Thursday, February 22, 2024

Here’s a list of all the restaurants that have opened or closed in Victoria so far this year

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So far, this year, 18 restaurants in and around Victoria have closed; however, an additional 14 have opened their doors with more on the way soon. 

This city has a celebrated and diverse food scene with a little bit of something for everyone. 

That being said, with inflation, rising food costs, rising rents, higher labour costs and fewer customers due to the chokehold of a floundering economy, times are objectively tough for restaurateurs right now.  

So… Do you want the good news first or the bad news first? How about a bit of column ‘A’ and a bit of column ‘B’.

Beginning in January, here are all the restaurants that have opened and closed so far in 2023:

Agrius – CLOSED

A beautiful place located on Yates Street and connected to Fol Epi, this restaurant served up some of the very best fresh ingredient, locally sourced food that Victoria has ever been able to offer. 

Their jaw dropping food paired perfectly with their focus on natural wine that was difficult to find at any other eatery at that time. 

Their incredibly knowledgeable and gracious staff were the cherry on top of this gem that no longer is.


King Sejong – CLOSED

In the spot now occupied by Victoria Pocha, King Sejong was a cozy little spot which offered authentic Korean food to people who wanted to keep things traditional. 

Although Victoria Pocha served more fusion focussed cuisine, the space is reminiscent of King Sejong for those who loved the space and the vibe.


Victoria Pocha – OPENED

They claim to be Victoria’s premier Asian fusion pub!

They are located on Yates Street and their focus is Korean cuisine with Chinese and Japanese influences. 

Dine in and take out are both options and they have several low-cost lunch specials available for those looking for a bite to eat downtown around noon. 

  • Where: 650 Yates Street
  • When: Hours vary depending on the day 

Old Vic Fish & Chips – CLOSED

A staple of the Victoria food scene for over 90 years, although ownership changed hands a few times. 

In the 1300-block of Broad Street, the building they were located in had to evict its tenants because it was owned by UVic and they had other plans for it. 

A boutique hotel is to be built in the heritage building, while keeping the outer facade of the building the same. 

UVic also evicted Saint Frank’s, but they were able to successfully relocate while Old Vic was not.


Block Kitchen + Bar – OPENED

In the former location of Chuck’s Burger Bar, the completely new and separate owners came in to try and fix the taint that was left on the space and they did just that.

“I’m fully aware of the history of Chuck’s and Lumberjack’s, but there’s not any connection there,” co-owner and general manager Andy Burke told Victoria Buzz at the time of the opening.

“We are not affiliated in any way. We’re a completely new entity, totally unrelated,” he continued.

They offer contemporary food with an elevated cocktail menu and they have become a mainstay in other tourist heavy cities like Banff, while still being grounded in the community for the locals to find their watering hole at Block. 

  • Where: 538 Yates Street, downtown Victoria
  • When: 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. weekdays and open until 1 a.m. on weekends

Mr. Tubesteak Cart – CLOSED

It was a mainstay of any drunken night in Victoria just as much as it was a mainstay of an afternoon trip to Capital Iron and now it is no longer. 

No one thought of hot dogs and smokies as tubesteaks until they were brave enough to call them that and now not even the term “glizzy” can take over in Victorians’ mind palaces. 

They did try to sell their cart online and for a time, it seemed hopeful that there might be a new Mr. Tubesteak, but alas, that is not the reality we live in.


Island Sub – CLOSED

This Westshore sandwich, pizza and wrap haven also announced its closure this February. 

The now 64-year-old owner, Karen Ricketts announced the closure on social media. The last day of operation was February 13th. 

Now, a Big Wheel Burger has taken over the space with its fifth location.


Marina Restaurant – CLOSED

After more than 30 years, the Oak Bay Marina’s restaurant has shut its doors for good

The restaurant announced on Monday, “the Marina Restaurant has been a fixture in the community and in our hearts for over 30 years. Our community, current and past, have made this restaurant legendary, we have seen our staff and our guests grow up at the Marina Restaurant.”

They cited staff shortages and inflation as the reasons for the business’s closure.

