Being from Toronto, I know my hometown has always been a foodie’s paradise. It has become a premier place to try everything from Jamaican patties. And increasingly, many of the city’s plentiful food options happen to be vegan.
This is not always the case. Having been vegan for over a decade, I used to find my dinner outings relegated to some boring place every time I came home. But looking back, I realized that vegan-friendly dining must have taken off here. I am actively challenging myself. Today, my hometown is officially a vegan paradise, and I would say that big cities like Los Angeles and New York put their moneys on the line. New meat-free venues are popping up all the time, from ultra-casual spots to everything in between. .)
I’ve always called New York home, but no year goes by without a visit to Toronto. Here are some of the vegan-friendly, plant-driven places I recommend when you’re in town.
This innovative restaurant offers a unique twist on Mexican cuisine. In addition to the usual suspects such as tacos and guacamole, the menu features creative vegan twists on classic ingredients such as cashew his crema, taro chicharron, and quinoa-based chorizo. The American-inspired cuisine here shines, too. The kale Caesar salad is one of the best I’ve ever had, with crispy fried taro pieces instead of croutons. For a standout main, grilled whole eggplant is roasted and finished with a spicy salsamacha. Cocktails don’t sleep either. Creative take on typical bar offerings, including signature margaritas specially made green with a dash of spirulina.
Gia is an intimate and bustling restaurant located in the city’s West End, on increasingly hip Dundas Street. The menu is billed as “plant-forward” Italian. Many of the products contain dairy, but there are plenty of vegan options. It will be a sight to behold. The Baby Gem Salad is no exception, a memorable order featuring pickled enoki mushrooms and a crunchy almond crumb dressing. Savory grilled maitake mushrooms served with luscious corn cream. Then order the olive oil cake with buttercream and fresh berries to finish off your meal with a rich, sweet flavor.
When restaurant veterans David Lee and Steven Salm opened Planta in 2016, they wanted an upscale feel (high ceilings, lush greenery, mosaic walls) and a view still commonly seen in plant-based dining. Changed Toronto’s vegan scene by creating a menu that applies unmatched techniques. Nigiri is grilled eggplant, pad thai is kelp noodles, and thick shiitake mushrooms are raw carpaccio. The original restaurant was a huge success and Planta now has three different locations in Toronto (two with a strong pan-Asian influence and one with a Mexican flair), as well as in Miami, New York and Washington, DC. We have a store in A chic and spacious venue, the original Yorkville location is one of the destinations for group and celebratory dinners.
This fast casual restaurant is a mainstay in my lunch, dinner and takeout rotation. The menu is a reliable mix of grain bowls, salads and smoothies, and all options are mouth-wateringly flavorful. I love getting super-green chimichurri, crunchy seed toppings, and protein-rich hemp and sunflower balls. The Caesar salad, a creative rendition of toppings, cannot be overlooked. Light portobello lettuce tacos and creamy miso flavored roasted broccolini stand out. And not to mention the restaurant’s excellent brunch service, which is served until 4pm daily and features French toast, tofu benedict, and chickpea omelets. Or try the avocado mousse for dessert. Order without question.
No restaurant in the city is more vegan and vegetarian than Fresh. The store opened its original He Bloor Street location in 1995 for customers to grab a quick juice, salad, or sandwich. Today, he’s grown into a chain of 10 locations throughout Southern Ontario, producing cookbooks and even a line of bottled sauces. The menu has expanded considerably, too, and now includes pizza, tacos, and a longtime vegan favorite, Buffalo He Cauliflower. I find myself always ordering one of the fresh bowls. It’s usually served with soba noodles topped with grilled red peppers, sweet potatoes, veggies and vegan feta, or crunchy Chinese cabbage served with crispy tofu cubes in a lemon tahini dressing. Whatever you do, order the Dragon Broccoli and Quinoa Onion Rings first.
I’ve been baking bread for probably the last ten years. I personally like using alternative flours and sweeteners, a philosophy shared by this Kensington Market bakery. Not only are all their products vegan, they are gluten-free and naturally sweetened, and you can also choose from many keto and raw options. . If you’re lucky, you might find bakery goods at coffee shops around town.
When I’m looking for more classic and nostalgic treats, I go to Bunner’s where everything is 100% vegan and gluten-free. The treats at this bakery tend to be sweet and are often topped with buttercream frosting. Carrot cake cupcakes and sticky cinnamon rolls are famous among Torontons, but my personal favorite is the Supersonic Cookie. The extensive menu also offers plenty of savory options, such as his Jalapeno Cheddar Scones and His Three Kinds of Bread. If a pinch calls for a celebratory cake, Bunner’s can even have it ready and delivered with 24 hours’ notice to her. If you’re in Toronto for the summer, be sure to visit her second location at Kensington’s Market to try their seasonal soft serve.
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