I did not ride a speedboat to visit Victoria, British Colombia from Vancouver, BC, for a a few summer days of eating. Rather, this was my idyllic view from the sun deck of a ferry (courtesy of BC Ferries) that transported me in a most calming and contemplative manner from city to city. When it's summer in Victoria, this first-time visitor attempted to spend as much time outside as possible. And that also applies to eating. (Speaking of eating, what it's like to spend six hours in Richmond, BC, making stops at four dim sum places, a noodle joint, a butcher for intensely crispy-skinned pork, plus a sweet stop at a bakery? The answer.)
If you're a fan of tacos and sustainable fish, stop by Red Fish Blue Fish on the Inner Harbor. Not only is the seafood sourced with an eye for the future, but so is the building itself: an old shipping container transformed ("upcycled") into an extremely popular lunchtime destination.
I know, it seems like a long line, huh? I took this photo of these hungry, yet patient, fish fans right after polishing off my meal at about 12:30. Try going later in the afternoon; I took a look-see later in the day and you can breeze on up to place your order. Even if you DO have to wait a bit, remember that you're in the sun, on the water, and you can take this opportunity to make some new friends and strategize your order so you don't dilly-dally at the counter. And it's worth the wait; my halibut tacos (or "tacones" as they call them) with chiles were more like halibut burritos, combining prodigious filling properties with freshness and flavor. Also, you get to eat them in the sun (or in a shady area just off to the side) and enjoy this view. Eating al fresco while watching boats and seaplanes come and go provides a most excellent ambiance.
If harbor-side eating did not get your excited enough for the rest of the day, perhaps you need some coffee. Victoria may be known as a tea town, but I picked up the habit of cold brew (or slow brewed) iced coffee at the aptly named Habit. Their first location is right by the famous Fan Tan Alley, billed as the narrowest street in Canada, which connects you from coffee to Chinatown.
Maybe you confine your caffeine consumption to the morning, and are looking for something portable and delicious for breakfast? Your destiny lies in the form of a dynamite sandwich from Chorizo and Co. Served on a fluffy brioche bun, it has chorizo (no surprise), manchego cheese, a runny-yolk fried egg, and a housemade pimentón aioli. The contrast of the slightly sweet brioche will all those rich, savory flavors and the bit of smokiness from the aioli is a delight as well as an extremely memorable combination. And now you can get walking. If you cannot resist the call of the chorizo, you can finish off your breakfast by the time you arrive at Beacon Hill Park. It's about a ten-minute walk. Or, if you're able to exercise a bit of restraint (unlike me, truth be told), you can sit down in the grass or on a bench by the entrance and enjoy your sandwich. Then head down to the water.
You saved room for desert, right? Or you made room with all your walking around and adventuring? Surely you have a spot for the iconic desert of Vancouver Island: the Nanaimo Bar. Hailing from the town of the same name, this bar is a three-layer, no-bake confection consisting of a crumb bottom, custard middle, and chocolate top. If you were really serious about sweets, like my pal CakeSpy, you'd drive the 70 miles and experience the Nanaimo Bar Trail. Or, you could stop by one of many spots in Victoria for your sweet bite(s) of history; I enjoyed this Nanaimo Bar from the Market on Yates on a bench right outside the store. (Note: as a sign of the times, the young man behind the bakery case asked me if I wanted the regular or gluten-free bar.)
Not only was I full of fantastic food during my stay in Victoria, BC, I was also full of gratitude for my friend Treve Ring. She's a local food and wine expert, as well as a writer, who introduced me to Red Fish Blue Fish, Habit, and Chorizo and Co. It was a treat to spend a leisurely afternoon with her.
And, at your leisure, go forth and explore everything from coffee and chorizo to seafood and sweets in Victoria, BC.
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