“Unfortunately, just like many others we are not immune to the economic challenges arising from inflation, therefore we are not able to operate any longer.”


Very Good Butchers – CLOSED

The vegan “butcher” company has faced much scrutiny over the years for mistreating employees and for making poor business decisions. 

The company has cited their financial situation as the main reason for their downward spiral and eventual closure.

Now, a successful business from Duncan, Kahuna, is opening a second location in its place, serving Hawaiian cuisine in the form of burgers and poke bowls.


Lotus Pond – CLOSED

This Chinese fare spot at 617 Johnson Street was a destination for many for over 20 years in Victoria. 

Although they didn’t imply why they closed down, the restaurant shared their gratitude and thanked their patrons in a farewell statement before they closed their doors for good in February.


Fathom – OPENED

In the heart of the Hotel Grand Pacific is easily one of the best cocktails and west coast tapas bars in the game right now. 

The upscale restaurant looks to take seafood in fascinating new directions, while evolving classic favourites inspired by the rugged west coast.

Whiskey lounge vibes with a patio that is one of the brightest and sunniest along Belleville Street. 

  • Where: Located inside Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville Street
  • When: Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week

Ugly Duckling – OPENED

In the heart of Chinatown, this spot has got to be one of the most elevated food experiences in all of BC as far as Asian fusion goes. 

A French approach to Asian cuisine makes for delicious small plate dishes meant to be shared and gives diners the chance to sample several creations as opposed to having to just choose one or two dishes. 

They are also known for their small or large tasting menus priced fairly at $115 per person for a hungrier diner or $85 for a shorter version. 

Additionally, this spot was declared one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants by Air Canada. They have made the Top 30 list and are a strong frontrunner to make the Top 10 which will be announced on November 1st. 

  • Where: 543 Fisgard Street
  • When: Wednesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Clarke & Co. – CLOSED

Clarke & Co. was a beloved Victoria cocktail bar, known for custom drinks that matched their customers’ tastes. 

They broke the announcement on Instagram in March that they would celebrate with one last drink before closing in early April.

The space has since been taken over by Tourist, a natural wine focussed bar with incredible food that will be featured further down on this list, as it took a while to renovate and reopen. 


Big Wheel Burger in Langford – OPENED

Another one!

Greater Victoria and even all of Vancouver Island can’t get enough of Big Wheel Burger and Langfordians are so pleased to have one of their own. 

Sustainable fast food at its finest, the burgers here are some of the best in the business.

This Big Wheel Burger opened in the old Island Sub location in Westshore Town Centre.

  • Where: 610-2945 Jacklin Road, Langford
  • When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week

Swift Brewing & Good Times Tasting Room – OPENED

One of the newest additions to Victoria’s booming craft beer scene will make you feel like you are hanging out, having a pint in your grandma’s basement—but in a good way. 

Swift Brewing & Good Times Tasting Room opened its unique barroom in May and it has been fully embraced by locals and tourists alike ever since. 

It was opened by the minds behind CRAFT Beer Market, who wanted a passion project in the form of a micro brewery to make beer of their own and collaborate with breweries they’ve been partnering with for ages. 

  • Where: 450 Swift Street
  • When: Wednesday to Sunday, noon to midnight, Mondays, noon to 10 p.m.

Shine Cafe downtown – CLOSED

Just the Blanshard Street location was shut down after the owners went through a divorce that left Lauren Thomson solely running both the Fernwood and downtown brunch spots. 

Most of the staff was absorbed by the Fort Street Shine Cafe, but not all. 

Now the old Shine on the corner of Blanshard and Johnson street will become a new seafood bar called Shuck Taylor’s, which will be run by Jess Taylor who is known for running the Wandering Mollusk.


Rumrunners – CLOSED

A staple of Sidney and right along the waterfront near the marina, Rumrunners was beloved by many. 

They were in business for over 32 years and decided to close because the owner, Bill Singer decided to retire after a long career in the service industry as a restaurateur. 

There are rumours circulating in Sidney as to what is going to go in this space, but they remain unsubstantiated at this time.


Humboldt Bar – OPENED

Fine dining at its finest, this is a spot you’d want to dress up for and take someone special for an experiential meal. 

