Gallery Café (Vancouver Art Gallery)

Restaurant: Gallery Café (At Vancouver Art Gallery)
Cuisine: Sandwiches/Salads/Cafe/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: July 9, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 750 Hornby Street (At Vancouver Art Gallery)
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 2.5 (based on what I tried)
Service: n/a (pay at cashier)
Ambiance: 3.5 inside, 5 on the patio
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Cafeteria style
  • Sandwiches/salads/desserts
  • European cafe food
  • Good for coffee breaks
  • Quick/casual
  • Attracts locals/tourists
  • Moderately priced
  • Limited, but decent wine selection
  • Plenty of indoor/outdoor seating
  • Classical music on the patio
  • Fantastic patio
  • Summer Hours
  • Monday–Friday 9am–9pm
  • Saturday & Sunday 9:30am–6pm

**Recommendations: Carrot Ginger Trifle Cake

The outdoor patio for the Gallery Café is actually that entire space with all the patio umbrellas.

Summer has been shy this year for Vancouver, so although blue skies aren’t always in order, this grand patio at Vancouver Art Gallery’s Gallery Café is still a fantastic spot to be (as long as it’s not raining). The patio is certainly the highlight here and an attraction for locals and tourists. It’s open to the public so you don’t have to come from an exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery just to enjoy it.

It’s spacious and almost busy all the time, but there’s plenty of seating and it’s not so bad waiting for a seat while listening to classical music playing from their outdoor speakers. The music makes it more of an elegant patio, and being located in the heart of downtown, it’s a nice “escape” from the city while still being in the city.
However if there’s no space outside, the inside seating isn’t bad either. It’s a minimalist and clean dining room with a simple cafeteria set up which attracts quite the crowd at lunch. I’ve only been here a few times before, but the food hasn’t been anything memorable and it’s not a selling factor, although I think it should and could be. On this occasion the food was okay to good, but I guess the ambiance made up for it to some degree. Even if they were going for this level of “cafeteria style food”, the quality should compare to Whole Foods, which I find does a great job with their “food court” like approach.

Being located inside the Vancouver Art Gallery, it’s somewhat natural to assume that the Gallery Café would be a bit more special, elegant, or creative. I’m just going to say it, but I really think the restaurant needs an update. Cooking is an art, and here it just felt like a dying one.

With a BG Urban Cafe like set up of very mediocre looking food, I really think it could use a makeover. Personally I think it would be such a tourist attraction if it did something like Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego, but I know that’s asking for the extreme. I’m not suggesting that the food be pretentious, but it should be at least somewhat creative and representable of Vancouver’s talent and appreciation for the culinary industry. It should be an attraction. The Gallery Cafe has a prime location and great space and I think they could be doing so much more with it.

The menu items and offerings are all very simple, despite how it may sound. It may seem extensive and there’s a lot listed, but there actually isn’t much selection. There is a daily specials menu and there are a selection of quiches and entrees, but nothing looked very inspiring.

In this case, less is definitely more, so fewer items with fresh, quality, local ingredients and clean execution would have been the way to go for me. The passion in the food just seemed lost and too obviously mass produced. It was quite pricey considering what you get, but given that it is the Vancouver Art Gallery it is to be expected. Generally, I found the emphasis and value in the ambiance and brand rather than the food and ingredients.

On the table:

50’s Tuna Melt in a Pita3/6

  • Tuna, Cheddar + Dill Pickles $7.95
  • In the display case it looked like a decent size, but after it was pressed, it was incredibly small and definitely snack size.
  • For the price, I would rather go to Nu Greek Street for a Chicken Souvlaki Pita. That may be comparing apples to oranges, but even for a tuna melt I would suggest the one at Everything Cafe, which is actually very good.

  • It had a good flavour, but it was predominantly coming from the cheddar cheese and pickles and I couldn’t taste much tuna.
  • The tuna could have been chicken and it was flaked into small pieces and perhaps marinated with a bit of lemon for a tang.
  • I have a feeling it’s just the tuna that doesn’t get used up from the ahi tuna salads. That part doesn’t bother me, but holding back on the amount of tuna does.
  • There were semi-cooked crunchy red onions, a good amount of melted cheddar cheese, and a bit of parsley, but the long slices of crunchy dill pickles were almost overpowering.
  • The pita was generic and a bit dry, but thin, and overall it seemed more like a chicken quesadilla than a tuna melt to me.
  • It was decent and still good, but not impressive for what it was supposed to be, and it’s nothing I would deliberately crave and come back for.

All paninis and sandwiches are served with a House Salad which was just basic greens tossed with a basic vinaigrette and a couple pumpkin seeds.

Californian Panini2.5/6

  • Pesto Chicken, Tomato & Brie $7.95
  • This was actually substantial as a lunch, unlike the tuna melt.
  • I must say that the bread almost carried more flavour than the filling.
  • The bread was likely out sourced, but it was good bread.
  • The bread tasted like a potato and rosemary bread and after it was grilled and pressed it was thin and crunchy and the herb flavours intensified.
  • It had a great chew that wasn’t tiresome and nice flavour that carried the sandwich.

  • Unlike the 50’s tuna melt, this one had a good amount of ingredients and the only thing missing was the pesto.
  • I pretty much couldn’t taste any pesto at all and the chicken was slightly dry, but it was passable, decent, and overlooked.
  • It had a lot of thinly sliced chicken and a good amount of creamy, buttery, stringy melted brie and some freshly sliced tomatoes.
  • However it could have been a brie and chicken sandwich before a pesto chicken sandwich or suggested “California Panini”.
  • As a “Californian Panini” I think avocado would have been an amazing touch.
  • This isn’t anything you couldn’t make at home, but I give credit to the bread.
  • On the other hand I would have preferred a Smoked Turkey Club House panini from BG Urban Cafe.

