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Apr 7, 2007 09:49 AM

Victoria, BC- favorite eats

Heading to Victoria, BC in June. What are your food and resturant recommendations for the downtown area?

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  1. FoodFemme:

    That should be a good time. Weather will likely have improved and the crowds not quite at their peak unless you are heading out on the Canada Day/July 4 time period.

    Our favourite restaurant in Victoria is Brasserie L'Ecole on Government just inside Chinatown. French bistro. Relatively restricted but very good menu from duck confit to steak frites [] Service is professional and friendly. Marc Morrison's wine list and program where virtually every bottle is available by the glass is very well chosen and good value. He will open any bottle apart from the "bubblies" if you order two glasses of the wine. As a result, even if you just want the one glass, chances are a number of bottles will be available.

    A close second would be Cafe Brio [] . Solid bistro and mediterranean influenced fare usually served with some flare. It is a busy, a little loud in a good way, jumping kind of place a short drive or leisurely walk up Fort Street through "Antique Row". Hosts Greg and Sylvia are a "hoot'. Excellent wine list particularly if you are interested in hard to find Canadian labels.

    In a somwhat unlikely location at the back of a strip mall adjacent to the London Drugs Store and Yates Market on Yates near I think Quadra, is a delicious little spot specializing in terrfic, hearty rustic Italian food called Zambri's. Semi-cafeteria at lunch. You order from the daily offerings posted on the chalkboard, pay and then the food is delivered to your table. Full service in the evenings but we have only been at lunch. Their duck ragu was outstanding as was the polenta it was served with.

    Another good Italian spot is Il Terrazzo [] in the alley behind Wille's Bakery off Johnson Street. Has all the things you would expect from an Italian restaurant including wood fired pizza oven. Quite an extensive if expensive wine list. Had a rather "ho-hum" first dinner there but more recent visits were better. Delicious melt in ones mouth roast veal during our last visit.

    Victoria seems to be quite popular for breakfasts. The aforementioned Willie's Bakery is one we have tried and enjoyed. I actually prefer something lighter and usually head off to Bastion Square and Il Paradiso's excellent espresso and food offerings. Fresh baked goods, grilled panini sandwiches, pasta and salad and lunch and a nice spot to enjoy ...hopefully... the sun and its view of the inner harbour from its outdoor patio.

    Another decent spot with a Spanish/Latin influence is The Tapa Bar off Trounce Alley. Spicey prawns, roasted patatas bravas, good sandwiches. Decent wine list.

    Just down the street back toward Bastion Square is the Irish Times Pub [ ] The food here is quite good and well priced. Oysters on special during their afternoon "Happy Hour".

    Other good pubs include Swans [], Canoe and of course Spinnaker's [ ]. Swans has quite an extensive collection of native art on its walls and Spinnaker's is a nice walk along the inner harbour with a beautiful view of the water.

    If vegetarian is something you are interested in then Rebar in Bastion Square comes highly recommended.

    Also in Bastion Square is a long time favourite, Camille's. When we first started visiting Victoria, close to 20 years or so ago, it was a spot we often ate dinner at. With so many options having sprung up of late we have not been in quite some time.

    If you are looking for a view, then the Blue Crab in the Coast Hotel might interest you. To be fare I think the atmosphere and menu are both dated but no question the view is lovely.

    On a recent trip last month we were very pleasantly surprised by the Vista 18 at the top of the Chateau Victoria. [] I had been thinking of trying it during past visits but if you are like me, you might have a bias against rooftop or revolving restaurants as usually the view exeeds the food. I am glad we tried it. Although it is really "dated" when it comes to decor and needs a nice "facelift" the food was good, well priced and was accompanied by a decent, good value wine list. We had a very nice lunch and the view was stunning to say the least.

    Another first time visit was lunch at The Marina [] out at Oak it is not in the downtown area but just a short taxi ride away. Beautiful views. Decent food and wine. Then fed their resident seals.

    Hope this assists. Do a google search for EAT Magazine which now publishes a web based edition that has a lot of useful information about wining and dining in the area.

    Let us know what you liked or didn't. We will be back out that way in the Fall.

    19 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        Erm. Feenie's is in Vancouver, unless he has made an unannounced move to the Island.

