North American eateries

Ratings are on a scale of 0 to 24. The scale used to be 0 to 10, so restaurants written about before 2012 may have only had their ratings adjusted by formula and not by hand (hence all the 2s, 5s, 8s, etc.) The scale works as follows:

PRO
24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16
pro
15 14 13 12 11 10
mixed
9 8 7 6 5 4
con
3 2 1
CON
0

An asymmetrical 0 to 24 scale may not be intuitive, I realize. But as a rule of thumb: a double-digit score means I liked it, while a single-digit score... less so. Also, as you might expect, scores from many years ago may not be very reliable, so do check the dates.

British Columbia

I know this is a food page, but please do not be scared off by the word "British."

Click on the column titles to sort the entries!

Name Cuisine Address Last update Score
RaudzNorthwesternWater btw Bernard/Lawrence, Kelowna2010-06-1614
I wasn't expecting much from a place in the BC Interior, but as Elizabeth pointed out, the Okanagan Valley is wine country and that probably ups the standard a bit. In any case, this place was a winner. We got some bread with butter, olive oil, and white bean hummus, then moved onto a cute little focaccia pizza with herb pesto, eggplant, and arugula, along with some very good gnocchi with arugula in hazelnut pesto. Dessert was blueberry cheesecake for only four bucks. We even got free artisan lollipops at the end! (Who knew there were such things as artisan lollipops?)
Pure VanillaBakeryCadboro Bay & Estevan, Oak Bay2016-02-0716
When I lived in Victoria in the summer of '09, this place quickly became a standby for its breakfast pastries (the muffins and croissants are great) and its desserts (chocolate macadamia cheesecake was a standout). Not everything's a winner; while I've really liked some of the lunches I've had here (e.g., a terrific curried egg salad croissant sandwich), the frittata and soup I've had were mediocre, and many of the desserts are merely good rather than amazing. But enough of them are amazing (most recently: peach streusel tart) to put this place in the pantheon.
OttavioItalianOak Bay & Monterey, Oak Bay2009-06-045
Here I let a chalkboard talk me into a baked penne dish that, it promised, was loaded with delights ranging from green olives to caramelized onions. It turned out to be just your standard baked ziti, only with a $10 pricetag. Oh well.
Notti BiscottiBiscotti32 Ave & 152 St, Surrey2010-06-1511
We came here because Dolce Gelato was randomly closed. They make these huge, slightly soft biscotti in flavors such as apricot-almond and pumpkin-caramel-chocolate-pecan. They don't exactly wow the palate and yet I found it difficult not to gobble them down.
Vij'sIndian11th & Granville, Vancouver2010-06-1414
I've heard this called the best Indian restaurant in North America, and if it's service and presentation you're into I can see why. As an experience, Vij's is certainly superior to schlumpfing down to the Indian House of Moghul Curry Palace or whatever and having a scowling man bring you a chipped bowl of dal makhani. I'm especially fond of the roving servers who randomly bring baskets of hors d'oeuvres by your table for you to snack from while you wait for your dinner. However, foodwise, it tends to be all downhill after the baskets stop coming. Menu items are upscale and ambitious but that doesn't always translate into deliciousness: the vegetarian entrees tend to range from interesting at best (unusual curries, such as pomegranate) to subpar at worst (saag paneer). I've actually had significantly better luck with the Vij's cookbook than with the restaurant. I will confess that the restaurant kicks my ass when it comes to making potato pooris, however.
La Casa GelatoDessert (gelato)Venables & Glen, Vancouver2009-05-2011
This place blew my mind back in the '90s, when I had never had gelato before and certainly had never seen a lineup with flavors like pineapple poppyseed or pear gorgonzola. But many of the flavors are simply a permutation problem in action (chocolate almond, chocolate cashew, chocolate coconut, chocolate macadamia, chocolate pistachio, chocolate mixed nut...), and the rest of North America has caught up — on my most recent trip I had significantly better gelato in Victoria than I had here.
RangoliIndian11th & Granville, Vancouver2009-05-2011
This spinoff of Vij's is open for lunch, and features pretty conventional Indian dishes cooked in the Vij's style (light and extremely tangy). It's about 20% better than Naan N Curry for twice the price. Make of that what you will.
MedinaBreakfast/lunchBeatty btw Dunsmuir/Pender, Vancouver2013-03-2710
This is apparently the hottest breakfast spot in Vancouver, and yes, there were several clusters of people waiting outside for tables at 10:30 a.m. The specialties of the house are these little waffles with a bunch of toppings to choose from; we got raspberry caramel, white chocolate pistachio rosewater, and berry compote. I also got a breakfast that turned out to be little piles of things: a few tomatoes, a dollop of olive tapenade, four little toasts, a soft-boiled egg, two wedges of avocado, some slices of cheese. Not the height of deliciousness, but quite pleasant!
Pizzeria BarbarellaPizzaBroadway near Fraser, Vancouver2013-03-2610
