My favorite food & coffee places in Victoria.

Hey y’all. I’m in mourning already for Victoria’s food and drink options, so I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite places to grab a bite or a coffee! I want to do another for my favorite bars/nightlife places, so stay tuned! If you’re in Victoria, check these places out. I mostly lived on a really tight budget so the places noted below are mostly for those who can’t afford a fancy meal. Enjoy the pictures too! I don’t have pictures of every place but almost.

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PHO VY on Fort

This pho place, nestled in between a bunch of small shops on Fort Street, serves up amazing pho, bun, and other Vietnamese goods in a no-frills manner that I love. It’s a cash only place that has great windows for people watching and TVs that regularly show weird game shows and maybe an old X-Men movie or two. Fancy? No. Cheap? Yes. Delicious? Oh my god. This is my favorite place to come when I feel off, need a pick-me-up, or want to take visitors. Everybody who has visited me has been taken here, without exception. My loyalty and love for Pho Vy will never die. As a Montanan who comes from a pho-free land, being able to have cheap pho whenever I wanted was my definition of being spoiled.

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CRUST BAKERY on Fort

Literally down the street from Pho Vy, this bakery is tiny, with almost no seating, but has some of the most delectable pastries and other gluten filled goods I’ve ever had. Their sour cherry pastries are incredible, the ham tomato basil croissant a fucking work of art, and even just their regular croissants are a messy, buttery, legit ode to what butter and flour do together. I love going here after an early morning walk and grabbing something on my final trek home, or getting a croissant to eat later when I’m too lazy to eat real meals.

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DISCOVERY COFFEE on Blanshard

There are multiple branches of Discovery Coffee, a Victoria BC staple, but I was lucky enough to live near the newest branch on Blanshard St. I went there 3-4 days of the week, usually around 7am, and sat in the same seat every day. The baristas got to know me, and they were super friendly. I love their cortado, and they have great cornbread and doughnuts brought in daily from local bakeries. The atmosphere is awesome- lots of locals stopping in every day, people reading, business meetings, etc. and the vibe was excellent. I can say I got about 65-75% of my best writing done at that little place early in the morning before most people are up and busy.

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HABIT COFFEE on Pandora

Habit Coffee has no Wifi, as they’ll sometimes tell you with a little more sass than necessary. That being said, they have good coffee and the downtown Pandora branch has great art, lighting, and atmosphere. I loved going in and perusing their awesome selection of magazines to read, and spent many a rainy gloomy morning tucked in there writing in my diary, writing postcards, or devouring books.

 

FERRIS OYSTER BAR on Yates

This place serves up amazing oysters in multiple varieties, makes a wicked sidecar and Negroni, and they know what they’re doing with seafood and pasta. I recommend making a reservation. The prices are steeper (think $20-30 per entree) but the food is always excellent. I’ve been there exactly three times and it has always been such a great place to take family or friends when we’re feeling fancy.

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BEAVERTAIL STAND on Broughton

Is this a chain? Yes. Is it legitimately Canadian? Up for debate (my Calgarian friend noted that the first time she had a Beavertail it was at Epcot in Florida…) but damn, fried dough with delicious toppings and wicked gelato on the cheap will always be on my menu. The guy who runs the Beavertail stand in Victoria is also one of the nicest guys- he is always down for a joke or a small chat, and he will gladly cut a Beavertail in half for anybody who can’t handle a whole one (seriously though why would you not eat a whole one, they’re amazing!). My favorite is the Beavertail with Nutella or the Skor toppings.

SUSHI FIELD off Fairfield

Sushi Field is my little secret place in Victoria that is entirely underrated because it’s a bare bones sushi place in a strip mall near the ocean. But, dude, I can tell you that the best sushi I’ve had has consistently come from places like this- where it’s not fancy, dark, or sleek, but where the food speaks more than the setting. I love their sashimi (oh my god the salmon!) and the maki rolls are amazing. The food is all made in house, even the salad dressing, and you can tell that the quality is high as soon as you taste it. The sushi is also dirt cheap and it’s off the downtown/tourist track so it’s rarely full. Also, if you’re looking for a cheap date idea, get some sushi to go, walk through the graveyard (I find them romantic), and settle down by the nearby beach for a lovely picnic!

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LITTLE JUMBO on Fort

This little tucked back restaurant on Fort offers super cozy dining with wicked food options. I ate there with Ella when she visited and I was so, so happy. Eating is my favorite hobby after taking naps, and Little Jumbo has amazing dishes (hello duck!) that hit the spot. At about the same price point as Ferris, this is a place you’d take a date or a family for a celebration, but super worth it.

LA TANA BAKERY at Fan Tan Alley

This tiny little bakery, tucked underground right near the entrance to Fan Tan Alley on Pandora, is run by a Milanese man, Claudio. Claudio can be found regularly speaking Italian in the kitchen while churning out delicious pastries and bread goods (one of his staff noted, “I don’t understand what he’s saying about 90% of the time”). The farinatas are amazing, the fagottini is delicious, and the bread stares at you from the walls with beautiful color and smells. After living in southern Switzerland, only an hour from where Claudio hails, I can tell you that this place is as Italian as they come- and it felt so good to find a little place that felt so familiar to where I was living in college. There’s also coffee! On top of this, I love La Tana because they compost and recycle and make sure that they have almost no carbon footprint. Woo!