        If you're into coffee, go visit Sam Jones' 2% Jazz on Douglas Street at Kings. Best espresso in Vic.

        1. re: peter.v

          Yeah, they both start with a "V," though . . .

          Note to self: never post before coffee.

          1. re: zin1953

            Haha, it's all good...

            Maybe Feenie will jump across the Strait?

      2. re: Bob Mac

        Great list, Bob Mac. I too will be visiting Victoria this summer and I fondly remember some great Indian restaurants from my past travels. What's the current situation with regard to Indian food in Vic?

        1. re: FAT Traveler

          Fat Traveler:

          I am going to have to leave the topic of Indian food to someone else as I do not think we have tried it while visiting Victoria. I know a couple have been around for years because we have walked by one on the fringes of Chinatown during our walks around town but have never gone in.

          I look forward to reading your impressions after you visit.

          1. re: FAT Traveler

            Indian food is, in my opinion, not one of the things we do well in Victoria. Thai, yes. Japanese, yes. But not Indian.

            There are two exceptions - India Curry House on Fort Street is quite lovely, and the curry buffet at the Bengal Lounge (Empress Hotel) is also very nice.

          2. re: Bob Mac

            Agree with you, Bob, on Cafe Brio, Brasserie and Il Terrazzo. Haven't been to Zambri's but it is well-loved by locals.

            I went to the Blue Crab a few months ago and really enjoyed their lunch menu - lots of fresh items with interesting twists.

            Vista 18 - went there for Dine Around Town - had a wonderful sablefish in lemon butter with spinach and risotto cakes.

            As for pub food, I highly recommend Spinnakers. I find the food at Swans to be not nearly of the same quality, but the beer is great. Canoe has nice fresh food and a fabulous view but the service is notoriously bad.

            For breakfasts, I recommend Avalon. It's a bit of a hole in the wall, doesn't have the lineups like Blue Fox Cafe and John's Place, and the food and service are excellent. Highlight for me is the home fries with their special, house-made TNT sauce.

            1. re: victoriafoodie


              That sablefish dish you mentioned must have been carried on after Dine Around Town because it sounds like what I had for lunch. Like you I enjoyed it very much. The sablefish itself was "melt in ones mouth" delicate.

              Vista 18 wouldn't be my first choice but I was pleasantly surprised and given that it is a "view restaurant" will certainly go back there for lunch or an afternoon bottle of wine...afternoon bottle of wine? Well yes, I won't be working! [smile]

              For what it is worth I see that the results from Vancouver Magazine's Annual Restaurant edition for the best restaurant in Victoria came out as:

              1) Brasserie L'Ecole
              2) Zambri's
              3) The Rosemeade
              4) Cafe Brio

              1. re: Bob Mac

                We enjoyed Red Fish Blue Fish for their great halibut fish & chips and fried pickle. Just a shack down on the waterfront. We also enjoyed Willie's for breakfast.

                1. re: Bob Mac

                  Bobmac - great comprehensive list
                  adding links:

                  Il Terrazzo
                  555 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8W1M2, CA

                  Camille's Fine Westcoast Dining
                  45 Bastion Sq, Victoria, BC V8W1J1, CA

                  Spinnakers Brewpub & Guest House Restaurant
                  308 Catherine St, Victoria, BC V9A, CA

                  Swans Brew Pub
                  506 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                  Canoe Brewpub Marina & Restaurant
                  450 Swift St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                  911 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8V4X3, CA

                  The Tapa Bar
                  620 Trounce Alley, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                  Willie's Bakery & Cafe
                  537 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                  50 Bastion Square, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                  Blue Crab Bar & Grill - Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel
                  146 Kingston Street, Victoria, BC V8V 1V4, CA

                  Oak Bay Marina Restaurant
                  1327 Beach Dr, Victoria, BC V8S2N4, CA

                  Cafe Brio
                  944 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8V3K2, CA

                  Brasserie L'ecole
                  1715 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W1Z4, CA

                  Vista 18 Restaurant-Martini & Wine Bar
                  740 Burdett Ave, Victoria, BC V8W1B2, CA

                  Irish Times Pub
                  1200 Government Street, Victoria, BC V8W 1Y3, CA

