Thanks to all who shared suggestions for my "budget-conscious guy's weekend." I did not get to go to many of the places suggested because I was in a group, and consensus rules.
Saturday morning...stocked up on sandwiches and pain au chocolat for the ferry over. Delicious pistachio pate and aged chedder sandwiches from Fol Epi. This kept me going most of the day.
Saturday afternoon: the guys and I had a couple of Anchor Steam brews in one of our hotel rooms. Liquid lunch.
Saturday evening: Hanging out at a condo rented by one of the party. Rain was torrential but intermittent. I started to get peckish and made a trip to the nearby Urban Fare market for reserves. Found a few of my favourite cheeses...comte and beemster, and some potato chips. Pricey place but nice selection.
Saturday dinner: Our party of four ventured out into the rain to Don Guacamole's. Not my choice (the sole Vancouver-area resident in our party really wanted to try it). Dinner was just okay. I started out with grilled nopales (prickly pear cactus). While I thought the flavour of the cactus was pretty good, the large amount of cheese melted on top really did not improve the dish and made it quite oily. For my main I had one of their dinner platters, which consisted of marinated flatiron steak (on second thought, was it hangar?), poblanos with crema, a tortilla rapped around some cheese and topped with mole sauce, refried beans, rice, and tortillas. The steak was tender but really quite bland and underseasoned. The poblanos (cut into strips) were not very interesting. Tortillas were okay (I like mine better). The refried beans were watery and largely flavourless. The margarita I ordered was decent. Altogether not a very inspiring meal. I was disappointed by the paucity of vegetable or salad options (the nopales were the only vegetable appetizer on the menu). The best things I tasted were the complimentary chips with trio of salsas; each of the salsas tasted fresh and packed a good amount of heat. Our party also ordered guacamole with chips, and the guac was fresh and very good.
I always believe in giving a restaurant more than one chance, and I would return to Don Guacamole's, but I must say that it does not come close to the better Mexican food I have found while traveling in the U.S. (Last year went on a trip to New Mexico that blew my mind).
Sunday Morning: Got up early as I couldn't sleep for some reason. Walked from my hotel at Granville and Drake to Deacon's Corner at Main and Alexander. I was alone for this leg of the journey. I was the first customer in the restaurant. I ordered the biscuits and sausage patties with 'country gravy' and hash browns. The food was really tasty and reasonably priced (my breakfast was less than $10 and very tasty). The biscuits were great, although perhaps just a touch on the tough side. The sausage patties (housemade) were really tasty but a little on the chewy side. The gravy was just great. Even the hashbrowns were above average. I would readily go back to Deacon's Corner for breakfast.
Coffee: Walked back downtown to Wicked Cafe but found it was not open until 10:30 on weekends. I went to Artigiano instead (the Hornby/Georgia location). I am always envious when I go to that location because the baristas are so consistent. The Victoria location really suffers from inconsistency. Had my regular item: an Americano.
Went to meet the other members of my party at 11 AM. They wanted to go for a morning coffee, so I suggested Wicked (as per the recommendations on this board). I ordered my second Americano of the morning (buzz buzz). I did not find it very good. Virtually no crema. Having said that, there was only one employee on that day (working till and making all the drinks). I would definitely give it another try. I liked the decor.
Sunday afternoon: Ventured over to Commercial Dr with one of the guys. He really wanted to go as he had formerly lived near the drive. The friend I was with is almost an "anti-foodie" so I knew that we wouldn't go anywhere too special. I had lots of suggestions but he did not like any of them, and I had already eaten at Deacon's Corner earlier that morning so was not particularly hungry. I bought some Okanagan apples (ambrosias) at a little grocery (Santa Barbara grocery). They were perfectly crisp and sweet. My friend eyed up a sketchy looking sushi joint called "Taiyo." There were no other customers in the place, which was a bad sign given that it was lunch time and most of the places on the drive were packed. Needless to say, I was not wowed by the few pieces of fish I ordered (but on the plus side it was cheap).
We spent the remainder of the afternoon perusing shops (I made some good finds at a used record/CD shop called Audiopile). We enjoyed a couple of drinks at Falconetti's, another suggestion from this board. Cool little hole in the wall bar with an unpretentious staff and clientele. I liked the music they were playing (mix of classic rock, rockabilly, a bit of electronica). I had a pretty good mojito there, and a Storm IPA.
Caught the 7 pm ferry back to the Island. Eschewing ferry food, I had some leftover pizza when I got home.
Food was definitely not the focus of this trip, but that is what happens sometimes when one travels in a group of non-foodies. I look forward to my next trip to the mainland with my lovely wife, who I can always count on for indulging my foodcentric travel plans.
Thanks for the tips.