Billy Campbell’s back in Vancouver and loving every gray, rain-soaked minute of it. The actor has been a sporadic resident since 1998, and he’s currently in town filming the second season of The Killing, the AMC crime drama in which he stars as Darren Richmond, a cagey politician in a town riveted by the unsolved murder of a young girl. But Campbell’s no interloper. Not only does he own his own spectacular loft in Yaletown, he also boasts a laundry list of Vancouver bona fides, having hiked the notorious Grouse Grind, shredded nearby Cypress Mountain on a snowboard, jogged through Stanley Park, surfed the frigid waves off Vancouver Island, and “contemplated” the Sun Yat-Sen Gardens in Chinatown with the aid of a certain homegrown specialty. Most important, though, is his affection for the city’s notoriously bleak weather. “I wake up here and it’s gray and rainy, but I feel like it’s a sunny day,” he says, which might explain his good cheer as he takes us to his favorite spots for dining, drinking, and relaxing by a fire during a typically damp day in “Hollywood North.”
+Alpha Izakaya Tapas Bar
1099 Richards Street, 604-633-0355
Vancouver is a city of sushi bars, but I hardly go anywhere else. There was a time I was coming here every night. I had a Japanese girlfriend who said, “Let me take you where we eat.” The izakaya here is imaginative. One of my favorites is an Italian Spring Roll (mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato, and basil in deep-fried spring roll).
The Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir Street, 604-681-1625
Vancouver’s got some terrific little music venues, and The Railway is sort of the mothership. They do this crazy sing-along the first Monday of every month that’s a Vancouver institution—as is the bartender, Dana, and her espresso martinis. It’s full of characters, and I love everything from the model train that runs along the ceiling to the kitschy Prince Charles and Princess Diana needlepoint in the back bar.
The Keefer Bar
135 Keefer Street, 604-688-1961
Two of my costars live near this place. I almost did too, but I think I dodged a bullet because I’d be here all the time. The gin rosemary cocktail Gez the bartender makes is unbelievable. Plus they have great small plates like dim sum, spring rolls, and Peking duck sliders which are perfect late night snacks.
Market by Jean-Georges
1115 Alberni Street, 604-695-1115
I heard the lead bartender here, Jay Jones, is one of the best in Canada. Here’s why I believe it: One of my favorite books is Alfred Lansing’s Endurance about the explorer Ernest Shackleton’s most famous expedition to Antarctica. So when, out of the blue, my man Jay brought out his commemorative bottle of whiskey blended to replicate a case Shackleton lost in Antarctic ice 102 years ago, what was left of my mind was totally blown.
Go Fish Ocean Emporium
1505 W. 1st Avenue (@ Fisherman’s Wharf), 604-730-5040
This glorified fish shack is close to Granville Island Market, but not everyone knows that it’s open year-round. These guys have huge line-ups every day in the summertime. But I just found out they’re open in the winter, too. Some- times it’s just me and the co-owner, Wanda. The fish couldn’t be fresher, or her wit more dry. They have a sister restaurant up the hill that’s a sit-down place serving beer, but I prefer just standing at the counter out on the water.
The Billy Bishop Branch 176 Royal Canadian Legion
1407 Laburnum Street, 604-738-4142
I spent the best New Year’s Eve here by the fire with my milliner friend Kelly Dunlap. After talking about videogames and nerd stuff with Simmer the bartender and mingling with the old guys, I realized I had to become a member. It cost me sixty bucks. It’s the most authentic English-style pub I’ve found in Vancouver, and to top it off, it used to be a rugby club, and that’s my favorite sport.