Here’s the thing: there are only a couple months left before Victoria’s streets and restaurants are crowded with tourists — which sure, is nice in its own way. But in the winter, us locals also appreciate having the city more or less to ourselves.
And that’s part of the idea behind Dine Around & Stay In Town, taking place now until March 6th for the 13th year.
A record of nearly 70 Victoria restaurants are participating this year, offering specially priced three-course menus for $20, $30, $40 or $50. You can check out all the menus here.
The event provides locals a good reason to hit the town and restaurants with a much-needed boost. Hotels get in on the action too, offering rates of $79, $99 or $129 per night.
We love a good bargain so we always look forward to this event. Here are 10 places on our radar this year (whatever you do, don’t forget to make a reso).
1) 10 Acres Bistro
10 Acres Bistro takes the farm-to-table restaurant seriously with its own farm on the Saanich Peninsula, where it grows organic produce and raises hormone-free livestock. The bistro has a lively indoor dining area, plus a to-die-for outdoor terrace. 10 Acres is offering a $30 three-course menu for Dine Around, with options including confit game hen leg, braised Cobble Hill lamb shank and sticky toffee pudding.
2) Canoe Brewpub
For a pub atmosphere, it’s hard to beat Canoe. Located at the foot of Chinatown with an incredible waterfront patio, Canoe is offering a $30 menu featuring Icelandic cod in a miso soy glaze or braised short rib. Dance it off with live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
3) Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio
It would be a mistake to pass off Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio at the Inn at Laurel Point as one of those touristy hotel restaurants.
Executive Chef Takashi Ito has created a daring and delicious menu. The $30 Dine Around menu includes star anise braised beef short rib with truffle celeriac perogie, wild mushroom cream, roasted baby carrot and braised kale. We were lucky enough to taste this at the Dine Around launch preview on Thursday and it was our favourite bite of the night.
4) Cafe Brio
One of the awesome things about Dine Around is it’s a chance to visit some of our city’s top restaurants for a bargain price. Café Brio is consistently ranked as one of Victoria’s best restaurants, so it’s a plum deal to snag a three-course dinner there for $30. The menu includes a beef brisket starter and pan roasted rockfish main with Brio’s famous vanilla bean crème brulee for dessert. They’re also offering a $40 menu with steak or salmon options.
Olo is another top restaurant that’s a real treat to get to visit during Dine Around with its super cozy dining room. The reincarnation of Ulla (same owners) is offering a $30 menu featuring mussels as a starter and a bucatini carbonara as a main. Olo is also offering a $40 menu.
6) Il Covo Trattoria
Il Covo Trattoria is in the beautiful brick building at 106 Superior St., which used to house The Superior. It’s the kind of place you need a special reason to check out — and voila, Dine Around provides you with the perfect excuse. Il Covo is offering a decadent $40 menu. However, all of the dish names are really long and in Italian, so we’re just gonna recommend you go check that out yourself (remember, we have day jobs).
7) Table 21
Dine Around is a great opportunity to check out new spots that you might not otherwise. Table 21 has recently taken over the space above Bartholomew’s Pub at the corner of Humboldt and Douglas in the Doubletree by Hilton. It’s a beautiful space and the chef has actually snuck four courses onto their $30 menu, which earns them a shout-out. Also: we met their bartender Zak Adams a few days ago and it’s clear the man takes making drinks seriously. You’ve gotta appreciate that.
8) Veneto Tapa Lounge
Veneto’s $30 menu sounds super tasty with the option of an ahi tune poke tostada as a starter and a grilled flat iron steak frites as a main. To top it all off, there’s a double chocolate chip ice cream cookie sandwich or warm apple bourbon crumble for dessert. Plus, Veneto serves up some of the best cocktails in town.
9) Hawk & Hen
Also in the new category is Hawk & Hen, which took over the old Podium Sports Bar space on Yates St. The restaurant focuses on local ingredients served up in simple, thoughtful dishes.
Hawk & Hen’s $30 menu is one of the most ambitious of the bunch with a choice of oven-roasted lamb sirloin, pan-seared miso glazed sockeye salmon or charbroiled flat-iron steak with vodka-infused tiger prawns. They had us at “vodka infused.”
10) The Keg
We try to focus on local, independent businesses on The Vic Life, but we’re going to make an exception for the steak eaters among us because the The Keg is offering up a screaming deal during Dine Around. Its 8-oz top sirloin steak, which normally goes for $26, is on its $30 Dine Around menu. Choose from Caesar salad, garlic shrimp (regularly $10) or wild mushroom soup as a starter and for dessert you have the choice of cheesecake (normally $7) or Billy Miner pie.
P.S. If you have already tried out any Dine Around spots this year, please share your review in the comments!
Photo via Cafe Brio