Vegan-friendly restaurants
Food & Wine Lifestyle

6 favourite vegan-friendly restaurants in Toronto

January 18, 2023

When renowned Chef Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park in New York City became the first vegan restaurant to receive three Michelin Stars, even the vegan naysayers started to pay attention.

Interest in plant-based dining has snowballed since The Economist declared 2019 to be ‘the year of the vegan’ with global brands such as IKEA leading the charge. A note on their website states: We are shifting to more plantbased proteins with a view to finding more sustainable options and giving our customers more to choose from.

Read Also: A how-to guide for pairing wine and plant-based foods

Toronto has one of the best overall food scenes in the world. Nowhere else can you experience the breadth of culture and cuisine as in this incredible city, and that holds true when looking at a plant-based dining experience. Whether motivated by sustainability of the global food chain, personal health or issues surrounding animal welfare, it is with pleasure that I share with you my choices for top restaurants that cater to the plant-based diner:


Vegan Restaurants

Avelo is Toronto’s premiere fine-dining vegan restaurant.

Best Fine Dining – Avelo, 51 St. Nicholas St.

You may have seen Avelo mentioned on our 25 Top Restaurants in Ontario list, so it should come as no surprise that I include it here. Located on a quiet side-street downtown in a Victorian heritage townhouse built in the 1880s, the interior architecture and design are simply gorgeous and ahh-inducing.

Under the more than capable hands of Chef Fernando Anrango, they offer five and eight-course tasting menus, which can be accompanied by carefully selected wine pairings created by Master Sommelier Jennifer Huether of The Social Herbivore (and special contributor to VineRoutes). Their menu changes seasonally and the dishes are dreamy, inventive, visually stunning and delicious. In fact, I would rate my meal there as one of the top three of my life.

The service is impeccable, being at once attentive without pestering. Best of all, their prices are reasonable, certainly far less than one might expect for such an exceptional experience.


Il Fornello

The Vegan Carciofi Pizza at Il Fornello.

Best for Mixed Groups – Il Fornello, various locations

What I love about Il Fornello is that they have a separate and extensive vegan menu in addition to their ‘regular’ menu, so that vegans and non-vegans can enjoy a memorable Italian meal together. Many restaurants offer one vegan option in each section of their menu so it’s pure joy to be given multiple options here. It’s a sign of the respect that the owners and chefs have for their plant-forward diners.

Another treat is that each location is given the freedom to create their own vegan dishes. So, you can visit a few spots and never have the same dish twice. Their attention to their plant-based menu has proven popular with both vegan and non-vegan diners and goes to show that embracing plant-based options is good for the soul and the bottom line.

Great for families, and one must try their vegan brunch menu. All accompanied by a wine list featuring reliable staples and some local gems.


La Bartola Vegan Mexican

La Bartola.

Best Mexican Food – La Bartola, 588 College St.

There’s a reason that Ivan Castro’s College Street gem was recognized by the Michelin Guide, stating: Bright colours and vivid artwork echo the upbeat mood here, but this isn’t your typical taqueria. Instead, traditional and authentic Mexican dishes offer a surprise—they’re completely meat-free.

Not a surprise to us locals though, as Chef Castro has been delighting palates with his creative fare since the days of his Secret Dinner Club which were hosted in his own backyard. A delight then and now, you can enjoy his creations with a glass of wine, or choose a more authentic drink, be it Mexican beer, mezcal or tequila.

Castro’s reaction to being the only local plant-based restaurant recognized by Michelin displays his humility, “It is such a great honour,” he says. “It is a great opportunity to showcase that plant-based/cruelty-free food can be fantastic.”


Osteria Du

A delicious vegan pasta dish at Osteria Du.

Best Italian Food – (tie) Osteria Du, 536 Queen St. W

Another spot owned by the Awai Group, Osteria Du’s dishes focus on a few high-quality ingredients – consider it upscale comfort food elevated by some twists from their kitchen team’s creativity.

Fun fact: Head Chef (although they don’t have labels for their team) Melissa Oconor is the wife of Chef Fernando at Avelo. What incredible dinner parties they must host!

Their garlic knots, served with marinara sauce, are addictive. Before the holidays I had an eggplant parmesan here that would make even the staunchest anti-eggplant person into a believer. Don’t be disappointed if it’s gone from their menu as it changes seasonally, but fear not, you’ll be sure to find another gem when you visit.

A meal here can be ordered a la carte or off their prix fixe menu.


Gia

The Italian food at Gia is always presented so beautifully.

Best Italian Food – (tie) Gia, 1214 Dundas St. W

Owned by the same team behind Il Fornello, Gia launched to great fanfare and it was well-deserved. Calling themselves ‘plant-forward’ Gia is not exclusively vegan, however most of their menu items can be made vegan upon request.

This uber-popular spot in the trendy Ossington area puts out some fabulous dishes including their vegan meatballs which are a must-try. Oh, and their focaccia is deadly. Made to order, it arrives warm and is so soft and perfectly seasoned, you simply have to order extra to soak up all the sauce that your spoon alone can’t.

The wine list here is more deftly curated, featuring lesser-known producers, primarily due to the clientele here being more focused on a unique dining experience than those at the always-reliable Il Fornello.


Fat Choi

Fat Choi offers some of the very best vegan Asian cuisine.

Best Asian Food – Fat Choi, 94 Ossington Ave

What started as a pop-up in the Soos space on Mondays and Tuesdays (because Soos was closed those days) is now a ‘permanent pop-up menu’ that’s available daily. This reflected a change in the lifestyle of the owners, Lauren and Johnny, who switched to a plant-based lifestyle in 2017, saying “It gives us the opportunity to showcase how great plant-based dishes can be to diners who think that they may not enjoy a vegan dish or a vegan restaurant.”

When Covid hit and they had to switch to take-out, they had “so, so much support from the vegan community” to the point that, now, their kitchen production is about 50 percent plant-based, compared to six or seven years ago when vegetarian/vegan dishes made up less than 10 percent of their sales.

Noodles and baos are among the most popular menu items – you can’t leave without trying the Rempah fried mushroom bao. If you’re not in the mood for wine, their cocktail game is spot-on.


A foodie and wine lover, Priya Rao has been active in the world of vegan food & wine since 2011 and is the co-founder of the duo, The Social Herbivore with Master Sommelier, Jennifer Huether. Priya’s vegan-focused contributions to VineRoutes help build awareness for the plant-based enthusiast and curious alike. 

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