Victoria Dining Guide [as of Oct. 11, 2012]
For years, I’ve kept a basic list of my favourite restaurants in and around Victoria. I delight in sharing my finds with friends, and now it’s my pleasure to share the selections with all Scrimp or Splurge readers. Rather than rate all entries, I include only places I genuinely recommend. The few I have marked with an asterisk are personal favourites: the restaurants that serve consistently delicious food that keeps me coming back.
This is an evolving list, and I’ll be adding details on an ongoing basis (websites, phone numbers, addresses, etc.) I welcome tips from fellow Victoria foodies on places I have yet to discover! Click this link to send me a message now.
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Ayo Eat. Victoria’s first Indonesian take-out eatery; a one-man operation. Not the quickest takeout from this truly tiny hole in the wall in upper Market Square, but well worth the wait when you taste the delicious fare. 140-560 Johnson Street, Market Square.
Bubby Rose’s Bakery (www.bubbyrosesbakery.com), 1022 Cook. These folks bake a brownie so rich, you feel as if you could fall forever into its chocolatey dreaminess.
Eugene’s Greek Restaurant and Snack Bar (www.eugenes.ca), 3 locations: 3960 Shellbourne; 1990 Fort; 1913 Sooke Rd, Colwood. Best fresh hummus and grilled pita anywhere, and so reasonable! Read my full review.
Fantan Cafe (www.members.shaw.ca/fantancafe), 549 Fisgard. Terrific take-out noodle boxes; heaping plates for dine-in can easily be shared.
Floyd’s Diner (www.floyds-diner.com), 866 Yates. Good cheap soups, huge breakfasts; amusing dish you can flip for with the owner and pay double or nothing.
Hope Key: 1313 Douglas. Attentive, very friendly servers (say hello to Brenda!). Good value Chinese dishes; prawns are plump, fresh, and well-priced.
I Kyu Noodles: (250-380-7885), 564 Fisgard Street. Excellent, affordable noodle dishes created by a third-generation noodle maker. Hours of operation seem a bit random at this Chinatown restaurant, but the food is great.?
Kaz Japanese Restaurant (www.victoriasushi.com), 1619 Store St. Consistently good sushi here, well priced.
La Fogata Latina (250-381-2233; http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/profile/1117378), 749 View Street next to the View Street Parkade. A wonderful little hole-in-the-wall joint for authentic Columbian street food. The deliciously hearty corn arepas — a kind of thick polenta pancake — start at $5 and come filled, pita-pocket style, with cheese, egg, chicken, or pork.
La Taquisa, 325 Cook St. and West Bay shopping plaza. Read my full review here.
Le Petit Dakar (250-380-3705), 711 Douglas St. This little nook has a takeout buffet with half a dozen hot dishes. I chose the black-eyed beans on rice for the princely sum of $6.25. It was DELICIOUS! I asked the friendly server about vegetarian options and she says they have at least one and usually two every day, and these are usually gluten-free as well. For the carnivores, there was peanut butter beef stew, Senegalese beef bourguignon, a lamb curry and at least one chicken dish loaded with fried onions and giant green olives. Meat dishes are generally $8-9. The owner is a generously warm and friendly host.
Maria’s Souvlaki (250-656-9944), 9812 Second St., Sidney. A frequent pre- or post-ferry stop of ours for the superb falafel souvlaki.
Pho Vy: 772 Fort. Wonderfully fresh ingredients and big value on the Vietnamese pho soup. Yummy!
Red Fish Blue Fish. I came for the Spicy Fish Poutine. I stayed for the array of sustainable seafood offered at great prices from this strange little takeout venue (a retrofitted shipping container) on the Victoria waterfront. Read my full review.
Zap Thai, 1207 Esquimalt Rd. Very large portions; take-out dishes could serve two.
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Aura (250-414-6739; www.aurarestaurant.ca), Inn at Laurel Point, 680 Montreal St.. The brunch buffet here is a true celebration of food. Lovely waterfront views, and an amazing summer patio. See my list of Victoria’s top summer patios here, which includes Aura.
Bon Rouge Bistro* (250-220-8008; www.bonrouge.ca), 611 Courtney St. One of the best halibut entrees I’ve ever been served, and my sister said the same about her smoked black cod. For a bit of a scrimp, try this lovely French restaurant’s three-course prix fixe meal for $29, Sunday to Thursday, 4-10 pm.
Camille’s Fine West Coast Dining (www.camillesrestaurant.com), 45 Bastion Square. When you want a special-occasion dinner, this should be your destination. Intimate atmosphere, attentive service, and superb cuisine, with excellent seafood options.
The Empress Room (250-389-2727; Empress Room), Fairmont Empress Hotel, 721 Government St. Fine dining with high style and a plethora of silverware (etiquette dictates using pieces from the outside in). The Empress Hotel’s seasonal Veranda also made my list of the 14 best summer patios in Victoria.
