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Foodie tour of Vancouver Island?

SO and I are taking a trip to Vancouver Island in early to mid June and really have NO idea where to go, what to do, or, most importantly, where to eat!

We're both completely open to suggestions. In Victoria, out anywhere on the island (we have a week and a half and haven't decided yet on north or south). We're also not terribly picky- we just want it to taste really, really good.

Help a food junkie out?

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  1. My standard recs for Victoria are Brasserie L'Ecole, Red Fish Blue Fish and Niche. I've been hearing/reading a lot about Matisse lately. There is also the Chalet at Deep Cove and Aerie (neither of which I have visited).

    Sea Cider ciderhouse is worth the visit if you are into craft ciders.

    Sooke Harbour House is a very unique and highly localvore restaurant.

    Definitely go to Tofino. It's quite magical there. In early June (Jun 6-8) is the Tofino Food and Wine Festival which I am attending. A bunch of hotels are sponsoring some great deals on rooms for that weekend. There are a couple of new restaurants in Tofino that I plan to check out (one of them is Shelter). I'll be eating Sobo's excellent polenta fries, for sure.

    There are some farmer's markets near Parksville and Coombs...though I'm not sure if they will be running early June.

    There are vineyards scattered all over the Island....but I personally don't think any are really worth a visit.

    Fanny Bay will be worth the visit for oyster-philes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      You need to go to the coombs goats on the roof diner/ grocery store for breakfast! I enjoyed it even though the goats weren't awake yet.

      1. re: Bryn

        Yes! We have driven by there many times....my kids love it.

      2. re: fmed

        NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! SO's conference on the Mainland (our excuse for going out there) is the 6th to 8th... I think my heart's breaking a little bit now.

        Thanks for the other recs though :)

      3. To add to that...

        I always suggest Rosemeade out on Esquimalt (10 min drive from Victoria)... but I stand by it. They're fantastic.

        Also in Victoria is Stage, which I haven't been to yet but have heard really good things about.

        In Tofino, The Pointe Restaurant at Wickaninnish Inn has a gorgeous room, looking over the water. Good food, and definitely worth it to go while there's good light out.

        Another ciderhouse option is Merridale. Haven't been to Sea Cider so can't compare the two.

        Re: the Aerie... I was a bit disappointed. Went for lunch, and it was completely empty. Decor was also a bit dated. Maybe someone had a better experience for dinner?

        1 Reply
        1. re: twinkienic

          Rosemeade - good rec...I haven't been there but I hear very good things.

          The Pointe at the Wick - how could I have forgotten this? Edge of the world view.

        2. Make sure your driving route takes you through Cowichan Bay - True Grains bakery, Udder Guys ice cream and Hilary's cheeses - all within 60ft of each other. Aeire is really nice, and you'll pay for it - I wouldn't knock it, but I'd dine at Brasserie 3 times instead. Hit Merridal's cider as you leave/enter Victoria - tastings, full restaurant and hopefully some sun to sit out on their deck - lots of locally sourced food served in the resto. Wren is another great, new, tiny place - small & big plates - gnocchi poutine, pork belly - fabulous sharing portions 2583 Cadboro Bay Rd - about 10min drive from downtown.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cassie

            Gnocchi putine? That sounds dangerously AWESOME.

            1. re: cassie

              I love True Grains and Hilary's! Merridale Cider has a really fun tasting room and they also make fantastic apple juice. It's the most apple-y tasting apple juice I've ever tried. Blue Grouse and Alderlea are my favourite Vancouver Island wineries. Alderlea generally doesn't do tastings, and their production is very small (but very good) so their wines are constantly sold out, so maybe Blue Grouse is a better bet? I also like Rebar in Victoria for snacks and smoothies, but I've never eaten a real meal there.

            2. You have to go to the place that makes the best ciders - not those schloky ciders we buy in the liquor stores here, but real ciders - there is only one place.