When I mentioned that a key stop on my road trip around the Northwest was "Ah-Beetz," a pizza place in Abbotsford, people tended to smirk. And I tried to temper my expectations: how good could the pizza in a Canadian farm town possibly be? But I'd read an article in which the proprietor name-checked Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, where I was a regular during my year in New York, so I had to give this place a try. And it was great. Apparently the locals didn't take to it, though, so the proprietor moved out to Vancouver and started up a new place, and the pizza there turns out not to be the same. It's still decent, but I miss Ah-Beetz.
Aphrodite's CafeCrunchy4th & Dunbar, Vancouver2010-06-158
Elizabeth seemed surprised when I referred to this place's cuisine as hippie food. Exhibit A: I ordered huevos rancheros, which turned out to be a gigantic tortilla piled with vegetarian chili and some scrambled eggs. If vegetarian chili is one of your staples then you are serving hippie food, my friend. They also serve pies, but I wasn't at all impressed by the raspberry rhubarb pie we got.
WestUpscaleGranville & 13th, Vancouver2007-06-078
With so many people calling this the best restaurant they'd ever been to, I had to give it a try. Verdict: absolutely wonderful service, friendly, professional, and accommodating. And the food was... what it always is at these places. Interesting, unusual, but not exactly what I would call delicious. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the tastiest dishes were the most "boring" ones: vegetarian risotto with wild mushrooms, chocolate toffee cake with vanilla ice cream. The more outlandish dishes — a cylinder of tiny pepper and avocado bits in a moat of gazpacho, thin pastry crackers with caramelized onions and hearts of palm, beet wafers bookending blobs of goat cheese — were more fun to look at than to actually eat.
Crust BakeryBakeryFort btw Douglas/Blanshard, Victoria2016-03-2414
This place has a wide array of unusual pastries. Take the chocolate marble bread pudding with coconut, cherries, pistachios, and Cadbury Mini Eggs, and then consider that there are two dozen other things equally far from the beaten path on offer.
Hernande'zMexicanYates btw Blanshard/Douglas, Victoria2013-03-2314
When I moved back to the Bay Area I found that Chowhound was abuzz about this supposedly great place in Oakland that specialized in huaraches: corn tortillas the size and shape of a sandal, topped with the usual taqueria standards. I went there and was not at all impressed. Little would I have suspected that a more worthy version of the same concept was kicking around in frickin' British Columbia. This is definitely a small-time operation, whose web site is little more than a compendium of rants by the very high-strung wife of the proprietor, but the food is quite good, and there are some great deals: the basic "power bar" burrito is $3.50! One drawback, though, is that everything is kinda samey. Burrito, taco, huarache, you name it: it's the same combination of black bean puree, rice and greens.
the Pink BicycleBurgersBlanshard btw Broughton/Fort, Victoria2016-03-2413
The first time I came here I got a reasonably fancy veggie burger and truffle fries. They were fine. What raised my eyebrows was that Elizabeth got veggie poutine, as she often does, and unlike any other poutine I've seen her order, this was really good! The cheese was a couple of orders of magnitude better than the usual, and the crispy onions and scallions on top enhanced the overall dish more than you'd think. I have since I snagged it for myself on numerous occasions and, dang, it is sooo good.
the Tapa BarTapasTrounce Alley & Broad, Victoria2016-03-2212
Selections include cheese and egg tarts in baked tortilla shells, focaccia with southwestern toppings, various pizzas and things. Quite good for a single visit, but the menu doesn't change so it's pretty easy to scrape bottom.
Sizzling TandoorIndiantwo locations, Victoria2016-03-2112
I was not looking forward to coming here the first time I went, because I already live pretty close to some very good Indian places, and based on my early experiences in BC, "best Indian food in Victoria" seemed like extremely faint praise… but I was initially quite impressed. Excellent renditions of the standards (baingan bharta, mattar paneer, aloo gobi), and the odd house specialty, Indian-style fettuccine alfredo, was also a winner. But over the years it has deteriorated from "excellent" to "decent".
Jam CafeBreakfast/lunchHerald near Government, Victoria2013-03-2111
Here I got a special eggs benedict with avocado and blueberries (!), while Elizabeth got an egg-in-a-biscuit sandwich; I ended up eating both.
Bond Bond's BakeryBakeryBlanshard btw Broughton/Fort, Victoria2013-01-1211
Here I got a loaf of wheat bread which, after I bought it, I discovered was crusted with sunflower seeds. That turned out to be a good thing — the bread was fine overall, but the seeds kicked it up half a notch. I also got an almond thingie that wasn't as good (it was basically almonds glued to a doily).
Pizzeria Prima StradaPizzalocal chain, Victoria2011-05-2811
Certified Neapolitan pizza on Vancouver Island. Gosh. It even offers you the opportunity to throw some extra toppings on your margherita, the way I have begged Delfina to do every time I've updated the writeup. But... it's actually not all that special. Flavors do not meld the way they do on a great pizza. Still way the hell better than the big chains, though.
Mo:LéBreakfast/lunchPandora & Government, Victoria2006-09-1011
