(Fully updated January 15, 2014)
For years, I’ve kept a list of my favourite restaurants in and around Victoria. I delight in sharing my finds with friends, and now it’s my pleasure to share the selections with Victoria SAVVY readers.
Rather than rate all entries, I include only places I genuinely recommend (except where specifically noted). The few I have marked with an asterisk* are personal favourites—restaurants that serve consistently delicious food that keeps me coming back.
This is an evolving list, and I’ll be adding details on an ongoing basis (websites, phone numbers, addresses, etc.) I welcome tips from fellow Victoria foodies on places I have yet to discover! Click this link to send me a message now.
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FOOD TRUCKS AND “POP-UP” STANDS
Daidoco (Facebook page). While the much loved take-out location on Courtney Street has closed, word is that a food truck (probably with a new name) is coming soon. Keep watch via the Daidoco Facebook page.
Dead Beetz (Facebook page). Truck often at Save On Foods Arena, 1925 Blanshard Street.
Hungry Rooster (www.hungryrooster.ca). Truck often at the Save On Foods arena or one of the two Camosun College campuses. Check website for whereabouts.
Mama Rosie’s (mamarosiesfoodtruck.com). Truck location seasonal and variable. Check website for whereabouts.Vancouver Island’s only Filipino food truck.
Refiner Diner (refinerdiner.com) Truck usually at 950 Yates Street. Burgers, falafel, oyster po boys, and poutine served from Victoria’s first bio-diesel food truck.
Taco Justice League (tacojustice.com). Truck usually at 1580 Cook Street.
Tacofino Victoria (tacofino.com). Truck location varies. Check website for whereabouts. The fish tacos earn rave reviews.
Tamales Don Carlos (Facebook page). Location seasonal and variable. Check Facebook page.
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OTHER CHEAP EATS
Ayo Eat. 140-560 Johnson Street, Market Square. Victoria’s first Indonesian take-out eatery; a one-man operation. Not the quickest takeout from this truly tiny hole in the wall in upper Market Square, but well worth the wait when you taste the delicious fare.
Bubby Rose’s Bakery (www.bubbyrosesbakery.com), 1022 Cook. These folks bake a brownie so rich, you feel as if you could fall forever into its chocolatey dreaminess.
Eugene’s Greek Restaurant* (www.eugenes.ca), 1990 Fort. Best fresh hummus and grilled pita anywhere, and so reasonable!
Fantan Cafe (www.members.shaw.ca/fantancafe), 549 Fisgard. Terrific take-out noodle boxes; heaping plates for dine-in can easily be shared.
Finest at Sea (250-383-7760; www.finestatsea.com), 27 Erie Street, James Bay. Primarily a fresh seafood deli, this outlet serves fresh barbequed fish sandwiches at lunch for a great price; seasonal.
Floyd’s Diner (www.floyds-diner.com), 866 Yates. Good cheap soups, huge breakfasts; amusing dish you can flip for with the owner and pay double or nothing.
Hook (www.hookfoods.com), Fort Street. This is primarily a gourmet seafood deli, but daily seafood sandwiches are a reasonable and delicious lunch option.
Hope Key (www.hopekeyrestaurant.com), 1313 Douglas. Attentive, very friendly servers (say hello to Brenda!). Good value Chinese dishes; prawns are plump, fresh, and well-priced.
I Kyu Noodles (250-380-7885; Facebook page), 564 Fisgard Street. Excellent, affordable noodle dishes created by a third-generation noodle maker. Hours of operation seem a bit random at this Chinatown restaurant, but the food is delicious.
La Fogata Latina (250-381-2233; Facebook page), 749 View Street next to the View Street Parkade. A wonderful little hole-in-the-wall joint for authentic Columbian street food. The deliciously hearty corn arepas — a kind of thick polenta pancake — start at $5 and come filled, pita-pocket style, with cheese, egg, chicken, or pork.
Le Petit Dakar (250-380-3705; Facebook page), 711 Douglas St. This little nook has a takeout buffet with half a dozen hot dishes. I chose the black-eyed beans on rice for the princely sum of $6.25. It was DELICIOUS! I asked the friendly server about vegetarian options and she says they have at least one and usually two every day, and these are usually gluten-free as well. For the carnivores, there was peanut butter beef stew, Senegalese beef bourguignon, a lamb curry and at least one chicken dish loaded with fried onions and giant green olives. Meat dishes are generally $8-9. The owner is a generously warm and friendly host.
