Canada’s Best Vegetarian-Friendly Cities in 2006

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#2 Victoria, British Columbia

Lovely Victoria rounds out our picks for Canada’s top two vegetarian-friendly cities, making it a near sweep for British Columbia. Victoria is known as the “City of Gardens” for its temperate, Mediterranean-like weather and its array of plants that can’t be grown anywhere else in Canada. Vegetarians would be wise to join the Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association, which offers its members a quarterly newsletter and discounts at local restaurants.

British Columbians in search of tasty, compassionate eating flock to Green Cuisine. The restaurant offers a large vegan buffet with a range of tempting dishes, and virtually everything is organic. Start with Moroccan chickpea soup, and then move on to the Shepherd’s Pie, some Thai noodles, or the Spanikopita. Save room for the vegan pumpkin cheesecake, and visit Green Cuisine’s bakery for a loaf of bread or a tray of baked goods when you’re on the run.

One of the most popular places for dinner in Victoria is the Asian-themed Lotus Pond Vegetarian Restaurant, which has a generous selection of mock meats. The chart-toppers for us were the Sweet and Sour Soy Chicken and the numerous vegan cakes. Curry fan? You’ll be wowed by The Mint, which features a vegan batch du jour. Rebar Modern Food is staggeringly vegetarian-friendly—we’re fans of the shiitake-tofu pot stickers, marinated tempeh burritos, and yam fries. Chocolate lovers will go home satisfied after trying a slice of Vegan Velvet Fudge Cake. Later on, stop by Cascadia Whole Foods Bakery for tantalizing vegan muffins, brownies, and cookies.

Top Tip: Sarah Kramer, the ultra-popular vegan-cookbook author, is a resident of Victoria. Check out her fantastic How It All Vegan cookbook.

#3 Toronto, Ontario

Canada’s largest city is big on tasty vegetarian delights. Veg News magazine recently named the city’s upscale Fressen one of the top vegetarian restaurants in North America—you’ll know why after trying Fressen’s Grilled Gluten Roast or Cornmeal-Encrusted Mango Tempeh. If you’re around for a weekend brunch, get the better-than-your-mom-makes Wheat-Free Fruit Waffles with organic maple syrup and coulis (a thick fruit sauce). For a special night out, vegetarians can dine in the sky at 360. The luxurious revolving restaurant on top of the CN Tower has a full vegetarian menu.

For a more relaxed bite, try Fressen’s sister restaurant, Urban Herbivore. Its soups and sandwiches are simple, delicious, and the perfect energy boost that’s needed for scouring the many thrift stores and shops nearby. The chain Lick’s is the place to go for vegetarian burgers, sloppy joes, and chili. King’s Café has great Asian food, including mock meats and veggie sushi. You can load up your plate at Le Commensal, a delightful pay-by-weight vegetarian buffet with more than 100 items to tempt you. Pizza is the specialty at Il Fornello, where you can choose one of a variety of crusts and top it off with soy cheese. If you don’t like your food to get too close to a stove, try Live Organic Food Bar, where you can enjoy rotating weekly menu items. The Live It Up Lasagna and Raw Like Sushi are old favorites, which should be followed by creative and tasty treats, such as the vegan butterscotch-hemp mousse.

Are you in the city for more than a brief visit? The Toronto Vegetarian Association provides a warm welcome with a full calendar of events, including workshops, singles events, cooking classes, and potluck meals.

Top Tip: Toronto may be the veggie-burger capital of the world. We at PETA have given Pulp Kitchen a “Golden Bun” Award for its fantastic ‘Shroom Burger. The popular Lick’s has numerous locations in Toronto. And no matter where you are in the country, you can enjoy one of Harvey’s tasty veggie burgers.

#4 Montréal, Québec

Vive les végétaliens! Montréalers know that vegan food is très bien, regardless of the language you use to place your order.

