When my partner and I are planning a visit to a new city, it usually goes a little bit like this: Create a Google earth map of all the vegetarian restaurants we want to go to, then look up hotels near the biggest concentration. More often than not, this is relatively easy, with several must-visit restaurants clustered in one neighbourhood.
I imagine this would be somewhat difficult for people visiting Toronto. It seems that the largest concentration of vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants, bakeries and cafes is emerging not in any sort of tourist hot spot with hotels and attractions nearby, but instead it’s happening off the beaten path in the west end of the city, where accommodations are few and far between (or maybe non-existent?).
Well, move over Kensington Market! Someone recently referred to the stretch of Bloor Street between Christie and Lansdowne as “Vegan Alley”, and I’ve made it my mission to make this phrase catch on. When I imagine myself as a newbie tourist in Toronto, I envision being overwhelmed by the vegan options in this neck of the woods and wishing there were a nice Hampton Inn & Suites nearby (my travel guilty pleasure revealed!).
Alas, this is not the case. And it’s no coincidence I live in the west end.
In order from east to west:
- Apiecalypse Now Pizza & Snack Bar: At Bloor/Christie. All-vegan pizza shop famous for the mac ‘n’ charlie (pizza topped with mac ‘n’ cheese) and the new Big Mac pizza. But that’s not all. There’s an assortment of gluttonous finger-food snacks like jalapeno poppers, cheese stix, an ever changing array of donuts and – hold your breath for this one – deep fried “Mars” bars.
- Bloomer’s: At Bloor/Ossington. What started as a vegan bakery has become a full serve, sit down cafe with a wide range of sandwiches, bowls and, of course, baked goods. It’s a place where you can meet friends for coffee, drinks, lunch or dinner. Don’t miss their famous tempeh wings or pulled jackfruit sandwich. And watch out for specials at holiday time like their open-faced turkey sandwich and deep-fried mashed potato balls that came around at Thanksgiving! TVA members get 10% off!
- Disgraceland: At Bloor/Dovercourt. Here’s how things go at Disgraceland. Pick your favourite comfort food, anything you like (as in butter chicken, KFC popcorn chicken, or a philly cheesesteak) and you can expect to find a vegan version of it on the menu. Or, make up a wild and crazy dish you wouldn’t even imagine exists anywhere, such as poutine topped with perogies, and yes, you can still expect to find a vegan version of it on the menu.
- The Steady: Near Bloor/Dufferin. Known as one of the hot spots for brunch, The Steady offers vegan eggs benny or tofu scramble every Saturday and Sunday. You’ll definitely want to try one of their donuts (which are all vegan all the time) given that they were the winners of the Vegan Donut Showdown at the Veg Food Fest in 2014!
- The Hogtown Vegan: At Bloor/Dufferin. Back when most of the GTA’s vegetarian restaurants featured Chinese or Indian cuisine, or focused on raw and/or healthy dishes, Hogtown Vegan was one of the first sit-down restaurants to recreate classic comfort dishes like mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken and waffles, and gigantic cheeseburgers. Phish and chips anyone? Yes, please!
- South Indian Dosa Mahal: At Bloor/Emerson. It is no joke to say that you can walk in with $5 to your name and walk out with a bag full of vegan, Indian snacks to serve you and your friends a plenty. In addition to the dirt cheap samosas, pakoras and other deep-fried Indian finger foods served at the counter, there is a large menu of South Indian dishes, with a big focus on dosas.
- Through Being Cool Bakery: At Bloor/Lansdowne. Perhaps Through Being Cool could be called the birthplace of Vegan Alley. And of vegan donuts in Toronto? And of the award-winning pizza bun? Oh wait, they are still the only place that does that! No visit to Vegan Alley would be complete without a stop at the place that started it all for one (or more) of their donuts and other bakery classics like croissants and lemon bars, plus one of their ginormous sandwiches made on their own homemade buns.
- D-Beatstro: At Bloor/Lansdowne. The newest kid on the block, D-Beatstro has filled a void that existed in Toronto for so long, for accessible, cheap/free community space for activists and artists to meet and host events of all kinds. And you won’t go hungry at said events because since they’ve opened, they’re constantly surprising with new specialties, like their salted caramel butter bars (my favourite), pop tarts, pizza pockets, breakfast sandwiches and pudding cups. Don’t miss their incredible brunch menu with unique items like pizza grilled cheese and red velvet waffle sticks, and classics like homefries and sausage. TVA members get 10% off baked goods!