Ever since my small day trip to Toronto to see a play, I’ve been wanting to head back. While my city isn’t necessarily boring, I know at least 70% of the places I like here and have been to them time and time again. I want to go somewhere new, eat somewhere new, read somewhere new. See better parks and different people. Now, finding the right food and coffee places as a vegan in a big city is different than the average adventurer - not that it’s hard in a city like Toronto, but that you want to find the places with the most variety and highest quality while trying something you (the savvy vegan chef) can’t already make at home.
I found a few places, just around the East side of the Union station mostly, that are the best options for vegans looking for an actual good day, filled with amazing atmosphere and choices that go far beyond “Can I get the salad without cheese?”
- Balzac’s Coffee - I’ve only visited Balzac’s coffee in the distillery district, but as far as I can judge, they have soy for coffee (maybe almond and others as well) and a good choice of a few great vegan pastries/sweets. The real reason I went here was because of Honoré de Balzac - how could one not visit a french novelist inspired cafe? “If we could but paint with the hand what we see with the eye”. Visiting their website, you can find a few other Balzac’s locations in Toronto. I plan to go to the reference library one soon. The following places I have not been to but have checked out and been recommended, and looked over their websites. More trips soon to happen. For: the literary vegan, the coffee lover, the starving artiste (who doesn’t actually want to starve).
- Rawlicious on Cumberland - while I’m not raw, I can appreciate raw done right. There are many raw food places in Toronto that can’t quite pull together a satisfying meal from simple, natural ingredients. It looks a little on the expensive side, so it’s certainly not a place I plan to visit regularly, but I’ve gotta try the cheesecake. For: the health-conscious, the wealthier, the small appetite, the smoothie addict.
- Hogtown Vegan - you will seriously not believe this place until you visit it. I know even I’m still in denial. Proving that veganism is not a diet, an all-vegan restaurant serving up chili-cheese fries, philly “cheesesteak”, mac and cheeze, phish and chips, even vegan chicken and waffles? Forgive my astonishment, but this is Canada. I don’t even see chicken and waffles served at a meat-eater’s restaurant. The thing just does not exist. Frankly, I’m not sure whether I should be excited or afraid of such a strange, Southern-style food dish. They also have great beers like the Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale, and Netherworld Dark Ale (also Sangria, wine, tea, natural sodas, and juices) and if you aren’t a dinner person, they’ve got a charming brunch menu. For: the clearly not health-conscious, the southern souls, the big-stomach but smaller budget, allergic to nuts, the out-to-impress-my-non-vegan-friends.
- The Magic Oven - not a completely vegan restaurant, but offers better vegan variety. Often restaurants which feature “organic cheese” and “local beef” don’t actually give a full shit about their environmental impact, their sustainability, or how “natural” their ingredients are (or have some cognitive dissonance to sort out). While some items on the Magic Oven menu still reek of “we want to save the planet so long as we don’t have to give up anything or change our lifestyle at all”, there is vegan chocolate cake, chickpea power soup, warm BBQ tofu ciabatta sandwiches, and vegan pizza (with Daiya!) options. It’s a fairly average restaurant, where your annoyingly meat-loving mom or dad won’t notice you’ve taken them out to a restaurant where you don’t have to pick at wilted lettuce. There’s also a nice array of drink options. For: the immediately hungry, pizza lover, the compromiser, the simple food fan.
- Fresh Restaurants - one of the most well-known vegan restaurants and smoothie/juice bars in the city. Has three locations with more coming. The price isn’t terrible, and while the food has a clear health-spin, you don’t have to feel like you’re becoming a health-freak or diet bunny nibbling on thinly sliced carrots and sprouts. Fries and burgers meet “fresh bowls” and superfood elixirs. For: the seeker of feel good fresh food, the smoothie addict with a taste for heavier meals, the dessert devourer, the best date ever.
I had dinner with friends and this was what I ordered.
Very Vegan Pizza - stone-fire house, made flat bread with basil, oregano and garlic baked right in topped with house made tomato sauce, roasted garlic, bok choy, peppers, ‘shrooms, artichokes, red onions, caramelized onions & tomatoes
From Lorraine James! - ed.]
pizzapizza’s an institution but they dont have a dairyfree cheese—cheeseless is just as delicious, particularly when you DIRELY NEED A PIZZA because you just pulled off a one day move and youve been partying for hours in your new backyard and it’s 2am. this one was olives, mushrooms, garlic and broccoli <3
[I remember those days. Gives the phrase “living out of boxes” a whole new meaning! Thanks, blacklight ape! - ed.]