The most common question I get asked about living out of a suitcase is if it’s difficult to be a vegetarian on the road. The answer is no…if you go to the right places.
I just spent 4 days in sunny Toronto and ate at a variety of swanky restaurants, landmarks and take away food places. Not all of them were as imaginative on the veggie front but these four really impressed me and kept the hunger pangs at bay. I’m sure Toronto has many, many other vegetarian food outlets, maybe even better than these, but here are my personal favourites:
The landmark: 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower, (www.cntower.ca)
You can’t go to Toronto and not visit the CN Tower, can you? Cliché alert but on our first night in Toronto we headed for the city’s most obvious landmark, talking point and ubiquitous icon for dinner. The famous slowly revolving restaurant offers 360 views across the city’s skyscrapers, endless amount of condos in construction and the unsung heroes of the city, the lush green islands.
Back to the food. I had a beef tomato salad for starter and was impressed that the veggie option was a pasta dish but instead of being your usual spaghetti in tomato sauce affair, the pasta was made from my favourite grain, the protein powerhouse quinoa. Just what my body needed after an 8 hour flight. Tasty views too.
Grub to go: Urban Herbivore, (herbivore.to)
If you think vegetarian food is bland or you’re in the “poor vegetarians, what can they eat?” camp, Urban Herbivore will twist your arm. This place was recommended to me by our tour guide, Jason at Tour Guys, who said he feels like he’s doing his body good when he eats here – and he wasn’t wrong!
There’s an Urban Herbivore in Kensington Market or in the gigantic Eaton shopping centre so you’ve got no excuse not to try it. The food is vegan, extra filling and you can make your own salad with a mix of grains, veggies and tasty dressings. And everything is made from scratch so you know exactly what goes in there. They also have a range of sugary treats like muffins so your sweet tooth won’t get antsy. For lunch, go for the Thai curry which is jammed with squash, brown rice, tofu steaks and loaded with flavours. I also heartily recommend the Moroccan Stew. Healthy, gorgeous and affordable – score. If they had one of these in Dublin, I would move in.
Gold star: Mengrai Gourmet Thai, 82 Ontario St, Toronto (www.mengraithai.com)
And the award for my favourite food place in Toronto goes to….Mengrai by award-winning chef Sasi wins this one, hands down. Asian food is pretty reliable when it comes to being the fussy vegetarian in the group so it was no surprise to find I was spoiled for choice with the menu in this Thai restaurant. Frequently voted the best Thai restaurant in the city, the restaurant itself is laidback and the decor is unmistakably Eastern in influence.
We ordered a medley of different dishes, starting off with ‘morning glory’, an asparagus-in-tempura starter served with a delicious pumpkin soup. The dishes featured lots of tofu, lots of flavour and the pad thai was drool-worthy. As for drinks, I went for a Malibu Island, the girliest drink on the menu but you can’t beat a fruity drink with a pink umbrella on a sunny day, right? A word of warning – Canada’s version of a Bloody Mary contains clam juice so if you’re veggie, don’t order a Bloody Caesar! Next time I’m in Toronto I will be coming straight here. And the night after. And the night after that….
Lunch: Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill in the Distillery District, (www.purespirits.ca)
Yes, this is a seafood joint (considered to be one of the best in the city) but they had no problem serving me, a veggie with a seafood allergy AKA a seafood restaurant’s idea of hell.
Located in one of the city’s upcoming cool areas, the revamped and facelifted Distillery district, Pure Spirits serve huge portions of oysters, mussels and everything you can think of from the sea. The restaurant has a lofty feel and is pretty spacious. Next door there’s a bar and just a few doors down there’s a chocolatier serving all sorts of chocolate made in-house. To say it smelled incredible is an understatement. Anyway, I digress.
At Pure Spirits, I was a goats cheese obsessed vegetarian stereotype and ordered the goats cheese focaccia with Portobello mushroom and peppers, served with sweet potato fries and salad. As is the way in North America, the portions were huge but, don’t worry, I made a valiant attempt at scoffing it. Wrap up lunch with a coffee outside in the sunshine and people watch (translation: eye up the ridiculously hot waiters).
Notable mention: I also ate at Fifth Grill which was a really cool restaurant with a delectable cocktail list (try the Green Gatsby for a refreshing minty treat), friendly staff and oozing in style. Sadly the veggie option was mushroom risotto which was nice and everything but not exactly ground-breaking in the imagination stakes. I would definitely still go back but, as this is a post about the veggie offerings that impressed me the most, I can’t rate it as highly as the chosen few above. Maybe they’ll wow me next time…