Food

The Blanshard and Fort Food Market!

Every time I walk down the 700 block of Fort Street or the 1000 block of Blanshard, there is some new new place to eat and it is rarely anything boring. Just in the last few months the area has seen a new bahn mi place, a very bright and welcoming tea shop and a cool photo themed coffee house. Go for another walk in a month and there will be a couple more places that have never been tried. This is the Blanshard-Fort Food Market!

The Market is bound by Broughton on the south, Douglas on the West, View on the North and Quadra on the East. Along these four blocks of commercial buildings you will find over thirty-five different eateries, cafes and stores representing at least twelve nationalities. You can literally eat along here everyday and not get anywhere close to being bored.

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Walking along the sidewalk you could be fooled into thinking that this area has always been like this, but it hasn’t. Even fifteen years ago, the area was dominated by shops selling various wares, vacant store fronts and a couple of bakeries. The growth of the market has been fuelled by a number of different things coming together in the right way.

First, it is likely that the loss of some brick and mortar stores due to the rise of the internet caused an increasing number of the storefronts to be vacant. This further depressed the lease costs on the increasing amount of empty spaces.

The second key to the birth of the Food Market is the general nature of the commercial spaces that dominate the area. The actual store fronts are very small and there are a lot of them. The size of the places would make the shops less expensive than a larger space, this gives new business owners a lower threshold to start-up and likely to try things that are a little more adventurous. The bonus that this creates for the pedestrian is that the different restaurants are closer together. It also creates a vitality that you are not going to get in an area that has a lot of gaps between the different spaces. It is interesting that likely the largest commercial space on any of these four blocks has remained empty for years since Staples left.

Small commercial spaces all close together are great for pedestrians!

Small commercial spaces all close together are great for pedestrians!

A third reason that this area has been successful is the increase in population both in Harris Green and Downtown. As I have said in many different contexts, the secret ingredient to great neighbourhoods is having enough people to create vibrancy. For a good food district to survive you need a mix of daytime office workers and nighttime residents. We are just now beginning to see the benefit of the condos and apartments built over the last decade. As the next wave of buildings finishes they will have a greater impact that will benefit all of us.

The final spark that led to the Blanshard-Fort Market was that there were already a few amazing long time food places in the area. Some of those old stalwarts include the Dutch Bakery, Bond Bond’s and the Italian Deli. So people wanting something good to eat were already drawn to the area. It was natural for other restaurants to open nearby.

With the redevelopments occurring along the 800 block Fort Street, I hope that the City has taken note of the unique attributes of this food zone and will ensure that the new commercial spaces are not built too far apart and that we don’t see anything at the ground floor like an office to break-up the wonderful flow we have now.

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As I said, this area is dynamic so this list is likely to change by the day, still here are a couple of current favourite places in the Blanshard-Fort Food Market.

Current Favs

If you want tacos, you have three great choices but if I am going to choose just one I will go with La Taqueria.

If you want noodles, you can choose between at least two Pho places, one Chinese noodle places and a great ramen place. My favourite is definitely Menbow Ramen along the 1000 block of Blanshard but don’t let that limit you.

For baked treats you can visit the Dutch Bakery, Bond Bond’s or Crust. If you read my Bakery post you know I have a soft spot for Crust but I still go to the other two places for some specific treats.

For a quick snack it would be hard to beat the new Ba Le Bahn Mi place that has recently opened up. It is fast, cheap and delicious.

If you want coffee, there is the obvious with Starbucks right in the middle but I definitely love Discovery Coffee at the corner of Broughton and Blanshard. I have not yet had a chance to try the brand new Bokeh Cafe but it certainly looks appealing from a walk by. There is also Dak and the Ground Control Cafe so lots of options for your caffeine fix.

A couple more that I love are Choux Choux Charcuterie, the Italian Deli, Chorizo and Co., Yalla and the Pink Bicycle. Of course, being completely honest I have maybe only tried half the places along here so I am likely missing out big time.

What are your favourite places in the Blanshard-Fort Food Market? Which place should be at the top of my list for next week?

