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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 ;)
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.
"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.
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.