Need Vancouver, Victoria, Vancouver Island Restaurant Help

My husband and I will be traveling to Vancouver, Victoria, Duncan, and Ucluelet at the end of the month and I've been slacking on my preparation. Hoping some BC area Food52ers can recommend some can't miss restaurants and food-related things to do. Thank you.



Brette W. August 15, 2011
I'm going to have to second (or third, or fourth) everyone that recommended Vij's in Vancouver - going there is a total experience.

I recently did a food-centric trip to Vancouver and these were some of my other favorites:

- Refuel - A MUST. Best dining experience I had there. They use extremely fresh, local Vancouver ingredients and the atmosphere is both fun and extremely focused on food. If you ask, they'll give you some of their house-cured salamis to take home, too.
- Tojo's - If you're looking for sushi, this is a great place to go. It's the most famous sushi restaurant in Vancouver, and for good reason.
- The Elbow Room - Go for brunch and get pancakes.
melissav August 15, 2011
Thanks everyone for the wealth of information. The information you have provided vastly exceeded by expectation. I will report back following our trip. Very excited to be visiting your neck of the woods.
cookinginvictoria August 14, 2011
Hi Melissa! So great to hear that you will be coming to my neck of the woods for a vacation! Late September should be lovely here.

I will also chime in with some recommendations. First, though I would suggest doing a search on The Globe and Mail website for Alexandra Gill: She covers restaurants in the Vancouver area, and I think that she has really good judgement. I would also browse around Eat magazine, an excellent online and print publication that covers food and drink (mostly restaurants) in British Columbia. They are based in Victoria, but they also write about Vancouver, Duncan, Tofino, the Cowichan Valley, etc. In my opinion, they do a much better job of covering the local food scene than the daily papers here, and will give you lots of good recommendations.

I don't have a lot of knowledge about Vancouver restaurants; however, I too would highly recommend Vij's (a legendary, one-of-a-kind Indian restaurant, alas with very long waits). There are tons of Asian restaurants in Vancouver. To wade through all of the choices, maybe check out Sam Sifton's NY Times article about restaurants he liked in Vancouver, as part of the Times's Winter Olympics coverage last year.

There are lots of fun foodie destinations in Vancouver. I too would suggest Granville Island for wonderfully eclectic food vendors. Also, Commercial Drive (the Italian neighborhood) is worth checking out.

Here are some suggestions for Victoria, which is now my home base. For slightly more upscale restaurants I would recommend:

Zambris: Wonderful husband and wife owned downtown Italian restaurant, consistently cited as one of the best restaurants in B.C. No reservations.

Brasserie L'Ecole: Fabulous, casual French food -- I love the steak and frites here. Located near Chinatown. Excellent wine list. No reservations.

Camille's: Chef David Mincey is lauded as one of the pioneers in the farm to table movement in Victoria. We went to Camille's for my husband's birthday in the spring, and it was amazing. Everything is locally sourced and is exquisitely presented

Ulla: Fairly new restaurant near Chinatown by noted Vancouver chef, also serving delicious local ingredients with a modern twist. No reservations.

Casual and lunchtime places

Pizzeria Prima Strada: Artisan brick oven gourmet pizzas in the Cook Street Village. Very popular, but for good reason. Try one of the special pizzas -- they are made with seasonal ingredients and are always amazing. Don't miss the homemade gelato. Mozzarella cheese used on the pizzas is from local Vancouver Island water buffaloes.

Relish: Newish downtown restaurant only open for lunch with yummy sandwiches and soups. The vegetarian sandwich featuring lentil pate is out of this world. All of the pork sandwiches I have tried here have also been wonderful.

Devour: Tiny downtown restaurant run by two women with lovely, fresh seasonal food. Menu changes daily. Open mostly for lunch and a few nights for dinner. Yummy muffins, soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Hernandez: Authentic, Family owned, Central American cocina, serving burritos and tacos in handmade tortillas. This hole-in-the-wall downtown restaurant has very little ambiance, but the food is wonderful.

White Heather Tea Room: If you are in Victoria, you must have afternoon tea at least once. The White Heather Tea Room in Oak Bay serves high tea with homemade scones and cream, lovely pastries and fun little sandwiches.

Stages: If you want to get a late night bite or just have a light dinner try Stages, a small plates wine bar in the trendy Fernwood neighborhood. Great wine list, lots of charcuterie and fabulous desserts.

Red Fish, Blue Fish: Upscale fish and chips and yummy fish sandwiches sold from a converted shipping container on the wharf (cross street is Fort). As striped beet says, this place is insanely popular and unless you get there early, you will wait in line. But it is well worth the wait. No table service -- you eat on makeshift stools outside on the wharf. We have had limited luck with calling in our orders ahead of time. Sometimes if they are too busy, they won't take orders. Also, if the weather is dicey, they will sometimes close w/o notice.