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The Amazing Victoria Brewery Tour

While I was in university I lived on Wark Street. The building was not the nicest but it was inexpensive and the view it had looking west towards the Sooke Hills was amazing. One of my favourite things about living there was that being only four blocks to the east of the Vancouver Island Brewery and on a bit of a rise meant that when they were boiling the wort the smell would carry right into the apartment. Back then, there were a couple of small brewpubs, but really only the one craft brewery and Vancouver Island Brewery was it.

The latter half of the 1990’s was the beginning of what has become an astounding beer revolution, not just in Victoria, but across North America. That said, given our city’s size I think we have one of the most rich and long lived beer cultures that you will find on the continent. A further bonus is that due to the compact nature of the city, a large number of the breweries are within just a short walk of each other. If we were in Europe or even in Oregon, the breweries of Victoria would be one of the main tourist attractions, however, for some reason we have decided to leave it a little more hidden than it deserves.

Now I know that the list and walk I have here does not include every brewery in the city; I have included just a certain list that fits within a somewhat linear walk along a specific corridor. It leaves off the historical Spinnakers Brewpub, that can be argued really is the birthplace of the craft brewery movement in Victoria and even Canada. It certainly doesn’t cover off ones out on the Peninsula or on the Westshore, because well they are just too far…

The other thing about this walking guide is that I in no way think that you could make your way along its entire length in one go tasting as you went safely. Perhaps it is a two day walk or maybe just have tastings at half the venues along the way. No matter what when you go on a brewery tour or a wine tour you need to use common sense. With that said, here we go.

The Great Victoria Brewery Walking Tour

To begin the walk you need to get yourself to the corner of Garbally Road and Bridge Street at the northern edge of the Rock Bay neighbourhood (at least as I define Victoria). If you are wanting to have something to eat before getting down to the walk, you could have brunch at Glo Pub which has a brunch on the weekend starting at 10am. You may want some food in your stomach before getting to the first locale. Either way be at the starting point for noon on a Saturday or 3pm on a weekday (I have put the opening times for each place there so you can plan accordingly).

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Ile Sauvage Brewing

Wednesday to Friday 3pm to 10pm, Saturday Noon to 10pm, Sunday Noon to 8pm, Monday and Tuesday Closed

The Ile Sauvage Brewery is the newest brewery on this list though surely not the newest in Victoria by the time you are reading as there seems to be a new one every other week. They have moved into the space formerly housing one of the Prima Strada Pizzerias. It looks like a light industrial building from the outside but once you enter the tasting room there is a modern bar and the rest of the room holds numerous wooden kegs of their unique take on beer.

This brewery is for now producing mainly “Belgian-style wild ales and sour beers”. I have tried a couple of them and they are truly unique in my experience of beers. I am having the Apricot Golden Sour as I write this and it is one of the most varied beers I have tried. Sour, fruity, but really no sweetness. It is delicious.

When you sit down you can order a flight of beers to be able to try a range of their options and then you can settle in for a favourite in a bigger glass. They also have a number of their beers available to purchase in big 946ml cans in a fridge next to the bar.

When you have had a good selection of choices at Ile Sauvage you will head back out to Bridge Street, turn right and head down the hill. Make sure you take an opportunity to enjoy the view of downtown as you go down the road. As you get to the bottom of the hill you will see a number of the murals that seem to be appearing across Rock Bay (there are some even more amazing ones off the trail about a block to the west of this point). Past the City Works Yard you will start to see a number of windows covered with beer ads and that means you have reached the next stop.

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Hoyne Brewing Company

Monday to Saturday 11am to 6pm, Sunday Closed

Now I don’t want to sway anyone’s opinion, but I really like Hoyne. Their pilsner is my go-to pint when I am out at local pubs. The entrance to their store is right by the “Fresh Beer Here” sign on the sidewalk. They do not have a full tasting room and bar like Ile Sauvage, but you can try some samples and get some beer to go if you want. Popping in here for growler fill is a regular Friday afternoon task for many people in the city.

They are also no brewery tours here but it is a no nonsense brewery that makes amazing beer so, you don’t really want to get in the way of that do you?

When you step back outside, you are going to go right and then turn up Hillside Avenue and walk just to the next building up the hill. You will know where to enter when you see the giant tank dressed up like a Russian rocket. You have arrived at Driftwood Brewery.

