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In a city of vegan competition, Meet on Blanshard in Victoria shines

Allan Reid’s monthly column, Voracious explores restaurants throughout Victoria
The Big Yum at Meet on Blanshard. (Allan Reid)

It is an intentionally ironic double entendre, this name, for the one thing you will not find on the menu at Meet, is meat. Now if you happen to be that person who cannot imagine a meal without meat, or if the terms vegetarian and vegan bring to mind sawdust-tasting veggie patties and watery bowls of faux chili, let me say that vegetarian cooking has come a long way since the early ‘80s.

According to Made In CA, Victoria holds the title of Canada’s most vegetarian or vegan-friendly city with 17.85 vegan restaurants per 10,000 people, for a total of 164 such restaurants squeezed within the city limits. Who knew? That’s a lot of competition. For comparison, Niagara Falls, the second-place city, has just 7.41 vegan restaurants per 10,000 people. These numbers do not include all the restaurants that serve vegan and vegetarian options on their otherwise meat-based menus. There is a lot of great, satisfying, flavourful and hearty vegan and vegetarian fare to be found in this city.

Meet on Blanshard is located in the old Boston Pizza right on the corner of Blanshard and Hillside. This is not the most pedestrian-friendly part of town, but there is ample and free off-street parking available. Within, the space is divided by the host’s desk. On the left is the bar, which offers a full array of cocktails and selections of BC wines and beer. Here one can choose to sit up at the bar, at a high-top table, or at a window booth overlooking green bushes and Blanshard traffic beyond. On the right, the dining room features all booths for two or four, including a lower section with window booths that overlook green bushes and Hillside traffic.

With so much glass, the space is bright. High ceilings and white walls and ceiling enhance this brightness and the spaciousness of the place. Whimsical touches—a planter made of blue, pink and yellow painted tires, a mid-‘70s era console-style TV complete with a collection of movies in VHR format (yes, the player is there too)— and wall art by featured artists add colour, as do the pink exposed air ducts overhead and booth benches covered in red faux leather. Definitely an atmosphere designed for families and groups of friends to meet and celebrate life, good food and each other.

I began with a cup of the Fresh Soup ($5.75), which changes daily. This day, it is mushroom. The broth is thick and coarse, and loaded with slices and chunks of oyster mushroom. It is hearty, earthy, and umami-rich and I’m sorry I didn’t order a bowl ($9.75). I followed with The Big Yum ($19.75). This promising bowl offers colours to rival the artwork on the walls. Curly dark green kale, shredded red cabbage, bright orange shredded carrots, crimson beets, big kernels of yellow corn, chartreuse edamame, roasted orange yams, tempeh and hemp hearts are piled in zones of colour over brown rice and drizzled with an umami-rich tahini sauce. The flavours are spectacular and the portion is sure to satisfy the most hearty appetite. I am now glad that I didn’t order the full bowl of soup.

Despite the lure of the cocktail menu, I opted for coffee. I don’t often comment on coffee, but this was particularly good. A rich, well-balanced roast strong enough to satisfy lovers of dark roasts, but without the intense bitterness that turns off lovers of medium roasts.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful lunch, and I didn’t miss the meat at all.

Meet on Blanshard | 250 704 2900 |

797 Hillside Ave., Victoria |