By Moreen Murray, TVA member and volunteer

At Barbi’s request and in the spirit of her guide to Vegan Alley about Bloor West, I am following up with my own little guide to what my husband and I call the Veg Village…Kensington Market.

A popular spot for tourists and locals alike, we consider it our “supermarket” – where we go to get fresh fruits and vegetables and everything we need to make delicious vegan meals. After working up an appetite shopping, it’s great to have somewhere to stop and let someone else do the cooking.

When we travel it’s not often you have the convenience of many veg restaurants in such a small area without having to travel partway across the city. The only example I am able to come up with is perhaps on the Upper West Side of New York City, on Columbus and Broadway avenues.

Approaching the market from our home base of King and Bathurst we usually enter off Dundas at Denison and one of our favourite spots on the corner is…

GREENS VEGETARIAN – 638 Dundas Street West. **Greens gives TVA members 10% off

We started going here during previous ownership and now it is new and improved with renovation and new owners. The food is delicious, the staff welcoming and it’s bright and cheerful. We have our favourites such as the #27 the Greens and 3 Kinds of Mushrooms. We also love the Singapore noodles, dumplings, a number of mock meat dishes and just straight up gluten – which I confess to loving. They even have some retro style sweet and sour dishes…and I could go on.

Just down the street is…

BUDDHA’S – 666 Dundas St. West

Something of an institution now – it’s also Asian/Chinese with very hearty portions. It often makes “NOW Magazine’s list of Best Vegetarian.” The décor is completely unpretentious and it’s great value for the money.

Walking north on Denison you encounter the park (complete with Al Waxman statue to your left) and just kitty corner from that at 207 August is a newcomer to the Market…

d-new-kings-cafeCOSMIC TREATS

When we first checked them out last year they were selling baked goods and now they have delicious dine in options and funky décor – love the spacey Ikea globe lamps. Great comfort food and fun for brunch. Their Chocolate Chip and Banana Pancakes (!!) plus Dorito Encrusted Tofu and much more. I really love their baking too. In summer enjoy VEGAN ICE CREAM!

SWEET OLENKA’S

Sigh, we have such difficult problems in Toronto…such as too many options for vegan ice cream. Just a couple doors down from Cosmic Treats is Sweet Olenka’s, an ice cream and cake shop which makes spectacularly delicious coconut based ice cream bars shaped like adorable bear paws, as well as a rotating selection of vegan ice cream flavours.

But if you’ve had your fix of ice cream from Cosmic Treats already, you can also test out Sweet Olenka’s masterpieces by ordering one of their incredible cakes which come in an overwhelming selection of flavours and decorations. Click here to visit their online vegan cake shop and have your jaw drop at what they have to offer.

Once our bellies are full of treats, we usually do most of our shopping at 4 Life: your source for great organic fruits and veggies, vegan cheeses, bulk foods like nuts and more. They are also doing take out food now, however some vegan options would be welcome. It’s a great place to pick up a healthy snack or ingredients for dinner. There is a new juice spot in their old space on Augusta at Nassau – the Organic Press which has delicious juices including one with turmeric.

Just before 4 Life is another “institution” in the market and one that many people may know from visiting the Toronto Veg Food Festival in the fall…

KING’S CAFE **King’s gives TVA members 10% off

Spacious, modern and friendly they have an extensive menu of Chinese food and a little store at the back to take home some items you have enjoyed…we don’t have a favourite here. We like to try different things each time…I do have a weakness for the Curry Puffs though! One of our favourite spots for lunch is the cozy…

HIBISCUS CAFE – 238 Augusta, north of Nassau. **Hibiscus gives TVA members 10% off

This spot is very, very popular. They provide seating outside in the warmer weather which is a good thing. Love the crepes with Daiya cheese, tomato, spinach and mushrooms, and their soup and salad bowl which has a selection of salads to choose from. They also have treats and make their own ice cream – vegan of course. Their salad was analyzed for its’ healthiness in The Toronto Star and deemed worthy! Got a sweet tooth? You can satisfy it right next door at..

BUNNERS

Gluten free vegan baked goodness from the Ginger Molasses Cookies (one of my faves) to cupcakes, bread and also mac and cheese and savoury pockets with “Pot Pie” Pizza, muffins, cinnamon buns(!) and seasonal offerings including soft serve ice cream…voted Best Bakery by NOW Magazine readers.

You may feel you’ve had enough baked goods by now but did you know Wanda’s Pie in the Sky is not only a bakery but they also serve a wealth of vegetarian sandwiches?

URBAN HERBIVORE

At the corner of Augusta and Oxford…to overuse that word another institution – and something of a mini chain since there is one on College Street and also in the Eaton’s Centre. Soups, salads, juices, cupcakes…I also fondly remember it’s high end cousin “Grasslands” on Queen West. I am hoping someone will try their luck again in our area…

Crossing College and heading towards Spadina – one of my faves since it opened…

Grasshopper GRASSHOPPER – 310 College Street **Grasshopper gives TVA members 5% off

They are now licensed to offer so decadent sounding cocktails as well as killer gluten free Mac and Cheese, an amazing burger selection, “Chick Un Nuggets”, scrumptious   “pork” and “chikun” Banh Mi, juices, smoothies and Peanut Butter Blondies from Rise Above (the best!) in St. Catherines. This place was started by two George Brown graduates. It has a bright, modern interior and welcoming atmosphere.

If you head towards Spadina you can also get some kitty cuddles at the Cat Café, which I believe has vegan options.

While up on College, you may also want to stop in to Free Times Cafe. They have a great falafel platter and keep an eye out for their vegetarian specials. TVA members also get 10% off!

Almost forgot another few places…taking over the old Hot Beans Spot is…

VEGGIE D’Light – 160 Baldwin.

Serving up delicious Caribbean fare – amazing rotis with jerk seitan, split pea roast, veggies. You feel virtuous enjoying yourself! Healthy and yummy. A tiny treasure.

When I want a beverage with a snack either savoury or sweet I head to…

MOONBEAN COFFEE – 30 St. Andrew Street.

That is usually after finishing up grocery shopping at Essence of Life. They not only prepare coffee and tea, they also sell it to take home and there are always samosas and a variety of vegan baked goods, not to mention one of the best places for relaxing in the market with both front and back patios plus lots of indoor seating and of course helpful and friendly staff.

If I don’t go to Moonbean I also love to stop at this café on my way out of the market: The Strong One is at 68 Wales Avenue. Super cute, great beverages and wonderful vegan cakes and cookies including apple cider chai with maple frosting decorated with roses! They also have vegan wraps. Great décor and a patio out front for the nicer days to come.

Staying on St. Andrew Street however, we also have…

Vital Life Vegan- 17 St. Andrew Street

which joins the growing list of vegetarian Caribbean restaurants in the GTA. They serve a variety of flavourful stews, curries and rice such as BBQ soy chicken, stewed collards and black eyed peas and much more.

I could stretch the boundaries to include one of our favourites – Vegetarian Haven on Baldwin (TVA members get 10% off), the other side of Beverly, closer to University. Always great for the daily special creations and salads, soups, bowls, “sizzling” entrees, plus a lovely front patio in warmer weather.

Baldwin is a fun street filled with restaurants and Baldwin Natural Foods (TVA members get 5% off) is conveniently located across the street. Plus TVA Resource Centre is upstairs from Veg Haven!

Also west of Bathurst is Café 668 – which used to be at 668 Dundas Street West for fine Asian cuisine. I feel so lucky to have all of these amazing places to enjoy and hopefully we’ll have even more to come in this area and other neighbourhoods…it only takes one to start a movement!