              6 Replies
              1. re: sarah galvin

                Are you talking about a particular brand sarah? Do get Merridale or perhaps Sea Cider there? I agree with you about the big brewer ciders - in particular the Growers brand. Syrupy blech.

                There's good eating to be had at the ciderhouses too. I have been to Sea Cider's restaurant but not Merridale's which looks like it has a good menu that's obviously cider-centric. It also has a brick oven baker on site. I will put it on my list now.

                Disclosure - I do like Strongbow....it's barely even a cider ;)

                1. re: fmed

                  It must be Merridale's. It has a nice tasting room and the cider is very good with serveral different flavours to try. We ate in the dining room and it was nice but not ultra. But that was ok. Fun side trip.

                2. re: sarah galvin

                  I read that meads are also produced in Victoria. Anyone know of a good meadery in Victoria?

                  1. re: FoodieKat

                    Tugwell Creek

                    They make meads, melomels, etc.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Thanks fmed! Any idea how one could get there without a car? Do they have organised tours?

                      1. re: FoodieKat

                        I don't know actually. I met them at the Tofino Food and Wine fest and have not been to their meadery.

                3. There are some glaring over sites in the replies. Maybe my tastes are different. In Victoria you should try Pagliachis (not sure of spelling) on Broad. It is a one off Italian place and very good. Great atmosphere. Great food. Go for lunch and go early to get a window seat. For dinner try Da Tandoor on Fort st. Best in the city, go hungry. Also in Victoria do not miss Swans. They make the best beer this side of Britain or Germany. As you come up island The Arie is world famous. I have eaten there twice and loved it and of course the view cannot be beat. . Further up, Meridale Cider is another of my favorites, The food is delicate and wonderful. A couple of KM from there is the Church restaurant located in, you guessed it, an old church. Their food is very good and not too expensive, and the room is very interesting and historic. When you get to Duncan you must go to Just Jakes. It is a local brew pub. The menu is limited so they concentrate on quality, but the beer is the real reason to try it. Superb. As for the earlier statement that the winery s are not worth a visit I must disagree. There are many north of the Malahat and more going in all the time. Try the Cherry Point Vineyard. An aside, I believe there is an olive oil producer on Pender Island. I heard about it on the CBC a couple of years ago. I hope this helps.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: unkyfarmer

                    "A couple of KM from there is the Church restaurant located in, you guessed it, an old church. Their food is very good and not too expensive, and the room is very interesting and historic."

                    I think are referring to Steeples, in Shawnigan Village. This is a family favourite (not a family restaurant). Great food, good prices, deck for Summer dining.

                    I have heard wonderful things about Amuse in Shawnigan Village too. A former Steeples chef opened it.

                    Another vote for Udder Guys, True Grain and Hilary's in Cowichan Bay. Hilary's has great homemade soups and sandwiches for lunch too.

                    There is a brew pub in downtown Duncan. Another great place for a light meal.

                    In Cedar (South of Nanaimo) there is a pub called the Crow and Gate. It is a ways off the highway, but worth the drive. I have been told their steak and kidney pie sells out regularly. I love their crab cakes.

                    You will get good food (not fine dining) at John's Place on Pandora. Popular for over 20 years, try their rice balls, cashew chicken or burgers, but leave room for dessert.

                    1. re: mlgagnon

                      I agree with most of what you have to say, But as a friend of the owners, I must correct you on the Amuse Bistro comment. The Chef/Proprietor is not from steeples. Formerly from the Aerie, CIA (Culinary Institute of America) trained. From Rhode Island.
                      The restaurant was recently awarded 2nd Place for best restaurant, vancouver island, after Sooke harbour house.

                  2. In Victoria I would suggest going to John's Place. Excellent food and atmosphere with a great staff. I also enjoy spinakers brew pub. Both have web sites you can check it.

