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10 Acres
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/10 Acres

The 18 best restaurants in Victoria

The best restaurants in Victoria showcase a city at the forefront of Britsh Columbia's culinary renaissance

Written by
Alisa Gordaneer

Variety is the spice of life at the best restaurants in Victoria, and this is just how we like it. Everywhere has something to offer, and we’re not just talking about the literal offer of food in exchange for currency. Traditional favourites like fish and chips emerge as high-end fusion here, with Humboldt squid replacing cod and nettle foam playing the role of the potato. It sounds delicious, right? Well, get yourself to Victoria and see for yourself.

British Columbia is beginning to get more attention as a top-level foodie destination, thanks partly to the blossoming of a real culinary scene in Vancouver. Victoria is right up there with the metropolis, with a collection of marvellous spots as delicious as they are diverse.

Best restaurants in Victoria

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Fu Y.

1. Pagliacci’s

A famed pillar of Italian cuisine in the heart of Victoria, Pagliacci's is the perfect spot to enjoy traditional dishes at a more than fair price. First opened in 1979, this quaint foodie hub was recently renovated with a lot of care to maintain the cheerful ambience. Go early for happy hour or brave the hangry but patient lineup for live klezmer, jazz and gypsy swing to accompany dishes with names like meat John Doe and the prawn broker. Got a friend who can't get enough? Drop some dough on a Pagliacci’s gift card and help everyone you know to get their pasta fix. Leave the diet at home—carbs and legendary cheesecake are best enjoyed with red wine.

Price: Average 

Red Fish Blue Fish
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Natasha P.

2. Red Fish Blue Fish

Fish and chips on the dock aren’t unusual in Victoria, but this wharfside chippy does one better with Oceanwise seafood, served in tempura batter, hand-rolled tacos or buns. Salmon, tuna, oysters and cod are all represented in the fried firmament here—it’s no wonder lineups wind along the wharf like so many sea serpents. Where the heck else can you try the fusion delight that is jerk fish poutine? A Quebec-inspired combination of west coast fish in Jamaican jerk sauce served over fries, it’s best eaten while gazing meaningfully at hungry harbour seals just offshore.

Price: Bargain 

10 Acres
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/10 Acres

3. 10 Acres

This place is awesome. If the ingredients aren’t grown on their own nearby organic farm, they’re caught by local fishers or raised by local farmers. To have well-prepared, fresh food. Seasonal tasting menus give you the best of what’s new, from berries to spot prawns. Locally brewed beers, French press coffees and handmade gelato round out a virtuous meal.

Price: Average to pricey

Menbow Ramen Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Menbow Ramen Bar

4. Menbow Ramen Bar

Tokyo-style dining in a modest little restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. It's not huge, but it's comfortable, and the bowls of steaming ramen are satisfyingly sizeable. The tonkatsu (pork) and tori (chicken) broths, plus a tomato-based vegetarian version, are all must-tries. The service is prompt and welcoming. Not to mention the Sapporo they have on tap. What more could one want? 

Price: Bargain 

Stage Wine Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Graham M.

5. Stage Wine Bar

Date night in Victoria can often mean a stroll to the funky residential neighbourhood of Fernwood, a play at the Belfry Theatre, prefaced or finished with a reservation at Stage Wine Bar. Small plates like langos (fried potato bread) soak up the libations, or larger dishes like smoked salmon poke or bison sirloin with blackberry sauce offer something meatier to discuss. After the play lets out, debrief with fellow theatregoers over a glass of wine from the extensive list—Stage stays open past 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

Price: Average

Little Jumbo
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Little Jumbo

6. Little Jumbo

Although the entry may be a little reminiscent of a dentist's office (and we all know how much a visit there is), step a little further, and you'll discover a speakeasy-style eatery that serves up delectable cocktail and tapas pairings. Handcrafted, creative cocktails made with locally sourced artisanal ingredients. But the real bar star? An absinthe fountain that brings libations to a new level. Explored the drinks menu and are now ready for some fancy foodie accompaniments? Sink your teeth into some opulent truffle fries or a summer berry pavlova. 

Price: Average

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Julia K.

7. Nubo

Japanese tapas translates to an izakaya-style restaurant with craziness like the “avovado” (tempura-fried whole avocado) and sushi silliness like the Victorian secret and yoga flame rolls. Don’t let the names fool you—the food is spectacular. Getting a table is tough, but it is worth it to say you tried the Tamago spam musubi (Hawaiians would understand) or the maguro eruption—marinated tuna you sizzle yourself on a hot stone.

Price: Average 

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Zambri’s

8. Zambri’s

Since siblings Peter and Jo Zambri opened this local, Italian-inspired hotspot in 1999, the local culinary scene has considered it a mainstay. The pasta is the superstar, with fresh noodles accompanied by classic sauce pairings—think peas and gorgonzola—while the mains include locally raised pork and chicken. It’s almost always possible to get a seat at the bar, although the stylish big room does fill up fast, especially on weekends. In addition to the great food, try the house gin and tonic—every single ingredient used in the cocktail is made from scratch!

Price: Pricey

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jen C.

