A vibrant and diverse culinary scene By Marguerite Cleveland
Surrey, British Columbia, is just across the United States border into Canada. It is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Metro Vancouver area. In the area known by Canadians as “the Lower Mainland,” it stretches from Tidal Flats in the west all the way to the Fraser Valley in the east. The Surrey Spice Trail will take you across six neighborhoods to showcase the vibrant and diverse foodie scene. Discover strip-mall dives to high-end dining and everything in between.
Surrey is known as “The City of Parks,” and over 50 percent of Surrey is greenspace, which includes farms, golf courses, parks, gardens and urban forests. There are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors. Head to White Rock, one of Surrey’s neighboring communities, to enjoy views for miles and a large sand tidal beach. Stroll the waterfront with its cute shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants. Saunter down the longest pier in Canada. With Surrey situated on the Pacific Flyway, a north-south migratory bird route, the area is very popular with birdwatchers. With over 200 species of birds, it is easy to see why. Cycling is a loved activity, and there are plenty of hiking and walking trails throughout the city.
The Surrey Spice Trail is a must do while visiting this area. The diversity of food offerings gives you the opportunity to experience a variety of international cuisine. You’ll find family owned businesses sharing their traditional meals cooked with love. You’ll also find well-known chefs at places like My Shanti, where Vikram VI works his magic. The options can be overwhelming, so visit the Spice Trail website to locate restaurants on an interactive map. Tapping on a restaurant will give you a description of the restaurant experience, photos of their signature dishes, and tips.
Chacha’s is a North Indian restaurant that offers a special dish just on weekends. This very popular, bright, modern eatery will have you feeling like you stepped into a Bollywood movie, as the music and aromas of this unique cuisine envelop you as you walk to your table. For an appetizer, try the Gol Gappay Shots. This darling dish is presented in a miniature cart like the ones you would see on the streets of India. A crispy, round, hollow shell known as a puri is stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas and chutneys. You take it and add the tangy-flavored water it is served with and pop the whole thing into your mouth. So fun. Order the Paneer Kulcha, only available on weekends. Kulcha is a special seasoned Indian flatbread that is stuffed (choose from a variety of meats or veggies) and crispy. The dish is served with chickpeas and raita, a classic Indian yogurt sauce.
The Civic Hotel in downtown Surrey is part of the Autograph Collection for Marriott and is a gorgeous hotel in a central location for exploring the area. The rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows that provide panoramic city views. After a busy day exploring, head to the heated rooftop pool to relax. It is just steps away from the SkyTrain, which provides transportation in the Greater Vancouver area. The hotel is walking distance to Holland Park. Make sure to view local artist Glen Anderson’s Art Nouveau style water fountain.
Seasonally enjoy the gardens, which start with spring tulips and then summer roses. Shop at the Central City Shopping Center, a large mall that is also walking distance from the Civic Hotel.
The Holiday Inn and Suites, located in the Cloverdale neighborhood, is perfect for families. It is not far from the US-Canada border and the Peace Arch. The hotel has family friendly rooms and an indoor pool open year-round. It is next to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds and Agriplex, which has events throughout the year including the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.
Head out to Mud Bay Park to access the Boundary Bay Trail. This lovely, scenic walk will take you along the shores of Boundary Bay. This area is one of the most important bird areas in Canada and the best place to see shorebirds. Take the 3-kilometers-long nature trail (you can find a brochure at the website). Look for seals at high tide in the waves. At low tide, birds flock to the mudflats and eelgrass meadows to dine. Hundreds of thousands of birds visit throughout the year; some arrive from as far away as South America. If you want to hike further or do a bike ride, the trail links up with the Dyke Trail for another 20 kilometers of shoreline ending in Boundary Bay Regional Park.
Take some time to explore historic Cloverdale. This is Surrey’s birthplace, where it started out as a small farm community in 1870. Downtown Cloverdale has a business district with more than 200 shops and restaurants. Access a walking and driving tour brochure from the website. Its small-town charm and historic features were featured in the TV show “Smallville,” and it is a popular filming location.