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Apr 30, 2011 09:02 AM

Solo dining recs for Victoria

I'm heading to Victoria from Napa for my birthday at the end of May. Arriving on the early morning ferry, my first stop will be for tea at The Empress as that is something my mother had always wanted for me so to honour her memory, a first day's lunch is taken care of.

I will have two dinners and two other lunches open to me with breakfast covered by the B&B I'm staying at. I imagine I might be so full from the breakfasts that the lunches could be light. I am entirely relying on my feet for transportation, but it looks as though the entire city is very walkable.

I did a search and the only threads for solo dining Victoria showed posts from 2007. I am an adventurous eater and willing to try anything but am interested in local favorites; seafood, I imagine?

I looked at the menu for Cafe Brio and it looks so similar to what I can get in Napa, except the cheese! I would love to sample local cheeses! Aura Waterfront looks interesting but I am not necessarily married to haute cuisine if there are local favorites to commend themselves!

Lastly, I have dined alone at many of the world's finest restaurants and have no problem pulling out a book while sitting through and enjoying a lengthy tasting menu. And I should add that I will be arriving on a Monday; I know a lot of restaurants are closed on Sundays or Mondays so these meals are for Monday and Tuesday with a last lunch on Wednesday.

Thanks in advance! Happy to provide San Francisco and Napa recommendations to any who head this way!

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

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  1. Bumping this up.... Three days and no suggestions?

    6 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218


      Saw your original post but was hoping that one of the Victoria Chowhounds, like Cassie or anewton would have chimed in with their local recommendations.

      I am in the adjoining province of Alberta but do get out to Victoria 2 or 3 times a year...still buying my Lotto tickets to be able to afford to move [sigh] ......

      Off hand despite your admittedly broad criteria, nothing immediately springs to mind other than the "old stand-bys" we consistently return to when my wife and I are in the area. You already mentioned Cafe Brio and I would add Brasserie L'Ecole and Zambri's.

      If you check the threads highlighted below, you will get a number of lunch and dinner comments but I am not sure that they will greatly assist when it comes to the criteria you mentioned and particularly since you are familiar with San Fran and Napa.

      Coming from a landlocked area I usually want to sit somewhere where I can both dine and daydream but see the water - harbour or ocean. As a result, we have gone to the Blue Crab in the Coast Hotel and The Marina in Oak Bay and for pub food, Spinnaker's. None of them are particularly special but at least this "crab" gets his water fix.

      I will be interested in reading what others recommend as we will be back in the Fall.

      Enjoy your trip.

      911 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8V4X3, CA

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

      1. re: Bob Mac

        For a light lunch I would suggest Daidoco. It is a Japanese place that serves a lot of locally grown organic Japanese produce. It is a very simple place with simple food but perhaps different than what you can get in Napa? A lot of their food sells out early so best to get there by 11:30 or so. Oh, and it is open only from Monday-Friday.

        A "must" for lunch is Relish. It is in a seedy area of Pandora (between Vancouver and Quadra) across the street from a large drop-in for the local homeless population. Thus definitely not a tourist haunt. But the food is really good and everything is made in-house (including the bread) by one of our most talented local chefs.

        Red Fish Blue Fish has crazy line-ups but not so much if you get there by 11:30. It is a food cart down in the inner harbour near the sea plane docks. It has all sustainable, locally caught seafood in a variety of preparations...mostly "tacones" and sandwiches. They may have a few spot prawn dishes as spot prawn season just opened hear. Halibut season is also in full gear. But my favourite is the local scallop sandwich with the tempura fried pickle. They also have great tuna sandwiches (not the canned variety of course) and oyster sandwiches.

        Another interesting spot for lunch is a little hole in the wall called Choux Choux Charcuterie. It is a local french deli whose owners have impeccable taste. They do a daily lunch special. This is also a place where you could pick up some Canadian cheeses.

        As an aside, I am not very impressed with any of the local cheeses (ducking). There is good Canadian cheese, but most of it comes from Central and Eastern Canada (particularly Quebec). There are some excellent cheddars from the Eastern part of the country that you cannot likely find in the US (i.e. Avonlea cloth-bound cheddar from PEI). Ottavio in Oak Bay has the largest cheese selection in town with more than 200. They have a case just for Canadian cheese.

        Dinners. I always recommend Camille's because the owners have such a commitment to local farmers. The prices are reasonable and the quality of ingredients is always impeccable. The food is best described as French with a decided Asian influence. I am not wild about the ambience in this place, but it is certainly a cosy place for a solo diner.

        Pizzeria Primastrada is really tasty. Authentic Neapolitan pizza and so much more. They have daily pasta specials, really good salad specials, gelato, a variety of appetizers. They support a lot of local farmers (i.e. you can get margharita pizza with a local version of buffalo mozzarella and local tomatoes). The Bridge street location off of Bay Street, in a strange industrial area, is the best location as it has some cool industrial decor and shorter lines than the Cook St location.

        There is a new place I want to try in Fernwood called Kulu that gets great reviews. It is the dreaded "Asian fusion" category but is distinguished by a strong commitment to local ingredients. A few sample menu items: bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms with tonkatsu sauce and Japanese mayo; kimchi tofu; sake salmon. They also have signature cocktails.