If you’ve always wanted to try a vegan version of Lemon Crispy Fish, visit Taiwanese restaurant Yuan. Tea is on the house, and the faux-chicken dishes are highly recommended. Another local favorite is the Thai restaurant Chu Chai, where you can start off your meal with the fried spinach appetizer and then indulge in one of the faux-duck or faux-shrimp dishes. Go to Bonny’s for a daily sampling of eclectic organic vegetarian international fare prepared by an award-winning chef. Le Commensal serves food from around the globe and has multiple locations in Montréal. Maharaja is king if you want to fill up at a buffet of reasonably priced, delicious Indian food. For a laidback, completely vegan collective known for its heaping sandwiches and Wednesday raw vegan specials, try Aux Vivres—and don’t miss the tasty weekend brunch. The always-hopping Casa Del Popolo is a vegetarian café, art gallery, and music venue all in one.

Travelers looking for a vegan getaway can rest their heads at Chez Philippe, an organic vegan bed-and-breakfast that serves delicious, individually prepared crêpes, strudels, waffles, and puddings. Montreal.com has its own list of places for great vegetarian eating in the city, and Vegan Quebec offers helpful info for French-speakers.

Top Tip: On a budget? Try Pushap’s, a terrific spot for vegetarian Indian eats, which has recently expanded.

#5 Calgary, Alberta

This hot spot for winter sports and ecotourism has numerous food markets and dozens of restaurants that cater to animal-friendly diners. With all the exercise and vegetarian food that residents get, it’s not a big surprise that one survey found Calgary to be the healthiest city in the world.

Several sources tell us that the best veggie burgers in Calgary can be found at Ship & Anchor and Harvey’s. Buddha’s Veggie Restaurant will dazzle you with its all-vegan Chinese cuisine; among the more than 100 menu options, the Veggie Ginger Beef and the Crispy Veggie Eel are tasty places to start. Give the savory Vegan Curry Stew a whirl at Jacques’ Café. If you’re a connoisseur craving a wide curry selection, check out the almost-all-vegan Anpurna. The Coup, a trendy hot spot, was named best vegetarian restaurant by FFWD Weekly: Give its Peanut Satay or the Balsamic Portabella Burger a try.

The Cedars Deli offers tasty Middle Eastern cuisine, including legendary falafel sandwiches. Rajdoot serves up classic Indian fare, and half of the menu is dedicated to vegetarian foods. Marathon Ethiopian Restaurant offers a range of flavorful and well-spiced dishes. And don’t miss the Community Natural Foods & Sunflower Café, which offers a completely vegetarian café, juice bar, and bakery. Javalounge is a unique coffee shop that sells an array of vegan snacks, such as samosas, empanadas, and pasta salads.

Top Tip: Keeping the vegetarian community vibrant and well fed, the Calgary Vegetarian Society has regular dine-out nights, coffee club get-togethers, potlucks, and special events. It also has an extensive list of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area.

#6 Ottawa, Ontario

Canada’s capital does well by Ontario’s large vegetarian population, especially those who love desserts. A good place to start is the all-vegetarian restaurant Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise. The main courses are great, but the vegan chocolate cheesecake is the restaurant’s star attraction. Looking for something to fill you up? Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet will put your hunger to the test with its all-you-can-eat vegan Indian buffet. The Peace Garden Café has great food that won’t break the bank. A few top picks at the Peace Garden are the Malaysian Stir-Fry, the pad Thai, the shepherd’s pie with mushroom gravy, and the vegan carrot cake.

Those with an insatiable sweet tooth will want to dig into the vegan ice cream at Pure Gelato, which offers flavors such as hazelnut, chocolate, and organic vanilla. For tasty treats, you can always rely on The Green Door, which has a huge buffet with dozens of seasonal dishes, including numerous delightful pies, cakes, and cookies for dessert. The Table is another restaurant with a popular vegetarian buffet, and its cuisine comes from all around the world. All options at The Table are organic, and much is vegan—the Lentil Curry and the Chocolate Fudge Cake are both great choices. The Horn of Africa has delicious Ethiopian platters for under $10. For even more delectable vegan desserts, try Wild Oat Bakery, which offers vegan chocolate cake, brownies, date squares, and cookies, along with several vegan entrées.

If you’re doing your own cooking, Rainbow Foods is a great place to shop for ingredients. And for all things vegetarian in Ottawa, we love PunkOttawa.com’s list of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, complete with local activism links and message boards.

Top Tip: Govinda’s is our top choice for the best cheap vegan eats in Ottawa. If you’re a curry fan, this is the place to go.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind