Might I Suggest Victoria, BC?

It’s the nature of a pretty port town; we get a lot of tourists. And every so often you run into a traveler looking for someplace to eat that offers a genuine slice of the local terroir. Born into a family noted for its approachable faces (even when I’m the tourist I get stopped for directions), I’ve become accustomed to directing people to authentic watering holes. Summer’s around the corner and with it comes a tidal wave of tourism, so here it is, my own personal (and absolutely changeable and open to suggestion) quick list for the wandering Washingtonian, enraptured Ontarionian, or whoever it may be you find yourself hovering over a map with after they’ve stepped off the boat and asked, “so where should I go to eat?”

I always direct people Southeast from the Inner Harbour to Cook St. Village because ambling along Cook gives you a gorgeous view of the oceans, mountains, and at specific times of the year, a canopy of cherry blossoms. It gives the traveler a scenic starting point in the city. Caffe Fantastico is the perfect stop for a pick-me-up after a walk along the beach and up through Beacon Hill Park. If more serious replenishment is required I’d head to Pizzeria Primastrada for the Pizza al Funghi, a glass of wine, and for dessert, an affaghato (bold espresso poured over a tasteful scoop of vanilla gelato). For picnic fixings like fresh and local fruits and cheeses, stroll around the corner to Ambrosio’s where the staff is perpetually cheery (not chirpy) and passionate about their wares.

Hippy-types I point in the direction of Fernwood (Eastward and a touch North from the harbour for those relying on maps) where the worst graffiti you’ll come across reads “somebody loves you.” A pink and pretty cupcake can brighten a rainy afternoon at the Pink Sugar cupcakery, chased with an Americano sipped slowly in the warm, hip, and artistic atmosphere of the Cornerstone Café. Stage next door gives you an excuse to dress snazzy while smartly sipping a martini and for heartier fair it’s just a stone’s throw to the Fernwood Inn which has top-notch pub food.

Downtown is easy for visitors to manouevre around, using the harbour as a reference point, and has a lot to offer. Everybody has their favourites— but a few highlights I like to point out are Mo:le for their consistently scrumptious and creative breakfasts. Heck, you can while away the whole morning going door-to-door on lower Pandora (LoPa?) with the Mo:le, Café Bliss, Habit trifecta. If you’re on your own definitely make time for Habit where you can have a well-crafted cup of coffee, sure, but also choose from a whole wall of magazines to peruse while you sip (heaven for a those of us who love our mags). And even if you’re not into raw, still pop into Café Bliss for their Bliss Kiss -the chubby, heart-shaped chocolate that can bust any bad mood, and I’d gamble, even jetlag. Further down there’s Soltsice Cafe with the aforementioned (in a previous recipe box feature) soul-warming hot chocolate plus occasional acoustic gigs with an eclectic, cozy scene.

Red Fish Blue Fish has my vote for lunch al fresco on a balmy summer day, but if it’s drizzling I’d hike up the street to The Pink Bicycle for their juicy, messy, ridiculously good burgers. There is, of course, Brasserie L’ecole for a fancy night out (and, in my opinion, the best meal in town), as well as Café Brio and Camille’s —all superb and well worth their price. For something a bit cheaper, but still on the upscale side Ferris’ Oyster Bar upstairs is a steady bet (be sure to order a brownie for dessert).

Everything at Choux Choux Charcuterie tastes amazing and I love that they only have a couple tiny tables for the fortunate few lunchers. Just get whatever’s on the board even if you can’t pronounce it; trust them. Or if you’re on the go and they’ve got personal quiches in the deli, get one and savour its incredible rich and creaminess paired with a buttery, flaky crust. Further up Fort is Plenty where visiters can take their pick of edible souvenirs to return home with: Cobble Hill chocolate bars, Shawnigan Lake coffee beans, Victoria oatcakes, and Mountain Ash preserves all travel well. If it’s a Saturday morning you simply have to go to Moss St. Market and if it’s not head to Wildfire Bakery for a pain au chocolate, then take home a loaf of Apricot Anise, the likes of which you will never find anywhere else. The Lemon Meringue tart was declared by not one, but two, visitors I directed there as the best they’d ever tasted in their life. Last but not least I usually point tourists in the direction of The Superior Café if it’s a Friday or Saturday night because with their live music, art installations, and seasonal, locally-supportive tapas menu, it’s a true smorgasborg of Victorian culture. – by Katie Zydbel

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