Little Cheese Shop (www.thelittlecheeseshop.ca), Fort Street. Formerly Hilary’s Cheese. Primarily a gourmet cheese deli, but there are great prices on a few select deli sandwiches and salads at lunch. I was given so much cheese with the $9.50 cheese plate, I had to take some home! Note: just two tables for dine-in.
Maria’s Souvlaki (250-656-9944; mariassouvlaki.foodpages.ca), 9812 Second St., SIDNEY. This is a frequent pre- or post-ferry stop of ours for the always superb falafel souvlaki.
Pho Vy (yellow pages) 772 Fort. Wonderfully fresh ingredients and big value on the Vietnamese pho soup. Yummy!
Red Fish Blue Fish (www.redfish-bluefish.com). I came for the Spicy Fish Poutine. I stayed for the array of sustainable seafood offered at great prices from this strange little takeout venue (a retrofitted shipping container) on the Victoria waterfront. Read my full review.
Trini to D Bone (778-440-6755; Facebook page), 650 West Burnside, Victoria. Delicious, affordable, authentic cuisine from Trinidad.
Willows Park Grocery (250-590-3835; www.willowsparkgrocery.com), 2405 Eastdowne Rd. at the corner of Dalhousie in Oak Bay. I hear rumours of cheap and excellent Indian takeout being served by this little grocery outlet.
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Baan Thai (baanthaivictoria.ca), 1117 Blanshard St. Wonderfully consistent Thai food in a very appealing room. The mango dessert with coconut whipped cream is reason enough to visit.
Barb’s Fish & Chips (www.barbsplace.ca), Fisherman’s Wharf. Great fish and chips. I always think it will be cheaper, given that you eat outside, but dining down here right on the wharf is a quintessential Victoria experience.
Beagle Pub (beaglepub.com), Cook Street village. Surprisingly good pub fare. I love the beet salad here and the French onion soup is the best in town.
Bin 4 Burger Lounge (www.bin4burgerlounge.com), 911 Yates Street. Superb first visit at the end of 2011. Our server offered to let me taste test a couple of beers to be able to choose one I would really enjoy. Honey and I both had the ahi tun burger topped with olive tapenaude. I had mine fully cooked, he opted for raw seared as described on the menu. We both thought it was outstanding with a generous portion of tuna and fabulous flavours. House-made potato chips are divine snacks.
Blue Bayou Cafe (www.bluesbayoucafe.com), Central Saanich. New Orleans-style cuisine. Yup, there is alligator on the menu.
Blue Nile East African Restaurant (250-475-6453; www.bluenilerestaurantvictoria.com), 612 Head Street, Victoria, BC. Recently revisited after a long hiatus. Very impressive vegetarian selection alongside meat options on the buffet at this hidden Esquimalt-neighbourhood gem for Ethiopian cuisine.
Brasserie l’Ecole* (250-475 6260; www.lecole.ca), 1715 Government St. Wonderful atmosphere, exceptional food, truly genuine French bistro moule et frite. Unfortunately, they no longer take reservations and it’s murder trying to get a table. Be there when the doors open at 5:30 pm, or try for a late-night meal.
Brown’s Social House (250-388-0200; Facebook page). Wonderful fish entrees on first visit, but the atmosphere was much too loud to have reasonable conversation.
Bubby’s Kitchen* (250-590-8915; www.bubbyskitchen.ca), 355 Cook Street. Opened August 2011. A partnership of Valerie and Mark Engels of Bubby Rose’s Bakery,and Joel Margolus, formerly of Bagga Pasta. A fabulous addition to Victoria’s quality dining scene.
Cactus Club (www.cactusclubcafe.com), 1125 Douglas Street. Always consistent, always good. This Western chain restaurant really upped their cuisine game when they brought in Canadian Iron Chef Rob Feenie to consult on their menu. Cactus Club serves what is my favourite veggie burger in town, and the Szechuan green beans appetizer is delicious.
