As a very social person, I love to meet people, interact, and enjoy a night out at least once in a while.
Unfortunately a vegan lifestyle choice in combination with several food intolerances "let's go out to eat" illicits more stress and planning then excitement at times. The places generally chosen for a night out are not exactly 'vegan friendly' most of the time. Sometimes I accept it and go with the flow, just for the sake of enjoying good company as I bitterly look over the menu wondering how and why there is wheat, meat and dairy in EVERYTHING, and why no one has ever heard of a protein that's not chicken, salmon, or steak. I look at my $15 mixed green salad and think to myself "I could have made something so much better myself at home".
Luckily many restaurants now are attempting to provide more allergen-free and vegan/vegetarian menu items, and many new hot spots are popping up all over T.O that are vegan but can definitely appeal to the non-vegans in your life.
Let's take a look at some of the menu options and restaurants for every situation:
For the nights out with friends that don't want to even hear of a place that doesn't serve booze, burgers and/or steak:
Joey's (Multiple locations around the GTA)
The 500 salad without chicken. The 500 salad packs in organic quinoa, tons of raw veggies, watermelon radish, almonds, mint, parsley, avocado and wheat berries (I omitted these as I'm also gluten free). It is actually full of flavor and packed with nutrients. Would definitely order this again and not be disappointed.
BareBurger (Dundas St West)
Not only is their food absolutely delicious but it is also organic, antibiotic, hormone and preservative free, and they also have amazing vegan and vegetarian options. They cater to every kind of diet and allergy (hello delicious collard wrap or G/F bun for us with a gluten allergy). They also have delicious and unique side dishes like carrot wasabi coleslaw, gigantic onion rings with a variety of dips and spreads, and ice cream sammies made with organic ice cream. I've taken several friends & family members who all gave a major thumbs up.
Other ideas: Thai restaurants (order the vegetarian or tofu dishes), Sushi (vegetable rolls, edamame, miso soup), Tabule Restaurant.
For hitting the food court at lunch time and looking around to see nothing but burgers, fried noodles and pizza OR needing a quick and easy lunch when out:
Chipotle Mexican Grill (Multiple locations around the GTA)
Order a salad or burrito bowl with black beans, pinto beans and/or sofritas (aka tofu). Load up with roasted veggies, fresh pico de gallo and you can smack a heaping spoonful of delicious guacamole if you so choose.
Freshii (Multiple locations around the GTA)
What I love about Freshii is that you can customize your meal to fit satisfy and craving or flavor profile you desire that day. Wholesome & nutritious options, wide variety, fresh juices, and both meat and non-meat options so if you're dining with a non-veg companion, they won't raise the eyebrow at you.
Other places to try: Urban Herbivore, Bolt Fresh Bar, Kupfert and Kim
For the friends that are willing to try a vegan restaurant with you (Warning: they may be converted to adopting a more plant based diet)
Fresh Restaurants (Multiple locations around the GTA)
Easily in my top 3 favorite restaurants in Toronto, even the most carnivorous of people can enjoy this. The food is satiating and delicious, the variety is quite extensive, and I have yet to find a person who was disappointed after dining there (unless it was a service issue, they do get quite busy especially at peak dining hours!) They have anything from onion rings, poutine, burgers, salads, tacos, bowls, cakes, cookies, shakes, and all things delicious. The best part is, it's highly nutritious so you can enjoy these items without the guilt.
Other restaurants to try : Hogtown Vegan, Tabule Restaurant
For the more intense, but delicious vegan experience. Highly nutrient dense, mostly raw fare.
Rawlicious (Multiple locations around the GTA)
One of my favorite raw vegan restaurants in Toronto, several locations have popped up around the GTA. Some of my favorite menu items include the Nori Rolls (starter) served with coconut aminos, Raw Pad Thai (main), and I'm not even embarrassed to admit I've tried a solid 80% of their dessert menu. Their walnut brownies, salted caramel squares, vegan cheesecake, cinnamon snowballs, and macaroons will not disappoint you.
Thrive Organic Kitchen (Etobicoke Lakeshore Area)
Another one of my favorite raw restaurants, Thrive offers delicious salads, bowls, raw pizzas, burgers and wraps. They also have all day breakfasts available and a selection of fresh juices, smoothies and superfood shots. The dishes are colorful and packed with plant based goodness.
Raw Aura (Port Credit/Mississauga Lakeshore)
I loved the vibe in here. Rustic wooden slabbed tables (although a bit narrow and small to eat with a big group) and a very relaxed ambiance. Organic, raw food that is easy to digest and packed with enzymes they often have daily specials that are not seen on the menu. They have beautifully presented dishes like the beet ravioli, their Miso Me Please was surprisingly filling and satisfying, and they have a variety of zoodle bowls available. Their desserts were creamy, dreamy, and delicious. Bonus that it is in a beautiful area where you can enjoy a walk along the lake before or after your meal.
Other restaurants to try: Live, Hibiscus, Cruda Cafe
Wherever you end up, bon appetit!