For a small city, Victoria has an incredible food scene. And throughout a year that has challenged even the most established venues, many local spots grew, expanded, and even opened their doors.
The second annual Tasting Victoria People’s Choice Restaurant Awards is honouring these creative, innovative, and resilient local establishments. The winning restaurants in each of the 18 categories were selected based on more than 800 votes from Tasting Victoria and Capital Daily readers.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these businesses have been forced to pivot multiple times as governments began restricting public activities. Currently, restaurants are allowed to operate in-person service with a lower capacity, physical distancing, and a proper COVID-19 safety plan. A maximum of six people are allowed to sit together at a table, and masks must be worn when guests are not seated.
While the pandemic has forced some local restaurants to close, a number of new restaurants also opened their doors in 2020.
Bear & Joey Café, voted the region’s favourite new restaurant, opened on May 8—right around the time BC was at the peak of the first wave. Owner Peter Wood said the business, which offers light, nutritious brunch fare, had to pivot right from the beginning: Bear & Joey started by offering only takeout until public health orders allowed them to open their vibrant new space to the public. But throughout all of the ups and downs of the past year, Wood said the support they have received has been incredible.
“I’ve never seen anything quite as supportive from a local community,” he said. “To have people come in every day and say we’re doing a really good job—it was just a really good motivation that we were doing something good.”
For Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. the pandemic offered opportunities to be creative and delve into new territory. Phillips, which was voted the favourite local brewery, introduced the Cellar Club last year, a beer subscription package that goes out four times a year. And though the live events they’re well known for sponsoring have been cancelled, they have been working with local artists to continue to host events virtually.
Phillips also switched over its distilling operation early in 2020 from making whiskey and gins to add hand sanitizer.
“There’s a real imaginative group of people that we have here and it’s so much fun to explore different ideas and crack each other up while we’re doing it,” said Dan Reid, head of marketing and events.
A common theme among many of the winners in this year’s People’s Choice Awards is a commitment to using local products and ingredients on restaurant menus.
Part and Parcel, winner in the hidden gem category and finalist as a favourite farm-to-table spot, has had to pivot their menu to items that travel well for deliveries, but their focus is still on using ingredients available locally.
“Part and Parcel has been, since its inception, highly committed to supporting local farms and suppliers, as well as offering an original and creative food menu and a drink menu that highlights the best of regional producers,” executive chef Sergio Antonio Hernández said in an email.
Be sure to check restaurants’ websites before going out to eat as some eateries, like Part and Parcel, are currently only offering takeout and delivery.
You can view the full list of People’s Choice Award winners here.