Plant Powered Dining

Vegetarians and vegans are well looked after by Toronto’s many veg-friendly restaurants. Here are seven of my favorite spots that serve innovative, flavor-packed veg nosh that’s sure to delight herbivores and omnivores alike.

  • Awai (2277 Bloor St. W.; tel. 647/643-3132): This darling Bloor West Village room is worth the trip to the west end. The ever-changing tasting menu comes in two formats: five courses and eight courses. Every plate is a riot of colors, fresh seasonal flavors, and textures (tofu skins, rare and wonderful mushrooms, and fresh pasta). Gregarious staff go the extra mile here. In warmer months, garnishes and herbs are grown in the lush garden out back, picked to order.
  • Cosmic Treats (207 Augusta Ave.; tel. 647/352-2207): There’s no shortage of veggie food in Toronto’s artsy Kensington Market. Cosmic Treats has all the vegan variations of the junky treats you crave: jalapeño poppers, fried cheese sticks, even “chicken” pot pie. Don’t skip out on dessert: I’m obsessed with their ever-so-creamy cashew-based ice cream.
  • Fresh on Front (47 Front St. E.; tel. 416/599-4442): Long before kale was trendy, Fresh was preaching the values of plant-based eating. Almost 30 years later, Fresh is still, well, keeping it fresh. With five locations in Toronto serving organic, fresh squeezed juices and scrumptious composed plates that range from hearty (almond-grain burger garnished with onion rings) to healthy (salads that can win you friends—to prove Bart Simpson wrong).
  • Kupfert & Kim (140 Spadina Ave., tel. 416/504-2206): Worker bees in a rush to grab a nourishing lunch with a minimal carbon footprint head to this quick-service eatery for superfood-packed bowls of bitter greens, nuts, seeds, and heritage grains. The to-go packaging is compostable, and nearly all the ingredients are organic.
  • Hogtown Vegan (382 College St., tel. 416/546-7900): At Toronto’s number-one destination for vegan junk food you’ll find poutine and fried clams (shiitake mushrooms), alongside burgers (soy), Ruebens (Seitan), and fish ‘n’ chips (tempeh). The artery-clogging brunch is well loved by local vegheads; get here early or risk waiting up to 40 minutes for a table.
  • Planta (1221 Bay St.; tel. 647/348-7000): Chef David Lee made a name for himself in Toronto as one of the chefs who brought three-star caliber dining to what was once a staid eating town. When he left the world of champagne carts and $75 porterhouses, many were surprised that he opened a vegan place. Planta offers the same high-end service Lee is known for, plus a menu of fabulously accessible plant-based nosh. The pizzas with nut-based cheeses are good enough to sate even the pickiest critic—be they vegan, vegetarian, or pizzaterian.
  • Rosalinda (133 Richmond St. W.; tel. 416/907-0650): The plant-strewn solarium-like room transports diners away from Toronto’s financial district. Here you’ll find the spice, zest, and freshness of Mexican food with none of the animal products and zero pretension. Must-tries include the young coconut ceviche and the jackfruit pibil taco with crispy taro root.
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Better Than Breakfast, Not Quite Lunch
Torontonians take their brunch very, very seriously. So be warned: If you’re headed to a buzzed-about brunch spot, get there early. Most restaurants don’t take reservations for the in-between meal, and it’s not uncommon to while away an hour waiting for a table. Here are seven of the best brunch bets in town.
  • Beast (96 Tecumseth St.; tel. 647/352-6000): Best start popping Lipitor before the coffee arrives, because this meat-centric restaurant makes deliciously artery-clogging plates. A bowl of crispy pigs’ ears tossed with feta and topped with a poached egg is uncomplicated perfection. Brunch served only on weekends.
  • Barque (299 Roncesvalles Ave.; tel. 416/532-7700): Southern barbeque and brunch collide at this smokehouse. Brunch served only on weekends.
  • Early Bird Coffee & Kitchen (613 Queen St. W.; tel 647/348-2473): Healthful breakfast bowls and shakshukas (eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce) are popular, but the eggs benny (topped with a beet-brightened hollandaise) is the top seller. Brunch served 7 days a week.
  • Federal (1438 Dundas St. W.; tel. 647/352-9120): Astronaut Chris Hadfield never actually said that the foie gras–topped French toast at this understated Dundas West eatery was “out of this world,” but that is his go-to order when grabbing brunch here. Brunch served 7 days a week.
  • Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (85 Hanna Ave. #104; tel. 416/588-5695): Get the Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light and Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes; they live up to their over-the-top name. Those of the savory persuasion (and an ample appetite) can’t go wrong with the Manhandler, an open-faced 6-ounce flatiron steak sandwich topped with a duo of fried eggs. Brunch served 7 days a week.
  • Pow Wow Cafe (213 Augusta Ave.; tel. 416/551-7717): Ojibway chef Shawn Adle’s poached-egg-topped frybread is addictive and goes well with cedar tea, an interesting alternative to coffee. What it lacks in caffeine punch, it makes up for with a piney pucker that cuts through the heavy food. Brunch served 7 days a week.
  • Saving Grace (907 Dundas St. W.; tel. 416/703-7368): The short menu is supplemented by blackboard-scrawled specials like polenta waffles topped with lime-whipped cream and pomegranate coulis. Brunch served 6 days a week. Closed Tuesdays.
  • Takht-e Tavoos (1120 College St. W.; tel. 647/352-7322): Food writer Ruth Reichl raved about the kalleh pacheh (a sheep-hoof soup) at this Persian brunch spot. Less adventurous eaters can opt for more familiar breakfast options like sunny-side-up eggs with halloumi cheese. Brunch served 5 days a week. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.