– Story by Susan Lundy Photography by Lia Crowe
When the sun shines, temperatures soar and it’s time to wine and dine, outdoors is the place to be. Luckily, restaurants and bars in downtown Victoria have a range of options — from sidewalk seating to lush garden settings — to sip and savour al fresco. Here are 11 of our favourite spots and why we love them.
If you’re thinking “patio” in Victoria, Canoe might be the first image that pops into mind. Quintessential Victoria, it checks all the boxes — scenic, seaside dining (and lots of it) with a great menu and a diverse selection of beer crafted on site. It’s a perfect place to gather with a group and share a sunny afternoon.
SAVOUR: Canoe Classic Burger — “happy cow” organic beef, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, bread and butter pickles, burger sauce.
SIP: Canoe Beer — try the mainstays and the seasonal.
To the Sea
Fishhook Mermaid Wharf
One block down the harbour from Canoe, find Fishhook and prepare to tantalize your taste buds. This waterfront patio with views to the working waterway and Johnson Street Bridge serves up fantastic seafood with an Indo-French influence. Delish.
SAVOUR: Mermaid Thali — crispy, house-pickled seasonal local vegetables served with candied salmonaisse, harissa’d wild shrimp, lemony baguette and an assortment of local, sustainable cured, hot and cold smoked seafood.
SIP: Seaside Sangria — apricot brandy, peach schnapps, white cranberry juice, choice of white, red or sparkling wine.
Il Covo Trattoria
With a lush and peaceful setting, an Italian-inspired menu and exquisite service, Il Covo Trattoria is the spot for outdoor fine dining. Step off a busy street in James Bay and find yourself seated in a lush garden, surrounded by many of the herbs and edible flowers also found in your meal. We sipped Prosecco and savoured cool gazpacho (served with a lavender garnish). Molto buona!
SAVOUR: Spaghetti Allo Scoglio (GF) — calamari, mussels, prawns, clams and bay scallops in a light white wine marinara sauce.
SIP: Grappa di Amarone — deep amber, fruity cherry notes along with flavours of almonds and anise.
Raw is the draw
E:Ne Raw Food Sake Bar
Sidewalk seating at E:Né’s black, bar-style tables on Pandora Street may not offer the most scenic setting — although the people watching is definitely fun — but the menu will have you swooning in your seat. A $4 bites menu plus sake flight options let you sample your way through a large section of Japanese specialty dishes and sakes. Try a sake bomb!
SAVOUR: E:Né Aburi Charcuterie Platter — chef’s choice aburi roll, aburi oshi sushi, aburi nigiri and aburi oshi bites.
SIP: Sparkling sake.
She’s so high/high above me
Rooftop dining with skyline views and a cosy setting at The Livet sets the stage (theatre metaphor intended) for a must-do patio experience. Located across the street from the Royal Theatre, the upstairs location offers a private oasis from the busy street setting below. Features a char grill and a focus on tapas-style eating.
SAVOUR: Honey Garlic Pork Ribs — sesame, ginger, smoked tamari almonds, seasonal pickles.
SIP: Above the Clouds: gin, crème de viollette, lillet blanc, citrus, egg white.
We like to watch (the world go by)
10 Acres’ Commons
While 10 Acres is split into three separate dining areas — Bistro, Kitchen and Commons — it’s the street-side sidewalk patio of Commons that is the outdoor place to be for tasty bites and mega sights. Situated with views of the Inner Harbour and across the street from the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, this is people-watching central in Victoria. Faster-paced than Bistro and Kitchen, the menu incorporates the same farm-to-table philosophy.
SAVOUR: Halloumi + Tofu Tacos — Adriana’s corn tortillas with guajillo and arbol chili bbq, pico de gallo and 10 Acres Farm spicy sauce.
SIP: Fare Fruit Margarita (and it’s on the Happy Hour menu, too!).
It’s the gin
The Veranda at the Empress
Elegance, charm and spectacular views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, The Veranda at the Empress offers a summertime setting that’s great for a quiet bite amid the bustle of the city. And the drinks menu is dazzling. If you have yet to taste the pleasingly purple Empress Gin, this is the spot to do it. Or try one of the drink “Imposters” such as the one featured below.
SAVOUR: Floating Island (dessert) — bourbon vanilla bean crème anglaise, fresh raspberries, meringue chips.
SIP: Honey Lavender Lemonade: citrus blend, Fairmont honey, lavender and pea flower lemonade.
For body and soul
Nourish Kitchen + Cafe
The sun-drenched seasonal patio at Nourish Kitchen + Cafe pairs a quiet, foliage-framed setting at the foot of a beautiful heritage building with divine flavours created from wholesome ingredients. Why wouldn’t you want to eat at a restaurant that aims to “make people feel healthy and happy?” Open from 9 am to 3 pm, this is a perfect spot for breakfast or brunch al fresco. Gluten free? This is your happy place.
SAVOUR: Sleeping Beauty Pancakes (GF) — cardamom oat pancakes, warm fruit compote, organic pomegranate whipped cream, bee pollen sprinkles, maple syrup.
SIP: Uprooted — harmonic arts chaga kola root syrup, soda water, sacred basil flower essence, immune depth tincture.
The Drake Eatery
With a rotating selection of unique West Coast beer and a deck overlooking Market Square, The Drake offers an urban oasis completely removed from the hustle of the city. It’s the place to go if you’re a craft beer enthusiast, but it also pours a delicious, hoppy cider plus various wines, and serves up a full menu of bites as sipping sides.
SAVOUR: Grilled Cheese and Kimchi — aged cheddar, green apple on grilled ciabatta, or make it vegan with The Cultured Nuts Ottima Mozza.
SIP: The beer! (or try the Tod Creek Mala-Hop Cider).
Hefty happy hour
Glo Restaurant + Lounge
There’s lots to like about the shoreline-hugging Glo — located on Jutland Road with views of the busy Selkirk Waterway — but add in a lengthy Happy Hour and an extensive Happy Hour menu, and you’ll be particularly happy to sip and savour away the afternoon. Happy Hour runs 2-5 pm as well as late night and features a power-packed range of drink and food specials.
SAVOUR: Shanghai Lettuce Wraps — hoisin-ginger ground chicken, crispy farkay noodles, cilantro, toasted peanuts, shredded carrot and crisp iceberg lettuce cups, served with three sauces, sweet chili aioli, peanut lime and ginger soy.
SIP: Happy Hour Prosecco Cocktails
The Fort Common
With alley-access only, the courtyard patio at Fort Commons is a superb spot to bring your takeout and step into a private haven right downtown. Staged with communal-style tables and offering napkins, cutlery and water, it’s perfectly positioned as an outdoor eatery for nearby favourites such as Be Love, Yalla, La Taquista, Fishhook and Chorizo & Co. Open from June 1 to September 16.