HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

Discussion

Vegetarians - or those (like me) just leaning that way - which restaurants are best??

I love "Fresh" - it ticks all my boxes when I am in a vegetarian mood - and also inspires how I conjure up the same kind of food in my own kitchen.
The vegan place in the basement of the St. Lawrence Market gets a big vote too.
But are there any upscale places where a truly satisfying vegetarian meal (not just some token thing) can be had?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Woodlot has a separate vegetarian menu that is really really good if you are in the mood for heavier comfort food.

    1. Fressen. That's pretty much as upscale as it gets for a vegetarian restaurant. Other restaurants will do vegetarian dishes (and not always just the typical pasta, risotto or portobello burger).

      Grapefruit Moon is very veg friendly and uses tempeh in their sandwiches and other breakfast items.

      -----
      Fressen
      478 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2B2, CA

      4 Replies
      1. re: trane

        Went to Fressen a week ago and have to respectfully disagree. Everything but the Moroccan stew was bland, or oversalted. Incredibly small portions. Moroccan stew was nice enough but I make a comparable version myself.

        -----
        Fressen
        478 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2B2, CA

        1. re: Yum2MyTum

          You're disagreeing with what? That it's not upscale?

          I never said it was good, I just said it was upscale, which is what the OP asked for.

          I've only been there a handful of times and while enjoyable, I've never had anything that's made me go back for more (unlike Live or Graceful Vegetarian).

          1. re: trane

            I think "truly satisfying" is in the same vane as good.

            Fressen isn't bad, it's just really underwhelming. I'm desperately seeking a more upscale dining experience in Toronto, but being vegan it just doesn't seem to exist.

            -----
            Fressen
            478 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2B2, CA

            1. re: michelleTO

              Hi trane. I was disagreeing with your characterization of Fressen as "truly satisfying", intended or not, as michelleTO pointed out.

              Some good suggestions on this page. I'd second recommendations for Tabule.

              -----
              Tabule
              2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

              Fressen
              478 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2B2, CA

      2. 93 Harbord is a good choice.

        -----
        93 Harbord
        93 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

        1. Mashu Mashu for mediterranean, Tabule for middle eastern and Jean's Vegetarian for thai. And Nazareth for ethiopian.

          -----
          Tabule
          2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

          Mashu Mashu
          387 Spadina Rd, Toronto, ON M5P, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: fickle

            Second Tabule. Also like Jerusalem on Eglinton. Love their fried tomatoes & fried eggplant.

            -----
            Tabule
            2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

            Jerusalem
            955 Eglinton Ave, Toronto, ON M6C2C4, CA

          2. I'm not even close to a veg and I rather enjoy Vegetarian Haven on Baldwin and I would consider it a nicer room that Fresh. The crispy oyster mushrooms are crazy delicious!

            -----
            Vegetarian Haven
            17 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON M5T1L1, CA

            2 Replies
            1. re: JennaBean

              OOh that sounds delicious - have been wondering about Vegetarian Haven on Baldwin - interested in your view - thanks! My only beef (pardon the pun) about Fresh is the appalingly high decible level - in all three locations - it seems incongrous with their passive food philosophy, I may be old, but I have money, and I won't spend it in places where I can't hear what my dining companion is saying.

              -----
              Vegetarian Haven
              17 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON M5T1L1, CA

              1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                Vegetarian Haven is a low-lighting quiet little space with really well done veggie food. The cheesecake believe it or not is just as good as the mushrooms!!

                -----
                Vegetarian Haven
                17 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON M5T1L1, CA

            2. Cafe 668. Licensed and a patio, too. Afterwards you can go across the street to the Black Hoof.

              And the raw lasagna at Live Organic Food bar is not to be missed!

              -----
              Cafe 668
              885 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J1V9, CA

              The Black Hoof
              928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

              1. I have been to Splendido with a vegetarian friend and she was able to have an excellent vegetarian meal, especially since their pastas and risottos are so great. The current menu has a lot of vegetarian or almost-vegetarian dishes on which the meat could be substituted with something else. If I remember correctly, we had called ahead and they were ready with replacements for the meat on several of the dishes. In my opinion, Splendido does a much better job with vegetables than Fressen and the other vegetarian restaurants in this city.