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Driftwood Brewery

Monday to Saturday 11am to 6pm, Sunday Closed

Driftwood has been around since 2008 in the same location but they keep making their brewery bigger and bigger. I can remember my first time trying their Fat Tug IPA. That is not a beer to mess with, it is a seriously strong ale. You just have to be careful with it. Some of their other ales are a little more forgiving and still delicious. Like Hoyne, there is no tasting room or brewery tours here but you can certainly have a sample of what is on tap and take something home for later from here. I know that you will want to come back and try some more of their options. Driftwood, also like Hoyne has a significant presence in restaurants locally and in Vancouver. While there is no physical tour, I highly recommend the virtual tour on their website, it is totally fun to move around their operation.

When you step back out to the sidewalk you will turn right and walk up the hill to Turner Street and then turn left. When you get to Bay Street you will want to turn right and part way along the next block you will come to the Moon Brewery and Pub.

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Moon Brewery & Pub

Sunday 11:30am to 8pm, Monday to Thursday and Saturday 11:30am to 11pm, Friday 11:30am to midnight

The Moon Brewery & Pub originally opened as the Moon Under the Water Brewpub which was a reference to the article by George Orwell describing the perfect pub which was written in 1946. At some point over the last few years since it opened they have changed to just the Moon Brewery & Pub which is not quite as unique but likely a little less obscure and understandable to people (I prefer the old name…). That said, no matter what name they use this is a great place and a good point on the walk to have a little something to eat. The food here is always delicious, especially their hot wings.

Like Ile Sauvage, you can sit down here and order a flight of their current selection of beers they have on tap. When your food arrives, make sure you order a pint to go with it of whichever was your favourite. They are known for their German style beers as well as a number of sours again like Ile Sauvage. If you are looking for a fun evening, the music trivia nights are a well loved event for locals.

So hopefully you have had a little something else to eat, okay now you get a bit of a walk as it is about 700 metres to the next location, Vancouver Island Brewing Company. You will want to walk east along Bay Street until you get to Government Street. For some fun stops along the way, if you are into design the Gabriel Ross Furniture Store on the corner of Bay and Rock Bay Avenue is stunning both inside and out. If you are a frequent reader you may recognise the tiny park on the corner of Bay and Government as the Saddest Public Space in Victoria! As you walk down Government towards downtown, the first building you will come across is Vancouver Island Brewing.

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Vancouver Island Brewing

Sunday to Thursday 11am to 6pm, Friday to Saturday 11am to 7pm

So this is one of the originals, according to their website, they started up in 1984, which would put them just behind the opening of Spinnakers Brewpub, though they were originally known as Island Pacific Brewing. When I moved to Victoria in 1995, the Pipers Pale Ale and Victoria Lager were really the only local craft beers you could buy when you were out, but they were good and people did buy them. By the time Lighthouse and Phillips were starting up, Vancouver Island was almost seen as the old-fashioned establishment beer to the new trendy start-ups, but they have shaken that image a little in the last few years, mostly because they aren’t the biggest any more with Phillips easily out-sizing them years ago.

For longtime islanders, having a glass of the Hermannator at Christmastime is an annual tradition. Many of their new beers are even more adventurous and follow many of the recent trends in beers with quite a few saison and even a gose. There is a nice tasting room right when you walk into the brewery and you can go on a tour of the brewery if you would like to here. You can even see those giant kettles that used to boil the smell of the mash into my old apartment. After a trying a couple of the options that they have on tap you will want to get back on Government Street and keep walking south. Once you cross Pembroke you are in Phillips Brewing territory. Almost this entire block is owned by Phillips and the various parts are used for different aspects of this beer empire.

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Phillips Brewing and Malting Company

Sunday to Wednesday Noon to 8pm, Thursday to Saturday Noon to 10pm

Phillips Brewing is the undoubted king of the local beer scene, it is huge and always coming out with new and exciting beers to try. It is also at the centre of the beer culture in the city, hosting massive music and food events. It wasn’t always that way. Matt Phillips, the owner, started out as a one man operation back in 2001.

I have my own disputed part of this beer history. When I was working as the Manager of a restaurant named Wickard’s in 2002 we decided to give Phillips beer a chance along with the Lighthouse beers we already had on tap. This would have been spring 2002, now somewhere around the same time the Garrick’s Head Pub also put Phillips on tap. So while I maintain that we were first, I am certain we were no less than second to put this brewery on our taps. While the Espresso Stout was not a huge sell over that summer, the Raspberry Wheat Ale was extremely popular.