LURE Restaurant* (250-360-5873; www.lurevictoria.com). The halibut “chowder” entree almost made me cry, it was that good. Elegant ambience and service, gorgeous harbour views.
The Mark (250-380-4487; www.hotelgrandpacific.com/dining/the-mark), Hotel Grand Pacific. Intimate, truly exceptional. The most exquisite fine dining and personalized service I’ve ever received for a birthday dinner.
Wild Saffron (250-361-3310; www.swanshotel.com/bistro.php), 506 Pandora Ave., entrance off Store St. I’ve enjoyed a couple of delightful meals in this attractive, intimate bistro. Try the chocolate fondue.
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SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SCRIMP AND SPLURGE
Baan Thai (http://baanthaivictoria.ca), 1117 Blanshard St. Wonderfully consistent Thai food in a very appealing room. The mango dessert with coconut whipped cream is reason enough to visit.
Barb’s Fish & Chips, Fisherman’s Wharf. Great fish and chips. I always think it will be cheaper, given that you eat outside, but it’s so neat down at the wharf.
Bin 4 Burger Lounge (www.bin4burgerlounge.com), 911 Yates Street. Superb first visit at the end of 2011. Our server offered to let me taste test a couple of beers to be able to choose one I would really enjoy. Honey and I both had the ahi tun burger topped with olive tapenaude. I had mine fully cooked, he opted for raw seared as described on the menu. We both thought it was outstanding with a generous portion of tuna and fabulous flavours. House-made potato chips are divine snacks.
Blue Nile East African Restaurant (250-475-6453; www.bluenilerestaurantvictoria.com), 612 Head Street, Victoria, BC. Recently revisited after a long hiatus. Very impressive vegetarian selection alongside meat options on the buffet at this hidden Esquimalt-neighbourhood gem for Ethiopian cuisine.
Brasserie l’Ecole* (250-475 6260; www.lecole.ca), 1715 Government St. Wonderful atmosphere, exceptional food, truly genuine French bistro moule et frite. Unfortunately, they no longer take reservations and it’s murder trying to get a table. Be there when the doors open at 5:30 pm, or try for a late-night meal.
Brown’s Social House (250-388-0200; Brown’s website). Wonderful fish entrees on first visit, but atmosphere was too loud to have reasonable conversation.
Bubby’s Kitchen (250-590-8915; http://www.bubbyskitchen.ca), 355 Cook Street. Opened August 2011. A partnership of Valerie and Mark Engels of Bubby Rose’s Bakery, and Joel Margolus, formerly of Bagga Pasta. A fabulous addition to Victoria’s quality dining scene.
Cactus Club, always consistent, always good. My favourite veggie burger in town and the Szechuan green beans appetizer is delicious.
Cafe Fantastico. Honey would almost give up a limb for the Americano coffees served here. The Dockside Green location scores a place in my list of the best summer patios in Victoria.
Cascadia Bakery (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cascadia-Bakery), I worship the sour-cherry pie from this bakery. Seriously, give me an altar and a slice of pie, I’ll show you. Vegan brownies are also outstanding.
Crow and Gate Pub (up-Island in rural Cedar). Vancouver Island’s most authentic English pub.
Da Tandoor * (250-384-6333), 1010 Fort Street. Always excellent Indian fine dining. Gather your friends and book a big table: the more people you bring, the more fabulous dishes you can sample. There’s a House Special Naan bread stuffed with mildly spiced chicken, almonds, onion, and raisins ($3.95); a sublimely soul-warming (and vegetarian) Mulligatawny Muglai Shorba lentil soup; a Butter Chicken dish of tomato-butter-cream that’s so good, my friend Pam unfailingly orders the same dish on every visit; and a Nawabi Biryani rice dish so loaded with slow-cooked spiced lamb that my daughter-in-law, Priya, said it almost had “too much meat.”
Don Mee (250-383-1032), 538 Fisgard St. Touted for dim sum.
East Garden. Zero atmosphere, but always quiet even on Fri/Sat nights, and delicious Szechuan meals.
Earl’s. Gets loud and “clubby” at night, but their prawn tacos are a destination dish for me. Always consistent food.
Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria (www.famoso.ca/locations/british_columbia.php). After my first visit with friends, I can say that I loved the Primavera option (fabulously good thin-crust pizza with smoked mozzarella, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and onions). I was less impressed with the rather lackluster Smoked Salmon variety, which was more like lox and capers on flatbread with a drizzle of dill sauce than a fully imagined pizza pie. They say all ingredients are imported from Italy. How nuts is that?