                An example of dishes you could have off the current menu:

                Their excellent house-made bread with butter
                Yukon Gold Klondyke Farm Potato Soup with Duck Egg and Parmigiano Reggiano Crouton (without the prosciutto)
                Pied de Mouton Mushroom Salad, Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Molise Black Truffles (without the pancetta)
                Scarpinotti with Swiss Chard, Chives and Parmigiano-Reggiano
                Carnaroli Risotto with Bosc Pear and Scamorza (without the speck -- maybe replace with extra scamorza and perhaps some mushrooms for texture)
                Gnocchi with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Black Truffle
                Yukon Gold Potato Frites with Malt Vinegar Mayo
                Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Mint
                Roasted Wild Mushrooms
                Jerusalem Artichokes with Hazelnuts and Maple Syrup
                Curry Kale with Onions, Almonds and Raisins

                They also have an excellent cheese selection to round off the veg meal before dessert. Yum!!

                -----
                Splendido
                88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                7 Replies
                1. re: myriam5555

                  splendido is an upscale expensive joint though.. and i went there once for lunch because they told my sister they could prepare something vegetarian. it was decent enough but not worth the cost for what to me was more like a side dish.. sauteed rapini and veg! i was really disappointed. the app was mushroom risotto (which was good but i could get there anywhere for a lot cheaper.. i can also make a mean risotto at home) and the "dessert" was a delicious cheese plate with walnuts and this apple jelly thing..

                  overall though, not worth the price one bit. i think i paid about $60 in total(?!!) - i forget though as it was long ago.

                  looking att he menu items you list above, they sound tasty but not as a main.. they all sound like side dishes. there are many other, far cheaper places that get more creative with veg dishes.

                  1. re: helenhelen

                    I'm sorry you had that experience. I have never had anything but amazing experiences at Splendido. And any dish with a duck egg in it could never be considered a side...those eggs are RICH! Same goes for gnocchi and risotto. You would never go hungry eating that list of dishes IMO.

                    -----
                    Splendido
                    88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                    1. re: helenhelen

                      I'm not sure your experience is 'up-to-date'. Other than a 'special' leading up to Xmas, Splendido hasn't served lunch for months (possibly years) - certainly since 2009 - maybe longer.
                      AND the OP specifically asked for upscale.
                      I think the Myriam5555 post was spot-on.

                      -----
                      Splendido
                      88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                      1. re: estufarian

                        fyi estufarian (because I know you're a big fan) Splendido did at least 3 special lunches last year ... hopefully they'll do at least that many again this year

                        -----
                        Splendido
                        88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                        1. re: CocoTO

                          They did several special lunches on Fridays leading up to Xmas.

                        2. re: estufarian

                          It was a 3-course lunch special. Was maybe a year ago.

                          1. re: helenhelen

                            You're right - I recall that promotion. But I was out-of-country and couldn't partake, so clearly your impressions will be more accurate.

                    2. Another option is Enoteca Sociale, which has the following excellent veg dishes:

                      Arancini con Stracciatella, Arugula and Caramelized Onion
                      Treviso, Arugula, Radish, Blood Orange, Pecorino Dressing, Candied Pecan
                      Chickpea Fritter, Lentil, Farro and Mushroom
                      Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
                      Manicotti with Taleggio, Ricotta, Kale, Shallot and Tomato
                      Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter and Candied Pecans
                      Roasted Root Vegetables

                      Beets with Seasonal Greens, Stracciatella and Balsamic Reduction
                      Cheese plate

                      -----
                      Enoteca Sociale
                      1288 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: myriam5555

                        again this all sounds tasty, but for a vegetarian, a bit boring (we always end up with side dishes or pasta.. no matter how fancy, sometimes you'd rather not have pasta again!)

                        1. re: helenhelen

                          Exactly my fear - endless "Pasta Primavera" - with veg not exactly in Primo fresh condition - bottom of the fridge drawer, chopped and chucked into a frying pan with some garlic, bit of cream and pre-cooked pasta. That will be $22 Madam!! We all know that game.

                          1. re: helenhelen

                            Hear, hear! A lot of places rely on pasta or tonnes of cheese. The former is boring and the latter just doesn't appeal to me.

