Victoria is a city that boasts one of the highest restaurants per capita in Canada. You can sample flavours from around the world and eat out every night without making a return appearance. If money weren’t a factor, testing that theory would be pretty high on a lot of people’s lists. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grown on trees. Lucky for us though, Victoria will always have places that fit into any budget, even for those keeping a stern eye on their wallet. If in doubt, ask a university student; a list of cheap eats is second nature.
It might be true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your life’s savings on it. As the Brunch Capital of Canada, Victoria has some ritzy stops for breakfast’s sophisticated older sister, but none of these are it; fuel for the day, but cheaper than our current gas prices.
With two locations, you know it’s going to be good. Plus, if one has a line, chances are the other one won’t. Shine Café is great for breakfast, lunch, or somewhere in between. Open until 3pm, even the latest risers can make it in for a bite. $15 will get you a loaded plate with bottomless Fernwood coffee to boot.
John’s is a notorious brunch spot in Victoria, even without all that glamorous, Instagram-chic hubbub. In fact, John’s is more classic than classy, but the 50’s diner vibe and massive portions are merely part of the charm. The array of Benny’s, Tex-Mex breakfasts, and specialty “off the wall” breakfasts are crippling for anyone that has a hard time with decisions; and that’s before you look in the pie fridge. Nothing on the breakfast menu costs more than $14.95, and it will likely feed you for the day.
Chorizo & Co.
While Chorizo and Co. is better known for its tapas than its breakfast, they’ve made this list for a reason – and that reason is the Breakfast Bocata. For $6.50, you can be waking up with a fresh brioche bun loaded with chorizon, pimento alioli, a fried egg and manchego cheese. It tastes like Spain, but costs local; and not that fancy artisan local, either.
Lunch is probably the easiest meal to eat out, whether it’s a quick work break, or something to pick up while on the go. It also usually saves the day when breakfast wears off and you’re on the borderline of being hangry… Which is why this unsung hero shouldn’t rob you blind at the same time.
Redbarn Market Sandwiches
These hefty, hangry-curing beauties are no secret. In fact, Red Barn even had a Sandwich Selfie contest to acknowledge their popularity. So, if you don’t already know, here’s what all the hype is about: Pick your type of bread, or a wrap. Choose your protein and then load your sandwich with anything and everything – kind of like Subway, but with some finesse. Seriously though, the sky’s the limit for toppings. Soak it in sauce too, if you like. Grill it, or don’t, then wander over to the till, toss a $10 bill and then wait because despite your arm aching from the monstrous sandwich in your hand, you’ll get change for that. Local ingredients, a local market and a sandwich like you’ve never had before, all for less than $10. Nothing beats it.
Now hold on, Indian food on a cheap eats post? Really? Anyone who loves having Indian also knows that it’s likely to break the bank (but is oh so worth it). Masala Bites is coming in to change that pricy pretense with their lunch buffet. For $12.99, you can fill your plate with all the best Indian dishes, and then go for seconds. The trick? Don’t fill up on the soft warm naan bread that is served to your table first.
Shawarma and Falafel will almost always be the ultimate cheap eat. Yalla just happens to do it with a bit of extra oomph as far as flavour and ingredients go. The Falafel, which is only $8, comes stuffed with all the best toppings and dripping in a perfected amba zhoug – same with the saucy shawarma. Plus, the pickles are homemade. As a bonus, local kombucha is available, there’s a daily hummus plate and the Kawaij Spices fries with their killer lemon mint yogurt dip are to die for – a small is only $3.
Eating lunch at a restaurant is one thing, but dinner is an entirely different matter. Before you pounce to lock up the wallet and credit cards at the mention of going out for dinner, there are a few places where Victoria comes to the rescue. You just need to be the first with a restaurant suggestion.
Located close to UVic, Fujiya sushi is every starving student’s dream. Not only does it do all the classic rolls on the cheap ($4-6 per roll), but it also does them and numerous other sushi plates pretty darn well. Snag an order or two of California rolls for $3.75 each, then beef it up with some extra sashimi or nigiri and you’ll be set for around $10. While they close at 7pm, you can make your order online to go and wander in to pick it up. They’re also great for lunch with a grab-and-go set up. Try to get in around 11pm-1pm for peak freshness.