Cafe Fantastico (www.caffefantastico.com. Four locations. Honey would almost give up a limb for the Americano coffees served at this premium coffee shop. The Dockside Green location scores a place in my list of the best summer patios in Victoria.
Cascadia Bakery* (Facebook page), Government Street. I worship the sour-cherry pie from this bakery. Seriously, give me an altar and a slice of pie, I’ll show you. Vegan brownies are also outstanding, as are the molasses cookies and maple-iced pumpkin cookies.
Crow and Gate Pub (crowandgate.ca), up-Island in rural CEDAR. Vancouver Island’s most authentic English pub.
Da Tandoor (250-384-6333; Facebook page), 1010 Fort Street. Always excellent Indian fine dining. Gather your friends and book a big table: the more people you bring, the more fabulous dishes you can sample. There’s a House Special Naan bread stuffed with mildly spiced chicken, almonds, onion, and raisins ($3.95); a sublimely soul-warming (and vegetarian) Mulligatawny Muglai Shorba lentil soup; a Butter Chicken dish of tomato-butter-cream that’s so good, my friend Pam unfailingly orders the same dish on every visit; and a Nawabi Biryani rice dish so loaded with slow-cooked spiced lamb that my daughter-in-law, Priya, said it almost had “too much meat.”
Don Mee (250-383-1032; www.donmee.com), 538 Fisgard St. Touted for dim sum.
East Garden (www.eastgardenvictoria.ca). Zero atmosphere, but always quiet even on Fri/Sat nights, and delicious Szechuan meals.
Earl’s (www.earls.ca). This Western chain restaurant gets loud and “clubby” at night, but the food is good quality and always consistent.
Famoso Neopolitan Pizzeria (www.famoso.ca). After my first visit with friends, I can say that I loved the Primavera option (fabulously good thin-crust pizza with smoked mozzarella, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and onions). I was less impressed with the rather lackluster Smoked Salmon variety, which was more like lox and capers on flatbread with a drizzle of dill sauce than a fully imagined pizza pie. They say all ingredients are imported from Italy. How nuts is that?
Fiamo Italian Kitchen (www.fiamo.ca), 515 Yates, Victoria, BC. When Luciano’s closed in this same location, I dearly missed their spectacular marinara sauce. But in Fiamo we have new reason to celebrate, including some very tempting weekday specials (like the Monday night three-course Italian dinner for two: $29). Read my full review.
Fifth Street Bar & Grille (380-4600; www.fifthstreet.ca), 1028 Hillside. Good food and nice atmosphere at this neighbourhood upscale pub.
Heron Rock Bistro (www.heronrockbistro.ca), 4-435 Simcoe Street, James Bay. Outstanding brunch menu and some of the best poutine Victoria has to offer. Be warned, though; service can be painfully slow.
JJ Wonton Noodle House (250-383-0680; www.jjnoodlehouse.com), 1012 Fort. Excellent food, if sometimes surly service.
John’s Noodle Village (www.johnsnoodlevillage.ca). Amazingly good Szechuan green beans!
King & Thai (www.kingandthai.com). Good take-out Thai in Cook Street village, but it’s often hard to find a seat if you want to dine in.
Lady Marmalade* (ladymarmalade.ca). The blue-cheese and potato pizza is astonishingly flavourful. I love the black bean rice bowl. Honey loves the Huevos Rancheritos for breakfast. And the apple crumble dessert is god-given goodness.
Le Petit Saigon* (www.lepetitsaigon.ca), 1010 Langley Street. Always superb. The prawn curry / garden curry with tofu (same sauce) is a destination dish. Outstanding. Busy at lunch, but a great spot for a quiet dinner as it is rarely crowded.
Little Thai Place (250-382-3529; www.littlethaiplace.com), 1839 Cook St. Consistently good food.
Lotus Pond* (Facebook page), 617 Johnson Street. Best all-vegetarian Chinese in town. Totally addictive salt-and-pepper deep-fried oyster mushrooms. Room can be very chilly in off-season.
Milestones Langford (250-391-5016; www.milestonesrestaurants.com), 2401 East Millstream Road, LANGFORD. All-around great menu and service. Decent “Dinner for 2 for $50″ deal on Wednesdays. Read my full review.
