So far as winters in Victoria go, this has been a pretty, ummm, enduring one.
Thankfully, there’s light on the horizon. No, not actual warmth, but Dine Around — an excuse for locals to get out of their jammies and hit the town for some ridiculously good grub.
Here’s how it works: dozens of Victoria’s top restaurants offer special three-course menus for $20, $30, $40 or $50 between Feb. 17 and March 5.
The trick is studying the menus and planning ahead to hit as many of the top spots as possible (resos highly recommended). Fear not, we’ve done the grunt work for you.
Here are our Top 10 picks for Dine Around 2017.
We’ve been meaning to try Varsha, at the corner of Pandora and Government, for a while now — and this casual eatery’s $20 Dine Around menu might just get us in the door. We’d go for the veg pakoras, butter chicken poutine and gulab jamun (doughnuts with sweet red rose syrup) in a heartbeat.
2) Heron Rock Bistro
Heron Rock in James Bay is a quiet, undersung workhorse — always good in a surprising-again way, and yet, after all the years of being there, it’s often overlooked. What better time to re-connect with an old gem than during Dine Around? Menu options in the $30 category are plentiful — including Dungeness crab and shrimp fritters to start, beef short rib bourguignon for the main show and vanilla crème brulee for dessert. Mmmm, we’re salivating just thinking about it.
3) Table 21
We have a confession to make: Table 21 made this list based purely on Instagram photos. Just look …
We rest our case. Check out their $30 menu.
4) Church & State Wines
We’ve been wanting to check out out Church & State Wines for a while and Dine Around is just the excuse we needed to head out to Brentwood Bay. Their $40 menu options include warm almond-crusted island brie, pan-seared island ling cod or African-spiced lamb shank, and finishes off with lemon and vanilla panna cotta.
5) Smugglers’ Cove
This neighbourhood pub earns a nod in the $20 category this year, with its generous menu options, including tuna tataki as a starter, roasted leg of lamb or coconut curry prawn rice bowl as a main and raspberry panna cotta for dessert. It’s not somewhere we visit often, but Dine Around makes for a good excuse for an outing to Cadboro Bay — and it’s hard to go wrong for $20.
6) Aura at the Inn at Laurel Point
Aura is one of those places we often forget about because it’s kind of in the tourist zone — however, it’s most definitely worth a visit. The waterfront restaurant’s $30 menu includes the option of a kalbi glazed flat iron steak or seared lingcod with root vegetables, watercress and puffed wild rice. For dessert? Pick between white chocolate, lychee and cream cheese mousse or cocoa & coffee pot de crème.
7) Artisan Bistro
This French-inspired bistro in Broadmead Village is an exciting new addition to Dine Around this year, with menus in the $40 and $50 categories. Here’s a taste of the $50 menu: Moroccan-spiced calamari, wild sockeye salmon with pan fried gnocchi, house ricotta, almond butter, wild mushrooms and maple soy glaze, finishing with crepes suzette with vanilla and orange syrup, brandy and Chantilly cream.
Agrius, by the good folks at Fol Epi, is getting in on the Dine Around fun this year with a $30 lunch and dinner menu and $40 and $50 dinner menus. With a nod from Air Canada’s En Route Magazine as one of the best new restaurants in Canada in 2016, Agrius is definitely on the must-hit list. The $30 menu includes pork and mushroom soup, duck confit and macarons for dessert.
9) The Ruby
The Ruby at Hotel Zed has been turning heads with its breakfast menu, but here’s a chance to branch out into its dinner offerings. Their $30 comfort food menu includes rotisserie chicken soup, BBQ beef brisket with smoked mac and cheese and Yonni’s donut holes.
We love Nourish all year long, but we’ll take an extra excuse to pop in. The $30 menu features roasted beet and carrot soup, flat iron steak and cashew cheesecake. And their Instagram feed is drool-worthy.
Have you tried out any Dine Around menus yet? Share your recommendations in the comments below!
Main image via Nourish