Winter storm series The Victoria food scene chapter 1

Hey folks. We Vancouver Island residents live in, quite arguably, one of the most beautiful and moderate places on Earth. This is Canada after all – home of white winters for most of us North of 49. But not here in the North west. Snowfall is pretty rare up here and often an entire winter will pass without one flake of the frosty white stuff.

So it’s not bitterly cold. And it begs the question: Why is there so much hit and miss in the food department – especially when it comes to what should be hot.

We try and make a point of getting out at least once a week for a nosh, ideally somewhere new. Because it is easy to fall into a habit of finding a favorite and eating it to death. So we mix it up.

So my beef is this: What is wrong with so many restaurants in Victoria? We live a boat or plane ride from two gastronomic super-powers; Seattle and Vancouver. Two totally World class cities that have more 4-star eateries than they have any right to. And I am not saying that we do not have any winners folks… No, it is just that we have way too many losers. Why?

A couple of examples. There are a couple of “Earl’s and Cactus Club” type places in Victoria that are wildly and frustratingly uneven. And they shouldn’t be. One is Brown’s Social House. Great concept. Passionate staff on the floor and in the kitchen. And yet more often than not they fall flat on their faces. I have had orders show up at my table stone cold. The only thing that should arrive at the table stone cold is ice cream… Not a side of fries, pizza or a burger. These items should be piping hot.

Another is the Canoe Club. The food and service is up and down like an express elevator at the Empire state building – and for no good reason. I had a burger and fries there last weekend and the potatoes were raw and mealy and the burger was pinker than ahi tuna sashimi.

I have a theory. Victoria is a tourist town. We have a lot of folks that show up once. We have a lot of folks that show up often. My thinking is – some of these “so-so” places are depending on the “once served, never seen again” much like the Vancouver airport RCMP detachment. No sense giving your best if there is no return business. Which is to say that the local joints are merely keeping the bar up for one reason. This is does not explain the wild swings in overall quality.

We pay a bit of a premium for eating out in Victoria… because it is a tourist town. We have some of the best (if not the best) coffee culture in Victoria, per capita. One would think the food scene would be in step with the cafe scene. But it’s not.

And it bugs me.