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CAFFE FANTASTICO on Humboldt (In the Parkside Hotel)

This little cafe serves local wine, beer, coffee, and little dishes. I love it for the location and the cozy corners- it was so close to my apartment, and a great place to settle in and peruse a book and sip a good latte. Located inside the posh Parkside Hotel, the bathrooms there are also A+ (yes I take this into consideration!) because they’re in the hotel lobby. They have good little breakfast bites, like egg sandwiches and bagels, and the prices are super fair. Caffe Fantastico has three branches around Victoria, each with their own vibe/specialty, and this one is the sort of cafe branch. The others are larger, with more lighting and food options, but this one had the exact sort of vibe for a rainy morning where I could escape my apartment and take a stroll and smell the outside world without having to trek.

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Lingering/longing

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One week until our ferry departs to head back to my fucked up motherland (hey America! You’re still being run by that sexist, bigoted, disgusting Cheeto in a wig right?).

I should be finishing up my visa application, my thesis, and multiple other things. Instead I had to spend one last weekend morning on the beach. I had to listen to the seagulls and notice how the flower blooms are starting to fade in some places. My fingers felt the textures of the massive driftwood logs and picked up small pieces of sea glass. I feel a lot of things and like I might cry. The future is such a tumultuous, unsure thing and the now, the now is precious and fleeting and like grabbing smoke, but that doesn’t mean I cannot wax poetica about the now.

Good things exist in the future. In eight days I’ll see the smiling face of my partner in crime. In eight days I’ll see my dogs and the lake we live by. I’ll be back in a land where I don’t need a visa and where my old, beloved crappy car, Frank, waits to have me drive him around. My favorite brewery awaits me with a cold glass of my favorite single malt IPA and I get to go to Target (Canada doesn’t have Target and holy kapow I miss Target).

But for now, I’ll soak up the now.

In the gardens unabashed

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Had to put in a quiet Eve mention somewhere. Being in gardens, so lush and fertile and beautiful, surrounded by dozens of species of flowers, trees, bushes, and other flora, I often think that no wonder Eve bit from the apple of knowledge and fucked everything up. Ignorance may be bliss for some, but not for me. I want to know about everything. What tells flowers it’s time to bloom? Why are some petals soft, others rubbery, and others thick and dense? Why do humans enjoy causing some sort of terror to every living thing, whether it be tramping on gentle flora or ruthlessly carving our names on the bamboo in the gardens?

Regardless, yesterday Liang, Deb, and I all spent some much needed time outside in the gardens at school. We smelled all the blooms and quietly meandered and took pictures of each other. It was a lovely afternoon of quiet in the midst of what feels like multiple storms.

Amarillo everywhere

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Millions of little blooms hang down the edges of the sea cliffs all over this city right now and the colors are so blatantly optimistic and invigorating that after long, soul-tired walks I cannot help but feel a little better about things. It is interesting though that all of these blooms are rife with thorns. Nothing comes for free or without consequences.

Quietly readying to say adieu

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I am steeling myself for the inevitable goodbye and allowing myself to be consumed by the nostalgia that comes with it all.

In 23 days I will be on a ferry heading away from Vancouver Island, and I will have all my worldly possessions with me, plus more memories than a hundred terabyte hard drives could hold.

The future right now is tenuous at best. It is terrifying at worst. Plans are tentative out of sheer necessity. I will hopefully be returning here in August to defend my thesis and graduate with my Master’s degree and then off into the real world to find a real job and make real money to pay off those very real student loans. What happens after that isn’t really clear, nor where all of this will happen. It’s all part of the adventure though, isn’t it?

In the meantime, I will relish my time here with photographs, fresh baked goods from my favorite places, and breathe in this ocean air while I can, and I will try and share it with you all.

Primavera in 35mm

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Once again I feel absent from this blog. I have been feverishly writing, editing, and re-writing my thesis for several weeks now and my pace has quickened. I get up early, write for a few hours, take a break, and then do some more. Caffeine is vital. Lots of sleep is too.

Above are photographs on film, mostly from my Chinon camera, from the last month. Coffee, walks, the ocean, and necessary bits of humanity are all present.

My body has felt off kilter for a few weeks now, but being able to be in Minneapolis for a few short days has restored my soul a bit. This weekend some really lovely souls helped me have a birthday party- my first in years and years! (Thank you all!) Things are good- the cherry blossoms are everywhere on trees and all I want to do is go photograph them all but writing this damn thing is THE PRIORITY! Keep your eyes peeled- I’ll try to get out during the day this week on one of my breaks and photograph these gorgeous things.