The bar is cocktail focused with something for everyone that uses several local and near-local ingredients. 

Food-wise, this place shows that big flavour comes in small packages with a simple six-item rotating small plate menu. 

Might as well show up hungry and get all six dishes.

  • Where: 722 Humboldt Street
  • When:
    • Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
    • Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Fol Epi on Yates – CLOSED

Just four months after its critically acclaimed sister restaurant, Agrius, closed its doors for good, Fol Epi announced they would shut down their Yates Street location because “capitalism sucks.”

“We stacked up a lot of debt getting through covid and now it’s time to pay it back and the economy is not as strong as we had all hoped,” said Cliff Leir, owner of Fol Epi at the time of the closure.  

“More and more people are on limited budgets, it’s a tough time doing business.”

Their ‘dockside’ location remains open along Harbour Road.


Soupa Cafe on Esquimalt Road – CLOSED

The second location of the mom n’ pop style soup and sandwich shop opened for a short time in the Esquimalt Road Bingo Hall.

The building was and still is scheduled for demolition and going unused, so Soupa Cafe moved in with a small but friendly storefront and created space for a massive commissary kitchen in the rear. 

The duo who had owned Soupa sold their business, which still has one location downtown at 736 View Street, but new owners took over and happily ran the singular sandwich and soup shop.


Bray’s West Coast Tapas + Wine Bar – OPENED

They are the latest “west coast tapas” bar that moved into the recently restored, historic Janion Building in the space that used to be Café 1891, which closed in 2020. 

Nestled beside Nubo, the Johnson Street Bridge and the harbour, Bray’s West Coast Tapas + Wine Bar is bringing the finer things in life to Victorians.

Bray’s is best appreciated by those who yearn for a well crafted cocktail, a wine list that has something for everyone and food that will make you wish you could try everything. 

  • Where: 460 Pandora Avenue
  • When:
    • Sunday to Thursday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
    • Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Yates Street Taphouse – CLOSED

They went out somewhat silently and mysteriously. 

In May, Victoria Buzz reached out to their owners and asked if the rumours of them closing were true and they said other publications had falsely reported they were closing.

They said they had been meeting with the building owner to negotiate a deal, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

Since their closure there have been rumours they left perishable items in the kitchens which prompted a rat problem along Yates Street.


West Bay Cafe – OPENED

West Bay Cafe is owned and operated by Rox Thomas, a restaurateur who wanted nothing more than a place to serve delicious, organic food where people who are celiac, like her, can find a good meal without sacrificing flavour.

The cafe is located just down by the Esquimalt Marina off Head Street in a brand new building and has plenty of sunlight to enjoy vegan and gluten free snacks and a nice latte.

  • Where: Unit 108 – 474 Head Street
  • When: Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Goodside Pastry House – OPENED

Way up Fort Street there is a new pastry shop that opened its doors in May.

They have a plethora of pastries and desserts that people will flock to throughout the day, which is evident because they often sell out of their products ahead of their scheduled closing time.

Cookies, croissants, danishes, bread, brulee, tarts and literally something of everything, this place is only going to grow in popularity if pastry-lovers can show up for them.

  • Where: 1805 Fort Street
  • When: Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or sellout 

Marilena Cafe + Raw Bar – OPENED

Run by the renowned Toptable Group who has a long list of premium restaurants in places such as New York, Vancouver, and Toronto. They’re owned by Aquilini Investment Group, who also own the Vancouver Canucks.

This high-end spot is the ultimate date night opportunity and focuses on sustainable seafood. 

Their bar has several premium old and new world wines while they also have a refined cocktail program that can pair well with any food item on the menu.

  • Where: 1525 Douglas Street
  • When: Open 7 days a week from 4:30 p.m. until late

The Collective Wine Bar & Kitchen – CLOSED

The Collective Wine Bar & Kitchen announced in an Instagram post on Thursday, July 13th that they would be closing their doors for good following one last weekend of service. 

They were a mainstay of not only Cook Street, but Victoria’s wine and culinary culture over their five years of business. 

