It may be excruciatingly difficult to get a good vegetarian or vegan meal in Toronto pubs and restaurants, but Toronto is also home to some of the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants I’ve ever tried.
My favourite here is Fresh. It’s a casual chain restaurant in Toronto that caters to vegetarians and vegans. Most meals and juices are vegan, but some include honey or bee pollen, and you can choose vegetarian add-ons if you miss your cheese. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable, so if in doubt, you can always check with them.
Usually I’m a sucker for their vegan burgers and onion rings, but one night when North Nomad is out drinking with his internet spaceship-playing friends, I decide to be brave and expand my Fresh horizons.
On this occasion, I order the Mighty Greens, the Energy Bowl, and an amber ale made locally in Barrie called “Flying Monkey”. I’d love to splurge on onion rings, but a starter of steamed greens when indulging in a three course meal with hot and cold drinks seems much more sensible!
The Mighty Greens pack a nutritional and tasty punch. The kale, bok choy, and swiss chard are sprinkled with pepitas and sesame seeds, and topped with a light tahini dressing. It’s so delicious, it feels like it should be bad for you.
My Energy Bowl turns out to be a hot and cold curry combo meal. I would never have thought to include cold ingredients in a warming, filling curry, but it’s the perfect combination – and one that many of my home-made curries now incorporates.
The smell that wafts up from the bowl is fragrant and mouth watering. It comes from the chickpea and coconut curry layer that sits on a bed of steamed brown basmati rice (you can also order this with brown soba noodles instead of rice). It’s milder than I’m used to (no sweaty brow for me tonight!), but still flavoursome.
The bowl is topped with marinated (cold!) tofu cubes, a salsa of cubed tomatoes and cucumbers, and fresh, crispy watercress. The green and red veggies really pop against the creamy curry colours.
I’ve tried several times to recreate this at home. Whilst mine tastes good, I just can’t perfect the flavour combination that Fresh does.
Someone next to me orders the Tiger Bowl – a colourful dish filled with cabbage, crispy tofu, chili oil and a combo of red and green veggies. I make a mental note to order this next time I’m eating in.
On finishing my main, I’m easily persuaded by my waitress to order tea and dessert: the “special” dessert of the day – the vegan ‘smores cupcake, and the sweet ginger tea.
The tea smells heavenly, a combination of green tea, maple syrup and raw ginger. It’s natural with no nasty artificial flavours, and comes with generous slices of raw ginger.
I’ve never tried a “real” s’more (very un-NorthAmerican of me), but this cupcake has me convinced. The chocolate is rich and velvety, the marshmallow melts on your mouth (quite literally – being vegan it’s a far different consistency to your usual marshmallow). Cupcakes don’t usually grab me, but I’m in dessert Nirvana.
What’s your favourite vegan or vegetarian restaurant? Have you been game enough to try one if you’re an omnivore or pescatarian?
Location: 147 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Canada.
Other Toronto locations: 326 Bloor Street West, 894 Queen Street West, and 90 Eglinton Avenue East.
Cost: $28.50, plus tax, plus tip. So roughly $36, depending on your tip size.
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica over at Google.