Vegetarian and vegan eats in the heart of Toronto
I go to Toronto a couple of times a year for work. I usually spend two days working and three days hanging out (read: eating) so I’ve spent a fair amount of time seeking out great places to eat. I eat a mostly vegan diet (I’m a lactose-intolerant vegetarian 🙄) so eating while traveling isn’t always straightforward or simple. Toronto makes it so easy!
I went for a quick visit last week and if someone looked at my Instagram over those few days, you’d figure all I did was eat. They wouldn’t be far off.
I didn’t get to all of my regular haunts this time around (there’s never enough time!) but I’ll include them in this list of favourites:
When I’m in Toronto, I eat breakfast at Karine’s almost every single day; it’s hands down the BEST breakfast in all of Toronto, and Karine is all about spoiling her customers with positivity in addition to the food.
Karine’s is in the food court of the Ontario College of Art and Design, so it’s not someplace you’d see from the street. You need to go inside the “Village on the Grange” building (53 McCaul Street, right next to the Art Gallery of Ontario, where you’re gonna go anyway, right?) Then just look for the big green sign.
Sometimes I get things that AREN’T pancakes or waffles. Not this time.
There are four Fresh restaurants in Toronto (and one in Mexico City!) and they’re equally spectacular. The menu is vegan, large and diverse. The Fresh bowls are hugely popular, wholesome and filling, and that’s what I go for when I’m being a good, plant-power healthy-eater. But when I want comfort food (almost always, it’s a problem) I go for the Squash Tacos. Damn, now I’m thinking about squash tacos and I’m sad I don’t have any. I digress, as is my custom.
More standout dishes are the BBQ Burger and the Black Bean Burrito. And there’s no getting around the fact that you’re gonna order the quinoa-battered onion rings. Everyone does. Eventually you see 10 orders of it being served to the people sitting around you and you order your own. (The peanut sauce tastes great with theses, and the garlic mayo is silky and fantastic, too.) The fresh pressed juices and desserts are everything you could hope for, and the weekend brunch is worth standing in line.
This place is far from vegetarian, but they do have veggie options. I love it here cuz I’m a Day of The Dead kind of girl. The menu is a little too “foodie” for my personal tastes (I like simple and casual…I don’t need plantain mash and asparagus in my burritos) but that may be right up your alley! The drinks here are fantastic and El Catrin has one of the largest selections of tequila and mezcal in the country. I try to come in the mid-afternoon for the ambience and a snack (guacamole made at the table and the best churros I’ve had in Toronto, which has a surprising amount of churro places.) And if I see a Mexican Coca-Cola on a menu anywhere, I get it. I’m not a pop-drinker and I almost never have caffeine, so when I do, I’m like a toddler who’s been given a bag of pixie stix and an espresso. EVEN MORE FUN TO BE AROUND!
Kensington Market has a hot ton of vegan and vegetarian options, including a natural grocery store and some smaller Latino markets/veggie stands. A new discovery for me was Moo Frites, a tiny place selling nothing but Belgian fries. Damn, dudes. Soft on the inside, super crispy on the outside with lots of dipping sauces to choose from (vegan dips, too.)
If you’re in the (Kensington) market for a gluten-free, vegan dessert, you’ll probably want to hit up Bunners, the 💯 % vegan and gluten free bakery on Augusta Avenue. Get your sugar-high on before you pop in to The Blue Banana Market next door. It’s one of my go-to shops in Toronto.
Some other Kensington Market faves are:
Hibiscus – Sweet and savoury crepes, dairy-free ice cream
Cosmic Treats – Comfort-food, taco Tuesdays, deep-fried mac and cheeze balls, vegan desserts
Urban Herbivore Sandwiches, bowls, soups and juices to stay or to go.
I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention Hogtown Vegan. This is one of those places that vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters all like. It’s NOT health food. It’s Unchicken and Waffles, Mac and Cheeze, “Beef” and Dumplings, Pulled “Pork” sandwiches and the like.
I didn’t get there this time, and I’m still kicking myself.
Do you have any favourites that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments, cuz I really, REALLY like veggie restaurant recommendations!