Funky restos in Victoria?
I'm doing a business trip to Victoria next week and returning again at the end of the month. Could I get some tips on some funky restaurants with excellent choice, fresh foods, cool atmosphere, not too expensive? I favour something with lots of veg. I've heard that Mo:Le and Rebar are good? Any suggestions or tips? Something fairly central but known to locals...
Anyone out there know of some good places? I'll be in Victoria from 26-28 June, and could use the recs too, especially in central Victoria and/or accesible by public transit/transport, as I won't be driving. Thanks!
I don't think you're going to find anything batter than ReBar for funky and vegetable-oriented. It serves vegetarian and vegan food in a funky atmosphere at reasonable prices. I personally am not a fan, but I know many who rave about it.
While I cannot provide many recommendations directly baout veggy food, I can refer to my favourite Victoria food blog. It's pretty comprehensive, and their reviews are almost exactly how I feel. It's done by two guys (I think) who own a bakery by the same name (I think).
It all depends on your definition of funky. I think of funky as meaning informal; not-too-expensive; featuring cool decor; friendly service; off the beaten path.
My caveat emptor is that Victoria is a tourist town, and as such there are many overpriced, mediocre restaurants that survive due to tourists who either do not really care what they eat or who have not done their homework.
Here is a list of some places that the average tourist (and many a local) would definitely miss.
Zambri's: Casual Italian place in a strip-mall! Lunch and dinner, but closed Sunday-Monday. What makes it special is the focus of locally grown, organic produce and simply prepared but well executed dishes. This is kind of the place you would get squid that is NOT battered or rubbery. The kind of place where the greens are NOT from an Earthbound box. And the kind of place where the chef does not go awry with disastrous fusion experiments. Real rustic Italian food!
Red Fish, Blue Fish: Inner Harbour. A bit hard to find, as it is in the middle of a parking lot across the street from, and below, Bastion Square (right off of Wharf St). It is going to get crazy here now that it is summer, so best to visit before prime lunch time (i.e. before noon) or after (i.e. 2-3 pm). Expect EXCELLENT seafood sandwiches (i.e. scallop, tuna, or oyster), good fries, and very tasty slaw. However, there is no indoor seating. The "restaurant" is made from an old shipping container.
Hernandez: Little hole-in-the-wall hidden in a walkway in Sussex Plaza between Yates and View Sts. Lunch only, weekdays only. Well-prepared "Mayan" food.
Choux-Choux: Only a few tables at this delectable French deli. The lunch special changes every day and is almost always good. Great soup and sandwich place; also the kind of place that would have well-prepared duck confit as a lunch special at an insanely reasonable price.
Sanuk: If you must eat Asian food in Victoria, you will not do as well as you would in Vancouver, Seattle, or any other number of Pac-NW cities. However, Sanuk has an interesting fusion menu, and the one time I ate there I enjoyed the experience.
Kaz: If you must eat sushi in Victoria, stay away from the places on the main streets and stroll down to Kaz, on Store St (Wharf turns into Store), kiddy corner from the homeless shelter. The fish is reliably fresh and nicely presented, and it is served at the proper temperature, which is to say NOT fridge temperature. The side dishes are pretty good too.
Konpira Noodles on Broughton: The chef is apparently a well-respected noodle-maker in Japan. I am not enough of a noodle afficionado to say how they stack up against other udon noodles, but my wife and I both enjoyed our meal here.
Brasserie L'Ecole: Dinner only. Probably the best value restaurant in Victoria. Entrees have crept up to the $22-32 range, but when you stack up Brasserie against other fine-dining restaurants in Victoria, it has the edge in consistency, quality of ingredients, and "funky" ambience. Reservations ESSENTIAL at least 2--3 weeks in advance of your dining date, ESPECIALLY on Fridays and Saturdays.
Mo:le: Cannot be beat for breakfast. Fantastic egg dishes. A lot of vegan and raw food choices. Next door to one of Victoria's best and coolest coffee shops, Habit.
Chocolat: Really cool chocolate place on Fort st. The tequila lime grenache truffle is one of my perennial favourites. Best chocolates in Victoria IMO.
Tapa Bar: It's just okay. I've had MUCH better tapas in various other cities I have visited. Tapa does not place emphasis on local or seasonal ingredients. The menu never changes. The wine list is extremely limited. Some dishes are not reliable (i.e. the steak dishes). However, it does have nice ambience, and some of the dishes are reliably executed (i.e. the shrimp sauteed in garlic and butter).