On the corner of Bay and Discovery, Phillips has recently completed the construction of a huge tasting room. It is often bustling with locals and tourists but they will definitely have room for you. Just across the street from the tasting room was home to the Victoria-Phoenix Brewery which has been immortalised in the Phillips Phoenix Lager. The brewery building was actually a beautifully ornate building that for some reason the City allowed Labatt to tear down in 1982, just before the beginning of the beer revolution starting here.

After you have sampled a couple of the options at Phillips you can head back out to Government Street and continue south. Two blocks further along you will get to Herald Street where you will want to turn right. Go straight to the end of the street, crossing Store Street on your way and you will find yourself at the top of a set of stairs next to a large brick building. Before heading down the stairs make sure you take in the great view of the upper harbour from here.

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Canoe Brewpub

Sunday to Wednesday 11:30am to 11pm, Thursday 11:30am to midnight, Friday & Saturday 11:30am to 1am

The brick building that houses the Canoe Brewpub is known as the City Lights building and it used to be a power generation building in the late 1800’s. I have more on it in my post on adaptive re-use here. When the brewpub first opened it was known as the Canoe Club Brewpub, at some point over the last twenty years the ‘club’ was dropped from the name. While the beer here is not perhaps as cutting edge as others in the city, it is solid drinkable beer. Some local beer greats like Sean Hoyne of Hoyne Brewing have worked here.

Like the Moon Brewpub, this a local hangout, especially on the weekend if you want to see some music and have a fun night of dancing all while drinking great beer. While you taste your flight here make sure you take in the amazing architecture of the place, it is likely the coolest restaurant space in Victoria. The food here is also great and the patio outside in the summer is perhaps one of the best ones along the water anywhere downtown.

Once you are done here, walk out to the left and head up Swift Street back to Store Street, cross the street and then head south but just one block to Swans Brewpub and Hotel.

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Swans Brewery and Pub

Monday to Saturday 11am to 1am, Sunday 11am to midnight

Swans is another early home to the craft beer movement here in Victoria, opening in 1989. The beers here, like Canoe, are maybe not as adventurous as some of the other breweries but they are good and the cozy traditional feel of the pub makes having a beer here a great experience. The entire pub is going through a renovation right now so I have not seen how that transformation is changing the pub but will have to soon.

After you have dropped your last sip here you have made it through the beer walk.

If you are still wanting to try some more beer after Swans, just across the street is the Drake Pub which has one of the most eclectic and dynamic beer menus in the city. You are always certain to find something both unique and delicious to try here.

So let me know in the comments which place is your favourite? If it is not on the list let me know as well!

Finding the Best Cafe in Victoria

Like most of the cities in this part of the world, Victoria has a myriad of great places to go for coffee. In fact, when compared to places like Vancouver and Seattle, there might be more great cafes in Victoria per capita than you will find in those cities. One of the amazing things about even my short walk to work, is that I can choose from several cafes to get my morning coffee and if I changed my walk in almost any direction there would be an equal amount of places where I could get a coffee that suits my taste and if I wanted, it would mostly likely come with an intricate design in the steamed milk.

I love coffee, but I am the first to admit that what I want out of my coffee may be very different from what most people want. I like my coffee dark and strong, so strong that you can almost feel a resistance when you’re stirring milk into it. So for me, as a first, a coffee shop has to serve dark strong coffee. Like the coffee, the cafe itself has to have a certain vibe and look that will make me to want to stay and spend some time rather than just grab my coffee and leave. It has to be big enough for people to move around, hopefully with the coffee bar in the middle of the room so you can circulate around it a bit. There should always be some different types of seating options so that you can sit at a bar on a stool or maybe in a booth with a friend. There should be at least one but maybe more than one little nook so that you can hide away from everyone. They don’t all, but most will have high ceilings, which gives it a more open feel. Of course, it has to do all this and not be pretentious or at least not too much.

So yes, I am pretty picky about what I like in a coffee shop and based on my taste above, here is a list of my favourite cafes in and around downtown Victoria. Please keep in mind that this list is not saying that the cafe that you love is not amazing! It may be that I have never been there or maybe it is not in the area that I walk around in Victoria. I would love to hear about your favourite cafe and why in the comments below. With that said, here are my favourites.

