Vancouver Waterfront Restaurants + Wineries

Written by Elizabeth Rose

August 16, 2021
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Discover new Vancouver Washington Waterfront restaurants and wineries, explore street art, and take a stroll along the Columbia River.

There’s always something new happening on the Vancouver Washington Waterfront. Vancouver USA is giving its neighbor across the river, Portland, some stiff competition. On any given day, no matter what the Pacific Northwest’s varied weather, you’ll find the hip, new Waterfront with its public art, promenade, restaurants, and an ever-growing number of winery tasting rooms, a popular gathering place. And each time I visit, I head for Vancouver’s downtown and waterfront. I discovered Latin fusion cuisine and craft cocktails with a Columbia River view on this visit. I also savored the fun of a leisurely afternoon shaded by a red sidewalk umbrella, tasting fine Washington wine paired with an equally enticing cheese board. You, too, will enjoy discovering the new Vancouver Waterfront restaurants and wineries and linger a while to take a riverside stroll.

The Vancouver Waterfront Scene

The Vancouver waterfront scene is all new, and it’s all surprising. Once, those who wanted to connect with the scenery of the Mighty Columbia River headed down to the Waterfront Renaissance Trail, which stretched east of the historic I-5 Interstate Bridge 5 miles along to Winter Park. But now, a vibrant new commercial and community district, dubbed The Waterfront, stretches west along the river from the over 100-year-old drawbridge and is quite a draw.

Vancouver Waterfront

The Vancouver Waterfront includes places to walk and play with views of the I-5 Bridge and the Grant Street Pier. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

It all started in 2018 with the impressive Grant Street Pier, the centerpiece, jutting 90 feet out into the river emulating the rigging and mast of old sailing ships that used to sail up the Columbia. Waterfront Park was plotted out, and trendy Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar and WildFin American Grill opened to set the scene for the Waterfront Community as a hip gathering place. And it took off!

The Draw of Vancouver’s Waterfront

Full disclosure. I’ve lived in Vancouver twice during my rather lengthy life. I’ve seen Vancouver, USA grow from a tree-studded bedroom community for Portland—with plenty of simple strip malls—to a place with a main street and downtown park drawing fine dining restaurants, tons of brewpubs, a top-notch Farmers Market, and festivals attracting visitors from miles around.

Vancouver Farmer's Market

The Vancouver Farmer’s Market is within walking distance of the vibrant Waterfront Community and will eventually join the Waterfront businesses to be even closer. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Whether it’s a brew fest, the annual Hawaiian cultural extravaganza, or the exciting Recycled Art Fair, Vancouver has grown and evolved, and developed its own style, culture, and personality. Vancouver is not a mini-Portland. It is the southwestern gateway to the state of Washington. The Waterfront is part of that positive growth and is one reason people come to experience the fun and excitement that is now America’s Vancouver.

Today, you’ll find a new art installation—the Headwaters Wall. This interactive water play feature is complete with a bronze topographical map of the Columbia River’s watershed. Through the art, you’ll see where the Mighty Columbia River starts and how each tributary joins the flow. There are quotes about the river chiseled into stone. But for kids, it’s a fun place to climb and wade.

Vancouver Waterfront Wineries

When the Waterfront Community was new, I was thrilled to find out that one of my favorite Washington wineries, Maryhill, was going to be opening a tasting room there. Going to Maryhill Winery for wine tasting or a concert was at least a day’s journey. While driving the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge to get there was scenic, it did take a good amount of time. However, we would frequently rent a car, which made for a scenic journey. We journeyed there for special occasions and to catch the view of Mt. Hood from their tasting room window. My favorite wine was their celebrated red blend Maryhill Winemaker’s Red.

On their Waterfront opening, I had the pleasure of tasting some of their limited releases backed up by live music and accompanied by small plates. The Maryhill Tasting Room quickly became a favorite place to sit and watch people and the river traffic beyond.