“While this news may be difficult, please know that this decision was not made lightly,” read Collective’s closure announcement. 

“The challenges to small local businesses brought on by recent circumstances have proven insurmountable, and sadly, we must bid farewell to this chapter of our lives.”

It is not yet known what will open in Collective’s stead.


Saveur – CLOSED

This restaurant said it was because of the pandemic in combination with other setbacks including, but not limited to labor shortages, rising cost of food, and inflation which led them to the decision to close.  

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we say farewell,” said a Saveur spokesperson. 

“Since 2020, the operational challenges faced by businesses due to ongoing closures, restrictions, and setbacks caused by the pandemic made an extremely difficult environment for restaurants to survive in.”

They were one of many that cited labour and costs to be the biggest impacts on them, and those things have yet to improve for the restaurants remaining in Victoria.


Tourist Wine Bar – OPENED

This new and bumping spot is in the old location of Clarke & Co. on Blanshard Street.

They have a rotating cast of natural wines by the glass and reasonably priced bottles, perfect for sharing with company. 

Their wine selection offers a more funky, minerally and juicy list than a typical wine bar and that is something they pride themselves on. 

Their menu has a small variety of food that is all done impeccably in a kitchen no bigger than a broom closet. 

The steak and frites, the burger or the charcuterie chip bowl are three must-try dishes while you sip on some natty wine. 

Their staff is also incredibly kind and knowledgeable. 

  • Where: 1002 Blanshard Street
  • When: Wednesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to late, Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Syriana Mediterranean Cuisine – OPENED

In the old Timmy’s on Esquimalt Road, a Syrian and Mediterranean restaurant has opened up and it is perfect.

Shawarma, falafel, flatbreads, pita sandwiches, platters and seafood, they have so much to offer on a menu where there are no wrong decisions. 

They also are able to offer catering services and both their in-restaurant and catering prices are incredibly reasonable for those looking for a great bite to eat on a budget. 

  • Where: 1258 Esquimalt Road
  • When:
    • Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Friday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

La Taqueria – CLOSED

They closed down seemingly out of nowhere. 

La Taqueria has other locations in Vancouver where its roots are firmly planted, but for some reason the Victoria spot along Fort Street just couldn’t cut it. 

It was one of the best Mexican fusion spots with items like the birria ramen and inventive cocktails.


Hive Eatery – CLOSED

A Fairfield staple and a perfect place to grab a snack before or after the Moss Street farmers market. 

This spot had a great many delicious items, but their crispy chicken sandwich was truly one of the best in the city. 

Their burgers will live on in our hearts and minds while we patiently wait to see what moves into their former location next.


HiFive Chicken – OPENED

This one is a franchise, but a delicious one to itch your greasy chicken cravings without having to resort to going to KFC.

Their maple and chive biscuits with some gravy are amazing and they do 18-piece chicken dinners that will easily feed a whole family for a completely reasonable cost.

Fried chicken just scratches an itch that no other food can possibly reach, you know?


What is to come in Victoria

There are a handful of restaurants in the works across Greater Victoria right now, many of which are highly anticipated and sure to be a success when they open up their doors. 

Kahuna is an amalgamation of two Duncan businesses making the move to Victoria — Kahuna Burger and Aloha Poke. 

These two spots will be opening sometime in October on Store Street, right where the Very Good Butchers sandwich shop was.

They will specialize in Hawaiian fare and are ready to give Victoria a taste of grilled pineapple on their burgers. 

Tombo Eats is moving into where Agrius and Fol Epi used to be on Yates Street. They are a bit shrouded in mystery, but their owner is one of two minds behind Crust Bakery, so it is sure to be some of the best of whatever they choose to serve there. 

Shuck Taylor’s is the new idea from Jess Taylor, the genius who runs Wandering Mollusk off the Whistle Buoy Brewing patio. He hands down has the freshest and best seafood and Victorians have been eagerly awaiting his new project opening in the old Shine Cafe’s Blanshard Street location.


So those are all the restaurants in Victoria that have opened or closed in the last nine months, but being that there are so many restaurants and Greater Victoria is a big place, let us know in the comments if we missed any!

mm
Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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