Finally something I can contribute to!!!
I’ve been in Vancouver for about 6 mos now. While I’m certainly am no expert, I can give it a try…
Like everything on the west coast, the ramen craze has hit Vancouver full force. There’s a ‘ramen district’ located off of Robson and Denham in the West End which has a number of good choices My personal current favorite is Marutama Ramen. It’s part of a japanese chain (ala’ Jinya). Noodles are made in house. The broth is a lighter chicken-based affair rather than pork, and it’s delicious and comforting without being heavy like tonkotsu can be.
I won’t even attempt to make a solid rec for Chinese, as you are utterly spoiled for choice and I don’t have even half the background necessary to make informed statements. I can say that I really liked the dan dan noodles at Peaceful Noodle (several locations). For beef noodle soup (brisket, green onions, chewey thick handmade noodles) try Lao Shan Dong over in Burnaby. These were amazing. They really took the time to braise the meat and get a whole lot of flavor. yummy.
I had a fantastic meal just last night out with friends at a spot only blocks from my apartment. PinPin on Fraser just south of 45th is a great Filipino place. Their pork tocino, sisig, and bicol (spicy pork in a coconut cream sauce) are outstanding. The whole tilapia in banana leaf was really good, too. A big group with lots of dishes is def. the way to go here. The only thing I’ve tried there I haven’t been totally crazy about is the chicken adobo, which seems kinda bland and shrug-worthy, especially compared to the rest of the menu. But then, it’s a ‘chicken and soy sauce’ dish, so how exciting could it be? They do give you little hardboiled quail eggs with it, though, so that’s fun.
Finally, a place I haven’t gone, but really want to try: Salmon and Bannock which deals with salmon (obv) and bannock, which is an indigenous people’s bread, like fry bread or tortillas. It’s a little more upscale than the other places I’ve listed, and I haven’t been myself but I’m really aching to try it out, if only for the fact it seems the most British-Columbia-centric place I’ve seen. You can get chinese and filipino and italian etc etc in almost any major city around the world. Salmon and Bannock is a local sort of thing. I don’t imagine on will be opening in the Americana any time soon.
Almost anyplace you stay will have yummy stuff within a stone’s throw. Downtown can get you all the hoity toity places in Yaletown and Gastown as well as the super grungy backpacker places. As @chandavkl will tell you far better than I could, the hot spot for Chinese food seems to have migrated from Chinatown to down along Commercial Drive. Richmond as a suburb is sorta like the SGV. As far as a car, yes it will help but parking downtown is near impossible without paying for a lot, and many neighborhoods are parking unfriendly (side street parking limited to permit holders, 1 hour meter restrictions). The transit system is excellent, though.
bonus rec: La Belle Patate a poutine joint in the West End. Get yourself a combo. steamy dog, small poutine and a coke. Friendly spot. Cute neighborhood.