Re-Bar: A "funky place" in terms of decor. I like certain things about re-bar, i.e. the juice bar, the baking, the monk's curry. But my complaint is that there is absolutely NO innovation in the menu. The menu has not changed in 10 years or more. I guess that would not be a bad thing for an out-of-towner.
Paprika Bistro: Again, stellar for consistency, quality, and focus on locally grown ingredients. A bit higher-end than the other places I have recommended.
Pure Vanilla: A great little bakery with fantastically sinful cookies and cakes. Also light lunch items.
Ottavio: Best cheese and charcuterie selection in town, par none. Gets crowded. Skip the coffee. (As another poster mentioned, this place is like a mini-Dean and Deluca's).
Chez Michel: simple, traditional French fare. They have excellent sauces (skip the calorie count, though!)
Mt. Royal Bagel Factory for authentic Montreal style bagels.
Stage: Wine bar/small plates in the heart of Fernwood. Same owners as at Paprika.
Niche: haven't been there yet, but the reviews are uniformly good.
the Superior: definitely funky. A good place to enjoy a gourmet flatbread and a glass of wine or a beer from a microbrewery. Emphasis is on BC products.
Blue Crab (warning: not a 'funky' place): Wildly overpriced for dinner, but the lunch entrees cost less than one-half of what the dinner entrees cost and are generously portioned. The sweeping views of Victoria's Inner Harbour cannot be beat.
There are MANY other places I have not mentioned in this post, but I have to go. Beware of places on Wharf St, on lower Government St, and most of the places within spittin' distance of the Empress.
Thank you for this..
and I must say I am SOOOOOOOOO disappointed that Hernandez is only open on weekdays. I have that one on my list, double underlined!! We arrive Friday at 4:30pm and leave Monday 11:30am for Seattle..... :(
Oh well, I know they are a family run business and everyone deserves a day off ......next time!
Absolutely brilliant stuff, anewton, thank you so much for taking the time to put all this down. Very helpful. And good to know re: Tapa bar. I know Victoria is touristy (don't they call it the town for the "newly wed and nearly dead?" ;-), which is why I wanted local foodies to guide me, LOL. Now my stomach is forearmed (or something), and we're ready to rock. Much, much appreciated, everyone!
Thank you for that link, Miss B. We will be there in late August. Once I have my list complete I'll ask for help when the time nears.
One Question, I didn't realized Zambri's was a counter service (which doesn't bother me). Is it like that for dinner too? Is this place better for lunch or dinner....I can swing either way.
A few additions to my original list:
Ferris' Oyster Bar: Perennial downtown favourite that provides hearty meals at reasonable prices. Definitely some funky ambience here. Eclectic menu offers choices for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Sunshine Cafe: in Fernwood, at the Stadacona Centre. Great breakfast joint that has very tasty omelettes and other breakfast faves.
The Parsonnage: also in Fernwood, on North Park. Primarily vegetarian breakfast/lunch spot. Simple place, but economical and healthy fare. (Fernwood is walking distance from downtown).
Pig: Hole-in-the wall downtown BBQ place that offers tasty, affordable sandwiches: pulled pork, smoked chicken, or beef brisket. Also offers BBQ ribs and BBQ spaghetti as specials. Very tasty sides include BBQ beans, excellent cornbread served with honey/thyme drizzle, kosher pickles (ironic for a place called Pig), and some very fine coleslaw. Don't be alarmed that you do not see a smoker on the premises: the smoker is off-site.
I could keep going, but gotta run.
I had been meaning to try Parsonnage for years, ever since I lived on Pandora and happened to walk by this random, TOTALLY PACKED restaurant one day. However, I've been in and out of the city (and country) a lot lately, and a someone recently came all the way to Mexico to see me, and they told me the TC reported Parsonnage was closed. Can you confirm it's still open? I will be back in a few weeks and gosh darned it, I've waited long enough!
Wow. The Parsonnage closed? That's news to me, but it is entirely possible as I have not eaten there in a few years.
You did not miss anything brilliant. The Parsonnage had home-cooked style food: healthy, fresh ingredients, but nothing that the average cook could not replicate at home following a recipe book. However, it was a cool little place and had a local neighbourhood vibe.
The Mint - only open at night but open late. Underground off Douglas St. down the stairs I mean.
Tibetan inspired, good food. Thunder SPag is a fave, as is the butter chicken. Can also build your own platters of more Medittereanian inspired stuff. very relaxed vibe. Great beer selection, OK wine list, good cocktails.