Canada is a great place to visit (and live) if you’re vegan. Besides being a multicultural country that embraces differences of opinions, The Great White North is also filled with pockets of vibrant plant-based communities from coast to coast. As one might expect, large cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal offer a variety of cruelty-free choices for vegans, but there’s more to Canada than these three regions. In fact, if you’re an adventurous vegan, there is an array of cities worth visiting where you’ll find vegan food, friendly people, and gorgeous scenery. Here are our six favorite non-obvious locations where you can find us chowing down on delicious plant-based food.
1. Halifax, Nova Scotia
Adventurers and history buffs will find plenty to do in and around Halifax, and you won’t go hungry, as there are some excellent vegan restaurants in town. First, try EnVie’s charcuterie for a selection of vegan cheeses, proteins, spreads, mushroom pat?, seitan, tempeh bacon, and blue cheese (you can shop the to-go fridge, too). Next, head to Wild Leek for comfort foods such as Donair wraps, Warm Spinach & Artichoke dip, and a tempeh reuben sandwich. Finally, Heartwood is a 20-year-old vegetarian restaurant with plenty of vegan fare, including a full variety of sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, and bowls (we prefer the portabello mushroom sandwich, one of the millet and lentil burgers, or the Cajun Tofu). Heartwood also has a second location open from June to October on the Halifax waterfront in the tourist district so you can grab some grub on the go.
2. Ottawa, Ontario
Many people know that Canada’s capital city features museums, music festivals, and skating on the canal in the winter. What many don’t know is that there are a plethora of vegan-friendly restaurants throughout the area. Blossom Vegetarian Café has a variety of vegan bowls, burgers, salads, and wraps, while Pure Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant with cashew cheese and plenty of choices for vegans (our advice: try the Radian Ramen bowl with fried tofu, pickled shiitakes, miso broth, and bok choy). Next, Rawlicious has raw versions of classic meals such as Pad Thai (made with zucchini noodles) and taco wraps (made with nut loaf and served in a collard leaf). However, save room for dessert because the cashew-based cheesecake is delicious! Last, Mad Radish serves some non-vegetarian meals, but most of the menu is vegan. The Smoky Caesar is a vegan take on the classic, and The Forager bowl has marinated mushrooms, artichokes, and other vegetables on a bed of wild rice.
3. Burlington, Ontario
Burlington is only an hour’s drive (or train ride) for Toronto, and it’s home to many great vegan eats. Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is an all-vegan and gluten-free cupcake eatery with at least a dozen flavors of cupcakes on any given day, including Pumpkin Caramel, Cookie Dough, and Dulce de Leche. In fact, Kelly’s is so good that the business was ranked No. 3 on Buzzfeed’s list of 25 Sweet Cupcake Shops Around The World To Eat At Before You Die. While you’re in town, feed your craving for pancakes, Caesar salads, and bowls at Lettuce Love Café. In addition, Boon Burger Café has four veggie patties made from scratch that are both soy- and gluten-free, with 26 combinations of toppings from which to choose (including Jalapeño Inferno or Phish Taco). If you’re not in the mood for a burger, there’s a daily pizza special or Chili Cheeze Fries. When you’ve had your fill, visit vegan cosmetic shop Burlap and Twine for a full line of vegan bath bombs such as Orange You Glad and Raspberry Drizzle and the Dead Sea Mud face mask.
4. Guelph, Ontario
Bring your family and friends to rural southern Ontario to visit The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada. Open Sundays between May and October and during the Christmas season, the sanctuary lets you meet friendly donkeys who enjoy being brushed by visitors. The Donkey Sanctuary saves donkeys who have been neglected and abused, or who can’t be cared for by their owners. The sanctuary’s 100 donkeys roam the peaceful pastures, accepting the love and attention of volunteers and strangers. After your visit, head into town for a satisfying meal at local vegan favorite Cadence, where you can grab Zucchini & Chickpea Fritters or a Pan Seared Tofu Bowl. Furthermore, Zen Gardens has a variety of Asian-inspired vegan meats made from soy, seitan, or mushrooms (we love the assorted seitan platter and the Enoki Mushroom Balls). The region is also home to a Guelph location of Boon Burger.
5. Kelowna, British Columbia
Outdoorsy people and wine lovers will enjoy a trip to Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, which is a popular tourist location with plenty to see and do all year thanks to ski hills, parkland, shopping, spas, and vineyards. More importantly are the vegan options for replenishing after a busy day. Next, Naked Cafe’s children’s menu will satisfy the little ones thanks to Grilled Cheez and Chikin Tenders, while the grown-ups can munch on a Sriracha Pulled Pork Sammy. Finally, Lake Tai Restaurant has vegetarian Asian fare such as Sweet & Sour Veggie Meat, Lake Tai Special Curry & Coconut Milk, and spicy Fragrant Eggplant.
6. Victoria, British Columbia
Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is another great place to go if you love spending time outdoors. An oceanfront city full of parks and gardens, the city is a great base for whale watching and kayaking or hiking the lush Canadian rainforests. And, similar to Vancouver, Victoria boasts a number of excellent vegan restaurants to suit any taste. The Very Good Butchers is a vegan butcher shop with plant-based versions of familiar fast-food meats and seitan or cauliflower wings, The Very Big Mac, or a Pizza Sub with Beetballs. For a great date, look to Be Love’s mostly vegan menu (some dishes contain eggs) that changes with the seasons to make use of the freshest local produce. Try the Chana Tikki, which are masala-spiced chickpea fritters with apple-gogi chutney, the Shojin Bowl with shiitake mushrooms and spicy tempeh, or the Roasted Root Latkes with quince butter, coconut yogurt, and a side apple-lentil salad with greens.
Amie Silverwood is a vegan mom who blogs about raising compassionate kids on a plant-based diet.
Photo courtesy of Mad Radish