                  1. re: rosetown

                    reply to self for more links: Maxed out on the links in one thread - A to Z
                    Thanks jazzyjuice

                    Habit Coffee and Culture
                    552 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                    Rosemeade Dining Room
                    429 Lampson St, Victoria, BC V9A5Y9, CA

                    John's Place Restaurant
                    723 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W1N9, CA

                    Blue Fox Cafe
                    919 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8V3K3, CA

                    Lady Marmalade Restaurant & Catering
                    608 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8W1M4, CA

                    Floyd's Diner
                    866 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8W1L8, CA

                    Avalon Restaurant
                    1075 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8V3K5, CA

                    Ferris' Oyster Bar & Grill
                    536 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8W1K8, CA

                    554 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W1N7, CA

                    J.R.'s India Curry House
                    506 Fort St At Wharf, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                    1. re: rosetown

                      Whoa, is that really how it works??? I thought it was A-Z max PER REPLY. If it is per thread that is a bit of a problem, no?

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Correcting my post above, A-Z is the maximum number of managed links that map.
                        Check this thread on the Site Talk board:
                        So it appears that more than 26 links, spread over more than one post, can be added but only the 1st 26 will map.

                        1. re: rosetown

                          Thanks for doing this rosetown. I figured you would have had your hands full over in the Prairies board.

                          1. re: fmed

                            LOL, and how. I've added nearly 100 restaurants to the Calgary Chow database and 24 to Canmore. I was pleasantly surprised at the robustness of the Victoria database. I think I only added one restaurant. I'm puzzled why Calgarys database is so weak.

                            1. re: rosetown

                              That huge disparity is puzzling (200 vs 3000 entries?). I suspect that CH merely licenses the databases and the Vancouver database they chose is just more complete. Perhaps posit this question to the Site Talk board? They could at least have a look to see if it could be some sort of misconfiguration.

                              1. re: fmed

                                A good idea - I will prod them - Tnx

                2. My favourites are Zambri's, Cafe Brio, Blue Fox & Herald St Cafe.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: OCAnn


                    Have you been to the Herald Street Cafe recently? I ask as I was quite disappointed in my last two visits. That having been said, that was some time ago because with all of the competition I am not very "patient" with substandard food or service. We gave it a pass during our visit in the Fall and last month.

                    Perhaps it is under....yet management. Years and years ago when Greg and Sylvia from Cafe Brio ran it, it was a terrfic spot.

                    1. re: Bob Mac

                      My visit was not recent; it was in May. I had no problems with service; actually it was quite good, as was the food. Perhaps I got lucky?

                      I tend to get lucky at restaurants: being able to walk in and get a table when reservations are necessary or being offered wine w/my meal by the manager....

                  2. Hi FoodFemme, I agree with most of the other posts but here are some of our faves not listed yet:

                    Breakfast :
                    - Lady Marmalade (just recently expanded, uses a lot of organic foods in many delicious ways, fun and funky)
                    - Floyd's Diner (big portions, always buzzing, efficient/friendly service, great for bennys)
                    - Mole (very popular spot but some portions are a bit small, always a line up on weekends but it is next to Habit, see below)

                    - Habit is one of my newest favourite spots, amazing coffee (all french pressed) and espresso drinks, no fancy type ones like Starbucks, cool atmosphere
                    - if you want some quiet while downtown, check out the back garden patio of Union Pacific Coffee
                    Company, it's a tiny oasis!

                    - Kinpira (makes fresh udon noodles, only a few batches each day...I used to live in Japan and have never tasted such fresh udon
                    - for something quick and cheap, just down from Kinpira is a Mexican place (really fresh salsa) and 6 dollar meals for lunch...sorry the name escapes me

                    - Ferris' Oyster Bar and Grill (favourite for dinner, haven't been disappointed yet)
                    - if you go to Il Terrazo, you MUST try the tomato soup!

                    ps: Herald Street is closed down...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jazzyjuice

            's been awhile since I've been to Victoria, but here are the restaurants I remember liking. I don't know if they are still good or even open, but hopefully someone might have some additional information if I'm way off base.

