Admittedly, I have a thing for Toronto anyway, but trust me: if you like great people from all around the world, and more importantly great people making great food, there’s no way for you to not fall hard for this city. Period. This town will pamper your taste buds like nobody’s business and you’ll cross paths with favorite dishes, recipes and folks you did not even know you had a thing for.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Toronto also is the town a vegan’s dreams are made of. There is a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan restaurants or a least very veggie-friendly ones and even the smallest coffee shops will offer you almond and soy milk (without giving you this “you snob!” look). Whenever I come back I find new places to indulge and satisfy my leafy cravings – and I’m more than happy to share the love.
1. Hello 123
Hello 123 was named after the most widely-used password worldwide and happens to be the new cool kid on the block of vegan restaurants. Conveniently located on Queen St. West this lovely spot offers great design, comfy vibes, a cute service and beautifully executed bowls, salads and burgers, which are incidentally much more inspired than all the people who think “123hello” is a good password (I’m guilty too). On another note: I have a friend, who has eaten their stuffed sweet potato three nights in a row – do you need any more information? Just go already.
Fresh is a veggie classic. Ruth the founder started it as a tiny juice bar back in 1997 and never looked back. These days her little juice spot has grown into quite an empire with a huge selection of food for any type of person at any time of day. Her four Torontonian locations serve comfort food lovers (Fried onion rings with puffed quinoa!!!) as well as health nuts, while always staying fresh, somewhat healthy and insanely delicious. Make sure to try their homemade hot sauce. I mean it!
I’ve told you about Planta before, but it can’t harm to spread the goodness twice. Planta is just one of those places that makes “opening up a very nice vegan restaurant” climb the ladder on my bucket list as if stung by an adder. lt’s just the perfect mix of stylish but cosy, sophisticated but relaxed, and most importantly: the food is to die for and full of great surprises, even for vegan nerds like me. Since dinner is my favorite meal of the day, all I wanna do here is to sink deep into the green velvet seats, order a glass (or two) of red and enjoy a night full of tasty dishes, good company and dim light…
4. Bolt Freshbar
Craving something easy, healthy and tasty for lunch? Bolt Freshbar will leave you satisfied and fully charged. These guys certainly know that a salad bar is more than some sad iceberg lettuce and dry barbecue chicken. You can pick from a wide selection of greens, veggies, grains and beautiful extras, like homemade pickles, tempeh, grilled tofu or kimchi, and assemble your salad bowl or get some tasty breakfast, juices and smoothies. The staff is always in a good mood and up for a chat and when you step out of the little, fully green-colored shop you’ll feel like you just went on a tiny vacation.
6. Kupfert and Kim
Kupfert and Kim has several locations all over town. It may look like an ordinary lunch place, stuffed with tired people around noon – but once you’ve eaten there yourself you gotta admit that those folks know what they are doing (and that people leave less tired!). Everything is wheat-free and fully vegan and the combination of ingredients and flavors is very much on point. Plus: everything is super affordable, regarding the fine quality you get and they are also open for dinner. I still would not go there for a romantic date though – only if it’s just me and my very hungry tummy, craving all the good food. But that’s basically a date too.
(Kupfert and Kim)
7. Saigon Lotus
Hidden in between crowded Kensington market and Chinatown, Saigon Lotus may not look so exciting from the outside, but proves once again, that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Its owners are fully dedicated to great, vegan Vietnamese food and invite everyone into their restaurant with huge smiles and a personal recommendation – you may need it, it’s really hard to decide with this huge selection of fresh, super affordable and perfectly seasoned dishes!
8. Bunners Bakeshop
Call me crazy, but I’ll almost always chose some extra hot sauce over desert. If the sweet tooth strikes though, I can only recommend Bunners Bakeshop, who nowadays have a location in Kensington Market as well as The Junction. Everyone here is as sweet as chocolate pie, the walls are pink and all the treats are 100% vegan and gluten-free and therefore perfect for allergic, animal-loving weirdos like me. Try the Maple-Tahini cookies, feel very Canadian and just be happy!
(Bunners Bake Shop | Photo © Bunners Bake Shop )
8. Good Eggs Bookshop
When I became vegan as a teenager it was really hard to come across any kind of vegan food in the restaurants my family, friends and I went to, so my interest in cooking naturally grew into a real passion – and soon I was able to create some pretty decent dishes, that sometimes even my grandma (somewhat) liked. Cooking still is a big part of who I am and it really makes me happy to pick good produce and turn it into something tasty and beautiful for loved ones and myself. As I always wanna try out new things I’m looking for culinary inspiration, everywhere I go. When I stumbled across Good Eggs bookshop some years ago and realized that I just stepped into a colorful bookshop which specialized in all kinds of cookbooks, I had to pull myself together to not start dancing around like a maniac… And three hours later to not buy everything I liked. True story. They carry all the books any kind of food lover could wish for, a lot of them celebrating veggies and the people into them. You should swing by.
9. West End Food Coop
So you just went to Good Eggs bookshop, spent your monthly income on cookbooks and are looking for a place to get good produce? West End Food Coop in the (guess what?!) West End has got you covered. It’s basically a farmers market that is indoors, and (almost) always open. The non-profit cooperative aims to connect local Ontario farmers with consumers and spark the desire to know more about your daily bread (and beyond). They’ve got their own kitchen, where they prep tasty snacks, bake bread and do frequent workshops, showing you how to not kill your sourdough, make Sauerkraut or eat more seasonal. A lot of their food is vegan and you always meet friendly people trying to figure what to make for dinner.
10. The Cure
I’m far from perfect, but apart from eating vegan, I’m trying to live as sustainably and vegan as possible, which also means carefully selecting the cosmetics I use – for the sake of our planet and my own body. During the years I found that it sometimes takes a lot of endurance and eagerness to experiment to find the right products. In the end nobody likes a deodorant that is organic but doesn’t work properly, or a facial creme that may be fully natural but does nothing for your skin. Luckily the demand for effective “green” beauty products is becoming bigger and there are more and more brands and makers dedicated to beautiful products as well as sustainability. Nitasha, the founder of The Cure Apothecary carefully tests and selects all her favorite cosmetic products to gather them in her beautifully designed shop on Queen St. West and wants all her costumers to leave happy and with products that match their needs. Most of her products are fully vegan and obviously not tested on animals. She also is a really lovely lady, so if you are in town make sure to swing by and pamper yourself.
Do you have favourite vegan-friendly places? In Toronto or around the world? Let us know!
All photos © Tabea Mathern except stated differently