Oak Bay Butcher Shops

Oak Bay may have the reputation for being the oldest neighbourhood in a city already considered antique. Nevertheless, in light of our growing interest in what we eat and where it comes from, this municipality has attracted the city’s greatest density of butcher shops that are all hard at work taking the practice of meat cutting back from large corporate enterprise. “In the last couple years I’ve seen a huge rise in people’s interest,” says Michael Windle, owner/operator of the Village Butcher. “In my lifetime, certainly in the last 40-45 years, the trend commercially has been towards centralized production, factory farming, just a lot of poor, unsustainable methods … What we do now is way more old-fashioned, but it’s somehow new thinking again.”

Standalone butcher shops pay their bills by turning entire animals into a vast array of different products. Rather than a factory full of unskilled employees and dangerous machines, a local butcher offers advice, options, and a guarantee of quality. These three shops represent both the old and new school, and all of them offer the kind of unique, friendly, and knowledgeable experience you’ll seldom find elsewhere.

Slater’s First Class Meats, 2577 Cadboro Bay Rd. (250) 592-0823

This shop has been around since 1954 and has had a number of owners, but all of them have maintained the professional style and family atmosphere of the original. Spotless white shirts, ties, and crisp aprons add a sense of class that harkens back to the 20th century. Most of the current staff has worked there for over a decade. “We’re on a first-name basis with the majority of our customers,” says part owner Geoff Martin. “They come in, we’re asking about their families, they’re asking about ours, it’s a very tight-knit community.” Slater’s supplies some of Victoria’s most popular restaurants, including Brasserie L’Ecole, Café Brio, and Il Terrazzo, and the staff’s experience makes for great shopping. “Whether it’s us or another local butcher shop, you’re getting a level of expertise that’s higher than you’ll get at a larger store.”

Village Butcher, 2032 Oak Bay Ave. 250-598-1115

Co-owner Michael Windle (his business partner is Rebecca Teskey) has been in the business for almost twelve years, the last four in their current location. A training ground for culinary school graduates, Michael’s shop focuses on supporting local, sustainable, and humanitarian animal husbandry. “I deal directly with farmers, I tell them what my customers expectations are for the animals’ lifestyle, the animals’ diet, the farmer tells me what it’s gonna cost to do that, and then I essentially promise to buy everything that farmer can produce,” he says. “My job is then to ensure that these young trainees learn how to turn all of it into usable products.” The Village Butcher is also the place to go to explore new cuts and lesser-known parts of the animal: everything from pigs’ feet to underrated steaks.

The Whole Beast, 2032 Oak Bay Ave. 250-590-PORK (7675)

Not a traditional butcher, Cory Pelan has spent the last four years running an artisanal salumeria in the space he shares with the Village Butcher. “The main thing that separates us from those guys is they sell fresh meat and we sell cured meat, ready to eat,” says Cory. “We’re just making the best stuff we can with the highest quality ingredients using old world techniques.” The Beast is perfect for charcuterie plates or snacks for hiking or camping, thanks to their handmade products, created with “natural smoke, passion, care, and attention” and without any fillers or unnecessary additives. Cory credits the neighbourhood with keeping his dream alive. “The neighbourhood’s been fantastic… Oak Bay really wants to believe in the businesses that are here, they know they’re getting the best that we can give them for a price that’s fair, that’ll allow us to still be here tomorrow, and allow them to go home with a good product.”

Written By:

Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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