Guest Blogger: Dining in Victoria: A Gluten-Free Playground

The dining scene in Victoria, British Columbia has stayed ahead of the curve when it comes to being an inclusive environment for so many different culinary lifestyles and restrictions. The rest of Canada would be wise to copy off of Victoria’s playbook.

Since moving to the west coast (almost 10 years ago now!), I have tried every diet or lifestyle there is: vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo, strict detoxes, etc. The best part about these experiments with my health was that I could still eat out – no matter what my restriction-of-the-moment happened to be. Dining in Victoria is experience created for people with specific tastes, allergies, diets, and lifestyle preferences and today, I’d like to take the readers of Braised Blue on a gluten-free journey through my pretty city, Victoria, BC.

Eastern medicine and other alternative therapies are increasingly becoming more common place here in the western hemisphere, and they all seem to have a common enemy: gluten. Around these parts, those six letters have become a bad word for people struggling with everything from allergies to anxiety – and it’s tough to ignore the arguments in favour of restricting this useless protein composite from your diet.

Here is just a snap shot of some of the symptoms of a gluten intolerance from which approximately 5-10% of all people suffer:

  • Hives

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Digestive problems

  • Bloating

  • Headaches

What’s even scarier is that gluten is not just found in bread, it’s an additive commonly used in everything from pre-packaged salad dressing to liquor (yes, liquor).

In many cities, living a gluten-free life could potentially end your dining out days, condemning you to a life of being described as that “hippy recluse who is no fun.” And then there’s Victoria where restaurants not only cater to us weird hippies, but celebrate any dietary restriction you can throw at them.

If you live in Victoria, my jaw would drop if you told me that you’ve never visited this vegetarian hot-spot. One of my favourite things on their menu happens to be the simplest: their Rebar salad. It sounds boring, but when you pair it with one of their unique (and gluten-free) salad dressing, this colourful health explosion is a reason you will return.

The Sticky Wicket Pub
Located in the Strathcona hotel, this pub has been around forever and is a major hotspot. In a very Canadian-like effort to include everyone, they offer a separate gluten-free menu alongside their traditional pub fair. While I don’t recommend it for its creativity, it’s nice to know that you still have the option of hanging out with friends for some food and a drink.

The Joint Pizza
If you’re looking for a greasy treat that will leave you feeling, but not looking, like the happy Buddha, this is your spot. With gluten-free crust options, vegan cheese, and a variety of healthy toppings, it’s easy to give into those after the bar/late-night cravings.

Café Bliss
Just like the name, eating anything here is a unique and blissful experience. Not only is everything organic, raw, dairy and gluten-free, all the ingredients are seasonally and locally sourced. If you’re thinking wheat grass shots and flavourless food, you’ve got to check it out for yourself. With offerings such as chocolate hazelnut torte, an amazing juice bar, raw chocolate truffles, and a changing menu of entrées, this little place is full of fabulous.

This lounge/tapas restaurant is one of my favourites. It’s not just the amazing assortment of gluten-free options including bruschetta and a tuna steak crostini, it’s the ambiance and of course, the cocktail menu. The staff is incredibly helpful and welcoming and it’s a place in the city where “the cool kids” hang out.

Unfortunately, I only have limited space and while these are some of my favourites, they only touch the gluten-free availability in Victoria. I’d be surprised to hear of any restaurant that is unable to accommodate those with gluten sensitivities – all you have to do is ask. When it comes to dietary restrictions in Victoria, embarrassment is never on the menu – not that I needed to give you another reason to visit this gem of a Canadian city.

Here’s to healthy and happy eating, friends!

Sarah Head is a communications professional and yoga instructor living in Victoria, BC. Certified in Hatha yoga, she specializes in stress and anxiety relief through regular practice – on and off the mat. Sarah encourages her students to let go of the past, and their expectations for the future, through the breath and asanas. By bringing together the mind, body and soul, she helps her students embrace the present moment and express gratitude for all the small joys in life. When not barefoot in a yoga studio, Sarah is a communications professional with a focus in branding, copy writing and social media management. Her is a humorous collection of her thoughts, tips, observations, and general ramblings about the successes and struggles of living her yoga in the real world.