store brand). It's only convenient if you're staying somewhere in the West End near Denman Street.
9. Safeway. A good all around regular grocery store with typically larger spaces compared to most downtown grocery stores. It has all the typical departments you'd expect: deli, bakery, meat, seafood, frozen foods, etc. They even have their own Starbucks counter (not like that's necessary in the land of thousands of Starbucks). They have a brand new store on Denman and Robson which is convenient for those in Coal Harbour, and a slightly older (but renovated) store on Davie in the West End by English Bay. I recommend only shopping here if you have a Safeway Club Card, otherwise you end up paying a lot more.
10. SuperValu. This place makes me nostalgic as it probably hasn't changed since the 1970's (or earlier) and it has an old fashioned feel to it. It's another bargain grocery store in the West End, but is stocked full of my favourite President's Choice brands. Yes, your money goes much further here than most other downtown grocery stores. It's a little bit scattered and a bit weird (or maybe that's the shoppers), but I quite like SuperValu. It is what it is - totally unhip but great value for downtown shopping. You expect "meh" quality, but it surprisingly has a lot of great items here. And if you're a senior, they even do free delivery! Only convenient if you're in the West End near Davie and Bute. Oh yeah, and they're open super late!
11. T&T Supermarket. This is the epitome of Chinese grocery stores, complete with live seafood in tanks, traditional Chinese produce, a full Chinese bakery, a "vivid" meat selection, and your standard authentic Chinese items - aisles of frozen dim sum, aisles full of rice, noodles, all kinds of sauces - you name it! It's fun to shop here because of the sights and smells. It's like they captured the essence of Chinatown and put it inside one gigantic grocery store! Chinese New Year happens during the Olympics, so it'll even be more festive than usual. It's located down the stairs from the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station and convenient for those staying near Beatty Street, Gastown, or Chinatown.
12. Urban Fare. The ultimate Vancouver yuppy grocery shopping experience. It's a local gourmet grocery store chain with all three locations downtown. They have a good bakery, a good fresh meat counter, a fresh seafood counter, a good deli, a huge assortment of local and imported gourmet cheeses, exotic fruits, wild mushrooms, fresh pasta, bulk foods, and aisle upon aisle of imported and local artisan products like sauces, oils, spices, coffee, chocolate, candies, drinks, pasta, canned goods, and things you've probably never seen before. It's fun for specialty items but it quickly adds up if you're grocery shopping for regular every day items. Their in-store restaurant cafe is actually really good though, as are their takeout options. Use your "Save on Foods" card to take advantage of sale prices, but it's still worth shopping here even if you don't have one. Again, it's pretty much a must for foodies even if it's just to nonchalantly browse. Their stores are typically larger than other grocery stores downtown. There are not one but two locations at Coal Harbour and one location in Yaletown across the street from the Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line station.
* I did not include pharmacies like London Drugs or Shoppers Drug Mart even though a lot of them carry all kinds of food items like bread, milk, and frozen entrees. I didn't include convenience stores like 7-11 or Mac's even though they're open 24 hours and offer all kinds of convenience foods. I didn't include the mom & pop corner stores, produce stores, independent bakeries, butcher shops, deli's, etc. or my list would have never ended. I kept things to the downtown peninsula although I did include Granville Island even though it's technically not downtown. I did not include the larger grocery stores immediately outside of downtown like Whole Foods or Save-on-Foods, even though they're relatively easy to get to and the stores get bigger and cheaper once you head out of downtown. Okay, maybe not Whole Foods.