Definitely get your fill of Asian restaurants in Vancouver. Victoria's Asian options are somewhat limited and not that authentic.

If you are here on a Saturday, check out the Moss Street Market, perhaps Victoria's largest and best farmer's market. It takes place on Saturdays from 10-2 p.m. in the Fairfield neighborhood. Lots of farmers, artisan crafts, live music, food (grilled wild salmon burgers, homemade ice cream sandwiches, grilled sausages, and tamales). Don't miss B-Rad Bread. His chocolate croissants and brioche pastries are divine. There are many other outdoor markets in Victoria, including some that take place in the evening.

Here are some of my other favorite food destinations: Bakeries (Pure Vanilla -- lovely desserts, Wildfire -- yummy mini-tarts and delicious whole-grain breads, Fol Epi -- amazing breads); Cafes (Habit and Discovery make the best espresso drinks in town); Silk Road Teas (lovely, especially if you are a tea connoisseur), and Choux Choux Charcuterie (amazing deli -- great place to buy picnic foodstuffs).

If you are able to get to Sooke and really want to splurge, see if you can get a reservation at the Sooke Harbour House, one of the best restaurants in Canada. This high end restaurant grows much of the organic food on their menu and the setting is really out of this world. The Edge, also in Sooke, is a quirky, unpretentious restaurant that serves delicious local food.

Hope this is helpful, Melissa. Let me know if you have any questions!

thespicegirl August 13, 2011
I am not that familiar with Cowichan Valley however I would imagine one of the wineries would be your best bet for food and if they don't have restaurants they would most likely be able to recommend some.

They include:

Cherry Point Estate Vineyards Email contact form Driving Directions Wineries, Restaurants
Phone: (250) 743-1272
840 Cherry Point Road
Cobble Hill

Glenterra Vineyard & Thistles Cafe Email contact form Driving Directions Wineries, Restaurants
Phone: 250-743-2330
3897 Cobble Hill Road
Cobble Hill, BC

Masthead Restaurant Email contact form Driving Directions Restaurants
Phone: (250) 748-3714
1705 Cowichan Bay Rd

Merridale Ciderworks Bistro and Distillery Email contact form Driving Directions Wineries, Restaurants, Distilleries
Phone: (250) 743-4293
Toll Free: (800) 998-9908
1230 Merridale Road PO Box 358
Cobble Hill V0R 1L0

Satellite Bar & Grille at Arbutus Ridge Golf Club Email contact form Driving Directions Restaurants
Phone: (250) 743-5100
3515 Telegraph Road
Cobble Hill V0R 1L4

Steeples Restaurant Email contact form Driving Directions Restaurants
Phone: (250) 743-1887
2744 E. Shawnigan Lake Road
Shawnigan Lake V0R 2W0

Zanatta Winery & Vinoteca Restaurant Email contact form Driving Directions Wineries, Restaurants
Phone: (250) 748-2338
5039 Marshall Rd.
Duncan V9L 6S3

Good luck! I know you will enjoy it! I you find a bottle of Hester Creek Cabernet Franc or even one of the white varietals including Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc or Chard/Sem or Trebbiano be sure to try....they wine is really really good! They are based out of the Okanagan. In that region they produce some pretty good wine.

melissav August 13, 2011
Wow! Thank you for taking the time to make such great suggestions. We are most excited about the asian options in BC as the Asian pickings down here in Florida are slim to none. We'd love to experience a great sushi spot with an omakase offering, ramen, chinese, and izakaya. All the suggestions above have got me super excited about our trip.

Also, any specific spots to stop while in Cowichan Valley? We are staying there for two nights
thespicegirl August 13, 2011
Vancouver is my home town and I love the food scene there. Now I am excited about this question because there are so many noteworthy considerations when going to Vancouver....Here are a list of some of my all time fav's!

1. Amazing fusion Chinese Food - one of a kind...try their Daikon Cakes...they cannot be missed.
2. Vij's- Fusion Indian food done to perfection. You may have to wait as this place is popular but so good. You will have never eaten Indian food like nor will you ever go back. Lamb Popsicles will make your mouth drool.
3. Finest Italian in Vancouver hands down is Umberto's Il Giardino. He is a well known celebrity chef in Vancouver and for good reason. His food is out of this world. Don't' think Pasta...this place is so much more than pasta!
4. Le Crocodile for French. It has been around a long time and is outstanding.
5. For Ambience you can eat at Granville Island but don't expect anything too outstanding. Bridges by far has the nicest views.
6. Bishops for sure! Jon bishop is also an amazing chef and his restaurant and service are outstanding. Has has cooked some of the nicest scallops I have ever had.
7. If you are looking for quick and easy you cannot go wrong with Earls - their dry ribs are outstanding. This is not fancy fare but it is good and consistent food. Also, CACUTUS CLUB. There are many of these and the food and cocktails and service are all superb!

