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Jun 28, 2010 10:08 PM

An impossible feat? Help!

Hi Chowhounders,

I am trying to find a Toronto venue that will accommodate some seriously divergent tastes and that has a nice atmosphere suitable for good friends catching up on gossip. There will be four people in the group: 1 raw vegan, 1 hard-core carnivore, 2 omnivores. My thinking, and perhaps this is optimistic, is that a non-raw-vegan restaurant that has a large menu of dinner-sized salads can satisfy both the raw vegan and the hard-core carnivore. Any ideas? Budget and ethnic/national origin of cuisine style are not of any concern.

Any help you can provide is appreciated!

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  1. What area of the city?

    There are a lot of offerings which could satisfy both vegan and the others, but it's the raw part that I think makes it more difficult. Indian has a lot of vegan offerings, but not raw. Thai might be an option, but you'd have to look out for fish sauce, etc.
    The type of place you are suggesting might be the best option, although not necessarily the most chow-worthy. For example, something like Green Eggplant (Eglinton and Beach locations) might do the trick, but won't blow anyone away. They have big salads and typical offerings for the omnivores/carnivore and you could probably linger even if really busy there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pescatarian

      If your friend is a devoted raw vegan, his/her only option at a regular restaurant will be a salad of raw vegetables, some citrus wedges and some cold pressed oil, unless he/she is smuggling in a home-made dressing. You should find out the degree of rawness to which your friend adheres, then decide whether or not to concentrate on accommodating the one raw vegan OR the omnivores/carnivores.

      If your carnivore and omnivores can deal with a huge variety of vegetarian options, Le Commensal might be an option. Yes, it's cafeteria style, but with so many options for mixing and matching, everyone can find something interesting to eat and drink, including the raw vegan, who can load up on fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, sprouted legumes, freshly squeezed juice, etc.

      Find out if your raw friend is truly vegan. WIll he/she eat raw non-vegan items, such as sashimi? If so, that opens up the Japanese sushi bar option.

      As a courtesy to your friend, you could go to Fresh or Pulp Kitchen. At least there are raw options, juices and smoothies for the raw vegan, but cooked vegan, dairy, eggs and possibly meat dishes for the rest of you.

      Pulp Kitchen
      1129 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M4M1J3, CA

      1. re: 1sweetpea

        Thanks for your responses. To answer your questions:

        1. We would prefer if the restaurant is located downtown, but we're not opposed to traveling if there is something worth traveling to.
        2. Yes, my friend is a devoted raw vegan, period.
        3. And before you ask, yes, the carnivore is stubborn and says he won't waste his daily calorie intake on vegetarian (let alone vegan or raw vegan) foods, though I am doing my best to try to convince him that one vegetarian meal will not kill him.

        I was really hoping to avoid Le Commensal with my comment about the place having a nice atmosphere for catching up, to be honest. And Fresh won't work since the carnivore won't be happy there, and Pulp Kitchen only serves breakfast/lunch (we were hoping for dinner). Green Eggplant looks like it could be a possibility if minor tweaks are made to the salads on their menu.

        Any other ideas? Maybe a dinner buffet on a Sunday night exists in the city? Do any of the hotels have a dinner buffet on a Sunday night??

        Green Eggplant
        514 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M5N, CA

        Pulp Kitchen
        1129 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M4M1J3, CA

        1. re: Juniper

          yes, i am the buca cheerleader but if you give them a call in advance (since the menu changes frequently) they might be a great option for you.

          they have a small salad section near the bottom with at least 2 (probably 3) options that could be adjusted to be vegan friendly (likely just remove cheese and maybe extraneous cured meat topping). i only mention it because the last time i was there they were the most interesting salads i had seen on a menu in a long time. having to do with raddichio, blood oranges, nuts, etc. the portions for the salad were a fair size and perhaps a sorbet for dessert would work very well (if they don't have sugar issues). for your carnivorous friend, please do not miss the pig's ears.... they are perfection. though i have heard a report that sometimes they take them out just a touch too early from the fryer, easy to fix.

          i'll try to think of more... but even a place like origin, with its extensive menu, seems to barely accommodate vegetarians. the only other places i can think of that might have large salad menus and a decent atmosphere would perhaps be some place like milestones (nice patio overlooking dundas square).

    2. I don't think there's anywhere where you can pull this off just walking in off the street and ordering from the menu, but if you do some phoning around and avoid places that are known to be slavish to their menu (we all know what I'm talking about here) or openly hostile to vegetarians (cough***hoof***cough) it's quite doable. Not having a hard budgetary restriction helps.

      Call a decent amount in advance, outside of peak service hours, say you want to arrange a special meal for a party with dietary restrictions and ask to speak to the manager or chef directly, realistically you'll get some attitude on occasion but surprisingly, most of the time they'll play ball, you'll be a party of 4, you'll need the chef to compose a raw vegan meal for one person and the other 3 people will order off the regular menu. Make it clear you understand you are asking them to go above and beyond and also that you are committed by offering to make a deposit. A lot of the usual suspects that get recommended here for fine dining would probably do fine with this, especially the "farm to table" types at this time of year..

      2 Replies
      1. re: bytepusher

        Call the hoof and leave a message asking about vegetarian options. Though they didn't have many options, they called me back and explained what they did have. Nothing hostile about it, in fact they were very friendly.

        Just try it as an experiment.

        1. re: szw

          I think the hoof today is attitudinally in a bit of different place than it was 4 years ago when I wrote that.

          I don't exactly see the point of resurrecting a 4 year old discussion just to argue about an offhand comment in the middle of a post.

      2. In a pinch, the hard-core carnivore could always eat the raw vegan...that would take care of some of your issues! Seriously though, it's not so fancy, but I like it for gabbing and gossiping - you could consider Utopia on College..lots of veg options and I bet, if you call and explain your plight, they could whip up some raw items as well...carnivore will also be quite happy as they do a darn good burger..

        1 Reply
        1. My BF is vegan (not raw vegan) and we've found that when we've called ahead, most chefs are happy to prepare a vegan meal for him. Over the past few months we've been to Boehmer, Globe Bistro and Splendido. Globe Bistro was the friendliest and most helpful when I initially called to enquire and make a reservation. In the past we've also had vegan tasting menus at George and Canoe. While the vegan dishes at all of these were mostly cooked, perhaps one of these chefs could prepare something entirely raw. And I think any one of these restaurants would please the carnivore in your group.

          1. Thanks for your ideas. I've done a little bit more research and I've put in a call to Mark Cutrara at Cowbell to see if he might be interested in taking on the challenge. I remembered that the Pride Parade is this Sunday so sticking to the downtown core may be more hassle than it's worth. I'll let you know if I hear back from Cowbell and how they respond.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Juniper

              Are you concerned about cross-contamination in the handling of the raw food? Most restaurants don't understand the vegan concept (separate dishes, utensils, chopping surfaces). But then for some vegans and vegetarians (non-hardcore) it's no big deal.

              1. re: Juniper

                I know Mark did a ovo-lacto veg tasting for a friend so it''s quite possible.

                1. re: bytepusher

                  ovo-lacto veg or vegan for that matter is way easier to pull off than raw though