Discovery Coffee - Blanshard and Broughton

Discovery Coffee has been a hipster coffee favourite for many years. They have quite a few locations, with the first one being on its namesake Discovery Street. While the original shop has a unique charm, it is a more recent location that is one of my favourite coffee shops in the city. The Discovery Coffee at Blanshard and Broughton is visually stunning, with its stark black and white interior and its bright yellow chairs on the patio. The coffee here is always good and the space inside has lots of different options for you depending on whether you are there by yourself or meeting a friend. The outside patio is huge, maybe one of the biggest in the city, and it adds a lot of vibrancy to this area of downtown. I expect that this will be a popular summer venue for many years.

Habit - Blanshard and Yates

Habit Coffee has two locations and depending on your mood you would definitely choose one over the other. The lower Pandora location is the original and it has a quiet artsy, almost intellectual vibe. Their other location at Blanshard and Yates is bright, loud and dynamic. It is a great coffee shop and even in this small fishbowl like space there are places to hide, which makes this shop a winner for me. The coffee is always good and if you need to meet up with someone, almost everyone in the city knows where Habit is due to its unique spot on the corner of Blanshard and Yates Street. There is a nice little patio area on the Yates street side and if you need a quieter space, you can almost always duck into the main lobby of the Atrium building and sit at one of the communal tables in there, this space has a kind of student study hall vibe to it. If you haven’t been to Habit I would highly suggest to try out either location, however the Yates and Blanshard one is where I generally go.

Koffi

Koffi

Koffi - Haultain and Belmont

I have spoken about Koffi before in my Haultain Corners article. It has to be the best coffee shop in one of the most bizarre places in Victoria. Of course, this just proves my point that there are great places wherever you go in the city. Koffi makes you want to go there, with its stark orange furniture outside of the simple modernist building. Once you go in, you can tell that it is not just a great coffee shop but also that it is a central hub for the community, I love the way that the posters about local events surround the coffee bar.

As is required, there is the necessary assortment of seating options, including big comfy couches. Koffi is a summertime favourite of mine for its iced mochas which they manage to keep very chocolatey while not making it overly sweet.

Macchiato - Blanshard and Johnson

Just across the street from Habit is Macchiato. This coffee shop is way less in your face than either Habit or Discovery coffee and it has a little bit of old world class to it that those other two places don’t have. Like Habit, Macchiato has another older location, this one is in Old Town and is also very nice, though quite small. What I love about Macchiato is the high ceilings and despite being in a relatively new space, the cafe feels timeless. The design is supposed to be all about Italy and the menu follows suit with that theme. Still, whenever you go there it feels like you are going somewhere fancy despite it costing the same as any other cafe (it may be the need that I have to walk past Tim Hortons on my way there…) and the coffee is delicious and the food is also really good.

The Parsonage - Cook and Caledonia

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The Parsonage has been a North Park staple for decades, though in the last couple of years it went through a major transition. Originally, the cafe was on North Park Street just east of Cook Street, but with new owners wanting to increase the size they did a two hop transition to a new location on the corner of Cook and Caledonia (two hop because the Parsonage moved to Fernwood for a year while the new location was built). I will say that the owners have done an excellent job of bringing the look and feel of the old location to the new one while still updating and enlarging the space. The theme is definitely Danish Modern with clean light wood panelling throughout the space. I personally would love to see the blank space covered in black and photographs to break up some of the wooden monotony, but it is a cool place nonetheless. The coffee is very good and is also a great place to stop in for something to eat. I am looking forward to seeing how the cafe really enlivens that corner of North Park Village during the summer months.

Union Pacific - Herald and Government

Union Pacific on Herald Street

Union Pacific on Herald Street

The Union Pacific coffee shop on Herald Street is probably more like Koffi than any of the other shops on here even though from its looks inside and out you would never connect the two. Yet, Union Pacific is a true community coffee shop where those that go there really only want to go there. The decor is pre-war hipster with a lot of Edison lights strung across the ceiling and large wooden farm tables to share communally. The warmth from the lights and the wood makes it feel cozy. One of the best parts of Union Pacific is the amazing patio that backs out into Dragon Alley that stretches over to Chinatown. The patio is surrounded by brick with clematis growing up over top. It is a wonderful retreat for lunch on a summer day downtown and inside the cafe is a great place on gloomy winter days.

