It’s not impossible to be vegan in Victoria, but you have to be persistent about it!

As much as I wanted to celebrate the start of my 4th decade on the planet in France (where my aunt lives), the pandemic and timing forced another hand. I also didn’t want to cross any provincial borders, and hubby wanted to drive as little as possible, so that meant a quick ferry trip over to our province’s capital, Victoria!

 

Friday, April 1

We headed out on the 1pm ferry from Tsawwassen and hubs was starving so we got first dibs on Triple O’s (White Spot), since the other ferry restaurants were closed (since the start of the pandemic). There’s a fridge with other deli items from Bread Garden, but from my quick glance pretty much everything—even the salads—had some sort of animal product. So I went for Triple O’s veggie burger minus their ranch dressing, with fries and iced tea. Sometimes you just gotta go with fast food.

The first stop when we came in was Empire Donuts, right in downtown. It’s a small shop tucked into the ground-level corner of an office building. But they closed at 3 (or when supply runs out) and we were about 15 minutes late. When I discovered this place online last year, I thought they only served vegan donuts on Fridays, so my plan was to get some here and from vegan shop Frickin Delights, whose owners recently moved from Alberta.

So we walked another few minutes to that shop, and not only was it closed, it was not even close to being open! But good for them for building up some hype. This will likely be my first stop on my next Victoria trip.

We checked into the Inn at Laurel Point, which a friend had recommended. Although it isn’t in or close to downtown, the view is unbeatable and it had a pool (which we like) so that was a big factor in our choice. Parking was ample too. Like many buildings in this city, the original Inn was built in the 70s but the most recent expansion took place in 2019, so it’s probably the most updated of the locally-owned hotels in town.

The room was stuffy when we got in so we opened the door immediately (out to a very small balcony) and a huge seagull came begging for food, as they probably do when ignorant tourists have leftover room service.

After a quick rest, we hit the pool—and we were not the only disappointed guests to find out there was no hot tub! (About two couples came in after us looking for one.)

Then Leo went to work to find a place to eat dinner, since I had planned all the other places where we were going to eat. Unlike me, he procrastinates heavily and leaves plans to the last minute. He showed me the menu for a nearby Italian restaurant which only had vegetarian options, and then found Pagliacci’s which had not only a kids’ menu but a vegan one. Naturally, I was stoked even though he wasn’t because a kids’ menu usually means lower quality food, like Old Spaghetti Factory. He called to try and make reservations but there was a pretty lengthy voice recording answering a lot of FAQs, including where to park.

When we arrived, there was already a line with maybe 4 or 5 parties ahead of us. That was already a good sign, even though it means waiting. I’d say we only waited about 15 minutes before we got in. The place was packed. And I couldn’t find any kids. There was music playing, people chatting without masks, and tons of mob/old-time New York City artwork all over the place, even autographed celebrity headshots by the bar.

The physical menu did not have the vegan menu and instead pointed online.

The appetizer focaccia came out, and I was freaking floored. Believe me when I tell you this is the best “free” bread I have ever eaten, and it’s vegan. Crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, we likened it to Pizza Hut crust or a Chinese donut. I could have eaten the entire thing if I wasn’t expecting to order pasta.

I went for The Big Easy Vegan, which came with vegan sausage, peppers, mushrooms, spicy Cajun marinara sauce, and penne. While in the line-up I saw people come out of the restaurant with takeout containers, so I assumed full size was going to be too much for me, but when the server demo’d the half size, I figured paying another $4.50 for full size was probably a better deal, and I’m glad I went for it.

The server asked if I wanted fresh parm, and I said “not unless it’s vegan.” They should really have some Follow Your Heart shreds on hand! She offered chili flakes, but since my dish was already spicy I didn’t want to kill my tastebuds. I ate every last morsel of the pasta, wiping up the last bit of sauce with the focaccia.

Hubs and I then ventured to some convenience stores to get snacks. This is where I discovered Douglas Street downtown is where ALL the non-driving-age teens of Victoria hang out, whether it’s waiting for buses or just being their loud selves. So if you don’t want to encounter them stay out of this area on weekend evenings.

 

Saturday, April 2

I got up for my morning meditation while hubby got room service for breakfast. He gets WAY too hungry to wait for brunch. The sun was out for me!

We walked a few minutes to Nourish Kitchen & Cafe, which is where I ate at during my last trip to Victoria in 2017. I was told the hollandaise sauce was life-changing, and I remember it being awesome but wasn’t sure if it was vegan. It was a 30-40 minute wait for a table when we got there, so we just took a walk around the area and sat to listen to the rest of part 2 of my friend Romeo on the Filipino Fridays podcast. We also took some photos by the water.

I started off with their Reishi and Rosemary Cocoa with oat milk, one of their signature drinks. Great choice!