        And speaking of cocktails, Victoria has some great cocktail culture for a small city. Clive's Classic Lounge has a great seasonal cocktail list featuring approximately 50 gourmet selections with regular specials. And Veneto also has a superb cocktail program (and better food than Clive's).

        Back to Fernwood square, where Kulu is located, is one of my favs. Stage is a small plates and wine joint that is very consistent and very good. The owners are Hungarian and thus accent their modern food with housemade charcuterie, pickles, etc...Nice selection of wines by the glass, too. And they have a bar you can sit at.

        I could go on but I think i have hit the places that I think best represent Victoria's food scene. Oh, except for Chocolat, on Fort St near Douglas, that has excellent truffles and other gourmet chocolates. Really great quality here.

        Remember, Victoria is a small city and does not likely have many options that you wouldn't find in Napa/Bay Area. But there is a growing commitment to sourcing local organic produce and the seafood served in many places is from local waters.

        Have fun. I think you'll have a good time.

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

        Red Fish Blue Fish
        1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

        1. re: anewton

          ANewton - thank you so, so much! This is exactly what I was looking for.

          Six month ago, I lived near Japantown in San Francisco and admittedly, now being a Napa resident, I miss my weekly (or tri-weekly!) Japanese fix so Daidoco sounds perfect! Pizza not so much... That is becoming de rigeur here in wine country and I'm actually trying to cut down my carb-consumption!

          And the cocktails will be a nice break from all the wine I drink! Not too surprisingly, Napa does not have much of a cocktail scene and it is something I miss from San Francisco.

          I'll report back my findings and I greatly appreciate your thoughtful suggestions!

          1. re: CarrieWas218

            Well, now that Bob Mac called us out ;-)
            Another lunch option is Devour (762 Broughton). Tiny place but great food, fresh sheet daily. Open Mon-Fri (but only to 4pm on the days you’re in town).
            Daidoco is fabulous – but it’s not your traditional sushi/Japanese food place (ie. there’s no huge list of maki or nigiri here) A short list of fresh daily items (seared tuna, local chicken teriyaki, salmon don, organic squash salads) – and anewton isn’t exaggerating – get here before 12 to be assured of a choice – or be stuck with eating what’s left.
            I love Brasserie (Tuesday for you as they’re closed Mondays). They have tables and seating at the bar. They also have a nice list of cheeses for dessert – if you want to sample some local (and near to local). Quite a few of the nice local cheeses come from Salt Spring Island – Moonstruck (blues/bries), Salt Spring Island (goat).
            If you’re in James Bay area (assuming your B&B is probably there), Sipps Artisan bistro (425 Simcoe, in Thrifty Foods complex, beside Spinnakers Beer & Wine store) is great for a snack/light meal – Victoria/Vancouver meats, local cheeses, wines by the glass and their brews (4-10pm).
            Sounds like you’re on the Coho or Clipper – great harbour views as you come in. Enjoy tea at the Empress – I say everyone should do it once – not cheap, but the setting is like no other (and you won’t leave hungry). I love San Fran, I’ll be seeking rec’s for my next trip :-)

          2. re: anewton

            A quick cheesy note -- if you like cheese curds at all and are able to find the ones from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, buy a bag. They are the best I've found in the west (and better than lots I had in Ontario). We had them *still warm* once at the farm which is further north on the Island. Sigh.

            And about burgers, there are very few places here that will make them to order (maybe Pink Bike does but I didn't get a choice when I went), unlike in your stamping grounds. So far I've only found five in Vancouver. Maybe local Vic hounds know of some there.

        2. re: CarrieWas218

          I'll admit I'm more of a lurker on this board, but lately my usual dining partner ( and true love) has been away on business, so I've been going it solo over the last little while. Here are my picks, not based entirely on great food, but definitely on a welcoming ambiance for the lone diner.

          Zambri's - Sit at the bar and get great, professional service. Not sure the local flavours? Sampling is encouraged.

          Stage - Also has a great bar / eating area. Try a flight of BC wines while sampling local meats and cheeses. Nice, loose vibe about the place.

          Pizzeria Primastrada - Cook Street Village location. Not any kind of wait if you're eating solo. Their bar surrounds the open kitchen with a full view of the boys at work prepping and loading their wood burning oven with the pies. Other tasty item on offer as well. Great entertainment if you forget your book.

          Choux Choux Charcuterie - I agree with anewton on this one. A very small, two or three table Parisian style lunch spot. Excellent local and french influenced choices.

          Hernande'z Cocina - Stuck in a mall hallway between Yates and View Sts, this eccentric take away spot delivers no frills El Salvadorian style street food, made from scratch. Check their website to get a feel for the place first.

          And remember - it's halibut and spot prawn season here. Don't miss out !

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

          911 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8V4X3, CA

        3. Pig on the corner of Johnson and Blanshard for BBQ Meat sandwiches or better yet the pulled pork poutine.

          Pink Bike (Blanshard and Broughton) for burgers.

          I have to run, But I will try to post more later.

          1. Was just in Victoria on the weekend and I can add Ulla to the list. Everything we tried was delicious. We also stopped by the Wildfire bakery which would be a good lunch option.

            1. Hi Carrie,

              I meant to get back to you sooner.

              Hilary's Cheese from Cowichan Bay has just opened a shop on Fort street just a block away from Cafe Brio. You can try some wonderful local and imported cheese.

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