So if we have gotten to the end of the list and you haven’t seen your favourite place, let me know which cafe it is and why it is so good!

The Best Bakery in Victoria

When people imagine Victoria, most have images of our coffee culture, but that is really just a Cascadia thing right? One thing that doesn't spring to mind is a crunchy baguette or sweet lemon curd tart, yet maybe it should. In a very small area of Victoria, just in and around downtown, we have one of the most amazing selections of bakeries I have ever seen in a city.  

Like my ramen post, this is not about which bakery is the best, in part because depending on what you want you may want to go to more than one, it's also because what I like is going to be very different from you, so you will just need to try each of them out for yourself. 

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Thinking about bakeries is not super health focused, but I love, absolutely love, baked goods. From an amazing piece of french bread with butter, to cinnamon buns and sausage rolls. If there is a way to get gluten into my system in a tasty way than I am interested. 

I work downtown, which means near my office building are numerous amazing bakeries, maybe even too many. This is a list of some of the ones I love. That also means that this is not an exhaustive list, nor does it mean because a bakery is not on here, that it isn't good, I probably just haven't been there yet. So here we go (Click on the Bakery Names for more info).

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Patisserie Daniel

The first bakery I walk by in the day, with the smell of cinnamon and fresh baked bread grabbing you right on the sidewalk. This must be one of the bakeries that has been around the longest and it is one of my favourites. The cinnamon buns here are messy, gooey and amazing. They make a great treat to bring into the office in the morning. The apple almond croissants are also a good choice. We have also had a couple of cakes from here for the family and they have been superb!

Wildfire Bakery

Wildfire is usually the second bakery that I pass by on my way to work. Again the smell gets you right away with a mix of wood fire smoke and browning crust blowing down Mason Street, by the time you get there you want to go in. They have a good selection of bread and if you want a nice pizza for lunch you really can't go wrong here. I have also been known to get one of their lemon meringue tarts as a pick me up on a rainy day. 

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The French Oven Bakery

One of the newer bakeries in town, though it has been there for a couple of years now in the Victoria Public Market. The French Oven has a ton of goods, both savoury and sweet. The key lime tarts here are great and though I have not tried them, a friend of mine has recommended the pizza dough they have to take home. This bakery also has a ton of seating so if you want to stop for a coffee with your treat you can certainly do that. 

Bond Bond's

Bond Bond's is one of the longest lived bakeries in Downtown Victoria. It opened in 1992 and has been a popular place since then. Many other cafes downtown use some of their treats. My absolute favourite goodies here are the Victoria Pistachio Bar and the Cinnamon Cross. If they only sold these two items I think they could be a successful venture, though apparently they do have other things. 

Crust

Another relatively new addition to the downtown bakery scene, though it has been in place a for a few years. Crust took over a location from the long lived Rhineland Bakery, though I do not think there is any connection between the two. The first thing you will notice about Crust is their absolutely stunning display window. You cannot walk past this window with no thought of stopping in to get a small treat. Crust has many amazing things both sweet and savoury and I have yet to have anything less than amazing, though I will say that their pastries are very rich, which may mean you will need to share. This is our go-to bread bakery for home and the sausage rolls here are delicious. There is a little bit of room to sit down but I find that it is generally so busy that all that space is used up by customers waiting to buy something. 

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The Dutch Bakery

The Dutch Bakery is a Victoria institution. This bakery is now being run by the third generation of the Schaddelee family, who originally opened it up in 1956. If there is a longer running bakery in Victoria, I am unaware of it. For me my favourite thing about the Dutch Bakery are all the little petit fours. The tricky thing is finding a place to eat them and keep your dignity. I have never eaten in the diner portion of the Dutch Bakery but I have heard that it is pretty amazing. Like Crust just up the road, it is hard to not be captivated by the goods in the window. 

