Urban Herbivore

64 Oxford St.
416.927.1231

 

The much younger sister restaurant to Fressen, Urban Herbivore is similar in concept to Fressen but take away the high prices, formal sit down decor, Queen Street pretentiousness, and shi shi poo poo ambiance and you get Urban Herbivore. Located in Kensington Market, Urban Herbivore is a casual “open concept” woodsy kitchen-like cafe with only 3-4 tables.

With a beautiful display of salads and sandwiches, bursting with colour, freshness, and texture, you can tell the veggies are market fresh. Urban Herbivore also sells prepared home made soups. Since there are only about 3-4 tables (only one large table sits about 5) this place is mostly for takeout and quick eating/snacks. There is a large bench outside for great summer brunching or snacking (warning, outdoor bench is just a long bench, no tables or chairs present).

For our meals, I ordered an organic tempeh sandwich with organic multigrain flat bread (was yellow like corn) with a ton of veggies (lettuce, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, and many other fresh veggies) , a chili corn chowder, and freshly squeezed ginger lemonade. My two friends both ordered the “freshly made before your eyes” avocado sandwich with an assortment of veggies, fresh avocado, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and all of the fixings.

It seems most of the food here is raw (uncooked) so you will mostly find sandwiches and salads, unlike Hey Good Cooking where everything may be vegetarian or vegan, but it’s all cooked (or should I say overcooked or microwaved). Lunch items cost under $10 but with drinks and salad, the bill came close to $50.00 for three people. Definitely worth the money, no question about it. Very small menu but many sandwich varietys, all healthy and fresh. When you have a meal at Urban Herbivore, you feel healthy, light, and fresh, not bloated or crampy. Accepts all cards

Hey Good Cooking (closed)

38 Dupont St 
Phone: 416-929-9140

Closed Fall of 2007

Hey Good Cooking has been around since 1987. It’s a very casual cafe located on the Northern cusp of the Annex at Dupont and Spadina. The cafe itself is funky with multi-coloured rectangular shapes on the walls and one huge mural on another wall. The colourful mural actually looks like a scene where people are enjoying their food and beverages at Hey Good Cooking.

The cafe is spacious with plenty of room. With only about 10 tables (i.e. 30 seats), Hey Good Cooking offers exclusively vegan and vegetarian meals for takeout or to dine in. The menu is written on a black chalkboard in front and Meals are not prepared fresh but pre-made so expect them to be warm as opposed to piping hot (all food is served microwaved).

Offers healthy tofu dishes as well as vegan desserts and many roti dishes. Wendy and I went there for dinner and we started with appetizers of 2 hot rotis (Indian chick pea curry and a adzuki sesame roti for $10). They also have a yummy lentil and spinach roti which is excellent.

For our main meal, I ordered the multi bean baked enchiladas with salad. The portion size was hearty and I felt that I got my money’s worth ($7.50). Wendy ordered a veggie Shepperd’s Pie with corn, beans, and other veggies with salad. She also found her dish to be quite filling. Prices are under $10 and include tax. Food is the opposite to LIVE which is raw, vegan, and organic. Hey Good Cooking is definitely cooked, feel good, and hearty. Menu includes southern spiced tofu, veggie burger, shepherd’s pie, squash and spinach pie, mushroom nut loaf, sweet potato and spinach pie, aussie veggie loaf, baked enchiladas, spanakopita. Rotis include adzuki sesame, lentil and spinach, caribbean, mexican, east indian, and lentil chili. Special offer of 6 pack of rotis for $9.90 no tax.

Also offers an assortment of healthy natural sodas and juices (while quantities last).

Bathrooms are funky, artsy, but unfortunately not that clean. Hey Good Cooking only accepts cash but at least there is an ATM in the store. Since I now live in the neighbourhood, I’ll definitely be making some appearances at Hey Good Cooking. Open Mon-Sat 11:00am-9:00pm and Sun 11:00am-4:00pm. All prices include tax. Limited quantities on food and drink so don’t go there for dinner one hour before closing.

