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Twelve places to eat, sleep, and drink during Vancouver Gay Pride weekend --- enjoy
Twelve places to eat, sleep, and drink during Vancouver Gay Pride weekend --- enjoy
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Next weekend (August 3-5) is Vancouver Gay Pride, a huge affair that climaxes with a 146-entrant parade and 40-foot rainbow flag along the English Bay on the city's Beach and Pacific Avenues. Look for a listing of special events and hot parties in Part Two of our Vancouver Gay Pride preview next Friday, August 3. Carpool with friends or take the train (www.amtrak.com), just be there for an incredible time. Here is a list of hotels, restaurants, clubs and spas to check out while in Vancouver. You'll notice that one of our favorites, Sandman Suites on Davie, isn't on the list - that's because they're entirely booked for Pride weekend. But do consider Sandman for future travels. Drive safe, rest up before going, pack trendy attire, and get ready to have a blast.

EAT

Davie Village Café
1141 Davie Street
www.davievillage.ca

Andy Cook loves his community so much that he opened a café to bring Vancouver's Gay residents together for great food, drinks, desserts and fun times. The menu, served until 2am daily, features full breakfasts, meat and potatoes dinners, burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are also available. Proceeds from all coffee beverages are donated to local AIDS organization A Loving Spoonful. Inside the Davie Village Café, you'll see newspaper clippings highlighting momentous events of Vancouver's Gay community. You'll also come across pictures of today and yesterday's local drag performers, plus some of the committees that utilize the restaurant-bar for chapter meetings (Bears, Leather, etc.). An outdoor patio, complete with a gas grill, is a perfect spot to soak up the sun or avoid it underneath an umbrella. The café welcomes Gay and Gay friendly travelers from all over, and can accommodate semi-large groups without reservations. Board games and free wireless connection are provided for in-house use.

Bin 941
941 Davie Street
www.bin941.com

Since we've begun previewing Vancouver Gay Pride, five years ago, Bin 941 has made our list of food recommendations nearly every time. That's because it's really that good, and it's a half block away from Gay nightclub Celebrities, making it centrally located in Vancouver's bustling Davie Village. All food entrees and appetizers are served tapas-style, so order as you go and share with your dinner companions. Strong suggestions are the Portobello mushroom cutlet, lamb, crimini mushroom risotto, Wentzel duck breast with a potato-goat cheese hash, and the out-of-this-world mussels steamed with coconut milk, lemon zest and garam marsala - the broth alone is worth asking for additional grilled bread to dip into. For dessert, try the coconut-crusted white chocolate cheesecake bathing in a pool of warm Bananas Foster sauce. Another reason to head to Bin 941, aside from its super friendly service, is the restaurant's global wine list. On the recent evening I visited with a friend, each wine we tasted was a guaranteed winner. Wait time can be up to an hour on weekends, but enjoy drinks in the back until your table is ready. Run to Bin 941!

Score
1262 Davie Street
website under construction

One of Vancouver's two new Gay bar-restaurants is Score, occupying the space where Sugar Daddy's resided. Score retained the sports enthusiast concept, offering large multiple flat screens to watch everything from dirt bike racing to figure skating, American football to curling, and from basketball to Canada's most loved pastime, hockey. Here, customers can cheer for their favorite teams and drool over much-fantasized athletes. The food menu is filled with the usual suspects, like burgers, salads, sandwiches and salads, and cod or halibut fish n' chips. The Swiss-mushroom burger made me a happy camper, served with a fresh Caesar salad. On the morning of the Vancouver Pride Parade, Score will offer breakfast starting at 9am. Mimosas to boot.

Cactus Club Café
1136 Robson Street
www.cactusclubcafe.com

Located on Vancouver's shopping street of dreams, Robson, is the Cactus Club Café where locals and tourists merge to cocktail and eat joyfully. Large booths, able to seat four to six people, and tables that extend from the front patio to the back kitchen are often filled to capacity on weekend afternoons and evenings. With multiple locations throughout British Columbia, Cactus Club Café has quickly become a leader in semi-upscale dining with selections that include steaks, seafood, noodle bowls and signature salads. I devoured my spicy, tangy Kung Pao noodles in about five minutes. But I wasn't done yet. The dessert menu tempted me with a house-made apple pie dished alongside vanilla bean gelato and a drizzling of caramel sauce. Multiple TV screens keep customers updated on sports, news, and entertainment. Service, for as busy as it was when I stopped by, was quick and oh-so-friendly. Prices are reasonable, considering the portions.

Trafalgar's Bistro
2603 West 16th Avenue
www.trafalgars.com

For those looking to escape the Gay Pride flurry, take a ten-minute cab ride to the tree-lined Kitsilano neighborhood, a charming residential district that boasts some of Vancouver's niftiest dining hangouts. Among them is Trafalgar's Bistro, a cute-as-a-button restaurant with its own bakery right around the corner. Suits and ties are not required, although a nice pair of jeans and pressed button-down shirt is advised. I'm going to commit to saying that I had the best wild mushroom risotto this side of the Atlantic at Trafalgar's Bistro, and topped with a grilled chicken breast sent me immediately to food heaven. Portions are abundant, and homemade desserts like a moist and fluffy coconut chiffon cake completes a meal fit for a queen, or several queens depending on the size of your dinner party. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

DRINK

Celebrities
1022 Davie Street
www. celebritiesnightclub.com

Like many Gay nightclubs these days, Celebrities attracts a mixed crowd on the weekends. Still, Gay boys love shaking their stuff at this longtime Vancouver hotspot that flies in DJs from NYC, LA, and Toronto. Standard cover charge is $10, though for special parties and superstar turntablists the price jumps to $20. Doors open at 9pm and the Saturday-Sunday lines to get in are half a block deep, so bring patience and a padded wallet because your feet and checkbook will take a slight hit. Once inside, however, the scenery is sexy and electrifying - DJs working their magic at the front of the club, lights flashing in all directions, house music pounding away, and rump shakers getting busy on the dance floor. Beautiful Middle Eastern and East Indian men are regulars at Celebrities, as are young non-heteros in brand-name threads. If your clothes don't have a label, try another club. Lady Miss Kier of Dee-lite performs on Pride weekend, sure to pack the place solid.

