There’s a whole lot more to plant-based eating than steamed tofu dishes and hearty salads – and Toronto’s dining scene is catching on in a big way. As new vegan restaurants crop up throughout the city, the talented chefs behind the eateries are showcasing how every meaty meal has a plant-based counterpart, from NY striploin and chicken & waffles to extra-creamy pastas and cheesy pizzas. And for those craving something more wholesome, there are plenty of dishes to satisfy, too. Here are Toronto’s newest vegan outposts (plus a few others to look out for in the months ahead).
Vancouver’s popular plant-based pizza joint Virtuous Pie has officially opened its doors in Toronto on College Street. What to expect? The same decadent pizzas and ice cream, with a few regionally-inspired items exclusive to the city. The bright, design-forward interior is the furthest thing from your average pizza joint.
Virtuous Pie: What to Know
What’s pizza without ice cream for dessert? Made from coconut and cashew milk, intriguing flavours include Coffee & Donuts, Gingerbread & Caramel Swirl and Bourbon Vanilla.
Few indulgences in life are without an equally decadent plant-based equivalent… cinnamon buns now included. This vegan California-based franchise recently rolled out locations across Canada with three in the GTA — one in Thornhill, another in Scarborough and the most recent in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood.
Cinnaholic: What to Order
Not only are these hand-made cinnamon buns dairy-, egg- and cholesterol-free — customers get to DIY their own dessert, choosing from more than 30 different frosting and topping flavours. “Providing a plant-based dessert that’s even better than what’s currently on the market allows people to experience vegan food without compromising taste and experience,” says Cinnaholic founder Shannon Radke. The most popular flavour combo? A warm cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting, topped with homemade cookie dough, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. They call it the “Cookie Monster”.
Cinnaholic: What to Know
These award-winning cinnamon rolls got their claim to fame on the reality series Shark Tank in 2014, and the bakery franchise has been growing ever since (currently 24 locations in the U.S. and 5 in Canada). They’re opening an Edmonton location in early 2019 along with many more locations throughout Ontario.
Fresh on Front
Fresh is one of the first beloved plant-based eateries to crop up in the city — and it’s only gotten better with age. Fresh on Front marks the fifth location and features a stunning botanical-inspired interior.
Fresh on Front: What to Order
In addition to the brand’s faithful favourites (like the BBQ burger, beach bowl and phytosalad) try one of the monthly specials exclusive to this location. There’s also a selection of better-for-you cocktails like a kombucha spritzer and herbal-infused old fashioned.
Fresh on Front: What to Know
The 100-seat restaurant is the brand’s largest location to date — but reservations are still encouraged! It’s housed inside a gorgeous heritage building with 18-foot ceilings and exposed brick. Hang out at the takeout counter, grab a drink at the bar or make yourself at home in the expansive back dining room.
Situated in Toronto’s Financial District, this vibrant vegan Mexican restaurant was conceived by Max Rimaldi and Jamie Cook (Pizzeria Libretto) together with Grant van Gameren (Bar Isabel). The 136-seat eatery offers bright and flavourful dishes of the same calibre as those served at the restaurateurs’ other sought-after establishments.
Rosalinda: What to Order
Save your appetite for coconut ceviche, jackfruit pibil tacos, Tiguana-style broccoli – and spiced churros for dessert. The vegan-friendly cocktails are also too good to pass up, with an array of creative non-alcoholic options on offer.
Rosalinda: What to Know
You’ll please your palate with rich, bold flavours that are anything but predictable. The plant-based eatery proves Mexican food can be just as flavourful and appealing when meat is removed from the menu.
Flipping the traditional dining experience on its head, Awai in Bloor West Village features a seasonal plant-based tasting menu starring innovative dishes crafted from locally-sourced ingredients.
Awai: What to Know
“Most of our guests aren’t vegan or vegetarian, so we avoid things like faux meats that may not appeal widely, or ingredients that sound more healthy than tasty,” says Awai chef Aman Puri.
Awai: What to Order
With no set menu, guests have the option to select either a five or seven course dinner (lunch is a three course meal). Some recent offerings: sous vide beluga lentils with miso lemon vinaigrette, dumplings in sambar and Spanish-style flatbread cooked in a wood fired oven.
Away Kitchen and Café
Meet Awai’s stylish and more laid-back younger sister. With a Queen West and Little Italy location, this chic cafe offers quick-service meals in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere. Stop in for a nourishing bite on-the-go, or plant yourself here for a quiet place to get stuff done.
Away Kitchen and Café: What to Order
This isn’t your average cafe menu. Warm up with the oyster mushroom pot pie (with mushroom gravy!) or seitan panini with house-made sourdough bread. The baked goods are ever-changing and ever-delicious.
Away Kitchen and Café: What to Know
The cafe’s ethos is all about crafting satisfying plant-based fare in the most sustainable way possible (they brew their own kombucha and source high-quality local ingredients for every made-from-scratch dish).
Did you know beer is often clarified using animal byproducts? Welcome to Toronto’s only all-vegan brewery nestled in the city’s Parkdale neighbourhood. It also boasts delicious comfort food staples curated by Doomie’s.
Vegandale Brewery: What to Order
What’s beer without greasy grub? Doomie’s — Parkdale’s beloved vegan greasy spoon — is now part of the brewery. It’s full menu includes nine indulgent plant-based burgers or savoury sandwiches, three waffle options (like a waffle smothered in BBQ vegan pork and mac & cheese) and “fun fries” topped with all the greasy goods. Pair with the Principled Pilsner or Sour Truth on tap.
