The Fabulous Fort “Eat on the Street” Festival

This Thursday (September 4th) I checked out the Fabulous Fort Street “Eat on the Street Festival” featured on the 700-800 block of bustling Fort Street. As an experiment in community development and city planning, the “Eat on the Street” festival found parking spots located on the block charmingly transformed into parklets. For those not in the know, parklets are a bit of a thing; in many larger cities, a single parking spot will be converted into a mini-park, of sorts, complete with green space, and usually some kind of public seating area. It’s a great way of transforming a tiny piece of asphalt into something eminently habitable for folks out and about. As it usually goes with these kinds of things, San Francisco was ahead of the curve, and first established parklets in 2009. Since then, the trend has spread across North America; Seattle and Vancouver, for instance, are currently both undertaking citywide Parklet Pilot Programs.

Parklets were set up today in front of such Fort Street classics as Street Level Espresso, Ali Baba Pizza, and newcomer Crust Bakery (check out the first look Holly did on Crust here). Part of the appeal of parklets lies in their ability to prompt a sense of community in spaces (parking spots!) not usually considered communal. Given that, today, I met Street Level Espresso owner Dave Archibald, and Rachel from Crust Bakery by simply asking about the parklet they were seated at, I’d say this urban experiment is off to a good start. I grabbed a coffee and caught up with one of the festival’s organizers, Teri Hustins.

Arin at street level espresso

Arin from Street Level Espresso set me up with a top-tier iced Americano for my first Victoria parklet experience.

“We applied and were accepted for a grant to install permanent parklets,” Teri tells me. “This day is to show that the Fort Street community is behind the parklet project.” While the grant was approved, and while architects are onboard to build permanent parklets on Fort Street, the city has yet to approve the project 100%. Nonetheless, the vibe today was definitely a festive one; there was live music, people sipping coffee and eating pastries in sun-drenched parklets, artists painting for all to see, and Ali Baba gave out some free pizza (which I, regrettably, missed). 


Dave (from Street Level Espresso | middle), Rachel (from Street Level Espresso and Crust | left ), and Shaye (a man about town | right) enjoy the Street Level Espresso parklet. Meanwhile, all of Victoria waits for the number 15 bus in the background.


As Teri describes, there’s reason to celebrate: “This street is really becoming a foodie hotspot.” Given that Fort Street currently hosts some truly excellent spots including Choux Choux Charcuterie, Café Brio, The Blue Fox, and Crust, I’m definitely inclined to agree.  “What makes [Fort Street] so unique is not only the new young food businesses coming [… ] it’s also peppered with some of the city’s oldest, most established businesses, like Dutch Bakery […] It’s such a nice mix of young and old.” Fort Street is definitely a highlight of downtown Victoria that, as Teri describes, nicely reflects the contemporary yet classic feel of Victoria.  It’s great, then, to see that the right urban-planing moves are being made by the community minded folks at Fabulous Fort to further highlight the top-drawer establishments of this downtown cultural staple. Having been in Seattle for the past few months, it’s remarkable to see the changes that have occurred in such a short amount of time throughout this city, and the parklet initiative is definitely indicative of how forward looking this place currently is. Keep your fingers crossed for parklets on Fort Street in spring 2015, Victoria!


To keep up to date on what’s happening up and down Fort Street, check out the Fabulous Fort Street website.



Festival organizer and owner of Oscar and Libby’s Teri Hustins with Street Level Espresso guru Dave Archibald.

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Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Jonathan Johnson reached the silvery West Coast in 2009. In 2014 he completed his MA in English at the University of Victoria, and is a contributor for EAT Magazine. In addition to his publishing ...

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