When Eric Pateman took over the culinary program at Vancouver International Airport in September 2022, he knew he would be busy. But the highly experienced restaurant and food industry entrepreneur loves a challenge. And with 66 YVR food and beverage operators to curate and a five-year culinary reinvention plan now underway, he has been fully relishing his role.
For passengers and airport visitors, the fresh approach means that YVR dining––from quick food court fill-ups to relaxing sit-down meals before long-haul flights—is undergoing a mouthwatering transformation, with a full menu of tasty new operators already in place and many others soon to be unveiled.
We sat down with Eric––who was recently appointed to a newly expanded position as YVR’s Chief Experience Officer––for the inside track on eating at the airport, complete with handy insider tips for those of us heading to the airport this year.
“We’re focusing much more on authentic local brands and we’re bringing some iconic B.C. favourites into the airport,” says Eric. For post-security international travellers, that means the chance to check out the only Indigenous-owned and operated airport eatery in Canada at the just-opened Salmon n’ Bannock on the Fly.
A satellite of the beloved Vancouver bistro, its intriguing menu showcases a full range of Indigenous-approach dishes, including bison sandwiches, Ojibway wild rice pudding and several irresistible salmon options––go for the barbecued salmon salad sandwich, made with the restaurant’s signature bannock bread.
But it’s not the airport’s only recent addition, Eric adds. Downtown Vancouver deli café and cooking school, The Dirty Apron, has also opened two new hunger-busting hotspots here. Both located post-security in the domestic terminal, they’ve quickly become go-to counters for travellers craving baguette sandwiches, fresh salad bowls and artisanal treats and snacks.
You don’t have to pass through security to eat well at YVR, though. The pre-security US, domestic and international areas are all linked, so there are lots of choices for peckish airport users. Popular options include a Richmond local fish and chips favourite Pajo’s (we love their wild halibut) in the international area. Over in the domestic area, you’ll also find fusion hotdog purveyor Japadog––their famous nori-topped Kurobuta Terimayo is a must-try.
Back in the international area, Eric also recommends Thai Hang. This Vietnamese counter serves Pho bowls, spring rolls and a hearty lemongrass chicken dish that’s become his favourite YVR lunch. The mezzanine dining area above Thai Hang is a great spot to snag an open table––while the domestic area’s hidden gem Observation Deck is also a cool place to eat while watching the busy runways.
After screening, there are lots of ways to fuel-up before your America-bound flight. “The Canucks Bar & Grill is one of the busiest restaurants in the airport,” says Eric, noting its convivial sports bar vibe––NHL memorabilia included––and well-executed menu of comfort food classics such as burgers, wings and chicken strips.
Faster-food options here include Mexican-themed Sal Y Limon and one of the airport’s multiple and ever-busy Tim Hortons counters. But Eric also points out the recently added Root98, which includes a takeaway counter filled with pastries and sandwiches plus a sit-down area where you can kick back before your flight.
Vegetarian? There’s also a Joe & the Juice counter here (and another one in the domestic area). A popular Scandinavian brand, it’s famous for its fresh-made juices and smoothies and an impressive array of vegan and vegetarian food options. They also serve a Tunacado sandwich that’s become a social media viral phenomenon.
Travelling across Canada? YVR’s post-security domestic area offers plenty of options, says Eric, including the Pacific Farms Market cafe. Opened in 2022 and proudly stocking local brands including 49th Parallel Coffee and Rosemary Rocksalt Bagels for sit-down or grab-and-go diners, there are also great culinary gifts to pick-up and take home here––including artisanal preserves and craft chocolate bars.
Nearby, we also spotted a Ladurée vendor cart, satellite of the decadent Parisian pâtisserie on Vancouver’s Robson Street. It’s the perfect place to pick-up a gift selection of little macarons––try not to eat them all during your flight, though!
There are more than a dozen other places to eat post-security in the domestic area, adds Eric, including Stanley Park Taphouse. It’s a great sit-down option for gourmet burgers, poke bowls, fish and chips and Stanley Park Brewing’s own-made beers––tasting flight (including YVR’s exclusive Wheels Up IPA) recommended.
Airside dining for international jetsetters also offers delicious options, says Eric. Don’t miss the aforementioned Salmon n’ Bannock. It’s nestled alongside fast-food counters serving everything from hearty sandwiches to bakery treats to sushi trays. There’s also a cool UpMeals vending machine––one of five machines at the airport––where you’ll find ready-to-eat bowls, juices, wraps and more available 24 hours. Owned and operated by a local company, its products are freshly stocked daily.
If you’re not in a hurry, though, this area is also home to Lift Bar and Grill, the airport offshoot of a popular restaurant in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood. Aim for a seafood feast here, perhaps alongside a well-chosen B.C. wine.
“Our main approach at YVR is to humanize the experience of travel as much as possible––and dining plays a huge part in that,” says Eric, adding a heads-up on the new eateries opening here soon. First up, he says, will be Purebread. The wildly popular B.C. bakery is about to launch in the pre-security international area––and it’s sure to be a huge hook for travellers and visitors (personally, we hope they’ll be serving their zesty lemon crumble bars).
Further ahead, adds Eric, there will be a new counter specializing in Chinese bakery treats plus another serving bubble tea. “We’ll definitely be adding more Richmond-style Asian dining. And, by the end of 2023, we will also become North America’s first Ocean Wise airport,” he says, noting that he has dozens of other projects currently in development. “Our aim is to make this one of the best airports for culinary experiences in the world.”
Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Tourism Richmond