-Column by Allan Reid
The past 15 months have been difficult for the restaurant industry, but as a whole, we’ve seen fewer closures than were once anticipated. We lost Fol Epi’s venture into Paul’s Diner, and Ruth and Dean on Douglas, although it continues to operate in the Estevan Village. Similarly, the Fishhook’s waterfront location has become Tug, though the original remains on Fort Street. And we’ve lost a few Starbucks here and there, but on the whole, we’ve survived, even opened a few new places—the aforementioned Tug, Friends of Dorothy, the Hallway, Dumpling Drop. Ithaka even took the opportunity to move into a larger facility. But clearly, the pandemic has been a greater struggle for some more than for others.
The Aegean Café has enjoyed the benefit of a loyal clientele among folks working around the intersection of Fort and Blanshard streets. Folks return often to enjoy home-style offerings that range from family-sized frozen takeout to house-baked treats, a few sandwiches and salads, souvlaki, falafel and plenty of generously proportioned wraps. This is good food fast; not fast food. Oh, and don’t forget your favourite Torrefazione espresso concoction, for the Aegean is one of the few restaurants in town that still carries this excellent brand of coffee (this brand—from a Seattle start-up—was once ubiquitous around the city before Starbucks purchased it some years ago and all but phased it out).
It was probably inconsiderate of me to show up at 1 pm on a Friday, just an hour before closing for the weekend (open 9 am to 2 pm, Monday to Friday), when the display cases are almost bare. There were a couple of spanakopita rolls and apple turnovers, a fresh pan of savoury buns that look like cinnamon rolls, but aren’t, and a few muffins. What’s left looks wonderful. But the once congested dining area has been stripped of tables and chairs and there is no patio. Take out only, for now. Certainly not the busy windows I’ve often passed in the past. A chalkboard offers lasagna, cabbage rolls, moussaka, and shepherds pie to facilitate that cooked-at-home meal after an exhausting day.
The Aegean claims to be “Greek-inspired cuisine,” although I notice Italian, Ukrainian, English, French, Californian, Thai and Indian influences as well. I order the Southwest Wrap with Chicken ($13.) Hot, moist breast of chicken is surrounded by basmati and wild rice and quinoa, red bell peppers, edamame, corn and a generous dollop of creamy chipotle sauce. This is a wrap to stretch the mouth at about seven centimetres in diameter. Cut into two approximately 10-centimetre lengths, it offers an ample and satisfying meal with just a hint of spice, although it is essential to eat over the red and white checkered paper, as the rice and quinoa are eager to escape.
But the best part of takeout is the ability to enjoy it anywhere—back at the office, sitting on a street bench or planter, church steps, under the trees in Pioneer Square. My wrap, four hours cold, accompanied me to the Uplands, where I sat seaside on the grass and rocks with a few friends to enjoy a picnic dinner on a fabulous warm, calm and sunny late afternoon. Here we enjoyed the far too rare delight of a casual, convivial conversation while overlooking the big ships on the Haro Strait, with San Juan Island behind, and all the troubles of our world uninvited.
Aegean Café | aegeancafe.ca
799 Fort Street, Victoria | 250 381-3221