Where Veg-Obsessed Chefs and Foodies Love to Eat in Toronto

This story was originally published on October 4, 2017. Updated (and expanded!) on November 28, 2018.

Going out for a vegetarian or vegan meal in Toronto has come a long way in the past few years. At non-veg places, you’re no longer relegated to one paltry option on the menu (basically, the side dish of a carnivore’s entrée). And plant-based restaurants—both fast-casual and fancy—are trending, mainstreaming meatless pizza and burgers, and serving up fine dining that won’t make you feel like you’re nibbling on rabbit food. We reached out to some notable veg lovers for their must-eats in the city.

Matthew Ravenscroft, chef de cuisine at Rosalinda

“My go-to on days off is Veghead. It’s fresh, accessible and just very well done. The flavour is so on point, and everything is beautifully prepared. It feels like a labour of love when you eat it, and the people involved are absolute gems. I love also Bar Raval for breakfast on lazy Sundays. There are lots of amazing veg options—the fried eggplant and honey is ridiculously good—that are just as delicious as the meat and seafood-based dishes. At Quetzal, the attention to detail and the pride in what they do always amaze me. Well-sourced vegetables are given the same care and respect as, say, a steak, which is something I truly respect.”

Candice Hutchings, cookbook author and founder of The Edgy Veg

“My favourite vegan spot in Toronto is Apiecalypse Now. I am obsessed. It’s a great spot to take a meat lover, and it’s the best hangover food in the city. Their creative, topped-to-the-max pizzas are an explosion of flavour and textures that won’t leave you disappointed. Their plant-based cheese has a gooey texture that is often missing on other vegan pizzas. They also offer fun sides, like corn dogs, wings and the best vegan poutine in the city.”

Roger Yang, founder of Awai and Away Kitchen + Cafe

“I’m always keen to try anything innovative that’s plant-based. But the places I find myself frequenting the most are the little one- or two-person restaurants like One Love (BBQ tofu!) or La Limonada (doubles!), which is hidden away in a church basement. We are so lucky to have this tremendous diversity in Toronto.”

Bianca Johnson, co-founder of Good Things Cafe + Juice Bar

“I love to snack at Nutbar—the savoury toast, chocolate smoothie and cookie dough ball are amazing! For a heartier meal, I love Thrive Organic—the sweet potato quesadillas are so good. For treats, Kupfert & Kim’s waffles and PB&J balls hit my sweet spot.”

Jim Vesal, director of culinary and business development at Virtuous Pie

“I have three favourite spots right now. Hello 123 has some super creative dishes that fill a craving. Plus, it’s a super fun space. Fresh is an old staple but wins on having such a massive selection—the Buffalo Wrap is my favourite. I also love the salads and food at Hibiscus in Kensington Market. Everything they have is so good!”

Vanessa Diab, founder of Freedom Jars

“I often find myself craving Hello 123. Their Green xxxxx bowl is to die for, with perfectly seared tempeh, quinoa pesto, smashed avo, steamed bok choy, pumpkin and tahini pesto sauce, and so much more. I love their dishes because they’re loaded with nutritious ingredients, and their food is never boring. It also helps that their venue is comfortable and cute!”

Eric Chao, founder and owner of Parka Food Co.

“One of my favourite places for a quick bite is Apiecalypse Now. I’ve been obsessed with the Fat Mac pizza since it opened—it’s such a satisfying blend of creamy, crunchy, savoury and tart all at the same time. The crust is amazing, too. It reminds me of a biscuit and is one of the only pizza crusts I always finish eating. For a more formal dining experience, I am a big fan of Awai. I think they are doing something amazing over there, with their focus on high-quality, creative dishes that focus on whole foods and fresh vegetables, but done in a way that is authentic and unpretentious.”

Desiree Nielsen, Vancouver-based registered dietitian and host of The Urban Vegetarian on Gusto TV

“When I’m in Toronto for work, I often rely on Fresh, and Kupfert & Kim for a quick bite because there’s usually a location close to wherever I am. After spending the day on a plane, I’m a bit obsessed with the banquet burger, served on lettuce, from Fresh. Kupfert & Kim’s cauliflower tahini bowl is my go-to for lunch on the go. A friend of mine introduced me to Live Organic Food Bar in the Annex. Get the manicotti…so good! And I finally had a chance to experience Planta and loved the energy of the room and the cheeky cocktails. I probably could have eaten three orders of the truffled cauliflower tots! The Moroccan salad was amazing, too. Awai is next on my to-eat list.”

Doug McNish, cookbook author and co-owner and executive chef of Mythology

“When I go out in Toronto, I love to visit places that support organic and ethical food systems. There is a place in Toronto called Thrive Organic, and I love what they are doing. They not only serve some great vegan cuisine, but support mostly organic products and clean ingredients. I like the pizza especially! For out of town, I like Raw Aura in Port Credit. It was my home away from home for two years—I was their chef for that period of time—and I still like to venture out there for date night every now and then.”

Sam Turnbull, author of Fuss-Free Vegan: 101 Everyday Comfort Food Favorites, Veganized

“As a full-time vegan recipe writer at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, I rarely get a chance to let someone else do the cooking! When I am so lucky, I love going upscale, so Planta is my favourite vegan restaurant in Toronto. The coconut ceviche and watermelon poké are two must-have apps I get almost every time.”

Ruth Tal, cookbook author and founder of Fresh

“There are so many more choices for vegans in Toronto these days! My go-to for the past 20 years has been Terroni on Queen Street West, and more recently the Price Street location. I have had many birthday celebrations at Terroni, not only in Toronto but also at their restaurants in Los Angeles. If you ask for it, the server will grab a separate ‘special’ menu that lists all the vegan and gluten-free options, plus all the dishes that can be modified for vegans. I order the funghi assoluti salad with a side of garlic rapini, every time without fail. I love the busy, friendly atmosphere, the patios and especially the wine lists. It’s a place I can meet friends who aren’t vegan, and we all leave happy with our bellies full.”

David Lee, chef of Planta

“It can be hard in the city. I normally travel to the States and we’re behind on the scene when it comes to plant-based. There’s a lot in California and New York. I love what Amanda Cohen is doing at Dirt Candy [in NYC]—everything I’ve eaten there, I’ve loved. Nathan at Awai [in Toronto] is doing some good stuff. Another restaurant that is not plant-based but has great plant-based stuff on the menu is Dandylion. Actinolite as well—some great stuff.”

Mark Kupfert, co-founder of Kupfert & Kim

Awai really stands out to me. The menu has changed, but I really enjoyed the porcini mushroom soup—one of the best soups I’ve ever had—and love the Spanish flatbreads and just the experience. They’re not trying to make a vegan replica, and it’s fine dining but not pretentious. Woodlot is pretty good, too; they have a vegetarian menu that appeals to everyone. At Veghed, the Muay Thai salad is an extravaganza in your mouth. It’s really amazing.”

Alexandra Courts, co-founder of Sweet Hart Kitchen

“I pretty much like everything Doug [McNish] makes; it’s all carefully crafted, and a lot of thought and love go into every dish. He’s a professionally trained chef, so it’s all high quality. Bloomer’s is very good, too—a bunch of amazing sweet treats. Their doughnuts are nice and fluffy and beautiful. In terms of lunch, Fresh and Live Organic Food Bar are really good options, especially if I need something delivered. [I regularly order] the clubhouse wrap from Fresh, and the kale caesar from Live is one of the best I’ve ever had.”

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