The back to school push in university is so much better than in grade school. Classes have started, but the majority of assignments aren’t due until October. This leaves ample time to enjoy Victoria’s restaurant scene. The three “best night out” scenarios listed below leave plenty of room for improvising. Mix and match venues from each night or go crazy and visit each place in one weekend. Still need persuading? The following article offers five opportunities for tweeting, two restaurants serving spicy food, three venues for dancing, one political stop and infinite moments for Instagram.
Retro Saturday Night
The best night out for those who listen to vinyl, raid their grandparents’ closets and long for yesteryear, yet still maintain an active Twitter account.
First stop: Paul’s Motor Inn and Restaurant
A time existed when eating out was a special treat. Load a car (or two) with nostalgia-prone friends, crank up the jukebox (or iPod) and cruise into Victoria’s answer to the old-fashioned diner. The 1960s-inspired menu includes all the classics like hamburgers, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pie, cake and the often-forgotten float. The restaurant is open year-round. Make visiting this nostalgic diner a priority, and make a note to come again next summer: the drive-in will be fully functional then.
Hours: Sunday–Thursday 6 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Friday–Saturday 6 a.m. – 12 a.m.
1900 Douglas St.
Second stop: Nothin’ but Swing
The best exercise is the kind that doesn’t feel like exercise at all. Burn off those drive-in burgers with four hours of swing dancing. Show off your favourite Mad Men attire, but make sure comfortable shoes are part of the ensemble (I speak from experience). Each night begins with a 45-minute swing lesson (beginners are always welcome). Once you’ve learned the basic steps, it’s time to share your newfound rhythm with a partner. Everyone dances with everyone, so don’t be shy! Nothin’ but Swing is organized by the Swing Dance Association of Victoria and runs every Saturday night.
Hours: Saturday 8:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. (45-minute lesson starts at 8:30)
St. John’s Hall
925 Balmoral Rd.
$5 for students
Third stop: Clive’s Classic Lounge
Sneak out of swing early and dance yourself over to Clive’s at the Chateau Victoria. A nightcap is the ideal way to end this retro Saturday night. Get adventurous and ditch the standard gin and tonic. Clive’s focuses on unique drinks, often created on the spot by the bartenders. Saturday night is Experimental Saturday, where bartenders are allowed to flex their creative muscles. With drink names like The Jessica Rabbit and Click Your Heels Thrice, just deciding what to order is half the fun. Clive’s makes its own syrups, bitters and garnishes in-house. Living in the past has never been more glamorous.
Hours: Saturday – Sunday 5 p.m. – midnight
Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – midnight
740 Burdett Ave. (Main floor of Chateau Victoria)
New to UVic
You’ve committed to island living, but have spent every moment unpacking. Emerge from your cozy basement suite — the fresh sea air awaits.
First stop: Felicita’s
Psst, new guy . . . Felicita’s is the on-campus pub. It serves food that students can afford (nothing is over $11). It also serves drinks, which is, obviously, the pub’s primary draw. Check out the nightly drink specials online — there’s usually a jug of beer available for under $15, which can be shared between two, three, four, or five people, but not six. (The glasses aren’t full enough!) My favourite pastime? Challenging my friends to a pool game. There’s also karaoke and jamaroke (karaoke with a live band). It either sounds very good (usually to only yourself, and after a few of those pitchers), or very, very bad. But go ahead and try! University is a place to experiment.
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. – midnight
Friday 11:30 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Saturday 4 p.m. – 1 a.m.
The UVic Students’ Union Building (SUB)
Second stop: Parliament Buildings
You’re going to need proof for your friends and family that you’ve arrived safe and sound in the province’s capital. Hop on the 15 bus, which leaves from Felicita’s and travels downtown. Head down Government Street towards Belleville Street. Follow the flash of digital cameras to the Inner Harbour. The B.C. Parliament Buildings look pretty snazzy at night. You can stroll on the front lawn and snap a few photos for yourself. Email the nicest one to your parents. (They miss you already!) Choose the most attractive picture for your Facebook cover photo. Tag it YOLO (You Only Live Once). Friends from back home will wish they attended university. If you’re trying to impress, tell anyone who will listen that Francis Rattenbury designed the building.
Live music. No cover. Craft beer. Six words every student loves to hear. Swans isn’t quite in the heart of downtown, so you can mix with the locals. Snagging a table is difficult, but sitting is even harder. There’s no escaping the dance floor, which is hardwood (how often does that happen?). The music is familiar, a nod to classic rock, blues, bluegrass, funk and jive favourites everyone can sing along with. The beer is brewed right in the building and choices range from Bavarian lager to raspberry ale. Order a tasting flight if picking only one is too tough. For the designated driver, Swans also brews its own root beer.
Hours: Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. – 2 a.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. – midnight
506 Pandora Ave.
The best night out for individuals addicted to travelling and cilantro.
First stop: Hernande’z Cocina
It’s impossible to eat at Hernande’z only once. This take on Central American cuisine is unmatched in Victoria, and you’re unlikely to find better value for high-quality food. Give in to the flavours of handmade tacos and huaraches (thick corn tortillas). My personal favourite is the huarache de puerco ($8.95). It’s a handmade tortilla topped with slow-cooked pork, black beans, rice and wild greens. The tacos (five for $6) are perfect for sharing. Sides of cilantro ($0.25) are always available.
Hours: Mon – Sun 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
735 Yates St.
Take a walk around North America’s second-oldest Chinatown. Sure, during the day the produce vendors and dim sum shops are the main draw, but night is the best time to experience this National Historic Site of Canada. Start at the Gates of Harmonious Interest (Fisgard and Government Streets), which welcome visitors with a song. Sip on a bubble tea, feel the history radiating from the bricks in Fan Tan Alley and wander the basement of Quanley’s Gift Shop. If this evening escape into the East isn’t enough, return during the day for tea at Silk Road Tea and brunch at Don Mee Seafood.
Third stop: The Mint
The night is always young at The Mint. DJs spin records Wednesday through Sunday from 9 p.m. ’til 1 a.m. in this eclectic underground restaurant/lounge. Food is inspired by the Himalayas, with dishes like naan pizza, lamb curry and Tibetan dumplings a mainstay on the relatively small menu. For late-night hunger, I’d suggest the choylea ($8.95). Beef tenderloin marinated in lime, ginger and chilies is grilled, tossed with scallion, red onion and cilantro, then served on a bed of lettuce. Knock it back with any Mint cocktail ($5.50), and then dance yourself to a faraway place. If only travelling was always this simple.
Hours: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. daily
Also open for lunch Monday – Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 4p.m.
1414 Douglas St.
Victoria is large enough to offer dining options for every palate at every price range, but not so big that becoming a regular at your favourite establishment is impossible. Make it your back-to-school mission to have a server remember your name and your go-to order.
Look for Kaitlyn’s regular restaurant reviews every week in her Eats, Chews and Leaves column