The Mint (themintvictoria.com/downstairs), 1412 Douglas Street. Groovy underground atmosphere below street level, with DJs after hours. Their second location at street level, The Mint Lunch, serves up Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine to the lunch crowd.
Mo:le* (www.molerestaurant.ca), 554 Pandora. The best place in Victoria for brunch, in my humble opinion, but be prepared to stand in line on weekends.
Noodle Box (noodlebox.net), now with six locations! A Victoria success story, Noodle Box began life on the streets as a food cart. Reliable take-out noodles with the classic Chinese take-out boxes; dine in available, too.
Ooh La La Cupcakes (www.oohlalacupcakes.ca). for the longest time, I just didn’t understand the big deal everyone was making about cupcakes. Then I tried a marvellously moist Coconut Dream cupcake at Ooh La La and nearly fainted at the dreamy, creamy, buttercream icing slathered on top. Okay, I’m officially converted.
Ottavio Italian Bakery and Deli (www.ottaviovictoria.com), Oak Bay. It’s nice that this excellent deli has a dine-in option for sandwiches and salads. The fact that they carry the French blue cheese St. Agur makes me a devotee.
Penny Farthing Pub (www.pennyfarthingpub.com), Oak Bay. Very good pub menu.
Pizzeria Prima Strada (pizzeriaprimastrada.com). Two locations, one on Cook Street the other on Bridge Street. Mmmmmmm. Truly gourmet simple pizzas and top-notch gelato.
Pure Vanilla Bakery and Cafe (250-592-2896; Facebook page) 2590 Cadboro Bay Rd. Oh my lord. The maple-glazed pumpkin cookies are To Die For. Lunch “pizzettes” are good value.
Rebar Modern Food (rebarmodernfood.com). Excellent range of inventive vegetarian options.
Sen Zushi Japanese Restaurant* (250-385-4320; www.senzushi.com) 940 Fort Street. My favourite place for Japanese dining. Nice ambience, service, and superior food. Be sure to order the seasonal seafood ramen noodle soup whenever you’re lucky enough to find it on the menu.
Sizzling Tandoor* (sizzlingtandoor.ca), 637 Johnson Street and in the Uptown centre. In my opinion, there is no better Indian food restaurant in Victoria. LOVE the food. The atmosphere is warmer and cozier at the downtown location than the Uptown outlet.
Skinny Tato Polish Restaurant* (www.skinnytato.com), 615 Johnson Street. The menu here is limited, but every item I’ve sampled has been delicious. The potato pancake with feta and spinach inside is a destination dish for me, and I love that you can have all four salad varieties with the main entree.
Sookjai Thai* (www.sookjaithai.com). Simply splendid Thai cuisine on Fort Street.
Spinnaker’s Gastro Brewpub* (250-386-2739; www.spinnakers.com), 308 Catherine Street. Very good food, local brews, and one of the best harbour views in town. Nice range of prices from reasonable to gourmet.
Stage Small Plates Wine Bar* (250-388-4222; www.stagewinebar.com), 1307 Gladstone Avenue. While I include Stage under my “splurge” heading, it’s possible to dine quite affordably, too, depending on which and how many of the small plates you choose. Read my full review.
Tamami Sushi, 509 Fisgard St. in Chinatown. 250-382-3529. One of the few sushi places open on Monday.
Tapas Bar (250-383-0013, www.tapabar.ca), 620 Trounce Alley. Oh, for a plate of their butter lettuce salad with brown-butter caper dressing and avocado *right now*! And the spicy chipotle prawns are outstanding.
Village Cafe* (thevillagerestaurant.ca), 4517 West Saanich and 2518 Estevan Avenue. I’m raving to everyone about this favourite new brunch spot. Splendid range of breakfast and lunch options, many with tasty elements of Jewish cuisine.
Willie’s Bakery (williesbakery.com), 537 Johnson. Appealing all-day breakfast menu in this bakery with sit-down dining. Second location at the Royal BC Museum.
White Heather Tea Room (www.whiteheather-tearoom.com), 1885 Oak Bay Ave. Best high-tea baked goods in Victoria, perhaps on Earth.