                            1. re: piccola

                              Agree that this is a general problem, but I stand by my recommendation of Enoteca Sociale. The dishes I mention are the bulk of the menu, not token veg options on there just cause they have to be. I listed the resto because in my opinion, they do veg extremely well, and certainly better than Fressen pr other purely vegetarian places. No pasta or cheesemeans no Italian, and unless I'm misreading the OP's post I don't think that that was a limiting factor in their request. ES does great pasta, great veg, has a nice cheese selection, you can have a wonderful vegetarian meal there, if you're not into veg, pasta and cheese then obviously don't go there.

                              -----
                              Fressen
                              478 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2B2, CA

                              Enoteca Sociale
                              1288 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                              1. re: myriam5555

                                I haven't been to ES, but it's on my list for the days when I do feel like eating pasta.

                        2. My final recommendation is 93 Harbord:

                          Mezze sampler (baba ghanouj, hummus, tabbouleh, muhammara, badonsieya parsley dip) with pita -- these are inexpensive and very filling with the pita. Ask for extra. ,
                          Wild Herb Risotto with Seasonal Vegetables
                          Vegetable and Fruit Tagine with Couscous, Harrissa, Tomato and Mint Coulis

                          -----
                          93 Harbord
                          93 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: myriam5555

                            My daughter is Vegetarian, and we have no problem with almost any Chinese, Italian, Indian or Mexican Restaurants.
                            However two of our favorite pure Veggie places are
                            Lotus Pond and Cafe 668

                            1. re: erly

                              No problem with any Chinese restaurant? Either you're playing "dont' ask, don't tell" or you have no idea what goes into most Chinese cuisine dishes.

                              Same goes for Italian. There's chicken stock going into that "vegetarian" mushroom risotto don't you know. Unless you ask them not to.

                              Hope your daughter never eats the refritos at the mexican place. Even the tortillas (flour mostly) are made with lard usually.

                              1. re: trane

                                Which is why more upscale restaurants such as Splendido and Enoteca are a better bet. I'd be surprised if they refused to make a risotto with a mushroom stock instead of chicken stock, provided that you give them advance notice of your visit. Most good restaurants will gladly make substitutions with sufficient notice.

                                -----
                                Splendido
                                88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA

                                1. re: trane

                                  I am not certain why the rant trane,
                                  But Vegetarians like my daughter are very informed and know which questions to ask.
                                  Was in a Mexican Restaurant last week (not in Toronto) that actually had a Red V in front of the more than a dozen pure Vegetarian dishes, including tortillas.
                                  Restaurants are becoming much more aware of Vegetarian needs.
                                  George did a really nice Veggie tasting Menu for her in the Fall.

                                  1. re: trane

                                    There are a few places that buck this trend, but it's true that most restaurants tout "vegetarian" dishes that totally aren't. The oyster sauce thing drives me crazy. And I never order soup unless the menu specifies it's vegetable stock. Ditto risotto.

                              2. Simon's Wok at Gerrard and Logan is tasty vegetarian (possibly vegan) Chinese food, the $4.99 lunch special Mon - Thur gets my regular business but all the menu items i've ordered are solid too

                                -----
                                Simon's Wok
                                797 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y5, CA

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: frenchcustard

                                  Without a doubt, the crispy king mushrooms here are much better than Vegetarian Haven's. My vegan sister also thinks so.

                                  1. re: mrsleny

                                    King mushrooms are a totally different dish. I personally always prefer oyster mushrooms over king mushroom. I like the delicate nature of the oyster over the meaty steam and small cap of the king.

                                2. +1 for Vegetarian Haven, Jean's Thai Kitchen.

                                  +10 for Live.

                                  +100 for Graceful Vegetarian. 'Nuff said.

                                  -1 for King's Cafe in Kensington market. Mediocre and expensive. When the vegetarian General Tao chicken is 30% more than the typical cost of the meat version, something is wrong.

                                  -1 for Gourmet Vegetarian in RH. Badly executed (notably the Pan fried Turnip Cake) and bland food.

                                  -10 for Lotus Pond. Worse than Gourmet Vegetarian. Maybe it's better now, I've not been there in 10 years. I doubt it.