Madras Dosa Hut

1123 Albion Road
1-877-DOSAHUT(367-2488)

 

The Library team (our department in the hospital is quite small, with only 5 of us and one volunteer) went for a yummy lunch buffet to Madras Dosa Hut at Albion and Islington for a great deal- a $7.99 South Indian lunch buffet feast

With ample parking, we entered the clean and spacious Madras Dosa Hut, whivh is kid-friendly (it has a McDonalds-like park in the front for kids) and we sat at the large 8 seater circular table.

I had eaten South Indian food before but one volunteer had never eaten Indian food in general. We introduced her to the many delights of Indian cuisine like sambar (spicy lentil soup), rasam (spicy tomato-based soup with tamarind), payasam (sweet tapioca dessert), uthapam (similar to Naan bread but it contains rice flour with onions).

The great part of this buffet is that it includes one free Dosa (a thin crepe with a yummy potato curry filling inside). There were many vegetarian items for me to choose from. I chose the channa masala (chick pea curry), as well as veggie curry with peas and potatoes, while my colleagues chose other curries like goat and chicken.
Madras Dosa Hut was large, spacious, clean, and bright with traditional kitschy South Indian flare. Food was good, constantly refreshed, and water was cold and wait staff were friendly, cheerful, and helpful.

I was impressed with the free Dosa offer. Clearly, this was the best value for a lunch buffet and I was happy to report that Madras Dosa Hut offered no free cockroaches. Accepts all cards. Licensed.

Rajdhani Sweets and Restaurant

2658 Islington
416 748-7108

Apart from the cockroach that was scurrying down the long hallway, Aaron and I thoroughly enjoyed Rajdhani Sweets and Restaurant. This place was almost identical to its neighbour a few doors down Brar Sweets and Pure Vegetarian restaurant.

Literally 3 doors away from Brar, Rajdhani offers South Indian vegetarian fare and ridiculously low prices. Complete meals are $8 or less and contain a Thali plate full of small portioned snack size morsels of south indian dishes. Aaron and I went for lunch and we ordered the spinach and cheese curry (Saag Paneer), the chick pea curry (channa masala) and 2 types of kofta (looks like dumplings or vegetarian meatballs) in a sweet and creamy yogourt sauce, as well as curried eggplan (bhartha began), and lentil curry (daal). All dishes are wonderful, but i think my favourite from Brar and Rajdhani are the kofta, saag paneer, and bhartha began. Choose 5 items for $7.99 or less and it comes with pilao (rice), naan (fluffy pita-like bread from the tandoor oven) or roti (flat whole wheat tortilla). Comprised about 7-10 tables and decor was plain and not trendy or kitschy. I think Brar recently had a makeover since it looked more cleaned up but i like the minimalist approach to decor. Some places are Gerrard street have dated furniture, kitschy Indian art that is not even genuine or traditional. Sometimes the barren minimalist looks work. Both Rajdhani and Brar seem similar because they are small and they focus on desserts but do offer meals at the back. Food is served fast, fresh, and piping hot. Dishes are already prepared in advance like a buffet but Naan and Roti are made to order. Accepts all cards. Offers many colourful desserts, mostly made of chick pea flour and decadent sweet and thick condensed milk and cream.

Champion Wok Seafood Restaurant

1635 Lawrence Av W
(416) 246-1771

My manager and her friend/co-worker from purchasing decided that I should be exposed to the world of Dim Sum. Even though most Dim Sum was not vegetarian I was curious as to what food would be brought out. My manager told me that waiters constantly bring out hot fresh Chinese Hor D’oeuvres on carts and you just pick and choose and you are charged $1.25-$3.00 (?) per item. Sounds cheap, but it’s not. It does add up and it can be expensive. For me, there was nothing i could eat so i just watched as my two lunchmates got ready for the excitement of Dim Sum.