Night walks and Caravaggio

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Today I literally sat on my bed, drank a beer, and read a book about Caravaggio. I had fresh air coming in my window, and I fell into another world. Guess what? It was marvelous. It’s my day off. Tomorrow I start writing some more, but for now, let me fall into books.

These are from last night’s meandering about. Shadows, alleys, and beautiful sunsets were photographed.

 

 

The act of seeing.

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Odds and ends on film. Right now it is windy and clouds are being pushed past my window quickly. I’ve been busy working on a section of my thesis that is due in a few days- and I’m so nervous to send in what I’ve got! I’ve been editing, re-writing, re-organizing, and trying to find some semblance of lucidity in my own writing. Perhaps in my life as well?

Moonage daydream

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This weekend was spent with good humans. One of the highlights was going to karaoke with a bunch of friends on Friday. Morgan and I did a killer job at singing “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, and we drank Campari at a a bar/barber shop earlier. And yes, the bar/barbershop establishment was ridiculously trendy. While I was waiting for the washroom there was literally a dude getting his hair cut behind me. At 9:30 pm. On a Friday night. In a bar.

32760100471_e351f8c9f5_c32760096541_35a2acb4ef_cSaturday I spend in some botanical gardens, and then devouring pho with Kaitlin. I walked a lot this weekend, as my mind and heart feel very full. I miss my home, I miss my loved ones, and I miss life when it wasn’t so complex. 2017 will hopefully be better than 2016 was but I know that it will be saturated with challenges I can only welcome, as the only other choice is to dread them and that would mean such a waste of energy. Trying to stay on top of everything that needs doing is overwhelming, and sometimes it gets really hard when my partner is living in another country and I can’t even go and get a hug when I need one.

Nonetheless, the words that define this year already continue to be important: survive/resist/resilient. Kaitlin and I were discussing how to let go of the toxic environment where the news only seems to get worse and everything seems dim and dark. For me, long walks and a good playlist always help. I am lucky to live in a pretty safe city where I can go on walks late at night by myself and feel fairly comfortable doing so, and I know I’ve talked about this on this blog a lot in the past, but long walks are the only thing sometimes that make me feel sane. What do y’all do to keep your heads on straight?

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Anyway, this morning’s walk was marvelous. It was a gorgeous, clear morning here, and the sunrise was epic. I said good morning to older folks on their morning strolls and listened to birds and saw so many crows (crows are the best!). I wore this grey/blue wool turtleneck dress, which essentially is the antithesis of attractive in every way- and that’s kind of my clothing aesthetic I guess? I love wearing lipstick and having my makeup done well but when it comes to clothes challenging ones are better. Big, thick sweaters, turtlenecks, loose shirts, high collars, longer hems, tights- things that hide my body or distort my shape feel safer in a lot of ways and they turn the focus away from my physical self and the value that society puts on it. I feel freer and also more anonymous when I wear things that hide my body. If this sounds strange I am 100% positive there are lots of great writers across the gender spectrum who write about disguises/clothing/dressing for anonymity and comfort and other marvelous topics. Leave me to fumble with my words, thank you very much.

I hope y’all had a glorious weekend and welcome the week with optimism! We must all keep our chins up, as hard as that can be a lot of the time.

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Garden Wanders

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The Gardens were way more affordable than the Butchart Gardens, and even though there wasn’t much blooming yet, I feel like during the later spring/summertime it would be a marvelous way to experience some gorgeous gardens on a budget! The way that the Gardens are landscaped gives you multiple paths to wander, lots of different areas to explore (a Japanese garden, a winter garden, an herbs garden, etc.), and many benches/sunny spots to sit and take in all the beauty that is naturalia. They have lovely little posts in the soil that tell you what species you are looking at, and I have to say that even the smell of the earth was amazing. Morgan and I both agreed that we wanted to come back when more things are active- but we did have the whole gardens to ourselves!

If you want to learn more about the Gardens at HCP check out their website!

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Chinon Auto 3001 camera

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I found a boxy little camera at a thrift store, went to 6 different shops and found the obscure battery, and took it out for a test drive.

The Chinon Auto 3001 is a sturdy little camera with a clamshell lens cover. It’s got a f/2.8 lens, a fill flash, an auto flash (that you can turn off) and no manual I could find on the internet.

So, on one of my meandering walks and over the course of a few evenings, I tried to shoot some test film on 2 rolls of Fujifilm. The results: Not too shabby. Obviously I need to test the auto-focus features more (it is supposed to be pretty good with the AF features) but it seems like a handy little beast to have around!

My greatest regret is that you cannot see the marvelous extra toes on Coco the cat’s little feet! She has polydactylism, which means that her feet have more toes than they should, and her adorable little paws look like little muffins!

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Snow in Victoria

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This morning, I woke up earlier than usual and decided to venture outside and photograph this strange, snow covered world. It was almost totally devoid of humans. I got to see a large bald eagle make it’s pathetic noises (seriously, how does such a regal animal make such pitiful sounds?) and hear birds and other animals pitter-patter in the brush.

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