Maryhill Winery

Goldendale’s Maryhill Winery was the first to open a tasting room on the Vancouver Waterfront. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

The Changing Vancouver Waterfront Wine Scene

But on this visit, just a couple of years later, I discovered a full-on wine scene on the Waterfront with seven operating tasting rooms and two more planned for the near future. Hood River-based Naked Winery, now going by Evoke Winery, is slated to open a wine bar in the future Kirkland Tower once the building finishes construction. And then, rumor has it, beloved Willamette Valley Vineyards of Oregon will also be opening a tasting room there. I’ll have to take a trip just to taste some of their Full Cluster Pinot!

As we strolled the Waterfront, we noticed that some favorites had opened tasting rooms. Yakima Valley’s Airfield Estates, where you can sip wines named after vintage airplanes like Lightning and Dauntless, brought back good memories of my experiences at their tasting room in Yakima. During that visit, I enjoyed tales of the training school for WWII pilots located on the owner’s ranch. Airfield Estates offers very drinkable and reasonably priced wines.

Airfield Estates Winery

Seeing the logo for Airfield Estates brought back good memories of tasting on their Yakima Valley patio. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Next, we noticed Valo Cellars with its Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties. With its doors open wide, the light and bright tasting room of Barnard Griffin Winery of Richland, Washington, was inviting. They feature their winemaker’s Rob’s Red Blend and a sparkling Albariño called “Gorge.”

Barnard Griffin Winery

Each tasting room has intriguing decor. The Barnard Griffin Winery was casual and colorful. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

We had heard rave reviews about Woodinville-born Brian Carter Cellars with its European-style blends and wonderful small plates. So we made a tasting reservation for outside where we could enjoy peeks at the river and watch people walking by on a sunny afternoon.

The Brian Carter Cellars Tasting Experience

The red umbrellas and patio tables surrounding the Brian Carter Cellars tasting room were festive, and the mood was relaxed. We sat outside where we could face the river. Billed “the most dog-friendly tasting room,” the outdoor space was ideal for a sunny afternoon. But inside was attractive as well. Our eyes were drawn to the unique tile bar, a perfect design for the riverfront.

Brian Carter Cellars

The bar at Brian Carter Cellars had fish scale tiles and a rough-edged wood top. You can relax with a full glass of wine and small plates and order a tasting flight. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

The winery was new to us, so a full tasting was in order. The tasting menu, priced at $20, started with their signature Oriana white blend, followed by their Sangiovesebased rosé blend, and then three amazing red blends. We ordered a cheese board to accompany our wine. There are cheese boards, and then there are really good cheese boards! This was a lovely presentation of gourmet cheeses, almonds, candied walnuts, and fresh baguette slices.

Cheese Board

This was a huge and varied cheese board… perfect for two. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

As we tasted the offerings, it was hard to choose which wines to take home. The winner turned out to be the first wine we had tasted… the 2018 Oriana (awarded 91 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine) refreshing and aromatic white blend. Since the wine was purchased, the tasting fee was waived. With warm weather in the forecast, the Oriana was slated for patio sipping with friends.

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Vancouver Waterfront Restaurants

Having experienced upscale restaurants like Twigs at the Vancouver Waterfront, I was excited to find out that the space above WildFin, shaped something like the bow of the ship, had recently become home to a new Latin-fusion restaurant, Dosalas Latin Kitchen and Tequila Bar. (Dosalas means two wings in Spanish.)

The Dosalas Vibe

We read that everything is presented as small plates or what they call “shareables.” I found these to be more like entrées. Hostesses met us at the street-level entrance. One escorted us upstairs, where we encountered an amazing chandelier. At the top of the stairs was a buzzing open area with seating areas conducive to conversation. Several bartenders were busy creating chilled craft cocktails. I eagerly anticipated a Margarita.

