By Barbi Lazarus, Donor and Volunteer Resources Coordinator
At first glance, it’s been a rough year for lovers of vegan comfort food.
In February, Toronto lost Hot Beans, a favourite of many for their Mexican take out joint that included jack fruit tacos and mac and cheese burritos. Earlier this year, we also said goodbye to Sadie’s Diner, a longtime staple in Toronto’s vegetarian scene that featured all day breakfast and always served up impressive prix fix meals for Valentine’s Day and Veggielicious.
Along the way we bid them sorrowful goodbyes (click here for a past blog post recapping the sadness), and now it’s time to say farewell to another popular and delicious vegan restaurant, Grasslands.
I found out about their closure with literally less than two weeks notice. I squealed and was border line teary eyed as I scanned my agenda and tried to search for a chance to go back for one last meal. I’m also just about to leave for vacation so my schedule is really tight and I didn’t think it would be possible.
Later that night, I made the decision. I was going to make the time no matter what, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did. Grasslands is unique in that it is one of Toronto’s few upscale vegan restaurants, a place to take your parents to for Mother’s Day or a romantic place for date night. But it’s more than just about ambiance.
The food, oh the food! Admittedly, it had been a while since I had been to Grasslands, and I had not yet experienced the new giant burger section on their menu. Knowing it would be my last dinner here made the decision between the 9 burgers that included a BBQ chicken crunch burger, seitan burger, and Korean kimchi burger all that more difficult, but I eventually opted for the Southern Fried Chiggun Burger which was a battered “chicken” cutlet topped with a cabbage slaw and chipotle mayo. It was every bit as delicious as it sounds and was served up with a big serving of fries and a generous side salad as well. I felt utterly spoiled with my delicious meal and also in envy of my partner’s choice: battered bacon cheeseburger, which you better believe is indeed a burger, coated in a corn flake crust and fried, topped with vegan cheese and coconut bacon.
Yes, I enjoyed my meal to the point of feeling regret for having not come to Grasslands more often so I could have tried out so many of the other mind blowing items on the menu (including that cheeseburger, of course). But this time, as much as I feel Toronto is at a great loss for the closing of Grasslands, Hot Beans and Sadie’s, I know I shouldn’t complain.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Toronto is one fantastic place to live and the vegetarian options, despite these closures, is experiencing non-stop growth. I can no longer count the number of vegetarian places in Kensington Market alone on my fingers. In fact, it’s getting hard to even have enough fingers to count the number of places in Kensington Market that specifically serve vegan ice cream! (Hibiscus, Bunner’s Cosmic Treats, Sweet Olenka’s…am I missing anyone?).
Sometimes it seems not a week goes by without hearing about a new all veg place opening or a new pizza place serving vegan cheese or a coffee shop or bakery selling vegan pastries. This Thanksgiving that recently passed saw so many options for ordering vegan Thanksgiving meals and desserts it literally caused me stress trying to decide what to get and feeling down about the other great options I missed out on.
Grasslands will be greatly missed for sure. But if you’re looking for somewhere nice to go for a night on the town, don’t forget we’ve got Tori’s Bake Shop after hours and Vegetarian Haven. We miss you so much Sadie’s Diner, but if you are looking for somewhere with a classic diner feel and comfort food, check out the newly opened Cosmic Treats. And if you’re still mourning Hot Beans, make sure you check out the all vegan Caribbean place that opened in it’s place, Veggie D’Light, which is equally delicious.
They say when one door closes, another door opens. But in Toronto, it’s more like 3 doors opening for every one closing, so don’t let your eyes tear up just yet until you see what’s behind those doors.
P.S That doesn’t mean I won’t be stopping by Grasslands one more time before they close, to indulge in their incredibly unique brunch options! I recommend you do the same if you can, before they close October 25th.