Victoria, BC is a Canadian West Coast gem with a picturesque harbour, historic architecture, rugged landscapes and a thriving locavore food and drink scene. It’s a mecca for those in search of foodie travel itineraries. Whether you love to explore the food culture of a new place independently or with the help of in-the-know guides, this city and its surrounding region offer endless opportunities for feasting on foods crafted by masterful artisans and innovative chefs.
Embarking on a gastronomic journey in Victoria, you’re bound to hear about the city’s impressive restaurant count per capita. While it’s true that Victoria boasts a vibrant culinary scene, the old adage “quantity doesn’t always equal quality” holds its ground here. Local foodies have often shared a humorous sentiment: an abundance of dining options doesn’t necessarily translate to a surplus of spectacular eats.
As you set out to unravel the flavours of dining around Victoria, a vital piece of advice is to bypass the alluring yet often disappointing tourist magnets. Every popular destination grapples with this scenario: areas teeming with postcard-worthy views are often lined with restaurants that overpromise and underdeliver. In Victoria, this phenomenon finds its home surrounding the inner harbour and in the hubs of Wharf and Government Street. While exceptions exist, most of the restaurants in this zone are best reserved for savouring the view and sipping a drink.
If you find yourself wandering the charming downtown streets of Victoria, BC, searching for the best spots to eat, may we suggest a few places the locals love?
Nourish Kitchen & Cafe
For those seeking a culinary experience that embraces the farm-to-table ethos and where healthy equates to mouthwateringly delicious, Nourish Kitchen & Café is a haven of organic and locally sourced ingredients. It’s a beloved brunch spot for health-conscious foodies who don’t want to sacrifice taste for the sake of a nutritious meal. With a menu that caters to various dietary needs, including vegetarian and gluten-free options, Nourish crafts dishes that are as visually appealing as they are palate-pleasing. From vibrant salads to hearty mains, house-made ferments, and herb-boosted beverages, your body and palate will thank you for dining in this vitality-enhancing oasis. Just a short stroll around the harbour and beyond the legislative buildings, the restaurant sits on the cusp of James Bay in a grand old Victorian home that has been thoughtfully updated to impart an atmosphere of cozy and whimsical elegance. If you feel like venturing out of the downtown core, their sister restaurant, Charlotte and the Quail, is equally worth visiting.
Red Fish Blue Fish
This beloved seaside gem is housed in a converted cargo container at the heart of the downtown waterfront. Don’t be deceived by its unassuming appearance. And don’t be put off by the long line-ups; Red Fish Blue Fish serves up some of the freshest and most delectable sustainable seafood dishes in town. From fish tacos bursting with flavour to crispy fish and chips and a cookbook-worthy Asian-fusion chowder, every bite at this wharf-side eatery is a celebration of oceanic delights. Plus, the sustainable practices they uphold will warm any environmentally conscious heart. Nestled amidst the buzzing activity of the Harbour Air float plane terminal and the inner harbour marina, this is one of the most entertaining spots to have an al fresco meal on a warm, sunny day.
Ebizo Japanese Restaurant
Ebizo Japanese Restaurant is a Victoria institution. This humble family-run establishment packs a big punch. For decades, many locals have considered it the best sushi in town. Sushi connoisseurs will revel in the freshness and precision of their offerings, and those fond of traditional Japanese simplicity will appreciate the selection of impeccably prepared standard sushi fare along with dishes like sashimi of local albacore toro and sake-steamed Quadra Island clams. Located two blocks from the inner harbour just off Government Street, this little treasure is a must for anyone wanting to savour fresh seafood from the Pacific North West’s coastal waters. Worth noting is that the kitchen closes at 8 pm and they are always busy. We recommend making reservations for lunch or dinner.
Bodega Tapa Wine Bar
Bodega Tapa Wine Bar is the place to go when the urge for small plates and a European atmosphere strikes. Tucked away on the corner of charming Trounce Alley, a block east of Government Street, this busy, little establishment captures the essence of tapas culture with its array of hot and cold dishes, Spanish wines and one of Canada’s most extensive sherry selections. From stuffed piquillo peppers to the rotating selection of daily pincho boards, each bite evokes the satisfying and delicious vibe characteristic of casual Spanish dining. Open lunch through dinner and well into the evening, this tried and true trendy spot is a staple among locals who love happy hour and late night bites.
Wind Cries Mary
Wind Cries Mary, a vibrant gem tucked away in the heart of Bastion Square. This (rumoured to be haunted) historic building’s lower level has been a restaurant for eons. Before the renovation that generated this comfortably sophisticated, multi-room restaurant, the space was home to one of Victoria’s longest-running top restaurants. This stylish farm-to-table eatery serves ever-changing roster of dishes defined as “coastal cabin food for modern times.” Served family-style, plates are meant to be shared rather than eaten solo – which makes this a great place to frequent in groups.
Focusing on locally sourced ingredients, Wind Cries Mary invites you to embark on a shared flavour adventure infused with a refined yet laid-back, West Coast feel. If you’re doing solo travel, don’t be deterred by the sharing vibe; this is one of our favourite bars for enjoying drinks and smaller plates. If you’re there in warmer months, be sure to check out the charming back courtyard.
Eva Schnitzel Haus
You may be thinking, “schnitzel?” Yes, schnitzel! Sometimes, the allure of comfort food is simply irresistible, and that’s where Eva Schnitzel Haus shines. Their contemporary take on classic German-inspired fare prepared with fresh bounty from the Pacific Northwest garnered them YAM Magazine’s 2022 Best New Restaurant of the Year. This homey little restaurant specializes in the art of schnitzel and family heritage-inspired Austro-German classics like spaetzle, raclette, smoked or pickled fish and bratwurst. They can even make your schnitzel gluten-free! A word to the wise, the schnitzel portions are large, so you may want to share. Ask your server for advice on that. With generous portions and a cozy atmosphere, Eva Schnitzel Haus brings the spirit of European comfort food to the heart of Victoria’s historic Chinatown.
Found at the periphery of downtown’s tourist epicenter, this local institution is not to be missed. Brassrie L’École, or “Brass” as the locals affectionately call it, stands as a culinary bastion that pays homage to the timeless traditions of French brasseries. It just might be the most beloved restaurant of Victoria foodies. Reminiscent of a Parisian bistro, the dark wood panelling, vintage mirrors, and soft ambient lighting set the stage for a nostalgic yet contemporary experience. The clinking of cutlery and din of patrons engaged in lively conversation create a symphony of conviviality. The menu is filled with classic French fare executed with unpretentious finesse. From the moules frites and rotating selection of prime steak cuts to the bistro burger (touted by many as the best they have ever eaten), each dish is a satisfying classic that beckons dinners to come back again and again and again.
In a city like Victoria, where tourism thrives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mediocre, overpriced eateries. But with this guide, you can savour some of downtown’s foodie highlights. From the fresh fish tacones at Red Fish Blue Fish to the Sleeping Beauty Pancakes at Nourish, each restaurant on this list promises a stand-out culinary experience that will make your visit unforgettable.