Yoshi Sushi (www.yoshisushi.ca). Reliable, good quality Japanese cuisine, nice atmosphere.
Zambri’s* (www.zambris.ca), in the Atrium building on Yates St. Gorgonzola and peas pasta is outrageously delicious. One of Victoria’s best Italian restaurants; as good as, and less expensive than, Il Terrazzo (see “Splurge dining”). Now offering Sunday brunch with a very nice menu.
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Aura (250-414-6739; www.aurarestaurant.ca), Inn at Laurel Point, 680 Montreal St.. The brunch buffet here is a true celebration of food. Lovely waterfront views, and an amazing summer patio. See my list of Victoria’s top summer patios here, which includes Aura.
Camille’s Fine West Coast Dining* (www.camillesrestaurant.com), 45 Bastion Square. When you want a special-occasion dinner, this should be your destination. Intimate atmosphere, attentive service, and superb cuisine, with excellent seafood options.
The Empress Room (250-389-2727; Empress Room), Fairmont Empress Hotel, 721 Government St. Fine dining with high style and a plethora of silverware (etiquette dictates using pieces from the outside in). The Empress Hotel’s seasonal Veranda also made my list of the 14 best summer patios in Victoria.
LURE Restaurant* (250-360-5873; www.lurevictoria.com). The halibut “chowder” entree almost made me cry, it was that good. Elegant ambience and service, gorgeous harbour views.
The Mark (250-380-4487; www.hotelgrandpacific.com/dining/the-mark), Hotel Grand Pacific. Intimate, truly exceptional. The most exquisite fine dining and personalized service I’ve ever received for a birthday dinner.
Markus’ Wharfside Restaurant* (www.markuswharfsiderestaurant.com), 1831 Maple Avenue South, SOOKE. It’s more than worth the drive out to Sooke for the stellar West Coast cuisine at this intimate restaurant. Reservations are an absolute must.
Stage Small Plates Wine Bar* (250-388-4222; www.stagewinebar.com), 1307 Gladstone Avenue. One of my favourite places for a celebratory dinner. Depending on the dishes you select, you can make this a splurge or keep it within the mid-range dining realm. Read my full review here.
Wild Saffron (250-361-3310; www.swanshotel.com/bistro.php), 506 Pandora Ave., entrance off Store St. I’ve enjoyed a couple of delightful meals in this attractive, intimate bistro. Try the chocolate fondue.
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HAVE HEARD GOOD THINGS (BUT HAVEN’T TRIED IT YET)
10 Acres Bistro & Bar (10acres). Formerly Bon Rouge Bistro, which was superb. Affiliated with Pescatores and The Oyster.
Be Love Restaurant (beloverestaurant.ca)
Bistro 28 (250-598-2828; www.bistro28.ca), 2583 Cadboro Bay Rd.
Bistro Suisse (www.bistrosuisse.com), SIDNEY.
Ça Va Bistro Moderne (250-590-7982; web), 1296 Gladstone Avenue.
Cafe Bliss (www.cafebliss.ca), Pandora Avenue. Organic live food juice bar. ”Great tasting and very healthy raw food menu,” writes foodie follower June W.
Clive’s Classic Lounge (250-361-5684; www.clivesclassiclounge.com), 740 Burdett Avenue. Famous for their signature cocktails.
Deep Cove Chalet (250-656-3541; www.deepcovechalet.com), 11190 Chalet Road,
Ebizo Sushi (250-383-3234; Facebook page), 604 Broughton Street. Many claim this as their favourite place for sushi in Victoria.
Giovanni’s Tapas and Fine Food (http://www.giovannistapas.com), 1-4517 West Saanich Road, Royal Oak.
James Bay Inn (www.jamesbayinn.com), Big breakfasts; watch for the 2 for 1 coupon in local Friday newspapers.
Norte Street Food (250-882-8594; Facebook page), 1308 Gladstone Avenue. Mexican, affordable.
Ocean Island Café & Lounge (250-385-1788; www.oceanislandcafe.com), 791 Pandora at Ocean Island Backpackers Inn. Paninis, Indian and Thai-style curries, burgers and fresh salads. Free wireless. Good prices.
Padella Italian Bistro (padellaitalianbistro.com). Formerly Paprika Bistro, which received raves.
