Culinary Top Five – and a Bit
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
I take my city for granted. I always want to get away and travel, but I often forget how amazing my own city and its surrounding area is….and I often forget to take advantage of it. Of course, since Victoria has the second most restaurants per capita in North America, I do spend a lot of my time (and my money) going out for dinner. Fortunately for me, I also work at one of the best restaurants in town, so every night I work I get to eat an amazing meal. Most tourists, however, miss out on the Mint, a Nepalese restaurant found in the basement of a heritage building. Lit almost exclusively by candlelight that beckons warmly as you cross the gate and descend the concrete stairs, the Mint alternately sends up the smells of homemade curries and the beats spun by local djs. The kitchen is open until 2:00 a.m. (hard to find in Victoria) and the DJs don’t get started until at least 9:00 so most do not come in for dinner or drinks until at least 8:00, but if you get there before that, you’ll be in for a quiet, romantic candlelit dinner. Expect anything from butter chicken curry to grilled salmon to specialty pastas of the day. (Douglas Street, between Johnson and Pandora beside the big Field’s store and across from the big bus stop).
Of course, when I really want to go out I don’t want to go to my work, so my boyfriend and I try to see how many new restaurants we can go to…then we rate them. Our top five are (in no particular order)
1. Baan Thai (on Blanshard street by Fort close to the Subway on the corner) has the BEST thai food for great prices and the girls who work there are so friendly and efficient. Go for lunch (it ends at 2:00) and get a huge meal for $7.00 or for dinner (starts at 5:00) and get an even bigger one for $9-11. Closed on Monday.
2. Bravo (Wharf street at the bottom of Yates) – another restaurant down the stairs. My girlfriends used to go there and flirt with the cute waiter (who is now a bartender by the way) and drink copious amounts of wine. The atmosphere is amazing – huge 2-storey windows on one wall flanked by opulent drapery, stone walls on the other 3 complete with art niches and amazing ever-changing art hung on them. The food is also wonderful, and the bread they bring out first is probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten! Prices range from $9-25.
3. Ferris’ Oyster Bar (Yates street, just up from Bravo across the street from the parkade)
Fun atmosphere, great patio out the back in the summer and a new oyster bar opening upstairs in the near future. For now they have a huge menu of wonderful, filling, homey food for excellent prices. You can basically choose from 2 pages of $9 meals, including a pulled pork sandwich, portabello mushroom burger, veggie dog, HUGE hamburger…whatever…and they come with either a ridiculous amount of fries (regular, sweet potato or mixed) a gigantic salad (and a good one too – none of that iceberg and a soggy tomato here) or soup. You won’t eat for a week.
4. Fireside Grill (out in Royal Oak, 4509 West Saanich Road…you’ll need a car to get there) Sooooo good. Neat atmosphere in a restored Tudor-style 1930s mansion that used to overlook fields and now overlooks…well, city. But oh well, it’s still got beautiful patios (yes, multiple patios) for the summer and fireplaces and cozy rooms for the winter. The food is wonderful. It is a new addition to our list since we’ve only been there once, but we will go back again soon. It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be – you could get lunch for under $10 and dinner under $15 if you wanted to, or you could go all out and order the $36 sirloin strip and Alaskan king crab legs!
5. Il Greco (corner of Tillicum and Gorge Rd) I feel like I’m in Greece again when I go to this cute little restaurant. It’s decorated in that classically Greek way and the food is just how I want it to be…and at a good price! You can get anything from Greek platters for $15 or so to moussaka, stuffed peppers, souvlaki – all under $15. If you’re not feeling the Greek thing, there are also yummy pizzas and pastas (the pasta is not the best though…sauce tastes a little canned).
Good place to chill and drink a bottle of cheap wine!
An honorable mention goes out to The Flying Beagle Pub in Cook Street village for having, hands down, the very best nachos I’ve ever eaten! Oh, oh and Japanese Village on Broughton (close to Wharf) is so much fun – choose the sushi side and hang out with the sushi chef, or choose the steak house side and have your own personal Teppanyaki chef!