Fiamo Italian Kitchen (www.fiamo.ca), 515 Yates, Victoria, BC. When Luciano’s closed in this same location, I dearly missed their spectacular marinara sauce. But in Fiamo we have new reason to celebrate, including some very tempting weekday specials (like the Monday night three-course Italian dinner for two: $29). Read my full review here.
Fifth St Bar & Grille (380-4600), 1028 Hillside.
Il Greco . I go for the French onion soup with puff pastry topping.
JJ Wonton Noodle House (250-383-0680; www.jjnoodlehouse.com), 1012 Fort. Excellent food, if sometimes surly service.
John’s Noodle House. Amazingly good Szechuan green beans!
King & Thai. Decent take-out Thai in Cook Village, but often hard to find a seat.
Lady Marmalade. The blue-cheese and potato pizza is astonishingly flavourful. I love the black bean rice bowl. Honey loves the Huevos Rancheritos for breakfast. And the apple crumble dessert is god-given goodness.
Le Petit Saigon*. Always superb. The prawn curry / garden curry with tofu (same sauce) is a destination dish. Outstanding. Busy at lunch, but a great spot for a quiet dinner as it is rarely crowded.
Little Thai Place (250-382-3529; www.littlethaiplace.com), 1839 Cook St. Consistently good food.
Lotus Pond* Best all-vegetarian Chinese in town. Totally addictive salt-and-pepper deep-fried oyster mushrooms. Room can be very chilly in off-season.
Milestones Langford (250-391-5016), 2401 East Millstream Road, Langford, BC. All-around great menu and service. Excellent “Dinner for 2 for $20″ deal on Wednesday. Read my full review.
The Mint. Funky underground atmosphere, DJs after hours. They now have a second outlet at street level which I believe is more geared to the lunch crowd.
Mo:le. Great brunch, though always very busy.
Noodle Box, 626 Fisgard St & 818 Douglas St. Reliable take-out noodles.
The Office. (250-590-5253; www.theofficelounge.ca), 759 Yates Street, Victoria, BC. Great atmosphere and quite an innovative menu, which allows you to choose a base entréee (fish, meat, pasta) and customize it with a variety of sauces or sides. See my review of their weekly Monday movie-and-a-meal deal here!
Penny Farthing Pub (Oak Bay): Very good pub menu.
Pizzeria Prima Strada. Two locations, one on Cook Street the other on Bridge Street. Mmmmmmm. Truly gourmet simple pizzas, and top-notch gelato.
Pure Vanilla Bakery and Cafe (250-592-2896) 2590 Cadboro Bay Rd. Oh my lord. The maple-glazed pumpkin cookies are To Die For. Lunch “pizzettes” are good value.
Rebar Modern Food
Rooftop Surfclub: Restaurant/bar atop the Strathcona Hotel. Food is okay, but the summer atmosphere on this truly unique patio is fantastic. Classic rock and reggae tunes, and lots of action on the full beach volleyball court. Profiled in this Scrimp or Splurge post.
Sen Zushi Japanese Restaurant (250-385-4320) 940 Fort Street. My favourite place of Japanese dining. Nice ambience, service, and superior food. Try a “Ken Roll.”
SIPS 425 Simcoe St, James Bay
Sizzling Tandoor. Victoria’s newest and, in my opinion, now best Indian food restaurant.
Sod Sai Thai, Douglas. Not much ambience, but very good food.
Spinnaker’s Brewpub (386-2739), 308 Catherine St. Very good food, one of the best views in town.
Stage Small Plates Wine Bar (250-388-4222; www.stagewinebar.com), 1307 Gladstone Avenue. While I include Stage under my “splurge” heading, it’s possible to dine quite affordably, too, depending on which and how many of the small plates you choose. Read my full review here.
Superior Café 106 Superior. Good but getting pricey.
Tamami Sushi, 509 Fisgard St. in Chinatown. 250-382-3529. One of the few sushi places open on Monday.
Tapas Bar. (250-383-0013, www.tapabar.ca), 620 Trounce Alley. Oh, for a plate of their butter lettuce salad with brown-butter caper dressing and avocado *right now*! And the chipotle prawns are outstanding.
Willie’s Bakery (good brunch, but busy)
White Heather Tea Room (www.whiteheather-tearoom.com). 1885 Oak Bay Ave. Best high-tea baked goods in Victoria, perhaps on Earth.
Zambri’s New location in the Atrium building on Yates St. Gorgonzola and peas pasta was outrageously delicious. One of Victoria’s best.
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HAVE HEARD GOOD THINGS
Arbutus Grille & Wine Bar, Brentwood Bay Lodge, 849 Verdier Ave 250-544-2079
Bistro 28 (250-598-2828; www.bistro28.ca), 2583 Cadboro Bay Rd.
Bistro Suisse, Sidney.
Cabin 12: (250) 590-1500, 3111 Cedar Hill Road. All day breakfast/brunch.
