A thought on being vegetarian in Toronto: It’s never been better. No, it’s not due to the myriad ethnic enclaves, though we have many—many have existed for decades. Nor is it due to trendy eateries; while it’s nice that Woodlot has a parallel veg menu, food trends are becoming meatier by the second. (Cough, Electric Avenue.) And it’s certainly not due to any perceived health benefits.
Rather, Toronto’s vegetarian eateries are awesome—fucking awesome—because, in 2012, there’s something for everyone. Toronto’s first modern veg wave, which included the Red Dragon-inspired Fresh and Sadies Diner, brought inventiveness to the, um, plate. And with them, those famous vegetarian myths—it’s too bland, too minimal, not filling enough—began to dissipate. Plus, we have Sadies to thank for bringing a vegetarian brunch menu that wasn’t, oh, peanut butter on toast.
On its second wave, shit got ethical. Here, the locavores shone: Vegetarian Haven, Fressen and Urban Herbivore—now featured in the Eaton Centre food court—provided meals, and marketing, that were local. Seasonal. Organic. And yes, many of these restos probably repulsed fistfuls of food reviewers, but god damn, did our consciences feel great.
But Toronto’s third vegetarian wave was practical, soulful and delivered, to the delight of the emaciated, veritable calorie bombs. This era wasn’t defined by ethics, and especially not health: Nope, you can grab a hash brown in your burrito at Hot Beans. Or vegan double cheeseburgers at Hogtown Vegan. Or popcorn-fried unchicken at Disgraceland. Or artery-shattering donuts, and Saves the Day references galore, from Through Being Cool. And finally, veganism—and vegetarianism—didn’t feel uptight: It could be greasy, uncomfortably filling and as depression-staving as eating an extra-large pizza under the covers. The era of irresponsible vegetarianism had arrived, and not a second to soon.
And the best part about being veg in Toronto? No matter the reasoning behind your vegetarianism, there’s a nosh spot for you. And sorry, the same can’t be said of many other cities. Of course, vegetarian cuisine—as any cuisine—is a work in progress, and that’s what we hope to document. Snack hard.
Article written by Mark Teo