Vegan or not, plant-based food has come a long way. Toronto has earned the eight spot as one of the world’s top ten vegan cities, according to Happy Cow. Vegetarians and vegans don’t have to eat cardboard-textured Yves burgers anymore!
There are many reasons why people have adopted a plant-based diet: health, ethical, and environmental reasons are usually at the top.
If a person follows a whole foods plant-based diet, it is indisputable that they will be healthier. It has been noted that people who are prone to heart disease have much to benefit from switching to a vegan diet. I highlighted “whole foods” because you can be a vegan and be extremely unhealthy if all you eat are french fries and processed mock meats – just as a someone who primarily eats McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, pizza, processed meats, Subway, etc.
For the environment
Animal agriculture (including dairy) is the primary cause of the destruction of our planet and in worsening climate change. It is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gases – more than from ALL modes of transportation. Livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock accounts for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the deforestation of the Amazon. One quarter-pound hamburger requires 660 gallons of water, which is equivalent to the amount of water used for taking showers for two months. 75% of the world’s fisheries have been exploited. Animal agriculture is the number one cause of species extinction and land destruction. I could go on.
By adopting a vegan diet, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 50%.(1)
Thanks to undercover journalists exposing the cruel practices of the animal agricultural industry, people around the world have learned that there is no such thing as humane meat and dairy. I will not describe how farm animals are treated here, but there are numerous films, organizations, and books dedicated to this topic. These include Eating Animals, Cowspiracy, Food, Inc., Allowed to Grow Old, PETA, etc.
It’s not just animals and the environment that benefit; the National Academy of Sciences stated that we can save 8.1 million human lives by 2050 if everyone cut out meat and dairy from their diets.
My Top 13 Vegan Spots
- The Vegan Extremist (TVX) – TVX outright states “This is not a moral high ground.” They are only extremist in the culinary arts, which is absolutely true. Forget about whether or not you like vegan food; if you like AMAZING South Asian food, this place is one of the BEST South Asian eateries in Toronto (vegan or non-vegan). I love their Butter “Chicken” and BBQ “pork” buns (buns are made from scratch and are so yummy!), paratha, and schroom wings. They also recently launched their very own line of hot sauces (Hot Boy’s). Very affordable.
- Planta Queen – In terms of gourmet food, this is number one. This location offers veganized Asian fare. You can tell a lot of love and dedication was used to create each and every dish. Everything is simply amazing, especially their sushi. It is one of the more expensive restaurants.
- Yamchops – Yamchops is a vegan ‘butcher’ with a full dine in or takeout menu. Most of their items are made from scratch and a lot less processed than other products you might find at other restaurants. Their bowls and vegan ‘meats’ are super tasty and a healthier option.
- Hogtown Vegan – They have two locations, and their College St. location has a patio. They offer veganized pub fare. My favourite is the Unchicken Burger (Buffalo), Phish n’ Chips, and the Big Hog. Their fried apple pie with oat ice cream is to die for!!! It’s a low-key atmosphere and the staff are very friendly. A lovely spot to hangout!
- Copenhagen Cafe – I love their vanilla and mocha cakes. Plus, they have fantastic coffee. Wonderful croissants. They are also located in Vegandale.
- One Love – Delicious Caribbean Creole dishes. I love their food, but they aren’t too eco-friendly, so I limit the number of visits. Even if you are dining in, they serve the food in those non-recyclable black plastic takeaway containers. Also, they don’t give you tap water; you have to buy bottled water if you want water.
- Globally Local – If you’re looking for the very best vegan fast food, then Globally Local is what you’re looking for. Everything is delicious and quite affordable. However, most of their products contain gluten because they use seitan.
- Bar Vegandale – I’m not a drinker, but I didn’t know that beer is not vegan. Vegandale Brewery doesn’t just serve beer; Doomie’s (from L.A.) is a part of the establishment. Doomies is like the McDonald’s of the vegan world, but with a more diverse menu. They even have a “big mac” and PBJ burger. I love their Cookie Pie. Not Your Mother ice creamery is also situated inside. I love having the “A New Hope” with the bubble waffle.
- Urban Herbivore – They make wonderful fresh juice, stews, soups, and bowls. They are probably one of the healthier vegan options in Toronto.
- Kupfert and Kim – They are vegan and wheat-free. They also offer nice bowls and are healthy.
- Planta Yorkville – If you prefer a more ambient and fancier place, then Planta is for you. It’s more expensive than most of the other plant-based restaurants. They serve nice salads, pizza (with gluten-free options), bowls, and burgers (I find their burgers HORRIBLE though).
- Fresh – Fresh has many locations throughout the city and has been around for awhile. I like their Green Poutine, drinks, and bowls. However, I rarely go there because it is so cramped in there. There’s only about a foot of space between you and the table beside you.
- Machino Cafe’s Vegan Donuts. These guys are just a block east of Bloomer’s on Bloor, and their donuts are way more delicious than Bloomer’s! Really unique flavours like black sesame. They change their flavours bi-weekly. The owners are super friendly.
My two favourite vegan grocers are Yamchops and the Good Rebel Vegan. You can get all of your vegan meats and egg substitutes at both places. Yamchops makes their own sauces, chick’n, steaks, crabcakes, etc.; they also sell a small selection of environmentally responsible products.
Other vegan spots that I wasn’t 100% impressed with (okay or bad food OR bad service):
Bloomers – The second best vegan donuts in Toronto. Their chocolate chip zucchini GF muffins are so much and delicious. BUT there dine-in menu is horrible and the dine-in service is horrible, too. The food is either burnt, dry, too salty, or too bland (no sauce). I think they’re understaffed. If you dine-in, be prepared to wait for 30 minutes just to get a menu or a drink. The coffee is self-serve.
Selam – UDATE: The new owners have decided to get rid of Selam as a separate vegan space on the lower floor (now it’s just an overflow space for Pero). I’ve been told that you can order the full vegan menu upstairs, but it’s false – only a couple of the items are available. The buffet is gone. We’ve been 4 times since the change of ownership, and sadly, it hasn’t been the same. Food is over- or under-cooked, the wait is long, and the quality of ingredients seems to have deteriorated. Without the previous owner, Pero, running the show, it just isn’t the same. If you love Ethiopian food, you have to try this relatively new restaurant. They are the #1 place for Ethiopian/Eritreanfood (vegan or non-vegan). All of their dishes are full of flavour and protein. They offer a buffet, so you can try all of their yummy dishes. All of their dishes are phenomenal. This is one of the healthiest vegan options I’ve encountered. Plus, the service is fantastic. (Note: I just found out that there is new management. I hope they keep things the same.)