Three. Dollar. Tacos. Or four tacos for $10.50 – and those are only the expensive ones! La Taqueria is bringing authentic Mexican taco stand-worthy tacos to Victoria and for a really great price. Choose from veggie, meat, or fish and whether or not you want it in soft corn tortillas, or flattened into a flour tortilla as a quesadilla. The meat quesadillas and Baja fish tacos settle up at $6 a pop, while Tuna, veggie and meat tacos are five or under. It’s unstoppable…At least until 8:30pm when they close.
Sült Pierogi Bar
Despite being branded as a Canadian restaurant, Sült is serving up what is unmistakably an Eastern European classic, but with a twist: Handmade pierogies every day with innovative new types every Thursday, traditional flavours all the time and even dessert in the form of a delicious dumpling. That all sounds great, but why are they on this list? Happy Hour. Dig into a pierogi poutine (see, they are Canadian) with a PBR or a pint for just $8, or $10 respectively. Plus, their “post-work pierogies, bacon or kraut” special runs for only $4.50. Missed happy hour? A three-pierogi order is anywhere between $3.30-$4 and without the beer, a three pierogi poutine is just $6.
Snacks are key to fending off the return of the Hangry Monster. Usually, snacking is done on the go, which can wrack up the bill. For some quick, yet satisfying and cheap snack spots, Victoria is the place to be.
This is one of Victoria’s greatest hidden gems; again, tradition but with a twist. Similar to Chinese stuffed buns, the 5-year-running baker from Korea has been providing Antique Row with some of the greatest snacks, lunches and breakfasts to be found. Although they also have fresh baked goods including cookies and cinnamon buns, as well as made-to-order salads, it’s the savory buns that take the proverbial cake. Starting at about $3.50, it’s unlikely you’ll spend more than $10-15 here if you’re really hungry. Take it out back to the secret patio and enjoy!
Everyone likes pie, especially for only $6. Considering they’re personal sized, they’re even kind of cute. From savory to sweet, Saltchuck Pies has everything you need. There are even soups and salads available, not to mention some pretty intriguing pie flavors on the go. The fancy ones are still only $8.50. Perfect for any time of day, a pie is not only filling, but acts as the perfect comfort food.
Second dinner is important, but you shouldn’t have to pay the dinner price all over again. The stomach wants what it wants, when it wants and so does the wallet: cheap eats like the rest of ’em!
Bin4 Burger Lounge
Every night when the clock strikes nine, a magical hour is upon us – Bin4 Burger does 50% off its burger entrees. Of course, there’s one catch: you need to order a drink, too (darn). Aside from the drink thing, you’ll be getting a gourmet burger with all the fixings, a side and some awesome sauces for around $6-8. With a pint or a cocktail, you’re still only looking at about twelve to fifteen bucks for dinner and a drink, so what’s there to complain about?
Having a sweet tooth is not a crime, so it shouldn’t cost you like one. There are plenty of places in Victoria where it doesn’t. They understand. So, treat yourself why don’t you?
The Dutch Bakery
Unmistakable thanks to its pink overhang on Fort Street, the Dutch Bakery has been satisfying Victoria’s sweet tooth needs since 1956. To be fair, they also do coffee and have a decent lunch special, especially for those familiar with from the Netherlands. They also do a full breakfast for $9. However, it’s the baked goods that give you the most bang for your buck. Peruse the case before making your choice because there is plenty to entice you. You know it’s good because they have a service-by-numbers system for when the line gets too big.
The Beacon Drive-In
The Beacon Drive-In makes this list purely by virtue of having been voted Best Soft Serve Ice Cream in Victoria for 22 years and counting. $4.50 gets you a regular sized cone with a choice of dip – either chocolate or flavor burst. This spot is perfect for when you want to go on a date, but not drop all of your money on a fancy dinner you’re too nervous to actually enjoy. Plus, they’re open late.
What started as a humble waffle cart in 2009 quickly became a full-time shop thanks to its popularity. Because really, who doesn’t love waffles? Not only is Wannawafel a unique-to-Victoria sweet tooth pit stop – unless you go crazy on the toppings you’ll likely only spend about $5-7.
Penny-pinchers and budget minders rejoice, there are more than just these few finds that help keep the food costs down in Victoria – you just need to find them. Bon appetite!