We opted for a place that was close to work (Jane and Lawrence) so we went to Champsion Wok Seafood Restaurant. Champion serves Dim Sun all day and specialized in seafood dishes relating to Dim Sum. Dim Sum are like small appetizers ($1.25 each) on a cart, from pork dumplings, ox tail, pigs feet, shrimp and tofu dumplings and rice paper wraps filled with beef, seafood, and tofu, as well as Chinese brocoli. Also serves an assortment of desserts like delicious and filling sweet red bean filled balls and an assortment of Chinese tarts.

Unfortunately for me there were few vegetarian dishes so I ordered a tofu stir fry with broccoli and Chinese mushrooms. Most soups and dishes that say vegetarian have chicken or fish stock. It seems they do not understand the true essence of what vegetarian food really is.

The ambiance was cute; with one main dining hall fitting about 20 large circular tables, this place could get crammed for Saturday night dinner but this was Fri lunch so there were only three occupied tables. The bill came out to $50.00 for 3 people but my dish was only $7.95. Decor was nice, casual, busy and conveniently located at Black Creek Drive and Lawrence. All dishes come with unlimited hot tea. Accepts all cards.

Grapefruit Moon

968 Bathurst Street
(416) 534-9056

After a nightmare makeover in 2004 the once comfortable, homey atmosphere (think Tango Palace at Queen/Jones), exposed brick, ecclectic decor, and activist posters on the wall became ultra modern hip and cool, with a complete bleached effect as the designer of Restaurant Makeover painted the whole restaurant white, even though the owner Sandy Moon specifically requested not to paint the exposed brick. As most of us, painting exposed brick is sacrilegious. I had last visited Grapefruit Moon on my 27th birthday (Sept 2001) for a nice quiet dinner. A great place to bring a date. Intimate, non pretentious, not expensive, and most importantly, many veggie options.

Grapefruit Moon went glam but actually looked like a hospital with that “bleached” effect. What on earth was the designer thinking. What crack were they smoking. I loved the old look and feel of Grapefruit Moon and I was sad to see that the old decor was gone, but I knew that they were still owned by the same people and the menu and food and service was still excellent so I decided to go there on 2 separate occasions for my favourite meal- Sunday brunch.

When I stepped inside, I noticed that the owners definitely put much effort into changing it back to the way it was and it looks like they’re almost there. Mostly, they added colour back into the decor. The painted brick wall is now adorned with colourful paintings and knickknacks that really tone down the “hospital” look and feel of their catastrophic makeover. According to an article in Eye Magazine, Grapefruit Moon’s new theme is citrus (white walls accented with orange, green and yellow). There is one spot that the designer of Restaurant Makeover did not touch, the bathroom. It still has silver stars painted on the cobalt-blue walls and purple ceiling, a reminder of Grapefruit Moon before its disasterous makeover.

Small, quaint, cosy, cafe, veggie friendly, with typical brunch and dinner fare, Grapefruit Moon thankfully offers veggie alternatives (veggie bacon or TLT tempeh lettuce tomato sandwich instead of BLT -bacon lettuce tomato sandwich).

Expect lineups for Sunday brunch but with quick turnover and a vast outdoor patio opened for spring and summer. Some brunch items include grilled cheese, tomato and avocado sandwich, granola, fruit ,and yogourt, grilled hummus wrap, grilled black bean wrap with home fries (salad can be replaced for an additional $2), omeletes, breakfast burritos with the works, excellent espresso drinks, fresh orange juice, and free refills of coffee. Lunch items are light and healthy. I’ve ordered the vegan wrap (black bean dip with hummus and veggies) with a side salad and the hummus wrap is also excellent too. Portion size is decent. Simple one page menu with non pretentious, earthy, friendly folks. Very neighbourhood friendly atmosphere, like stepping into your living room. Same homey feel like Mitzi’s or Three’s Company or The Only Cafe. Complete meals for $10-$12 including coffee. Accepts all cards.