                      - Rathskeller -
                      YUM!!! We happened upon this place on accident and it was sooo delicious. Service was rather slow (we went for lunch) as our server was about 80 years old. I had a schnitzel dish with mushrooms and onions that was to die for and my boyfriend had a veal sausage that was the special for the day. I still dream of this place...

                      -There is a Greek restaurant in a building with a windmill that I recall being quite good. My family used to go there everytime we took our boat to Victoria. I don't know if it was good because we didn't have Greek food in the place I grew up or if it actually is good Greek. It's been too long since I actually ate there.

                      - There's an Indian restaurant in a building that's shaped like the Taj Majal (the restaurant might actually be called Taj Majal). I don't recall it being that exceptional. There is one closer to Rathskellers (I think) that I think was waaaay better.

                      I've eaten at many other places, but I can't remember where! I do remember picking up some British bangers that really tasted like British bangers...they were heaven.

                    2. First of all, I am extremely impressed with everyone's restaurant choices! I'm a local and can vouch for the majority of these places (anyone else posting here local?). I really really love Brasserie L'Ecole, though mostly for those fab frites with garlic, parmesan and truffle oil drizzle... heaven! And you can make reservations through their website which I highly recommend since they're pretty busy on the weekends.

                      Anyhow, I could go on about how much I love all these places but I'd like to mention a few others:

                      - Japanese: Azuma and Kaz. If you're looking for a great deal (read: quantity) as well as quality check out Sushi Plus which is also on Yates st, just one block back up from Azuma. K is on Store st. I haven't been to a bad Japanese restaurant in town yet but I'm not so sure about Sushi Rock, which looks a little gimmicky with the rotating belt of food.

                      - Pescatore's: seafood heaven... trout stuffed with brie and shrimp! Right by the Empress Hotel.

                      - Jamaican: The Reef. Warm johnny cakes are on the house with mango coconut butter (sadly you only get one each, so relish the buttery goodness). It's right across from Ferris' -- both at the bottom end of Yates.

                      - Mexican: Hernande'z and Adrianna's. H is on Yates inside an arcade (not with pinball machines, silly!) A's is on Amelia st in a unsuspecting area of the downtown core in an old house.

                      - The Blue Nile: African spicy goodness. This is outside of the downtown core but well worth the trek. They offer a buffet-style dinner and are not open Mondays (I know this because I live half a block away and was sad to find it so on a lazy Monday night.)

                      - Thai: Sookjai and Siam are both on Fort but several blocks apart. Mai Thai (Mai? My? I'm having trouble remembering for some reason) is on Cook and is a family-run joint, very casual. A meal at Baan Thai sat poorly with me the last two times so I don't recommend it.

                      - have also heard good things about Saffron but haven't been there yet...

                      - I also have to mention Milestones. Even though it's a chain, the food is very good (and I'm not just saying that because my brother-in-law is one of the chefs).

                      Coffee: 2% Jazz is right by my work so I'm there on a regular basis (I know it's been mentioned but I had to mention it again). They have this wicked mocha with chipotle drink called a "too hot to handle" - alternately, you can get a "too cold to hold" during the summer. Sam Jones, the proprietor, also runs Discovery which is a few blocks away on Discovery st!
                      Ambiente is a teeny place on Fort that also has a great mocha made with hand-shaved chocolate.

                      Sorry this was way longer than I thought it would be. But I hope this helps add to your choices. :)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jubilant cerise

                        p.s. Chinatown is also pretty awesome for dim sum...

                        1. re: jubilant cerise

                          p.p.s. I cannot believe I forgot to mention JJ's Wonton Noodle House! Definitely one of the best for chinese. I always think of other places afterwards... happy eating!

                        2. re: jubilant cerise

                          Just wanted to correct myself that Sam Jones doesn't run Discovery, he's just there all the time because he's passionate about coffee and likes to share his knowledge.

                          Discovery Coffee
                          2000 Douglas St, Victoria, BC V8T, CA

                        3. Thanks for the thorough suggestions. I cannot wait to eat in Victoria! The wedding I'm heading to Victoria for is at a cidery a bit outside of town (Merridale?).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FoodFemme

                            Oh, how nice! Merridale is wonderful - delicious cider, beautiful orchards, and an orchard dog! Have a great time.