                                  -----
                                  Vegetarian Haven
                                  17 Baldwin St, Toronto, ON M5T1L1, CA

                                  Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant
                                  280 West Beaver Creek, Thornhill, ON L4B3Z1, CA

                                  Thai Kitchen
                                  2372 Barton St E, Hamilton, ON L8E2W7, CA

                                  1. Udupai Palace is good for southern indian food. And there are places in the sticks (Sarvannah Bharvan) that have more selection and decent food.

                                    1. I know you asked for "upscale," but since so many other people are making more "downscale" recs...

                                      I consider myself a hardcore omnivore. I love meat, but also LOVE me some veggies. I like them mixed, yet find lunch at Hibiscus absolutely satisfying. Generous portions of tasty veggies for really good prices.

                                      I have yet to be able to bring myself to try Fresh because the one at Queen and Crawford has such a bad habit of dumping their compost juice in the gutter that that corner smells...really unappetizting. I don't know why anyone ever eats on that patio in anything but a northerly breeze.

                                      Also, Khao San Road (full disclosure: I know the owner) has a pretty veggie/vegan friendly menu. I have a hard time finding ways that I actually enjoy tofu, but LOVE their garlic tofu. Also, I know Nuit has vegan curry pastes and sauces that can be substituted if you ask...avoiding fish sauce and shrimp paste is easier than you might think by reading the menu.

                                      -----
                                      Khao San Road
                                      326 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1P7, CA

                                      1. while there are some strictly veg places that i like (vegetarian haven, cafe 668, graceful vegetarian, etc.), i find that i tend to like the food at non-veg places that have veg options. different cuisines are great for veg-friendly options: ethiopian, middle eastern, italian, thai (since you are not veg, you won't mind the fish sauce), indian, etc.

                                        this is a good resource though:
                                        http://veg.ca/content/view/65/103/

                                        as for upscale places that are strictly veg, there are few in this city (unlike in NYC!). all i can really think of is fressen and it's not really upscale (more like middle scale).. but prob your best bet in toronto for veg upscale. as someone mentioned above, many of the non-veg upscale places will create veg dishes for you if you call in advance to ask.. but i would recommend finding out when you call what the dishes will be.. otherwise, you can end up with pasta or really boring side dish type dishes (i hate that! especially at the cost they charge for what amounts to just a bunch of vegetables cooked like a side!).

                                        i've eaten at globe bistro a few times and it's always been creative and worth the price! this place also has nice options: http://www.labrestaurant.com/
                                        i think i read that the chef is vegetarian or something like that.

                                        1. I also forgot to mention L.A.B. They have lots of vegetarian dishes and the chef, Howard Dubrovsky, is a vegetarian and has competed in Vegan Iron Chef.

                                          http://www.toronto.com/restaurants/ar...

                                          http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/bl...

                                          -----
                                          L.A.B. (Live and Breathe
                                          )651 College St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: myriam5555

                                            another one is also woodlot - haven't eaten there yet but have heard they have a good veg menu too:

                                            http://www.yelp.ca/biz/woodlot-bakery...

                                            i also emailed colborne lodge once to ask if they do a veg menu and they said they can do it. have not yet been though.

                                            i'd love to hear more about upscale places that openly have decent veg options on their menu too (not just off menu that they can whip up, but they actually have a number of them listed on their menu). it doesn't seem that common for upscale places.

                                            1. re: helenhelen

                                              George does a great veg tasting menu. I believe the five course veg tasting is $80.

                                            2. re: myriam5555

                                              I'll also add my recommendation for L.A.B.
                                              And (as mentioned above), Howard really knows and informs whether each dish is vegetarian/vegan etc. IMO the vegetarian dishes are the best items on the menu anyway (as a general rule).

                                              -----
                                              L.A.B. (Live and Breathe)
                                              651 College St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                  Yes!
                                                  Not sure if he's Vegan - but he should be at least as knowledgeable on what's 'permitted' as any other chef in the city. And if you're a regular (as I am) he'll "adjust" dishes (e.g. he recently removed a tomato component from one dish and substituted a vinegar - both gave the dish acidity, but he's aware of my aversion to tomatoes).