Kissan (now Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

Kissan (changed Feb 07 to Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

1411 Gerrard Street East
(416) 466-9777

Wendy and I heard about a new vegetarian Indian restaurant called Kissan that opened about one month ago on Gerrard street (aka Little India). We thought it was time to check it out. As i no longer live on the Danforth, i am somewhat out of touch with life in the east end so I try to go back to the Danforth or Little India to see what is going on. You will notice that on Gerrard, there is a definite revitalization going on there so it’s best to buy a house or townhouse there ASAP as prices will go up as the place will “trendify” and become shi shi poo poo like the Beaches, then we’re all screwed over since house prices will go super high ($500,000) for a tiny 2000 sq. foot house. The arrogant city of Toronto has some nerve to make house prices so unaffordable that only the rich or a dual income family can purchase it.

Now back to my review. Kissan is a very pleasant, clean, and non kitschy, non-dated restaurant that serves North Indian vegetarian cuisine in a pleasant non-kitchy ambiance. Set in one small dining area with about 10 tables, we were thoroughly impressed by the constantly refreshed buffet table (at the back), glistening with freshness and not glazed with grease like many Indian buffets (think Dhaba on King and John or any other Indian restaurant on Gerrard street). Maybe it’s because Kissan is new and they are still “young” and “fresh with ideas” and maybe it will all go downhill in the next few months, but we thought we’d give our impressions on this place one month after its opening.

Kissan’s small but high quality buffet included favourite veggie delights like curried cabbage, vegetable curry, chana masala, aloo gobi with fresh chunks of cauliflower, not a mashed up mess mostly comprised of potato. We saw mostly cauliflower and that is a good indication of a good aloo gobi when there is a visible gobi (cauliflower) and there are nice potato wedges. It means there was time and thought involved. Most aloo gobis are mashed up messes and are served in clumps, trust me. I’ve had my share of Toronto’s aloo gobi’s. Another excellent feature is an eggplant curry (Bengan) that was simply delicious. Kissan also served a nice daal (lentil curry) as well as a yummy curried yogourt stew with dumplings. It was a yellow colour and mild in flavour and the dumplings tasted like wet pakoras. The pakoras’ were typical balls of onion and mashed up vegetables wrapped up in a chick pea flour batter. Wendy and I both brought the coriander and tamarind dipping sauce for them and they were excellent. I had to admit that I usually have no faith in Indian buffets but we were pleasantly surprised. The saag paneer was also good but had too much spinach and I had trouble finding the cubes of cheese. Naan was kept away from the buffet table to avoid become soggy and cold so we were impressed when our server told us that he had fresh naan waiting for us.

Both Wendy and I agree that our Mango Lassis were thick, flavourful, not too sweet, and not watery like most Mango Lassis. We both agreed that our Mango Lassi was the best we’ve ever had in Toronto. It tasted so fresh and not pre-made. It was incredibly thick. We asked the secret, and he said thick homemade yogourt, filtered to get rid of excess water, and mango pulp (rock on!). We loved it. For $8.99 for lunch buffet and $10.99 for the dinner buffet, we had no complaints about our experience at all except the yucky phony tasting mango ice cream (I had the vanilla ice cream instead). Wendy also enjoyed a carrot pudding made with delicately cooked carrot slices in a thick sweet milky pudding. It tasted just like rice pudding but with thinly cut carrot slices instead. Kissan also serves a cool milk beverage with fresh cold milk, vermicelli noodles, rosewater and cumin and other spices that gives it a sweet and fragrant dessert. The rice pudding they serve also sounds delicious with fennel (or anise) and cardamom, a delicious spice often used in Indian tea (chai masala). In sum, we were pleasantly stuffed and felt that we really ate very well in terms of quality, flavour, freshness, and service was extra friendly and the server was very knowledgable and pleasant, which is always nice. Open 11:30am-10:30pm 7 days per week. Accepts all cards.