Other tips....There is a bread stand in Granville Island called Terra Breads - their fig and anise bread is something so special that when I go back to visit I buy two loaves, one to eat while I am meandering and the other to save for later. It is so good!

Granville Island will make you want to cook. If you like Pate they have a great stand for this there. YOu can't miss him!
Also, for coffee my favorite coffee place in vancouver is jjBean. It is so good. They make a great cup of coffee. As does Artigiano's. You will find jj bean in Granville Island and spotted around other areas such as Yaletown and East Van (Cambie and Main). Artigiano's has a many cafe's too including one just off of Robson and ? Google Map will find it.

Other great mentions must go to:

Local, Seasonal and Sustainable
Blue Water Cafe and Raw Bar
La Buca
Pair Bistro
Raincity Grill
Sooke Harbour House (Island)

CinCin (Italian)
Hapa Izakaya (great Japanese) Order the Sake - it comes in Bamboo!
Le Gavroche
Wild Rice

Other great places:
C Restaurant

Victoria....don't miss REBAR! Great restaurant and great food.

Tofino - this goes without saying Wickaninnish Inn and The Pointe Restaurant is incredible not only for it's fresh take on food but also it's spectacular views!

Enjoy BC - it is an incredible place with so much to offer! If want anymore tips let me know and I am happy to provide
striped B. August 13, 2011
For Ucluelet, look up Norwoods, also drive the few miles to Tofino for Sobo (local legend, casual, delicious) and the restaurant at the Wickininnish Inn (world class, killer view, somewhat pretentious) and Shelter.
I'm not that familiar with Victoria options except Red Fish Blue Fish, a shipping container converted to a fish taco and fish and chips take out spot on the wharf - it's amazing; call ahead and place your order if you can to avoid the 45min line up. Also, look up Zambri's. it has a great rep.
Duncan - the area of the Cowichan valley is bursting with farming and local products; i think it will be a beautiful drive and you'll find places to stop and sample.
For Vancouver, there are so many options, if you'd like to suggest what you're most interested in, i'll make more specific suggestions. Some of the highlights found in Vancouver are local, sustainable seafood, fantastic sushi (several options for omakase offerings), ramen, an entire suburb dedicated to authentic Chinese, a dedicated community of restaurants using local, seasonal products.
Some highlights are: Vij's - world renown contemporary Indian; a wonderful dining experience from snacking in the lounge waiting for your table (you'll wait) through the exceptional service and food
Gastown - a neighbourhood full of unique spots: Cork and Finn - oysters, seafood, great service, cocktails, atmosphere. Boneta - innovative menu, all delicious, big room, well designed. Salt - wine bar in an alley, menu of charcuterie, cheeses, condiments written on chalkboard. Chambar (on edge of this 'hood)- famous for its mussels variations and tagine, but whole menu is great; also great cocktails and interesting beer list. Try Medina next door for brunch.
Currently new and hot - Hawksworth and Ensemble (Ensemble owned by Canada Top Chef winner). both are downtown.
Sushi - everyone has their favourite and they tend to be neighbourhood places outside downtown - Shiro, Octopus Garden, Toshi, Kibune, Miko (Miko is downtown).
Another great japanese option Vancouver offers is Izakaya (japanese tapas) - there are several locations of Guu, also Hapa Izakaya. they're all delicious.
Outside downtown some great places are La Quercia (italian/amazing), Bishops (long standing/local/'special') Maenam (thai/contemporary).
There are weekend night markets in Chinatown and Richmond (suburb, accessible by sky train) with fun street food and several farmer's markets to walk through. a good source for what's happening can be the food section at
But like i said, this is just a sampling - if you have some specific interests or want to see different areas of the city, there is so much more.
Feel free to ask more questions and enjoy your time!
the P. August 13, 2011
Simba's in Vancouver. Spectacular East African food. Please, please get the pigeon pea dish. This place really is not to be missed. Open only for dinner I think, very casual and reasonably priced. You also can't throw a stone without hitting a great sushi place there. I ate very well when I was there early this spring. There's also a beautiful market and yummy food court at the Granville Island Public Market--a great way to spend a morning and lunchtime! Have fun.
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