For the Vegetarians

All about that plant-based lifestyle

Lentils from Awai Restaurant, Toronto

Lentils from Awai Restaurant, Toronto

In Toronto, we’re lucky to be in a city that not only accepts and respects vegetarianism and veganism but also boasts many great plant-based restaurants that omnivores and carnivores alike can enjoy. In 2019, you better believe that the bar for taste and quality is set high.

Tried and True:

  1. Awai: A peaceful and luxurious plant-based restaurant that feels like fine dining in a zen garden. It’s so zen in fact, that all their menus are prix-fixe, and their servers’ pay is factored into the price of the food (read: no tipping policy). Potential drawback: it’s a little out of the way in Dundas West.
  2. Planta: The Planta restaurants, led by Chef David Lee, are the plant-based arm of the Chase Hospitality Group. They’ve designed a fun but upscale environment to go for innovative fare made without any animal products (try the coconut ceviche). The original location is across from Bay Station, and another will be opening soon on Queen West. You can also check out Planta Burger in the Financial District. Potential drawback: No matter how cool, $17 for the “18 Carrot Dog” is too steep for a carrot sandwiched in bread. 
  3. Virtuous Pie: This West Coast vegan pizza chain finally opened in Toronto in December 2018, and boasts exciting flavours like “Stranger Wings” and “Superfungi”. They don’t just remove the cheese but offer up creamy plant-based “cheeses” that will totally satisfy. This space is all positive Millenial vibes and then some. Potential drawback: Their meatball recipe needs a bit of work.
  4. Fresh: What started as a humble little juice bar back in the 1990’s is now a thriving Toronto powerhouse for healthy elixirs and vegetarian fare. All their locations are great, but the new Fresh on Front is currently the most beautiful. Potential drawback (and very personal experience): It bothers me that they stick their chopsticks up the air when they serve their bowls. It is quite offensive in Chinese culture, and impractical (read: near eye-gouging accidents all day) for service.
  5. Rosalinda: This is an exciting Richmond Street spot for trendy vegan fare set to a fun Latin tune. They have an affordable and well-designed prix-fixe lunch menu, and a “greenhouse” dining environment, even in the winter. Potential drawback: They are still workshopping some of their dishes, and there are definitely some that are more successful than others.
  6. Kupfert & Kim: This “meatless wheatless” Financial District takeout spot now has a sit-down location at Spadina and is the perfect place to go after sweating it out at yoga. Potential drawback: they are focused on serving up “boxes of nutrients” more than “dishes”. It’s great for lunch (and I order from them at least once a week), but not for a “proper meal”. 
  7. Hogtown Vegan: A fun classic place to go for vegan food that doesn’t feel like vegan food (think “Unchicken and Waffles” and mac and cheese), based on the soul food of the American South. Potential drawback: vegan food pretending to be meat may be a turn off for some.
  8. Pukka: Indian food is celebrated for its vegetarian offerings to begin with, but Pukka does it in an interesting and upscale way (they have great meat dishes as well). Potential drawback: This is not the restaurant to come to for a familiar, lowkey, Indian restaurant experience.
  9. Sabai Sabai: This Laotian restaurant is not exclusively vegetarian, but they take care of their vegetarians very well and even have a separate vegan menu. Potential drawback: It’s not a plant-based restaurant, so be warned that many meat (and offal) based dishes are on the menu.
  10. The Beet: This is a perfect spot in the Junction to chill out and veg down. Potential drawback: Under the guise of “community feeling”, the level of service may feel too casual for some.

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Bunners Bakeshop: A popular vegan and gluten-free bakery located in Kensington Market that has a very cult following.
  2. Through Being Cool: It’s a vegan cafe that specializes in decadent vegan doughnuts and also the first place I visit after arriving at Landsdowne Station.
  3. Hibiscus Cafe: A long-time Kensington Market staple that now has a little spot in the Assembly Chef’s Hall as well. 
  4. Whole Foods Market: When in doubt, just remember that all the Whole Foods Markets in Toronto have a cafe and/or larger dining area that offers up prepared food that you can order from the counter, or bring over from the store. 

On My Radar:

  1. Doug’s Public Kitchen: Doug McNish is doing some interesting stuff and I’ve had his food before, but not properly in his restaurant.
  2. Rawlicious: I’m not a huge fan of raw food, but I am willing to give it an occasional try. 
  3. Mythology Diner: This place intrigues me with their confusing but enticing menu.

Last updated: February 2019