In my previous Victoria lunch round-up, we didn’t spend much time in the downtown core. Wonderfully walkable, visitors are often surpised to see how many eateries are packed into Victoria’s small downtown. Just go to the corner of Blanshard and Fort and you’ll find an abundance of delicious spots like Be Love, Fishhook, Italian Food Imports, Yalla, and Tacofino. But keep wandering from Herald Street to Courtney Street, from Wharf Street to Cook Street, and you’ll be blessed for choices. If you find yourself hungry afer a day of thrift shopping and strolling the inner harbour, here are just a few of the (mostly downtown) spots I’ve been fan girling over rencently.
Bold Butchery & Grill
If you’re craving shawarma, hit up Bold Butchery. This full-service Halal butchery can get you all your custom cuts of veal, lamb, beef, goat and chicken–but they also serve a mean lunch. I didn’t see a menu upon walking into the small shop, so check online to scope out what form of chicken shawarama or falafel you’re after. I went for a chicken shawwarma bowl on a bed of bright and herby tabouleh. Loaded with vibrant pickles, greens, beautiful sauces, and your choice of about FIVE different hummuses (I went for the spicy harissa), it was one of those meals where each bite is a surprise. The roasted chicken was juicy and fragrant, a little spicy, and piled high… Oh god, I’m getting hungry.
I first tried Bao after an evening of drinking at the Victoria Beer Festival back in September and, let’s just say, it really hit the spot and has been one of my go-tos ever since. Try a variety of pillowy bao buns stuffed with different pork goodies, fried chicken, pickles and veg, or flavourful bowls of ramen to slurp with an exciting choice of toppings. On the edge of Chinatown, Bao combines an array of Asian flavours, from Japanese and Taiwanese, to Korean and Vietenamese, in all the right ways.
Dosa Paragon is on the first floor of my office’s building on Yates Street, in the strange little mall area that also houses a sushi joint, Yates Coffee Bar, Empire Doughnuts, and a couple hairdressers. Because of this, my coworkers and I are often tempted into making an order of their pakoras when the mid-afternoon slump hits. While some pakora can be a on the blander side and consist mostly of potato, Dosa’s are packed with awesome texture from a mix of veg, fried in delightfully spiced chickpea flour and served with fresh mint and lemon chutneys. Dosa Paragon serves “Southern” Indian food, which means it’s menu doesn’t look like those of most other Indian restaurants you’ll find in North America. Instead, the menu includes different kinds of savoury rice and lentil crepes and pancakes served and stuffed with a variety of vegetrian masalas and chutneys. If you’re craving something fragrant, hot, and hard to find elsewhere, hit up this family run stop.
Fern Cafe & Bakery
I’m a little late to the Fern Cafe & Bakery party (thanks, Emma, for the recommendation!), but I am so glad I finally stopped in when they reopened after their break in January. On Cook and Park Street, it’s a short walk just outside the core of downtown, but well worth it. This 100% vegan cafe serves up seriously yummy vegan comfort food. Think breakfast, burgers, mac n’ cheese, poutine, and incredible baked goods. With creative takes on cheese, sausage, patties, fried “chickun”, burger patties, and more, there really is something for everyone, vegan or not.
Back in five
This place is so hipster, it’s just went up on Google Maps. It’s a cafe meets plant shop and specializes in “pop ups”. It’s Instagram heaven, everyone inside seems to know eachother and dons matching helixed beanies. Tucked way, way up Pandora Ave, it may be the epitome of gentrification. But damn, Back in five does a mean breakfast sandwich. Pair that with freshly brewed coffee in a baby pink mug piled high with thick homemade whipped cream, rainbow plates of fruit spinkled with chilli powder, and the dreamiest salted chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven, and you’ll be happily unbuttoning your vintage Levi’s to make room.
Azteca Tacos and Grill
Victoria isn’t short on delicious taco joints, but this recently opened spot offers an authentic selection of Mexican breakfast, lunch, and dinner options at a solid price. So far I’ve only had their tacos–styles like Pastor, mole, and picadillo–but I can’t wait to try other dishes I enjoyed in Mexico City, from tortas (popular street food sandwhices) and chilaquiles (a saucy breakfast dish made with tortilla chips and eggs), to their take on sopa de tortilla. Oh and did I mention the massive side of guac and chips is only $1.50? I have yet to find that anywhere else in Victoria. The fact that Azteca is right across from my office on Yates is both a blessing and a curse.
Confession: I’ve only actually been to Spice Valley for dinner. And, tucked in on Esquimalt Road, it’s not in the downtown core. BUT, it would make an excellent lunch spot with their lunch buffet from 11:00am-3:00pm where you get a choice of two non-vegetarian curries, four vegetarian curries, starters ,salads, dessert, and freshly made naan bread for $15.49. When I moved to Victoria from Squamish, my first mission was to find my go-to Indian restaurant to replace my hometown’s Essence of India and Spice Valley did it. From tender malai kofta and delectable palak paneer, to delectably addicting lamb rogan josh and butter chicken with a selection of naan breads, I haven’t gone wrong yet. Just up the road from my apartment in Vic West, the next rainy weekend spent at home will have to call for a trip to the buffet to eliminate that whole annoying having to make a choice between dishes thing. It’s just one of my favourites and I wanted to give it a shoutout, okay?