Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vegan Food in Victoria, BC

For the last five days, Logan and I have been eating vegan food in Victoria like there's no tomorrow, as well as enjoying the company of friends and loving the natural beauty of Vancouver Island.  It's a little bit of a hike to get to Victoria, but once you're there, it's so worth it.  As a first-timer to the west coast, I've distinctly noticed how different the vibe is from other places I've traveled to - very laid back and soft.

And the food - oh, the food!  Finding vegan food in Victoria was super easy, and I can't wait to visit again to enjoy more epic noms.  In this post, I've laid out the six places we visited - none are straight-up vegan establishments, but all are very vegan-friendly and delicious.  In fact, I didn't have a single bad meal the entire time I was in Victoria.

1. Hernande'z on Yates St.

When we heard that Victoria had a Mexican place to eat, and that vegan cookbook author and resident Victorian Sarah Kramer loves their food, we knew we had to go.  There were a couple of easily veganized options on their quick lunch menu - the Burrito "Clasico", filled with seasoned black beans, yellow rice, greens and salsa, and thBurrito de Calabacita, which had all of the above in addition to slow-cooked zucchini.  

Burritos never look like much, but this was probably the best burrito I've ever eaten.  Ever.  It was perfectly seasoned and super flavorful.  My only minor complaint was its lack of spiciness - I like me some fire in my Mexican food!  But this was a great, quick meal for veggie folk.  Score one for Victoria.

2. The Reef Caribbean Restaurant

The Reef is a mainly omnivorous restaurant, but they have several menu items that are vegan, and which were fantastically delicious.  We all ate Trini Roti, the Ital version, with yummy curried veggies like potatoes and carrots.  Here's my plate, which doesn't quite convey the scale of this food - I was full after eating half of one, along with some yam fries, plantain chips and vegan coleslaw.

T'was a fantastic meal, made complete by the yam fries (not pictured), plantain chips and beer.  And Rowan's being all mystified by water in the background.

3. Blue Nile East African Restaurant

This Ethiopian restaurant looks totally unassuming on the outside, all small and modest and hidden in the midst of a little strip mall.  The all-you-can-eat buffet inside, however, was bold and delicious.  There were plenty of vegan options on the menu, with various lentil, split pea and vegetable dishes abound.  My favorites were the Bursen Tumtumo, red lentils in a spicy berebere sauce, and Hamli Zebhi, flavorful spinach with garlic and ginger and other "exotic spices".  However, everything was amazing and I was disappointed that my stomach filled up so soon.  I envied John, who went back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths!

Logan's plate, heaping and emanating yum, with some injera hanging out off to the side.  Injera, a spongy sour bread made from teff flour, is what you use for cutlery in Ethiopian cuisine.  Rowan, meanwhile, was eyeing up everyone's plates and certainly ate his fair share.

4. Cafe Bliss - Raw Food Restaurant

I just had to visit Victoria's own raw food restaurant.  Their menu has many tempting offerings from juice to smoothies and mylkshakes, to entrees like pizza, noodle bowls and "BLT" sandwiches.  They also have a gorgeous dessert display, though at least half of them were made with honey, including the chocolates and cakes, so I was sadfaced about that.

I had a lovely salad with a mix of greens, pea shoots, cucumber, beets, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, olives and an orange miso kelp dressing.  It was as good as it looks - I figure you can always trust a raw restaurant to serve you up a snazzy salad.

Along with the salad, I had a raw cracker and a tomato-based vegetable soup.  It was served in a tiny little mason jar, which is a great way to cut down on plastic.  If you return it when you're done, you get $1 back.  The soup was flavorful and spicy and got an A+ from me.

Logan had a pizza with tomato marinara, cashew "cheeze" and brazil nut parmesan, with greens and veggies.  Though he wasn't too keen on the crunchiness of the crust, he said the whole package was really tasty.

Natalie met up with us for lunch and had the "BLT", which was served on their soft homemade onion bread, and had marinated and dehydrated zucchini to stand in for the bacon.  She let me try a piece and it was chewy and flavorful - I didn't know you could get zucchini to do that!

