Neighbourhood Stroll: Commercial Drive
Locally known as "The Drive," this ‘hood has long been popular with lesbians, and plenty of gay men love it too, particularly as the neighbourhood holds its own Pride festival each June. Originally the hub of Vancouver’s Italian and Portuguese communities, on Commercial Drive you will meet an eclectic bunch: from skater dudes, to trans folk, to hand-holding lesbians to Italian immigrants drinking a cappuccino al fresco. Easily accessible by Skytrain (Vancouver’s light-rail network), the area to explore is the 23 small-ish blocks between Venables Street and 12th Street.
Arts & Culture. Commercial Drive is home to a large collection of public murals. An often popular LGBT photo-op is the rainbow mural on the side of Joe’s Café. The Vancouver East Cultural Centre ("The Cultch") plays host to an array of edgy and interesting performing and visual arts.
Eating. Foodie goodness—including lots of organic—abounds on The Drive. Vegetarians have bountiful options—standouts include the clever Mexican cuisine at Bandidas Taqueria; the East Indian cuisine at Sweet Cherubim; and the raw "burgers" at Eternal Abundance. For old-style pizza, the goods at busy Marcello are outstanding, and nearby newcomer Famoso gets raves for their Neapolitan-style pizzas. Or have a true Vancouver cultural experience and shop for a make-it-yourself-picnic at old-school Santa Barbara Market (be sure to take a number!) and dine on the grass in Grandview Park.
Shops that pop. Folks who live around The Drive aren’t your big-box types, and the neighbourhood supports a large number of small, independent shops. As you stroll along, watch for period fashions at Little Miss Vintage, mid-century furnishings at Attic Treasures, irresistible gifts and cards at Urban Empire, upscale consignment clothes at Give & Receive, and vinyl at Highlife World Music. Of special note is the sex toy shop Womyn’s Ware; delving beyond their interesting selections for all genders, ask about their role in improving the industry’s product offerings.
Caffeine. Coffee culture is strong on The Drive. Choose between ultra-hip, local spots like Turk’s Coffee featuring two espressos "on tap", the fresh lighting of Renzo’s, or the always-bustling Continental. Or hang out and watch soccer on TV with Italian or Portuguese folks at classic coffee houses harkening to a bygone age: Abruzzo Cappuccino Bar and Joe’s Café both fit the genre, and Joe’s not only advertises the best cappuccino in the city but also offers pool tables by-the-hour.