This is one of those highfalutin' breakfast places where the potatoes come with pesto and the hollandaise has red pepper puree in it. But it's all in the execution, and the execution here is competent. I got a vegetarian eggs benedict with scrambled eggs on top of a dense breadstuff, topped with avocado and roasted tomatoes. It was okay.
Cocina PequeñaMexicanYates btw Blanshard/Douglas, Victoria2016-03-2310
On my return to Victoria after a few years away I discovered that Hernande'z was gone, and in its place was this little eatery, with three tortas and three burritos on offer. I got a torta; it was fine. And then I discovered that Hernande'z was just a few steps away, having moved to a different stall in the little Yates mall, and that Cocina Pequeña was actually its burritos-and-tacos branch. Uh, okay.
Chef's QuestBurgersYates btw Blanshard/Douglas, Victoria2013-01-1510
This place offers half a dozen different types of veggie burgers — i.e., not just different toppings, but substantially different patty ingredients. The poutine couldn't even touch the Pink Bicycle version, though.
Zambri'sItalianYates btw Quadra/Blanshard, Victoria2013-01-1010
I've had some pretty good things here; a recent standout was an appetizer of thinly cut zucchini and eggplant, breaded and fried and topped with burrata, tomatoes, olives, and basil. But I've also had things like gnocchi and pizza that rated a shrug.
RebarVegetarian (mostly)Bastion Square & Langley, Victoria2012-01-049
Flip through the cookbook that you can take to your table and you'll find a lot of the same ingredients popping up in dish after dish, giving you a pretty good sense of what this place is about: chipotles, asiago, cilantro, brown rice... it's one of those "look, we're not hippie food! we have burritos!" places. I had a few really good things here, years ago — a berry salad, a plate of migas — but have been steadily less impressed with each visit. The service in particular tends to be quite lackluster.
Lady MarmaladeBreakfast/lunchchain, Victoria2011-06-018
Here I had a hippie version of huevos rancheros. This is one of those places where the menu looks great but the execution lacks panache (see also Rebar).
CanoeBar foodwest end of Swift, Victoria2011-05-298
This is one of Elizabeth's favorites, but I've never understood her enthusiasm — it looks like it's just bar food to me. We went for brunch, and I wound up getting some French toast. It was heavily battered and nicely browned, but not exactly a taste sensation.
Il PostoPizzaDouglas & Broughton, Victoria2010-10-128
Unremarkable pizza baked and served in metal trays. Not at all what I was expecting based on the reviews I read. Pretty downscale and the trays made me feel like I was eating pizza prepared by a WASP housewife.
Da TandoorIndianFort & Vancouver, Victoria2009-07-038
Reasonable Indian food; dal was quite good, eggplant bharta was a bust. Naan tasted like donuts, but I guess that's appropriate given the location.
Mount Royal Bagel FactoryBagelsNorth Park near Cook, Victoria2008-03-288
Pretty decent bagels, considering the coast.
Il TerrazzoItalianWaddington near Johnson, Victoria2008-03-258
This is why I rarely eat at Italian restaurants: the only real vegetarian option was pasta, and the pasta was not nearly as good as what I make at home — I can't even say that it was good. The redeeming part of the meal was the tasty nut tart at the end.
Fol EpiBakerylocal chain, Victoria2016-03-226
First trip: bused out near Esquimalt to find the place randomly closed, with only a card in the window to announce this. Second: croissant was fine, hazelnut eclair was fine, berry almond pastry was fine, but nothing really wowed me, exactly. Third: years later, saw there was now a branch downtown, got an amazing-looking chocolate orange mousse pastry thing, and it was very bland.
Cafe BrioUpscaleFort btw Quadra/Vancouver, Victoria2011-05-275
Here we spent $90 on a couple of plates of asparagus and some fries.
the Blue Fox CafeBreakfast/lunchFort near Quadra, Victoria2009-06-265
No idea why the lines here are so legendarily long — this place is not so great. I had an "eggs pico" (Southwestern-ish variation on eggs florentine) and it was pretty heavy and left me a bit queasy. And what's with the mountains of potatoes?
Dolce GelatoDessert (gelato)Marine & Martin, White Rock2013-03-2717
Really just astoundingly good gelato. The black forest is the big standout, but really, it's all completely amazing. Why not a higher score, then? The hours. Dolce Gelato is only open when it's nice out. But it's located in the Pacific Northwest. It's never nice out. And the unpredictability of when this place will be open drives me nuts. It sucks to drive a thousand miles, arrive with the sun shining, and discover that they're closed because it was kind of gloomy earlier.
FamosoPizzaregional chain2013-03-2512
Very friendly service, good pizza dough… toppings are kind of bland, though. Banana and nutella pizza for dessert is a big winner.
La TaqueríaMexican (taqueria)regional chain2016-03-2310
Taco-truck-style tacos north of the border. Pretty good ones, too. I liked that there were a variety of vegetarian choices.
Ali Baba PizzaPizzachain, Victoria and environs2009-07-202
Curiosity got the better of me. I mean, it's right next to Planet Organic, and I saw it every day, and some people said it was decent. But, uh, no. I wondered why this place forces you to buy two slices, and it turns out the answer is pretty obvious: if you could buy one at a time, there's no way you'd get a second one after trying the first.


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