Later in the afternoon, we came back for a snack - an orange creamsicle "mylkshake", made with their homemade cashew ice cream and almond milk.  It was as tasty as it sounds, and if I lived in Victoria, I would be prompt about sampling their other mylkshake flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

5. Pink Sugar Cupcakery

An *almost* all-vegan cupcakery beckoned us on our downtown adventures...

Called "Pink Sugar", it was super girly and stuff, but that didn't deter Logan.

Look at that cute little display!  The only non-vegan cupcake was the mancake selection they had, made with honey.  But with flavors like the Elvis Banana Cake and the Toasted Coconut Cream Cake, Logan wasn't too choked up about not being able to get the more manly of cupcakes.

I ended up getting the Lolla Lee Lou Cupcake, which was a vanilla cupcake filled with a coconut lavender cream, topped with a lemony cream cheese frosting.  Logan had the cupcake of the month, which was the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake.  Both were very generous on the frosting and incredibly sweet, but delicious.  And come on.  I come from Regina, Saskatchewan - being able to buy cute vegan cupcakes is such a novelty.

6. Solstice Cafe

Since we were full from our raw food lunch at Cafe Bliss, we didn't get to enjoy Solstice Cafe in all of its vegan-friendly glory, but we did make sure to visit for dessert, where they had plenty of options in the form of cookies, cakes, muffins and bars.  I've heard they also have good vegan lunch items - maybe next time we're in Victoria we'll check it out.

Deciding what to get was a tough decision, but I came down on the side of good ol' carrot cake.  Logan went for the chocolate espresso brownie - don't they both look awesome?  They were glorious.  I'm not going to get over the sheer awesomeness of easily finding vegan treats anytime soon.

My impression, after hanging out there for five days, is that finding vegan food in Victoria is easy peasy.  There are tons of choices everywhere, and the best part is that even conventional establishments seem to know what veganism is.  If you say, "hi, we're vegan," the typical blank stare is nowhere to be seen - at least where I went.  Instead, we received, "Okay, so you don't want butter on the pita?  And our fries are cooked in the same oil as fish - do you still want them?"  

Also, food aside, it's just a really nice, pleasant city.  Downtown is fun, lively and safe, and it's got lots of natural beauty both in the city and outside of it.  It's pretty much a Canadian hippy paradise.

High five, Victoria.  High five.


  1. You missed some of the best places! Green Cuisine ( is an all-vegan buffet, but they had a big fire a couple months ago, and unfortunately they're still closed. If you come back later, though, check them out. They also have a whole array of vegan desserts (cookies, brownies, nanaimo bars, etc).

    But if I could only recommend one place, it would be Lotus Pond! It's an all-vegan Chinese food place, with an amazing buffet (the sweet and sour tofu balls are incredible).

    OOh, I almost forgot about The Joint! They have vegan pizza (with Daiya cheese)! You can also get vegan calzones, pasta, etc. They even have vegan pizza by the slice, and some vegan cookies and things.

    Rebar is a restaurant that used to be a lot more vegan, but now it just has a few vegan options. Still, it's worth a visit, and they have some pretty good vegan brownies, if I remember right.

    (Yes, I am quite happy living in Victoria.)

  2. Thank you so much for this informative comment! I was really choked about Green Cuisine - we walked by it many a time and it looked like it would have been such a great place to eat.

    The only reason we didn't go to lotus pond is that the friends we were staying with can't have any soy. The joint also sounded wonderful but we ran out of time! Sadface.

  3. Caribbean and East African food? I think I am hopping on a plane..

  4. Okay, you are totally making me want to go to Victoria!

  5. Everything looks super tasty! The raw foods look really good right now.

  6. It looks good to me too right now...I've been stuffing my face all week in Portland and could use a good salad! :)

  7. Saw a friend post this blog. Just going to add in that there are some great breakfast places too.
    Mo:le which is right next to Cafe Bliss has some decent vegan options

  8. Thanks, Troy! I'll have to check it out next time I hop over to Victoria. :)