Located at Carrall and East Hastings, Calabash Bistro offers haven from the ever-gentrifying Gastown, pulling you into the warm embrace of laid-back Caribbean vibes. With a cozy dining room upstairs and a groovy lounge-to-dance floor downstairs, Calabash offers brunch, dinner, live music and dancing. Our host and Calabash’s bar manager Chris, curated a delicious and intoxicating Sunday evening tour of Calabash’s authentic Caribbean food and drink.
One-Two (Rum) Punch
Calabash hosts the largest selection of rum in Vancouver (try a tasting flight) and makes phenomenal cocktails bursting with Caribbean flair. The Calabash Dark and Stormy is the best in the city, featuring house-infused rum and house-made ginger syrup and ginger beer, topped with freshly shaved coconut. Follow the Dark and Stormy up with the Calabash Rum Punch, tropical and citrusy, complete with over proof rum and an orange wheel. After this one-two (rum) punch, replenish your electrolytes with a Coconut Jumby, light and refreshing with coconut water, agave syrup, lemongrass, mint, lime zest, and (of course) rum. As my date Kess and I discovered, Calabash’s rummy cocktails also offer a buzz to be reckoned with. Three drinks deep, you will be in-tune with your inner Jack Sparrow.
The marriage between Calabash’s boozy cocktails and their exotic, satisfying Caribbean food is a work of sublimity. Start with local Salt Spring Island Jerk Steamed Mussels, basking in a rich coconut cream and jerk spice broth. If you love a good, juicy chunk of pork belly as much as I do, try Calabash’s Jerk Pork Belly with Coconut Dumplings, a luscious offering with chunks of roast pork belly nestled alongside zesty pineapple and house-made coconut dumplings. If your stomach is as bottomless as ours, keep ordering: we were equally awed by the Ripe Ginger Plantains, topped with creamy chunks of goat cheese, and by the succulent Jerk Chicken Skewers, marinated in a resplendent Jerk Spice and roasted to glorious caramelisation. Still game for something sweet? Finish your meal with a generous helping of Calabash’s comforting, sumptuous bread pudding paired with jackfruit ice cream. If you still need help reaching food-coma nirvana, take yourself over the edge with one of Calabash’s house-infused rum shots (we had pineapple coconut).
As if the indulgent Caribbean food and cocktails are not enough, Calabash is in tune with the city’s vibrant arts and music scene. Take a moment to check out the local art displayed on the walls and see some live music in the intimate, low-key downstairs lounge. If you’ve been to Caprice one too many times and you need a break from twerking to Despacito, head to Calabash on Fridays (R&B and hip-hop) or Saturdays (reggae) to boogie the night away. Check out their online calendar for more details.
Three hours later, five courses in and four rounds deep, our verdict is that whether you’re hungry, thirsty, or looking for a night out, Calabash is an unassuming Pandora’s’ box: funky, cheerful and full of good vibes.
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