Vegandale Brewery: What to Know
The 5700 Inc. (Doomies Toronto, The Imperative and Mythology) partnered with Michael Duggan, one of the founders of Mill Street Brewery, to concoct these small-batch animal-friendly brews.
Copenhagen Vegan Cafe
This Danish-inspired bakery is yet another new spot to surface in Toronto’s “Vegandale” neighbourhood. Expect traditional Danish treats meant to be savoured in the cafe’s bright white atmosphere that spells hygge.
Copenhagen Vegan Cafe: What to Order
Stop in for Sunday brunch and order the savoury quiche (leek & potato or vegan ham & cheese), benedict (vegan scrambled eggs on a house-made biscuit) and Danish waffles. You’ll regret leaving without trying at least one of the baked goods on offer — from traditional danishes and cheesecake to cinnamon twists and pecan butter tarts.
Copenhagen Vegan Cafe: What to Know
Looking for a vegan dessert for your next special occasion? The bakery sells whole cakes too, from small 6-inch round options to large 60-slice varieties. Chocolate lovers, strawberry shortcake and New York-style “cheesecake” are just a few of the flavours to be devoured.
There’s a new late-night diner in town serving up all the usual comforts, minus the meat. Parkdale’s Mythology Diner is a collab between 5700 Inc. (the team behind Doomie’s Toronto) and celebrated chef Doug McNish. “What really differentiates Mythology is that we take an unapologetic approach to promoting veganism as a moral imperative,” says 5700 Inc. owner Hellenic Vincent De Paul – speaking to everything from the animal wall art to the cheeky menu item names (like “Wings Are For Flying”).
Mythology Diner: What to Order
The Reubenator (pictured) loaded with house-cured seitan as “corned beef” and creamy cashew Swiss. The calamari also promises to impress vegans and meat-eaters alike: “It’s actually about as close to the real thing as possible,” says McNish. “King oyster mushrooms have an amazing texture that’s so similar to seafood it’s scary!”
Mythology Diner: What to Know
The plant-based diner also boasts a weekend brunch lineup with vegan versions of everything from a croque madame to eggs benny to cinnamon bun pancakes.
Welcome to Hello 123, a full-service all-vegan restaurant nestled in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood, conceived by the team behind Kupfert & Kim. Expect to find everything from weekend brunch to wholesome mains to innovative cocktails (think kombucha and ginger infused). “We wanted to create a spot where you can eat sustainable and healthy food, while enjoying it in an engaging and design-forward environment,” says co-owner Mark Kupfert.
Hello 123: What to Order
The Pulled Pineapple Slider is a fan favourite, garnished with cabbage slaw, adobo sauce and aioli. The tempeh (prepared as a skewer or as a protein add-in) is also a must-try: “We marinate it over night, coat it in our house rub and then sear it on our flat top,” says Kupfert. “I like to think it’s the best tempeh in the city.”
First, there was Planta, the trendy plant-based restaurant in Yorkville devised by The Chase Hospitality Group and chef David Lee. New to the scene is restaurant spin-off Planta Burger, a quick-service spot serving up homemade veg burgers alongside gourmet fixings and sides.
Planta Burger: What to Order
Try the joint’s newest burger creation, The Jackpot (pictured) filled with BBQ jackfruit, kale slaw, scallions and garlic aioli. Pair it with the Loaded Queso Fries and a coconut-based milkshake for a filling meal sure to curb your comfort-food cravings.
Inspired to try your hand at a homemade version? Here are our 20 Best Veggie Burger Recipes.
Planta Burger: What to Know
Planta Burger’s origin has humble roots: “We ran a pop-up to raise money for SickKids. Guests loved it and the rest is history,” says Chef Tyler Shedden, pointing to the fact that it’s the only all-vegan burger shop in the city.
Parka Food Co.
Another new vegan eatery to join the scene is Parka Food Co., a casual-meets-modern space on Queen West serving indulgent comfort foods with a wholesome twist. “We have a unique approach towards comfort food, offering an entire menu based on fresh vegetables and fruits,” says Parka founder Eric Chao.
Parka Food Co: What to Know
The burger patties (portobello, eggplant or potato) are simply that: standalone vegetables sliced and marinated to pack a flavour punch. “We don’t do processed patties or mock meats. We are here to celebrate fruits and vegetables and make them the stars for a change,” says Chao.
The Hogtown Vegan (College)
Before the wave of plant-based restaurants began surfacing in Toronto, there was The Hogtown Vegan on Bloor West, which opened in 2011 and has been a vegan comfort-food staple ever since. Now, there’s a new location on College, featuring the same beloved menu, plus a large patio. “We’ve always strived to make the space welcoming and enjoyable so everyone in the community can indulge in an ethical junk food experience,” says co-owner Jill Krasnicki.
The Hogtown Vegan: What to Know
When in doubt, order the Unchicken Burger: a classic-style burger featuring a breaded deep-fried patty topped with lettuce, house mayo and pickles on a toasted kaiser. “It never fails to impress even the most stubborn meat eater,” says Krasnicki.
Introducing Toronto’s first all-vegan Ethiopian restaurant located in the city’s Bloorcourt neighbourhood. Bonus: every menu item is also gluten-free.
Selam Vegan: What to Order
Scoop fresh house-made injera into rainbow-bright bowls of goodness, from a staple split pea curry & turmeric dish to a beet and potato offering. The restaurant also features a buffet-style service (for a limited time!) where you can sample the menu for $18 a plate.
Selam Vegan: What to Know
This plant-based gem is an expansion of the Ethiopian restaurant Pero — and is located directly underneath it. Instead of serving food the traditional way on massive platters, each individual dish (even the injera!) comes out beautifully presented on a plate or in a bowl.