Oasis Cocktail Lounge
1240 Thurlow Street
www.oasisvancouver.com

Perched atop a Denny's on the corner of Davie and Thurlow is an oasis. Actually, it's "the" Oasis for many Vancouverites thirsting for delectable cocktails in a warm, piano bar environment. This Gay attraction features local artists on most evenings and occasional drag performances. Full dining in a stylish setting satisfies the upscale types, while the outdoor patio and seated bar woos the casual out and abouters. Gay men of various age groups come here to sip cocktails, listen to jazz and pop standards, and mingle. Gay club staples, such as loud dance music, pool tables, and beer company banners, are not to be seen at Oasis - it's more of a spot to enjoy a little quiet with your martinis. Enter Oasis on Thurlow, not Davie, and proceed up the stairs. No cover charge.

The Majestic
1138 Davie Street
website under construction

The second new Gay bar-restaurant in Vancouver is The Majestic, which moved into the digs left behind by Fresco Inn, next to Gay shopping magnet Priape. Locals drop in for happy hour and dinner, but mainly for The Majestic's flawless drag shows on Sundays. It's rumored that a Cirque du Soleil-like performance recently awestruck recent guests at The Majestic. Appetizers and full dining options are available. Already ate? Relax with a drink and a tasty dessert. My raspberry martini was a tad strong for my lightweight taste buds, though I practically swallowed my chocolate cake. I'm not sure if it was made in-house, but it was so good that it didn't really matter. There's ample room, even for big parties, and an outdoor patio is a cool area for smokers or those wanting to cruise passersby on Davie.

STAY

Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre
1088 Burrard Street
www.sheratonvancouver.com

There are different kinds of travelers, therefore there are different types of hotel seekers. I prefer boutique properties, yet many out-of-towners love corporate lodging. There are benefits to staying at a big hotel, such as frequent flyer rewards and business rates - another reason is that they're usually prominently located in each city. The Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre gave the Gay community a gigantic hug in the form of financial sponsorship for this year's Pride festivities. Thus, they are highly recommended for the weekend-long event. Aside from being smack dab in the middle of the city and staying in a cushy, large hotel, you can also return the love to Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre for helping make 2007's parade and festival happen. The two-tower hotel comes with an indoor pool, fitness area, hair salon, spa, business center, and four on-premise restaurants. Pets are welcome with a small fee.

Opus Hotel 322 Davie Street
www.opushotel.com

Opus Hotel has been at the top or near the top of my list of recommendations since I began frequenting Vancouver five years ago. Yes, it's somewhat pricey. But their service is impeccable and it's amazingly Gay friendly. Plus, it's off the beaten path near Yaletown and False Creek, where you can take a water taxi over to Granville Island. Opus designed their entire room selections based on fictional clients or "personalities" that represent everyday travelers, such as Mike, a Gay doctor with a self-prescribed lifestyle of all-night partying. Hollywood's elite and well-known musicians are common sightings at Opus, not only as guests but also as cocktailers in the hotel's suave, main floor lounge. This boutique property has hosted several same sex weddings and sponsors Gay community events, some tied into Gay ski week and Pride. Complimentary wireless connection and business center use is offered to all guests, as are short trips in their town cars (depending on availability). Opus is hip and conveniently located, blocks from Vancouver's GM Place - home of the Canucks hockey team.

Moda Hotel
900 Seymour Street
www.modahotel.com

New to our list of suggested places to stay in Vancouver is Moda Hotel. The name might be unfamiliar, yet its address shouldn't be. It resides on the corner where The Dufferin, Gay strip joint and pub, once stood. Moda is slowly revamping the property, literally peeling layers of artificial flooring and restoring original hardwood floors, crown moldings, and decades-old tiling in the lobby. Most of the rooms have been redone with simple design and subtle colors, like reds and light browns. Due to current lack of air conditioning on some floors, Moda is offering fantastic rooms overlooking Granville Street for reasonably low prices. In the midst of changing from The Dufferin to Moda, it's still somewhat of a Gay hangout. In the future, however, it looks to be an all-inclusive tourist property - though it vows to always be a Gay friendly establishment, considering its non-hetero history.

RELAX

Phresh Spa + Wellness Club
1160 Davie Street
www.phreshspa.com

If you watch the parade, follow the crowd to the festival, and bar hop to a few Gay clubs you'll have very sore feet. Throw in dancing at Celebrities or Odyssey and you'll surely wake up with achy muscles below and above the waistline. Let Phresh Spa + Wellness Club, situated on the third floor of the Sandman Suites on Davie, remove the tension and tiredness with services catered to fit exactly your needs. Phresh Spa is the only massage haven I've been to that actually sent me home with a detailed description of the exact service provided to me, and with cream samples to apply to my unusually dry feet - all tucked into a personalized card and envelope. After an hour of Swedish and trigger-point treatment, I was ready to re-join the stress-free civilization. Well, not quite. I stayed for an extra indulgence known as the "soaking tub", a hydrotherapy tub with built-in music and a fireplace nearby. You literally feel the weight lifted off you as you lean back, listen to the tunes and soak your troubles away. I'm a self-professed massage aficionado, and I can honestly say that my session at Phresh Spa was one of the most thorough and enjoyable. If the purpose was to enhance my busy-bee lifestyle for 90 minutes, they truly succeeded.

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