Bubby Rose's Bakery

Bubby Rose's serves as part bakery and part neighbourhood gathering place. Located on the south east corner of downtown, the city is starting to give way to Fairfield and there isn't another cafe until you get to Cook Street Village. If you come by here at pretty much any time of day during the week or on the weekend you will see a place with both those stopping by to get something and others having a big bowl of soup or a sandwich. The frozen pizza dough here is great to pick up for making your own pizzas for dinner and the raspberry cream cheese croissants are delicious. 

So that is my list and you are stunned to not see your favourite on it. Which one do I need to try and what do I need to get there?

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Finding the Best Ramen in Victoria

Momofuku Ramen in New York City

When it comes to ramen, I have a bit of a problem. What I didn't say in my last post on New York, was that I really only had one thing on my to-do list for the trip, visit Momofuku Ramen. My very kind girlfriend did let me indulge and it was delicious. 

It was not too long ago when you had to go on a trip to enjoy good ramen. Victoria had some places where you could slurp some udon, pho or even real Chinese noodles, but if you wanted legitimate ramen you were out of luck. In the past couple of years this has changed and we now have quite a few great options. There are even a few that I have not been able to try and likely a few that I might not even know about. 

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Rather than do a list of my favourites from one to five I thought to encourage people to go and try some different options for themselves, this is simply a listing of a few of my favourites in no particular order. If I have missed one that you think is amazing please leave a comment so that I can give it a try. 

Kuma Noodle Japan

Kuma Noodle has been around for quite a while and was the first place I had ramen in Victoria where I felt like I was getting the real thing. While the location is a little out of the way at Shelbourne and Cedar Hill X Road, it is worth the trip. I think that the location was chosen to be close to the students at UVic. This place uses a delicious chicken broth and generally has amazing noodles. Once or twice I have been there and the noodles were slightly over cooked for me but only a little bit. The staff are great and the clientele is young. It is often quite busy and seating is limited so there can be a line-up but it is worth the wait. The ramen eggs here are delicious!

Foo Ramen Bar

Foo Asian Street Food is close to my work, so it has been an easy option for lunch for many years. On occasion they used to do an amazing pork ramen as a special, so when I heard that they were opening a stand alone ramen bar a few years ago, I was excited. This noodle bar is located just off Blanshard, on Broughton Street. The pork broth is excellent and the noodles are decent as well. They add a good amount of pork belly to the soup which is delicious. The one thing that some traditionalists may find odd is the addition of a large variety of vegetables like carrot. Still on the whole a good choice downtown. Foo Ramen has even less seating than Kuma so if you are there at a busy time of day, you are going to have to wait. 

Pork Belly Ramen at Bao

Bao

Bao is one of the two newest places on the list and is not actually just a ramen place, but I felt that I had to include them here. It is on Fisgard Street where the Noodle Box was. They seem to almost always have ramen on the menu and it is delicious. The one that I have had is the pork belly ramen. Compared to the amount of meat you get at Foo, Bao is significantly less. The broth is, however, delicious though on the saltier end of the spectrum. The real winning part of the dish is that the noodles were cooked perfectly. I have heard that they also do a delicious seafood ramen though I tend to stick to the pork or chicken broths myself. The marinated eggs here are also amazing. As far as cost goes this is at the top end of the list at fifteen dollars. Most run you about thirteen dollars.

Menbow Miso Tonkatsu Ramen

Menbow Ramen Bar

Menbow is the newest addition to the ramen scene in Victoria. It located on Blanshard Street in the amazing 1000 block foodie mecca that has developed. I just visited for the first time a couple of weeks ago and was blown away. I had the miso ramen in a delicious pork broth. The toppings were amazing, with a good amount of pork. To make the trip even better, both the broth and the noodles were exactly how I like them. I will definitely be going back here soon. 

Ox King Noodles

Ox King has been around for awhile. It is located in the carriageway across from the Hudson Market downtown. While not a traditional Japanese ramen place, it is still delicious. Ox King is more of a mix of a Chinese noodle place and a ramen shop. Most of the seating is at the counter and they have a big selection of food. Last time I went I had the spicy beef ramen. It was delicious and had some of the best noodles I have had in Victoria. The staff are also really friendly and want to make sure your order is exactly how you want it. This is a great fast place if you are looking for something on your lunch break.

The ramen scene in Victoria seems to finally have arrived. I am hoping that we see few more places open up over the next few months. In the meantime, try these places out and let me know what you think. If I missed a place that is amazing, please let me know!