9. Saveur

Saveur is a fine dining restaurant with exposed brick walls, shiny lamps, and a tasting menu that features wine pairings and a fusion of local west coast ingredients and French-inspired preparations. Try the halibut cheek with nettle veloute and puffed wheat berries or the beef strip loin with bone marrow marshmallow (really). They also serve a range of local beer, cider and specially formulated cocktails which deliver a delicious boozy punch.

Price: Pricey to blowout

Ferris Oyster Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ferris Oyster Bar

10. Ferris Oyster Bar

The chance to enjoy three different restaurants in one: a seafood eatery in a heritage building offers fine dining, a casual oyster bar with an excellent summer patio, and a tapas and wine bar—if you can’t find a table at one, chances are good the other venues will be able to accommodate you. Fresh oysters are served by candlelight with champagne in the upstairs dining room. If the aphrodisiac powers of this favourite local shellfish are true, you’re in for a hell of a romantic night.

Price: Average to pricey 

Be Love
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Joe C.

11. Be Love

Organic, vegan, gluten-free and, darn it all, so freakin’ good for you, you won’t be able to figure out how it manages to taste so good and be healthy at the same time. Try the quinoa bowls topped with fresh veggies and sauces or the wild nettle tart with red onion jam. Atone for your gastronomic excess with what Be Love calls “pure nourishment”—it’s so healthy, infused with west coast goodness and locally grown produce that you’ll radiate well-being, or at least self-righteousness, all over your yoga mat.

Price: Pricey

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Anna N.

12. Jam

Breakfast and brunch are huge in Victoria and brick-walled, coffee-scented Jam wins for its all-day egg-stravaganzas. The only problem is, every other early-rising hipster in town is in line ahead of you—and the venue doesn’t take reservations. But, once you get in, creative cocktails like the Madras mimosa and the bacon-garnished Bourbonator Caesar soothe the sting. Hangovers have been rumoured to be cured by Jam’s naan breakfast burrito, and the chicken-and-waffles theme carries over to Benedicts and French toast.

Price: Average 

Green Cuisine
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Green Cuisine

13. Green Cuisine

This Victoria original, located in historic Market Square, offers vegetarian and vegan dishes made fresh on-premise. Mainstays like rice and salad are always on offer, while specials change daily, giving you a reason to return again and again. Pay by weight means you can be as indulgent or as frugal as you like. But don’t miss out on the desserts, like lemon cheesecake or house-made gelato. In-house-made tempeh and tofu are packaged to go, as well. If you're one to jump on health-food trend trains, you can also order a refreshing kombucha with an organic soda shot. 

Price: Bargain

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Glo

14. Glo

Happy hour meets golden hour at this waterfront hotspot. Offering capacious seating indoors and out, this place boasts a nightclub feel even in the daytime. Fresh seafood, flatbread pizzas and a wide selection of burgers, sliders and sandwiches make this a casual favourite for gatherings of loud friends. The waterfront patio catches the sunset warmth, with a view of both scenic and working harbours to enliven happy hour. Comfy furniture and patio heaters ensure the party carries on well past dusk.

Price: Average

Brasserie L’Ecole
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Tine H.

15. Brasserie L’Ecole

Named after the old school building in which it’s housed, this downtown eatery takes French cuisine and turns it into something uniquely west coast by following a seasonal approach—the menu is small and based mainly on local ingredient availability. The fancy but casual atmosphere lets you feel at home. They don’t take reservations, so show up early or stroll nearby Chinatown while you wait to be called for a table.

Price: Pricey

Café Brio
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Rich F.

16. Café Brio

An Italian-inspired eatery where the surroundings evoke the aesthetics of a cozy Tuscan countryside inn. Think decorative wooden furniture, ambient fairy lights, and paintwork with rich blue, yellow and red hues. The small, neatly created menu varies from season to season as new fruits and veggies appear in the surrounding area. The farmed and fished goods also change, meaning the à la carte offerings are always fresh and local. If you can't decide, opt for half-sized portions or alternatively, if your hunger knows no bounds, try a family-style meal. But the best thing? Café Brio has almost 300 different wines on offer, which the sommeliers can talk you through and advise on.

Price: Average to pricey

J&J Wonton Noodle House
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/John P.

17. J&J Wonton Noodle House

A fuss-free night out that's perfect for last-minute dinner plans, not to mention great Chinese food. J&J doesn't deliver, and they don't take reservations, so you can always get a seat, even if you have to wait a few minutes for it. Located on the east side of Chinatown, this family-vibe restaurant offers classic dishes like spicy Sichuan-style chicken and ginger-fried tofu. The decor is a bit bare, but that's reflected in the price. Who needs upmarket wallpaper and white linen tablecloths when the food's this good, and you can watch it being made through a window into the kitchen?

Price: Average

Sally Bun
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Elaine Y.

18. Sally Bun

Named after a blue neon sign that says “Sally” (still seen close to the café’s original location on Douglas Street), this café has been a local favourite lunch spot for over 25 years. A Sally bun is a Chinese steam bun taken to a new level; slightly sweet dough stuffed with fillings like curried chicken, mushroom or bacon, cream cheese and artichoke. These tasty hand-held lunches are best scarfed down on the go. Sally buns are the perfect snack for a picnic or plane ride. Go after 4 pm for two-for-one prices. Make sure not to miss out on the massive cinnamon buns.

Price: Bargain 

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