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These 16 historic photos capture Vancouver's evolving restaurant scene over the decades

A plain steak for $0.30?!?

With Vancouver restaurants entering the Michelin Guide, the city's food scene has come a long way from the 1880s, when lumberjacks came to the city for a few drinks and a hot meal before heading back out to the woods.

That evolution is (partially) captured in these historic photos from the City of Vancouver archive, showing restaurants, cafes, diners and saloons over the decades from the 1880s to the 1950s. 

It should be noted that B.C. did go through its own period of prohibition from 1917 to 1920, and while it was short, laws about how bars and pubs lasted for decades, so these photos spent a lot more time in diners and cafes.

One of the things you might notice is the prices, with full meals only costing a few dimes. In 1918, for example, ribs were $0.40, a plain steak was $0.30 and a lobster sandwich was $0.25. In 2022, those would be between $4.26 and $6.81 according to an inflation calculator.

In the 40s prices hadn't jumped too much, though small increases were more significant back then. A ham sandwich was $0.25, a banana split was $0.45 and a roast pork meal with potato salad was $0.75. Nowadays those prices would be equal to $3.69 to $11.

A few of the eateries pictured are notable. For example, there's a photo of a counter for a Spudnuts franchise; they made donuts out of mashed potatoes, which sounds like it fits in more with the Richmond Night Market than post-war Kerrisdale.

There's also the unusually designed Clancy's Sky Diner. It was a long, narrow restaurant with seating, windows and design nods to air travel. It was set up to look like you were eating in a plane.

There's also a photo of the Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings in 1952. The restaurant was well known for its tiki stylings, and that's very much apparent in the photo.