                    I live in Ucluelet (next door to Tofino). I honestly would never recomend the Pointe at the Wickaninish to anyone. I personally find the food very over rated and over priced. For fine dining I would check out the Long Beach Lodge, although phone ahead because they often do not let folks who are not staying there eat there. I would also check out the Raincoast Cafe in tofino. They have excellent thai food and it is a very casual atmoshpere (also have a web site with a sample menus but it changes from time to time). As previously mentioned SOBO is excellent and has moved right in to Tofino (used to be in a van in the botanical gardens). Shelter has been hit and miss for me. They reopened about 6 months ago after their renovations, the menu is very promising and sometimes delivers.

                    In Ucluelet for lunch check out Ukee Dogs. The homemade pot pies are exceptional. Especially the salmon and dill. They are baked fresh many times daily. They also have excellent breakfast.

                    Most importantly have fun!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Roughie

                      Malgagnon is correct, I was referring to Steeples in Shaunigan Lake. Also he is right about the Crow And Gate. The food is good, the room is excellent as is the patio in summer, and they have a good collection of Scotch. At least for this area.

                      1. re: Roughie


                        I on the other hand would have no hesitation in recommending the Pointe over the Long Beach Lodge Resort but I would forewarn my friends about the price and tell them to go at lunch when they can relax and take in the views with a nice bottle ... albeit pricey... of wine and be captivated by the waves.

                        Would not send them there for dinner particularly when we travel in late October when the sun has already set by about 7:00 p.m. in any event.

                        We have found ... again at lunch ... the food at the Long Beach Lodge to be inconsistent although the view is soothing and different with the waves rolling onto Cox Bay. Before we acquired the "canine members of our family" Pacific Village is where we would vacation.

                        Agree with your recommendation of the RainCoast. Nice, asian-influenced food. During our last visit SOBO had just moved into the space formerly occupied by Conradi Pasticerrria. Too bad about Matthias...I'll miss his pastries.

                        I'll look for Ukie Dogs the next time we are out in Ucluelet. The only spot we have eaten there is the Matheson [sp?] House on the main drag one year after being in town to visit the lighthouse.

                        1. re: Bob Mac

                          Hi Bob, so what did you think of Matterson House? Not one of my favorites but it's allright.

                          Long Beach Lodge has a new chef this year and the food is pretty good, give it a try when your down.

                          For the Wick Inn I'm not really sure why I just haven't had a good experience there yet. The view is unbeatable, no question about that but I just haven't had a great meal, possibly just my experience although it is common out here....Who knows!

                          Sobo has the same menu as pre move so no real big changes, they have added a large amount of deserts though so that is also worth checking out.

                          There is a new restaurant in Ucluelet that just opened about a month ago. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but have heard good things. It is called the float house (is down by the harbor) and they serve primarly sushi and that kind of thing. Speaking of sushi Tuff city sushi in Tofino isn't bad so that may also be something to check out.

                          1. re: Roughie


                            It was a number of years ago that we tried the Matterson House. I remember more that the menu and wine list were on the walls...greenboards I think...than what we ate.

                            You mentioned Tough City Sushi. It's a shame but my wife does not enjoy seafood so we unfortunately do not often go that route unless the place also has hot, cooked Japanese fare like yakitori, tempura, sukiyaki and shabu shabu. Of course no trip to Tofino is complete without encountering "Crazy Ron"...self-described I should add. I usually run into him at the Co-op or up at the bar at the Pointe.

                            It is a few months yet before we head out to the Island.

                            Thank you for the local update.

                      2. Another Victoria spot you must not miss.

                        Vieux Montreal on Government St. in Victoria. Incredible smoked meat sandwiches an delicious pastries. Thursday nights after 6:00 they have 2-4-1 smoked meat sandwiches.

                        Quebecois singers a couple nights a week.

                        Service can be slow, but the food is worth the wait.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mlgagnon

                          Speaking of smoked meats, I've been hearing interesting things about Choux Choux but haven't been able to try it yet. I understand their charcuterie is house made. Any 'hounds with a recent chowing there?

                          Another second hand rec: Sanuk, where a former head chef of the late lamented Monsoon in Van is/was exec chef. Anyone have recent intel on this place?