Cafe Bliss. Pandora. “Great tasting and very healthy raw food menu,” writes foodie follower June W.
Camille’s: West Coast fine dining.
Clive’s Classic Lounge (250-361-5684; www.clivesclassiclounge.com), 740 Burdett Ave., Victoria BC
Daidoco (250-388-7383), 633 Courtney Street, #22, Victoria, BC. Japanese. 11am – 1pm Monday-Friday only.l
Deep Cove Chalet 11190 Chalet Rd 656-3541
Ebizo, 604 Broughton St Phone: 250-383-3234. Many claim this as their favourite place for sushi in Victoria.
Fire & Water, 728 Humboldt, Tel: 250-480-3828
Giovanni’s Tapas and Fine Food (727-3060), 4517 W. Saanich
JBI (James Bay Inn). Big breakfasts, 2 for 1 coupon in local Friday newspaper
Markus’ Wharfside Restaurant, 1831 Maple Ave. South, Sooke
Ocean Island Café & Lounge (250-385-1788; www.oceanislandcafe.com), at Ocean Island Backpackers Inn. Paninis, Indian and Thai-style curries, burgers and fresh salads. Free wireless. 791 Pandora.
Pig. Yates. This meaty barbecue restaurant has plenty of devotees. As I stick primarily to vegetarian and seafood dishes, the menu has little to offer me.
Point No Point, 10829 West Coast Rd, 646-2020.
Rica Salsa, Cook Street Village food court. “I am addicted to their veggie enchilladas with mole sauce,” writes foodie follower June W.
Thistle’s Café, 3897 Cobble Hill Rd, Cobble Hill, 250-743-2330
Ulla. 509 Fisgard Street. New fine dining.
Willows Park Grocery (250-590-3835; www.willowsparkgrocery.com), 2405 Eastdowne Rd. at the corner of Dalhousie in Oak Bay. I hear rumours of cheap and excellent Indian takeout being served by this little grocery outlet.
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TRIED IT, DIDN’T LOVE IT
Bard and Banker (new menu disappoints with too much deep-fried finger food)
Black Olive (experienced rudeness from staff on two occasions; one time, the owner moved us to a smaller table and hurried us through dessert to accommodate others)
Blue Crab Bar & Grill (good fresh seafood, but preparation did not overwhelm for the high price; one visit)
Café Brio (amazing toffee pudding, lovely atmosphere, generally pleasing cuisine; just doesn’t seem to justify the pricing, at least on the vegetarian dishes; two visits)
Cafe Ceylon (sublime shrikand dessert, but small portions for the prices, and very inexperienced servers on two occasions)
Canoe Club (361-1940) Awesome patio, but food has twice now been heavily over-salted.
Ferris’ Oyster Bar (good yam fries & oysters, but an oily, overcooked nut burger was awful)
Geisha Tapa Bar (slowest service I’ve had for Japanese food, hands down, and the restaurant was not busy; all guests served at different times, 4-5 min between each)
Heron Rock Bistro (painfully slow service on every visit, though brunch menu is lovely)
Irish Times Pub (some good fare, but on the heavy side; loud when a live band plays)
Joe’s Seafood Bar (250-590-6323; www.joesseafoodbar.ca). After five visits, I have to consign this value-priced seafood eatery to my “not recommended” category. The generous halibut tacos and oyster tacos selected at the order window on our first visit earned big thumbs up, and we enjoyed the heated-patio dining area (there is no indoor seating) that smells deliciously of cedar. But on the second visit, our order took 40 minutes—despite the kitchen’s promise that it would be out in 15 minutes—and my crab-and-shrimp cake was burned on top and so dried out it was inedible. Based on the first positive experience, we tried the food again, and found it good. But on a fourth visit, it was bad again, and just average on a fifth visit. That kind of inconsistent food prep and service can kill a restaurant.
John’s Place, 723 Pandora Ave, (fun diner atmosphere, good bread; other items disappoint; an awful tuna melt)
JR India Curry House (decent, but not as good as other Indian fare in the city)
The Marina (what’s all the fuss about? So-so pasta and very expensive.)
Ristorante La Piola (388-4517), 3189 Quadra. Mixed experiences here over three visits. Room very chilly every time and food inconsistent.
Sally Bun. Fort Street. Multiple varieties of ingredients cooked into a Chinese-style bun. Way too much bread in the bread-to-filling ratio; makes for one dry mouthful after another and a very heavy lunch.
Wharfside Eatery (www.wharfsideeatery.com). “Tourist pricing” had kept us away from this spot for years. We were recently lured back by a “local’s menu” (available only if you know to ask for it) which offers a variety of appealing three-course meals priced at $19.99. Sadly, we were still disappointed by the overall food quality, with something either too dry, too salty, or mingling strangely incongruent flavours in appetizer, entree, and dessert courses.
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