Now if you read my vegan in Calgary blog you’ll know I was sorely short on fibre from fresh fruits or vegetables. Not only did hubs get me a fruit salad to start my morning, we ordered the Creamy Tahini Kale Salad. Hubs LOVED this dish as it was fresh but also flavourful with the dressing. My only wish is that they massaged the kale a bit because it’s piled real high, but I get that it’s for presentation.

Hubs ordered the Golden Benny and I had the same with tempeh instead of eggs.

The turmeric cashew hollandaise IS vegan and the dukkah sprinkles they put over are sooo good too. Each of us got what seemed to be an entire sweet potato cut into 4 wedges, and the tempeh was already enough protein for me, but I ate all the kale on the plate. I don’t know what sauce they use on the potato, but I didn’t care much for it. We took the remaining potatoes thinking we could potentially eat it for tomorrow’s breakfast.

On the way out I spotted containers of the hollandaise sauce in the fridge (they also sell a number of other kitchen staples). $15 is a lot but you could make your own breakfast with it!

In the morning, I’d called Empire Donuts and the machine said their vegan days are Wednesday and Saturday, so we went off and got two apple fritters, which is the only vegan flavour they had around 1:30pm.

We went back to the hotel and prepared to go walking some more through downtown. Even though it was sunny, it was cold and a bit windy so I put some jeans on.

After parking the car along Belleville Street, we walked past the Legislative Assembly of BC building (this is the real name for it, even though we just say “parliament building”), The Empress hotel, through downtown and a bit into Chinatown, and back.

Then took another dip in the pool. It was hair washing day so that was a good excuse to swim for real, whereas I usually keep my head above water and typically look like I’m struggling as I tread water…

We prepped for dinner and then headed out to be love, which was also nearby in downtown. It was at this time we discovered you don’t need to pay for parking past 6pm. Unheard of! We are so used to paying for parking until late in Vancouver.

The restaurant kindly held a reservation for me and when we got there it was already packed. People walked out holding take-out containers and they have a nice display case of desserts. Be love is almost a completely vegan restaurant (“95 percent organic plant-based ingredients”) as they do use honey.

I ordered the Bon Jun drink (replacing honey with maple syrup) and we had the Warm Olives and Falafel Canapes to start. Highly reco the falafel.

It was really hard to choose from their bowls. You can create your own Karma bowl (which I’d probably do next time) with your choice of sides, sauce, and brown rice or quinoa, but I didn’t know what half of their sauces were and didn’t want to spend my birthday dinner searching Wikipedia for definitions.

Hubby got the Isle bowl and I got the Green bowl which was HUGE. Once I mixed all the veggies up, it was still a lot. I also considered adding tofu but decided against it because I assumed the serving size was large, which it was. I removed the red onion and could have done without the amount of cabbage, but loved the Thai green curry broth and everything else in it. I left no room for dessert!

Be love is a great restaurant I’d recommend for vegans or anyone plant-curious who wants a more romantic vibe.

We headed back to the hotel and I was hoping to watch Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almodovar is my favourite film director) but the free versions online had no subtitles. So as we prepared for another night of TV, hubs lit up the apple fritter from Empire Donuts (notice the notepad we used as a plate…hahah!). Bonne fete a moi!

Sunday, April 3

Even though we didn’t need to check out until 11am, we wanted to get to the ferry terminal around noon and Green Cuisine opened right at 11am, so we ordered room service for breakfast. While the Inn doesn’t have great vegan options for room service, I managed with another fruit bowl, sourdough toast, and hubs’s leftover hash browns.

Green Cuisine was originally a vegetarian restaurant but now it’s 100% plant-based. Nestled on the below-ground level of Market Square in downtown, it’s a pay first, eat after cafe.

The buffet was a little overwhelming as a take-out choice, so I went for a noodle box with pad thai sauce and tempeh. I should note they sell their tempeh at grocery stores and it’s my favourite brand. You can also pick up products from their fridge.

As I waited, I saw more people come in to order the buffet and learned they charge by weight. Next time we visit I’ll definitely dine-in and try out their desserts.

We got to the Swartz Bay Terminal 5 minutes before the noon sailing, so we saved an hour of waiting time and got on!

I ate my noodles just before our ferry experienced a bit of turbulence, which was slightly more exciting than usual sailings, then passed out for about 15 minutes before getting back to the car.

One place that was on my backup list that we didn’t get to was Fern Cafe and Bakery, one of the four places I know in Victoria that are vegan (or almost so). I’ll have to hit it up next time. Compared to Vancouver, Victoria doesn’t seem to have as many places with vegan menus or options so I wouldn’t call it a vegan-forward town, but it’s definitely possible to find options.

Are there any other vegan places you’ve been to in Victoria that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

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