At North Shore Digital we love … You guessed it … The North Shore!
We also love getting out and about – it’s just our jam. I’m a little hesitant to share this list of my top 5 haunts in West Vancouver because these places are just so damn good and I want to horde all that goodness to myself!
But alas, as a West Van resident and lucky guy who’s had the privilege of exploring these amazing restaurants, bars, breweries, cafes & coffee shops, I feel it’s my duty to share…just don’t tell too many of your friends.
So without further ado – my top 5 cocktail lounges in West Vancouver. I can personally vouch for each one of these locations as I’ve been many a time to all of them with buddies, for meetings, for date night and even on my own for a relaxing bevvy.
You could not pick a better venue for a cozy cocktail with a friend or partner. Tucked away at the end of the Ambleside ~ Dundarave seawall you wouldn’t notice this restaurant driving by but you would be sorry you missed it! Whatever mood you find yourself in The Beachhouse has an answer for it.
Feel like a cold one post seawall run or Horseshoe bay bike ride? Pop in for a beer and sit at the bar to enjoy happy hour specials and Sunday sports. (They have a great bar).
Date night? You can’t beat a cozy glass of wine and ocean views. Big bay windows and intimate seating raised up just a bit higher than their outdoor patio let’s you enjoy unobstructed scenery.
Appies with friends? This has to be the best patio in West Van. Hit it up on a sunny afternoon with some friends and sip one of their tasty mojitos as you watch sailboats cruise around Burrard Inlet. And yes – this is also a heated patio.
I also reached out to the Beachhouse regarding their upcoming renovation as I noticed signs posted on the restaurant. It begins on January 2nd and will include a total update of the building (both upstairs and downstairs) – looking to make an already great location even better.
Bonus – Want to rally the troops and bring in a larger group? The Beachhouse boasts a private upstairs dining area and terraced room that can accommodate groups of 12 to 50+. (up to 80 for a cocktail reception!). Their set menu options offer 3 and 4 course meals and look great (they also offer multiple bar options).
Double Bonus – I’ve never failed to get a reservation or just show up and get a quick seat. For all it offers, this place should be slammed nightly but is just far enough away to avoid heavy traffic.
I’m not a huge scotch fan but every now and then ambience prevails and I feel the need to indulge. The Red Lion Pub is this kind of a place. The design and décor of the interior has you thinking you’re popping in for a wee pint at a traditional British pub.
On a weekend night, you can expect bumpin’ live music and a cool vibe at the bar. This is the place to go if you’re rollin’ solo and want to join their big circular bar for a chat or drop by with some friends for a late night scotch. The meals here are a little bit on the pricey side for traditional pub food (I should add upscale pub food) but they hit the spot and are well worth it.
The highlight of the Red Lion for me is their lounge fireplace and cozy seating. You generally have to be patient if you arrive early and want to snag this fireplace location but if you don’t mind waiting it out, it almost always frees up. You can also try a little later in the evening when the crowds thin out. Surprisingly, The Red Lion always seems to clear up pretty fast after 9pm so if it’s a late night fireplace cocktail you’re after I highly recommend.
The new Earls Ambleside is definitely still in its honeymoon phase with heavy traffic on weekends and during brunch but an evening cocktail sees a decently sparse crowd. 9pm is a great time to drop in for a glass of wine and appy as their happy hour starts right at 9.
Here’s a hint for the uninitiated; go with 6oz glasses of wine for happy hour. For whatever reason, they don’t discount the 9oz glasses (or have less of a discount than the 6oz anyway). Here’s another tip: if you like pizza this is the best game in town for a cheap bite – $4 personal pizza and other great appy deals including tasty tacos.
Earls Ambleside is humongous and you’ll generally have a choice of sitting in three different dining areas, especially if you arrive post happy hour. The patio is heated and great on a sunny day. If you’re swinging by in the evening, I would recommend a window view on the east side of the restaurant. You can also pull up a stool at their long bar for a chat and a glass.
Sadly now closed as of summer 2020, this joint will live on in legend.
Or officially the Squarerigger Pub. If you don’t know about this place, you won’t find it. It’s tucked down an alleyway between 14th and 15th on the north side of Marine Drive. The Rigger is a West Van staple.
If you plan on making this your spot, get used to familiar faces as the same half dozen locals frequent this pub on a near daily basis. I have yet to take a British friend to this bar and have them not think it’s the best place they’ve been in West Vancouver.
The Rigger features pool, darts, scratchies, ship themed décor scattered about, as well as a poker and ping pong table hidden in the back. If you want a quiet place with a nice selection of craft beer and scotch make sure to check out the Rigger – it’s a true pub.
You can try your hand at some deep philosophical conversations with the locals bar side or step down a level for a quiet (very quiet) pint on your own.
Finally, I present the Taphouse! This is my favourite joint in the Park Royal Shopping Centre. It’s particularly nice in the summer with their high seated, large outdoor patio and mood lighting. In the Fall and Winter grabbing a seat inside is just as good and you can expect some open mic and other themed events.
You can’t miss the Taphouse as it’s literally inside the Lighthouse shaped building at the back of south Park Royal (well come to think of it you may very well miss it if you were looking on the north side!)
We reached out to the Taphouse to see what else was going on this Fall. They’ve recently updated their brunch menu so keep an eye out for that! These guys already do a great brunch and it’s an ideal spot to catch the game and have a bite on a Sunday.
Also new on tap is their “Locals Only” beer section featuring breweries specifically from the North Shore and Squamish. Their featured breweries are Beere, Black Kettle, Deep Cove, Bridge & Back Country. Make sure to swing by on Saturday if you like craft beer – their “Locals Only” beers are on special all day!
Here are some reasons I enjoy the Taphouse:
- They always have good beer on tap.
- The wine selection is great.
- They always seem to have deals on their Moscow mule.
- Live music and DJs.
- Busy vibe.
I’ve found the Taphouse typically has the most “partyish” atmosphere so I recommend it for larger groups of friends, if you’re hosting an event or for an upbeat staff party.
Their live music is fantastic. You can expect to see Shawn Austin on Wednesdays and Des Larson on Thursdays. They also feature late night DJs on both Friday and Saturday so you can keep the party on the Shore!
Ira Thomson is North Shore Digital’s Co-Founder and current Director of Analytics & Insights