Dosalas Waterfront

The main dining area was light and bright and full of activity. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Our hostess asked if we would like to be seated outside, and we happily agreed. There were many seating areas, but we opted for seating on the “Pearl Deck,” a space anchored with a long fire table down the middle and rows of booths overlooking the soaring mast of the Grand Street Pier and the river. Stepping onto “the deck,” we immediately felt like we were on a ship. But it was the Columbia River that moved quickly by. We were stationary, but the vibe was a cruise ship.

Dosalas Vancouver Waterfront Restaurant

You can easily picture yourself on a cruise once seated on the Pearl Deck. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

Dosalas Dining

It was time for a Margarita. I selected one of Dosalas’ specialty Margaritas. The bartender served it up in vintage-style pressed glass shaker and glass decorated with a fresh flower. The cruise theme continued in my mind. Were the islands our destination?

Vancouver Waterfront Restaurants

I was in the mood to sail off to the islands with this specialty craft Margarita. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

We were split in our decision on what to order. My friend loves sampling small plates, so I selected two small plates, one of which was the tuna tostadas with cubed ahí tuna, served with soy caramel, cilantro crema, and Fresno chile.

Ahi Tostadas

These tostada ingredients were as fresh as they come. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

After all that wine tasting, I was hungry, and salmon had been on my mind. I chose the ancho-rubbed Columbia River salmon served with ancient grains, crushed almonds, and seasonal vegetables. My friend raved about her tostadas, and I was thrilled with my salmon. I prefer salmon to be a bit crusty on the outside and just done and moist on the inside. Some chefs cannot achieve this, but this is precisely how Dosalas cooks the salmon. Excellent!

Dosalas Salmon

Dosalas’ ancho-rubbed salmon is done just the way I like it. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

It took a while for me to finish my Margarita, and we enjoyed gazing over the river to the Portland side, considering dessert (we didn’t), and then took a little tour of the restaurant, where we found more seating areas and elegant touches. What a perfect special occasion, Vancouver Waterfront restaurant!

More Great Vancouver Waterfront Dining Options

When you decide on a Vancouver Waterfront Restaurant, you’ll have the choice of Twigs, a martini bar serving casual yet upscale food in a bustling bar setting, WildFin American Grill serving seafood, Stack 571 Burger & Whiskey Bar (I hear the creative burgers are great), and Barlows Public House with brews and pub food with a river view. And for super casual fare, try the walk-up fish and chips place, What a Catch fish bar, or the soon-to-be-open The Yard Milkshake Bar.

Articles Related to the Vancouver WA Waterfront

When You Visit the Vancouver Waterfront Restaurants and Wineries

This area is new, hip, and popular, so the tasting rooms and restaurants recommend and appreciate reservations. They are all doing their best to staff each eatery and winery. Most, but not all, have outdoor seating, so if it’s a beautiful day out, check to see if the patio or deck seating is available. Right now, the Vancouver Hilton is the closest place to stay to the Vancouver Waterfront. The Hotel Indigo is planned for the future, to be located right in the Waterfront Community. For more ideas on traveling in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest, check out the articles by our Wander travel experts.

There’s always something new happening on the Vancouver Washington Waterfront. Vancouver USA is giving its neighbor across the river, Portland, some stiff competition. You’ll find the hip, new Waterfront with its public art, promenade, restaurants, and an ever-growing number of winery tasting rooms, a popular gathering place. I discovered Latin fusion cuisine and craft cocktails with a Columbia River view. I also spent an afternoon tasting fine Washington wine paired with a cheeseboard.

Written by Elizabeth Rose

Elizabeth Rose is back again in the Phoenix area after more than a decade living in New Mexico and Washington state. She travels throughout the West and beyond writing about destinations, accommodations, festivals, and restaurants, especially farm to table cuisine. As an expert in cultural tourism, her writing reflects that passion. She has won awards for her photography and accompanies her articles with her own images. She also provides photos for magazine covers, web sites and magazine articles (both print and online).