A Meaty Guide to Dine Out Vancouver

Every year, for a glorious two weeks in January/February, foodies from all around can experience the magic that is Dine Out Vancouver – a culinary extravaganza of 3-course meals for a fixed price ($18, $28, or $38) at participating restaurants. With so many places and menu options to choose from, you can really experience the full spectrum of what a restaurant can offer for a fraction of the price you would normally pay if you ordered them separately. And there is a LOT to choose from; after perusing the Dine Out menus for a long time (which left me feeling extremely hungry), I realized that Dine Out was a great opportunity to try new things and push outside your tastebuds’ comfort zone.
So here is a selection of some interesting meats/seafood that have popped up in main courses during my search – if you’re looking to Dine Out, try leaving the good ‘ole steak and chicken aside for another day and get more acquainted with the fine choices below. I’m only talking about meat in this article, but for all the vegetarians and gluten-free eaters out there, there’s also a ton of choices that you can single out on the website.
Pheasant: Pheasants are game birds that are high in magnesium, iron, protein, vitamin B6, and selenium (which isn’t a common mineral in food). They are cooked/prepared like chicken dishes are, and are more subtle in taste than other game birds.
Duck: Ducks have a thicker layer of fat between the skin and meat, in order to preserve heat better when they’re in the water. But don’t be fooled – duck meat is still considered a lean meat despite it’s darker colouring, and without the fat, is comparable to chicken in terms of nutritional value (high in protein, iron, selenium and niacin). And don’t feel guilty about trying the fat, since more than 60% of it is comprised of the good fats that are high in omega fatty acids.
Rabbit: A white meat that is high in protein, high in edible meat itself (so not a lot of bone-picking for you), low in calories, and one of the meats that are the lowest in fat and cholesterol. Not only does rabbit meat have some of the best health benefits, but it also has a low environmental impact and is commonly raised hormone/steroid-free. It has slightly sweeter and more textured taste than most meats.
Elk: Elk is part of the deer family with a very sweet taste. It is a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and iron, and has a lower calorie count than beef or pork. While this red meat is a leaner option than most red meats, I would stay away from the fat itself, which is mostly saturated fat.
Bison: Unlike cows, bison are raised without steroids, hormones, and processed without any additives. This meat looks to be one of the best red meat choices, high in protein/iron/zinc, and tastes alike to beef (you also won’t get that “wild/gamey” taste either), with a third of the cholesterol and half the calories and fat that you would get if you went for the steak.
Of course, living on the coast allows us to enjoy the fruits of the sea. While salmon is a popular dish here, there’s a lot of fish in the pond for you to try:
Ling Cod: A tender white meat, that has a mild taste, like halibut. High in protein, potassium, and contains vitamin A, calcium and iron, go for this fish if you’re looking for a safer choice.
Sturgeon: It’s kind of like you’re eating a dinosaur, if that kind of thing would appeal to you (they are one of the oldest families of fish – swimming around in the waters when dinosaurs still existed!). The meat is dense but also mild in taste, and is an excellent source of omega-3s. However, most species of sturgeon are at risk for extinction, and because they have such long lives, they may have absorbed toxins into their bodies, so steer clear of the fatty parts of the fish.
Steelhead: If you like your salmon, try this variety of trout, which you could call “a brother from another mother.” It pretty much has the same taste, colour (they both eat krill, which gives these fish its nice pink-y colour), texture as salmon and can be prepared in the same way. A nice healthy choice, with the added benefit of low contaminant levels. There’s been some debate about it’s sustainability though, with some saying to go with salmon instead, and others telling you to go with the steelhead.
Albacore Tuna: The fanciest of the tuna family, if you can find a good Dine Out deal on this baby, take it. It’s abundant in protein, selenium, vitamin D, and the good fats, while low in saturated fat. It also has lower levels of mercury and other toxins since they are mostly caught at a young age than other tuna.
Arctic Char: This fish can also be another substitute to salmon, with a moist, milder taste (think between trout and salmon). Following the pattern of the other fish, arctic char are high in protein and omega-3s, with the farmed varieties being raised more sustainably than other fish. Healthlink BC does recommend limiting your intake, since it has higher mercury levels than other fish (although low in other contaminants).
If you’re concerned about the sustainability of seafood being used in restaurants, look for the Ocean Wise symbol on your menus. Ocean Wise is a conservation program started by the Vancouver Aquarium that works to educate consumers about sustainable seafood, and helps restaurants/suppliers/services in making better choices concerning the seafood they buy and use. If you see the Ocean Wise symbol on your menu – you’ve made a good choice and can enjoy your seafood guilt-free! You can learn more about Ocean Wise here.
So go out, stuff your face, and have a name ready for your food baby. Dine Out ends on February 3rd – you can see a list of all the participating restaurants on their website.

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