Where would you take a visitor to Toronto if you knew (s)he were vegan or vegetarian?
I was in a rut for awhile, with two standard answers to that question, one in Kensington Market, one on Bloor St. But now –led by the visitor’s inspired choices—I know a whole bunch more.
This is a quick summary of our travels. Our focus has been from the east end (where we both reside) to the middle of town (where I work). I understand that the west end is full of great places but we don’t go there so often.
Why does one do this? Some people have political objections to meat and to the assumption that animals only exist on this planet to serve humans. Does the thought trouble you at all? I certainly find it problematic, especially when I think of what a mess we’ve made of this planet. And sometimes it’s simply a matter of health. I am finding myself feeling better when I eat vegan, and totally open to hearing the arguments against a conventional diet.
I won’t try to persuade you. Instead? Here are the five places that were most noteworthy over the past two weeks, that you might want to check out for yourself.
1) Grasshopper on College St near Spadina
Grasshopper is a cute little place near the university (where I work). The menu is a series of humorous options, as they parody a typical menu with such things as “mac n Cheese” or “chili” or “pulled pork” or a “burger” all accomplished without recourse to meat. I suppose this is how many vegetarian places operate, framing their selection in terms of the conventional foods they don’t offer. But Grasshopper seem especially witty.
The question you might want to pose is: on a menu, is it more important to make an accurate imitation of something normally containing meat / dairy, or should the chef aim for something tasty or even healthy? I’ll let you answer the rhetorical question yourself. But Grasshopper gives you a fun parody of a typical restaurant experience if you need that. Or you can have one of their bowls or salads and simply enjoy something quite marvellous. They’re not expensive. MENU
2) Udupi Palace on Gerrard near Coxwell
I’ve been driving past this place for years without noticing it, indeed, driving through this fascinating neighbourhood without ever really noticing much.
We went in, descending to a lower level, the space delightfully disorienting. Is this still Toronto? i felt as though I was far away in another world.
It’s inexpensive, and the flavours and spices totally transporting us to another world. I had the South Indian Thali –which is a lovely sampler of several flavours including some wonderfully spicy ones—while my companion has something much smaller, from among the dosas.
I’m going back, as the menu is enormous..!
3) Planta on Bay at Cumberland
This one has to be pricier because of its location. But wow it’s busy busy, having attracted attention with its beautiful execution and the prettiest space of any that we visited. (some are downright plain)
We had a tough time getting in –crowded!—but the service was quite spectacular considering. One can have pizza or burgers.
But wow, some of the simplest things can blow you away. Their roasted Brussel Sprouts? Thrilling, making me want to try to make this myself.
They offer an Artisanal Nut Cheese Plate, that is stunningly creative, a series of different textures & flavours to remind you of cheese without any actual dairy.
I also had something called “Kale Caesar”, which I assume is meant to be a comical take on the usual cry of “Hail, Caesar”, but instead of wearing the green laurel leaves on your head, you put them –as kale this time—onto a plate.
Everything was wonderful, but it’s not cheap. MENU
4) Live on Dupont near Spadina
This was the one we ate after going to the haunted house at Casa Loma. It was Halloween Night, but there were no tricks, only treats.
We started with the 7 layer dip, a stunning variety of textures and flavours to get you mightily appetized & excited about what’s to come.
Hm maybe “Kale Caesar” isn’t meant to be shouted, as it appears on this menu too. Okay, so I have an over-active imagination.
I had something called Über Protein, and watched my companion eat Bibimbap. We both ate lots, and felt amazing afterwards. MENU
5) Green Earth on Broadview near Gerrard
Finally perhaps the simplest is sometimes the best. This menu –like all the menus we saw—can’t be properly explored in a single visit.
We both had soup. I ate a spinach – asparagus soup that was a delightful green colour, that I inhaled, while my companion had a Tom Yum soup that I helped her finish.
I had a cheesecake, flavoured like green tea with something resembling whipped cream on top. Should i put “cheesecake” into quotes? But it’s remarkably like real cheesecake, especially in the way it entices one to devour it.
The coffee? We had to each have two, as it was so amazingly good, the best coffee I’ve had in a restaurant in years, delivered with organic soy milk.
But we’ve barely started our explorations. And there are so many more places in Toronto.