                          Choux Choux Charcuterie
                          830 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8R, CA

                          Sanuk Asian Infusion
                          625 Courtney St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Choux Choux is great. Nice confit and other charcuteries.

                            1. re: grayelf

                              Went under years ago, a few friends were there in its hayday. It became Hugo's brewpub...which has since gone under aswell.

                          2. I'm surprised no one has mentioned smokin bones, not sure on location, but this place was amazing, the meat was super tasty, and the raspberry beer I drank was like liquid gold.. I want to go back. soon..

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: retroville

                              Smoken Bones Cookshack

                              The fries (one of the sides) were amazing. I also enjoyed the candied carrots. A word of caution: my BF and I shared the BBQ taster, which is listed as "for 2 or more." They mean "or more." It came with beef ribs, pork ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket, as well as three sides. Well, I thought that the plate was artfully stacked. But no. The brisket and pulled pork acted like mortar bewteen the ribs, and the three sides were huge. We went hungry, but oh, how we failed!

                              It's in Langford, which is an outlying municipality in the greater Victoria area.

                            2. Victoria:
                              I would recommend Niche hands down. This is the original chef from the Rosemeade. They have a three course lunch for a bargain of $18. The Deep Cove Chalet is off the beaten path, but phenomenal. Camille's offers a fantastic chef's taster meal.

                              I suggested a bunch of other restaurants in a thread for a Victoria trip. I would recommend any of those as well.

                              It's been a while since I've been there but the Arbutus Cafe in Duncan does some fantastic diner fare. Good eggs bennies too. Hooray for real hollandaise!

                              I've also heard very good things about Zanatta vineyards restaurant, but can't speak from personal experience.

                              The Crow and Gate pub near Crofton is great even just for ambiance. Old English pub with old English food and a great assortment of beers and ales. Completely unpretentious, and just about everything comes with a giant wedge of artisan cheddar. Waiting for a table is definitely worth it.

                              I know Nanaimo has some good things to offer but I'm not really up on them.

                              Lefty's in Parksville cooks up some great breakfast and pretty tasty lunches. Good coffee too.
                              Tigh-na-mara resort has excellent dinner fare but their breakfasts are awful. It's like they shift from Spago to Denny's overnight.

                              In Courteney/Comox I would recommend the Atlas Cafe. Fantastic food. Amazing fish tacos.

                              Once you get past Campbell river I can't really suggest anywhere to eat, the food gets scary but the scenery gets amazing. The top half of the island truely is wilderness.
                              I guess you pay your money and take your choice.

                              There is also a fantastic book called "An Edible Journey" by Elizabeth Levinson that lists a huge assortment of fine food, farms and vineyards on the island. It's a fantastic read. I live here and I own it, so that says something.

                              1. Up island in Parksville and Qualicum Beach (30 and 45 minutes north of Nanaimo respectively), there's a "chain" called Lefty's. They serve good, fresh food. The chian only exists in these two "retirement" communities. If you go to either of these places (probably to see the Ocean; I love mini-golf in Parksville) eat a Lefty's for lunch!


                                It's also barely out of the way when you're driving to Tofino.

                                1. As a local chef, I feel obligated to help.
                                  Casual fair and tasty bites in victoria;
                                  Choux Choux Charcuterie, Hernandez (Authentic mexican), Red Fish Blue Fish, Daidoko Japenese Deli,Pig BBQ Joint, Fol Epi Bakery, Lucy's in the square, Pizzeria Prima Strata.
                                  Fine Dining Victora:
                                  Brasserie L'ecole (the best), Stage small plates wine bar, The "new" Rosemeade.

                                  Heading up island;
                                  Great Vineyards lots to choose from, Amuse Bistro in Shawnigan lake, Truegrain Breads/Hilary's in Cowichan Bay, and Bistro 161 in Duncan.

                                  Obviously there are lots of other decent places around. But these are where people in the know go, The Creme if you will.