There was a lot of baked goods and desserts to choose from, but this sounded the most creative and different. I really wish the walnuts and candied ginger weren’t only used as garnish though and actually incorporated into the cake.

**Carrot Ginger Trifle Cake3.5/6

  • $4.50
  • This was very light, fluffy and airy, but it was quite sweet so it does end up feeling a bit rich.
  • I definitely could have used more walnuts, candied ginger, and maybe even some raisins and just more ingredients in general, because it was a very basic carrot cake recipe.
  • The ginger flavour was only in the form of candied ginger cubes used as decor for the top and it was the same with the walnuts. There was only one of each in the whole bowl too.
  • It wasn’t soaked in any syrup or rum, as I expected it would be since it was a trifle, but the carrot cake was very moist and tender with lots of visible shredded carrots.
  • The cake wasn’t spiced that heavily and there was perhaps some cinnamon and nutmeg, but it wasn’t very apparent.
  • Since the carrot cake was sweet enough already, I was very pleased to discover that the cream was actually fresh whipped cream rather than cream cheese icing.
  • The whipped cream was fresh, not oily, and lightly sweetened and spiced with perhaps nutmeg.
  • It was very good and I did enjoy it, but it could have easily been so much better, with not even much more additional effort.
  • This is a great way to use up day old carrot cakes, and if that’s what they were doing, you couldn’t tell the cake was day old.


Gallery Café on Urbanspoon


  • LotusRapper says:

    I haven’t been to Gallery Cafe for about 2 years now. Food was always ok, not *great*. But I love the ambiance, esp. on the patio. Vancouver needs to keep VAG there as the city’s central public space, IMHO.

  • Kathryn says:

    food at the Gallery was better/more interesting under the previous owner/management

    now it is pretty well inedible IMHO – love going there for wine/bubble in the sun after work but that’s about it

    such a shame too as it has SUCH potential

    I have been to privately hosted and outside-catered functions there which are AMAZING

  • Bow says:

    Let the girls from Be’Wiched come here and show them how it’s done. They’d kick ass ! Or let student chefs from Van Community College run it.

  • vivian says:

    I agree with Bow; Be’Wiched definitely knows how to make good comfort food well!!

  • Jayda Home says:

    The women at Be’Witched love Mijune and Sherman. I went there the day after your 3rd visit there and they were so excited that you guys like them so much. They are so nice there and really make you feel welcome … plus the food and baked goods are excellent. I am so happy to have this place nearby my house. The Gallery has always appealed to me because of it’s patio….. it just like a little oasis in the city. I’ve never really liked the Bread Garden set up for food since the food is never that tasty or original…. but I guess it fills a niche for a quick and somewhat healthier meal…. but yes, at the Art Gallery you’d expect their restaurant to reflect more imagination than the cafeteria like set-up they have.

  • Mijune says:

    @LR – yes ambiance is great, but the food shouldn’t be forgotten. and YES public space!

    @Kathryn – Yes! I love their roof top parties and the catering was good, but the cafeteria… 🙁 I didn’t know about the change of management/owners though… thanks for the tip! Btw the bottle of wine on the patio… exactly what we do too!

    @Bow – Love the student idea!! Not sure if ladies from Be ‘wiched are suitable though… different style.. they’re more Triple D… this is more… primp and proper?

    @vivian – lol yes comfort good is good… but inside the art gallery… hmmm… but have you seem my post on Extraordinary Desserts I attached in the intro? something like THAT should go here.. artistic! 🙂

    @jayda Home – lol they do?!?!? Aww they are so sweet!!! They deserve the business! Everyone needs to try them!! I almost want to order a truck load and deliver them downtown just so ppl can try them! Imagination… I like that word… I agree!

  • vivian says:

    of course I did (re: Extraordinary Desserts), I was the first one to comment!lol..I still have yet to try that place, it looks amazing. I think it’s worth a trip just to go to that place. I can’t wait to check out the dessert buffets in Singapore and KL, they look pretty amazing there as well. I have the list of places from your blog and am determined to try them all!

  • Mijune says:

    @vivian – LOL! oops!!! and yes! of course you did!!! and WHAT you’re going to Sing and KL!?!!? Omg LEMON GARDEN CAFE!!! Malaysia I hit up super good spots and Singapore… Hawker’s Centre… gotta do that… you WILL try them all I just have to make sure I can keep up with you jetsetter!!

  • vivian says:

    Jetsetter, me?? lol. I’m just following in your footsteps; wherever you go, I go…(or at least I try to). It’s hard work trying to keep up with you!:)

  • Mijune says:

    @vivian – lol awww thanks viv!!! It’s awesome that we have similar tastes!! I love your recs too!! You’d “keep up” with me easily… IF you were only IN TOWN more often 😉

  • Erin says:

    This city is in total desperate need of good patios! (and that food looks BAD…. I would go for a coffee, though) 🙂

  • Linda says:

    wow, i’ve only really seen this place when i came in for the BC pavillion during the olympics but they food looks pretty good – not sure if they’re worth the price now since the food trucks have taken over vancouver and there’s a pretty good taco place just outside the museum!

    wow, the 50s tuna melt seems kind of expensive considering how small the sandwich is… if it’s a 50’s tuna melt, they should charge 50’s prices lol 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Erin – lol and wine!! Wine and patio here is a good combo!! It might help make the food taste better after a couple bottle too…

    @Linda – lollll yeah the tuna melt was a bit pricey… everything kind of was… but I expected it.. the taco food truck out front was tempting!

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