Pig BBQ Joint (http://pigbbqjoint.com), Yates. This meaty barbecue restaurant has plenty of devotees. As I stick primarily to vegetarian and seafood dishes, the menu has little to offer me.
Point No Point (250-646-2020; www.pointnopointresort.com), 10829 West Coast Road, 25 km beyond SOOKE.
Rica Salsa (www.ricasalsa.ca), Cook Street Village food court. “I am addicted to their veggie enchilladas with mole sauce,” writes foodie follower June W.
Stir It Up (250-590-6694; www.stiritupfoods.com), 1284 Gladstone Avenue. Jamaican street food.
Ulla (www.ulla.ca), 509 Fisgard Street. New fine dining.
Victoria Public Market new eateries (victoriapublicmarket.com): Roast, Sutra, La Cocina de mama Oli.
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TRIED IT, DIDN’T LOVE IT
Bard and Banker (www.bardandbanker.com). New menu disappoints with too much deep-fried finger food.
Black Olive (theblackolive.ca). Experienced rudeness from staff on two occasions; one time, the owner moved us to a smaller table and hurried us through dessert to accommodate other diners.
Blue Crab Bar & Grill (bluecrab.ca). Good fresh seafood, but preparation did not overwhelm for the high prices; two visits.
Cabin 12 (250-590-1500; www.cabin12.ca), 3111 Cedar Hill Road. All day breakfast/brunch. I’m the minority here, as many people rave how much they love Cabin 12. Maybe the meat dishes are better? I have been disappointed twice with different vegetarian choices.
Café Brio (www.cafe-brio.com). Amazing toffee pudding, lovely atmosphere, generally pleasing cuisine; just doesn’t seem to justify the pricing, at least on the vegetarian dishes; two visits)
Canoe Brewpub (250-361-1940; www.canoebrewpub.com). One of the city’s best summer patios, but my entrees have twice now been heavily over-salted.
Ferris’ Oyster Bar (www.ferrisoysterbar.com). I had one meal so bad here, I almost never went back. (The oily, overcooked nut burger was awful.) I gave it a second chance and really enjoyed the potsticker bowl (which, sadly, is no longer on the menu). I may have a change of heart on this restaurant.
Irish Times Pub (www.irishtimespub.ca). Mixed feelings here. Some good fare, but much of it is on the heavy side. Good live music, but it’s too loud to talk to your dinner-mate when bands are performing.
Joe’s Seafood Bar (250-590-6323; www.joesseafoodbar.ca). After five visits, I have to consign this value-priced seafood eatery to my “not recommended” category. The generous halibut tacos and oyster tacos selected at the order window on our first visit earned big thumbs up, and we enjoyed the heated-patio dining area (there is no indoor seating) that smells deliciously of cedar. But on the second visit, our order took 40 minutes—despite the kitchen’s promise that it would be out in 15 minutes—and my crab-and-shrimp cake was burned on top and so dried out it was inedible. Based on the first positive experience, we tried the food again, and found it good. But on a fourth visit, it was bad again, and just average on a fifth visit. That kind of inconsistent food prep and service can kill a restaurant.
John’s Place (www.johnsplace.ca), 723 Pandora Avenue. This longtime Victoria institution with the playful diner atmosphere has its devotees, and I love the house made bread. But I’ve had repeatedly bad experiences with the entrees, including a dreadful falafel and truly awful tuna melt.
The Marina Restaurant (www.marinarestaurant.com), Oak Bay Marina. Maybe I just ordered wrong with my pasta dish, but it was quite unimpressive, and at these prices, everything on the menu should sing; one visit.
Sally Bun. 1030 Fort Street. Multiple varieties of ingredients cooked into a Chinese-style bun. Way too much bread in the bread-to-filling ratio; makes for one dry mouthful after another and a very heavy lunch.
Sooke Harbour House (www.sookeharbourhouse.com). Despite the fame and acclaim of this highly rated Sooke restaurant, they forgot that I’d specially requested a vegetarian entree (though I twice confirmed this in advance), and the chickpea burrito-style entree the chef made on the spot was a major disappointment. We were also seated outside the main attractive dining area in a separate wing which felt distinctly secondary.
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