Commercial Drive is the only neighbourhood in Vancouver that survived the Olympics with its soul intact. Famous for its Sapphic overtones, good coffee, secondhand shopping and eclectic restaurants, the Drive offers the most bang for your buck, whether you’re looking for an apartment, something to eat or some entertainment.
There may be more families and scenesters than Dykes on Bikes cruising Commercial Drive these days, but it still marches to the beat of its own drum and shows its tits at the annual Dyke March.
One icon of the area’s free spirit is the Rio Theatre (1660 E Broadway), which recently humiliated city hall into granting it a liquor licence for live events. Funky without pretention, the Rio is a great place to catch live queer acts like Ryan Steele, a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show or a film at Out on Screen.
Commercial Drive also plays host to all sorts of alternative performances. Catch a poetry slam at CafÃ© Deux Soleils (2096 Commercial Dr), experimental theatre at The Cultch (1895 Venables St), music at the WISE Hall (1882 Adanac St), or mount your own show at the theatre in Havana (1212 Commercial Dr), which is also a great place to wind down with a pitcher of sangria after a day in the (fingers crossed!) sun at East Side Pride.
The influx of trendy new bars and restaurants may have moved some anti-gentrification activists to smash windows at Famosa Neapolitan Pizzeria (1380 Commercial Dr) in March, but it bears mentioning that even the Drive’s few chains feel less than mass-produced. Walking down Commercial on a Friday night is a sexy experience that boasts a diverse crowd and is an excellent alternative to the gong show that is Granville Street.
Check out St Augustine’s (2360 Commercial Dr), the loudest pub on Earth, but don’t get in the way of the Amazonian waitresses. Tap into your inner Joss Whedon with a Romulan Ale at Storm Crow Tavern (1305 Commercial Dr). Don’t be surprised if the bartender comes to your table to point out that the lightsaber above the bar is on.
If you never went to a gay bathhouse in the 1980s, check out the dÃ©cor at CafÃ© Calabria (1745 Commercial Dr). The owners call it “a taste of Italy,” but like my friend says, “It’s more of a slap across the face . . . with a penis.”
If Pompeii is not your scene, there’s Turk’s down the street (1276 Commercial Dr), lesbian softball players at Avanti’s Pub (1601 Commercial Dr), or drop by Kokopelli’s (2052 Commercial Dr) for the latest dyke-chic haircut.
Decorating an apartment? Peg General Store (1003 Commercial Dr) has great deals on furniture from all those remodelled Vancouver Specials. For those with Don Draper’s budget and taste, stock up on Fiesta ware and teak furniture at Attic Treasures (944 Commercial Dr).
Venture one block closer to Hastings and you can learn everything you wanted to know about dildos but were afraid to ask at Womyns’Ware (896 Commercial Dr). But remember, it’s not a sex shop. “I don’t sell sex,” proprietor Otter Louis tells me. “I sell non-toxic merchandise.”
Bring cash and ID. You never know when you’ll need one or the other on the Drive.