If you’ve traveled anywhere throughout Spain, you’ll feel a distinct and comforting déjà-vu when you slip into the Gastown neighborhood’s cozy (and aptly-named) Sardine Can. Though the narrow, understated slice of a room might be an anomaly in our bigger-equals-better culture, it would be a natural fit on any neighborhood side street in Barcelona or Madrid, where owners Andrey Durbach and Chris Stewart drew their inspiration from.

The duo, a proven force in Vancouver’s restaurant scene, operate three other popular and well-regarded restaurants in various ‘hoods around town. This one, though, is by far the most casual and intimate, regularly frequented with industry late into the night and into the next day.

Unpretentious and simple, plus delicious and affordable—what’s not to love? From the bar seating, tiled floors and simple open kitchen to the sherry list, wine in tumblers and mouth-watering sizzle of chorizo in the air, the Sardine Can invites both quick pop-ins (with only 18 seats, standing/grazing is commonplace) and lengthy discussions—typically over a bottle of regional Spanish wine.

The small plates are a mix of resounding Spanish classics and modern references, inviting experimentation and sharing. The diablos espagnoles (smoked ham wrapped prunes stuffed with Mahon cheese), chorizo con Jerez (chorizo cooked in Sherry) and patatas bravas (fingerlings roasted alongside garlic aioli and tomato) take me right back to the streets of northern Spain, but the characterful Spanish wines by the glass and friendly staff make me want to stay right here, on my bar stool, in Gastown. Me encanta.

Doors open weekday afternoons at 4pm and noon on weekends.

The Sardine Can || 26 Powell St., Vancouver || thesardinecan.ca

Follow on Facebook: Sardine Can

Track on Twitter: @sardinecan1