                                            3. Middle-eastern cuisine features vegetables and pulses. The problem is finding good restaurants in this style in Torotno. My recommendations: In the east , Aladdins Palace, Victoria Pk and Tempo, veggie combo plate only , $8 In the west , Zanobia on Dundas East , Lunch especially, 15 "salads" AYCE . Lunch weekdays and Sunday till 5pm is $12. Lots to eat in both places .see previous posts.

                                              Not upscale, but real good food and cheap!

                                              VVM

                                              1. The vegetarian plate at "Jump" is quite good. I don't think it's vegan though. They also make a killer mushroom soup.

                                                1. Most of these options don't seem very healthy, or tasty for that matter. Why are so many of these dishes so heavy on cheese? Just looks like a way to make customers feel like they are full and got value for money. Also, they seem very low in protein content.

                                                  I don't see anything here that would tempt me, and I am very much moving towards a more plant based diet. Your best options are mediterannean restaurants that have a lot of mezze, grilled vegetables and chickpea based dishes and of course Indian food. The Dal Bukhara at Copper Chimney for example, made with black lentils and cooked slowly for hours, eaten with a whole wheat tandoori roti, will blow any of this rubbish out of the water.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: ManAbout

                                                    A note on dal bukhara: I'm pretty sure it's loaded with cream and ghee, as are a handful of northern Indian dishes.

                                                    I noticed that the menu at OM (Tibetan and Nepalese) had a number of vegetarian options. I'm sure if you specified that you want vegan they'd make sure not to cook with ghee or other dairy products.

                                                    Also, I was looking at a menu for Lady Marmalade and observed a few items that were clearly marked vegan. Other brunch and lunch items were available with veg substitutions.

                                                    I like when restaurants routinely offer a vegan puree soup, with or without a second non-veg soup option. I live in Windsor where the vast majority of daily soups at restaurants are cream-based or loaded with cheese. Whenever a soup of the day is vegan, I virtually always order it, rejoicing at the fact that it is available.

                                                    When I feel like a veg meal, I lean toward Middle Eastern, Greek, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, certain Japanese or Chinese dishes when I want something different and memorable. Salads and grilled vegetable plates get boring fast and too often, vegetarian pastas sound great on paper, but are a greasy starch fest with only a smattering of veg content. Pizzas without cheese can be good if the toppings and sauce are tasty without being too wet and sloppy. I've had a few really good bruschetta-topped thin crust pizzas that made for lovely summer dinners.

                                                    1. re: ManAbout

                                                      ManAbout, interesting reply, I try to keep my meals less filling, so I very carefully check with the server if I can change a traditional Thali Plate by removing the rice or naan choice and instead, please replace with lentils, chick peas, salad as to the chef's offer, etc., to not offend the cook!!! There are so many comments available to make, but I would just like to say that on the Thali Plate at Tandoori Time on Albion Road near Hwy. 27, the Chick Pea offering is absolutely super sensational!!! I think the creation offers special spicing, thickness, likely a use of Indian sugar, a sensational use of Chick Peas, so little on the plate, ever so wonderful!! Restaurants have to understand that all customers accept the menu offer, but many of us can perfect it for us on an individual basis and subjected to our requests of original items done differently at the chef's desire!!!! I can only offer an experience at Alness and Finch where there was a former Noodle Delight restaurant. A Chicken BBQ Restaurant was in a building next door and thinking to try it, I left because they would not substitute fries for some salad without extra charge. So, within the plaza I continued with the former Noodle Delight, the superb decades old San Francesco sandwiches ---- and the promising Chicken BBQ, never used it, gone within some months and now is a Tim Horton's!!!!!!

                                                      1. re: ManAbout

                                                        This isn't the place for a debate about nutrition, but I would have to vehemently disagree with any characterization of cheese or dairy-based meals for vegetarians as "unhealthy", especially if said dairy comes from pastured cattle/sheep/goats. Even balanced Mediterranean vegetarian meals would include feta or other cheese, and balanced Indian vegetarian meals would include dairy in the form of copious amounts of ghee in the pulse dishes and at least one paneer-based dish. If the Indian restaurants you mention rely on refined vegetable oils instead of ghee (as many do because hexane-processed soybean oil is much cheaper than even industrial butter), then they are obviously much less healthy than a dairy-based meal.