Ginger (2007)

Ginger/Ginger 2
695 Yonge St.
(416) 966-2424

521 Bloor Street West
(416) 536-3131

252 Carlton Street
(416) 923-7979

546 Church Street
(416) 413 1053

403 Yonge

The two original Ginger’s I know of are the one at Yonge and Bloor and the one at Yonge and Gerrard (called Ginger 2). quick and cheap with large portions, damn good prices, and a variety of good food, from stir frys, pho (Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, thinly slices beef, and veggies–the broth actually cooks the beef), as well as Vietnamese subs for less than $3, fruit salad, thick and delicious smoothies, vegetarian pho (vegetarian broth with deep fried or steamed tofu, veggies (snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, carrot, green and red pepper, bean sprouts) in a heaping bowl of healthy goodness. Other fare includes cold salad rolls (veggie, shrimp, or meat varieties), or the spring rolls (deep fried), come with a sweet dipping sauce or a fishy tasting brown sauce with sprinkled peanuts.

Service is very fast and efficient. Customers line up and order and they take a clear plastic block with a number and staff serve the food. Food is served hot and fresh and staff are pleasant (not extremely pleasant-it’s very fast paced at the Yonge/Bloor location).

The Church and Wellesley location (re-branded as Ginger – Taste of Health) has an actual bar where they serve up fancy fruity martinis. Ginger on Church and Wellesley is more upscale in terms of the decor, but the prices are still as low as Ginger on Yonge/Bloor and Ginger 2 on Yonge/Gerrard. The Church location is fairly new, so there is more seating, bathrooms are nicer, and the placer is cleaner. At the time of my Church street visit (March 2006), they did not offer vegetarian pho as they claim that they cannot make their Pho vegetarian.

The other Ginger locations on Bloor (the Annex) and on Calrton (in Cabbagetown) offer a more trendy and chic look (similar to the Church street location). All of the “newer” locations (Church, Carlton, and Bloor) market themselves as healthy and offer vegetarian options.

The Yonge/Bloor street location and the Church/Wellesley location accept all cards, while the newer Annex location only accepted cash at the time. The Annex location also had a slightly different menu. At that location i ordered the vegetarian hot and sour pho which was equally delicious but had less vegetables than the Yonge/Bloor location. The broth was tastier and the whole decor/ambiance more trendy (even the veggie salad rolls w/ peanut sauce came in trendy shapes and in a more trendy plate). I prefer the veggie salad rolls (more variety) which came with slices of mango and carrot and there was more vegetarian options whereas the Ginger at Yonge/Bloor offered veggie, shrimp, beef salad rolls in an oyster sauce topped with peanuts. Ginger in the Annex offered a delicious REAL peanut sauce (veggie with no fish stock). If only they could improve their portion size on the Pho.

Overall the new branding of Ginger Taste of Health focuses on serving the vegetarian community, when it claims vegetarian options available, whereas the Church/Wellesley could not give a rat’s ass about us veggies and The Ginger at Yonge/Bloor could very well be lying since their English communication skills suck–staff hardly talk…who knows if they even understand the word “vegetarian”. Bathrooms are Ginger at Yonge/Bloor look like a murder scene, don’t bother going to the washroom there, hold it in. Both Ginger at Yonge/Bloor and Yonge/Gerrard need makeovers but food and service is excellent, fast, efficient, friendly, and quick. It’s definitely worth moving to a neighbourhood where there is a Ginger. You get a fast, hearty, healthy, and cheap “no bullshit” meal.

Also offers cheap Vietnamese submarines for under $5 and cheap stir fries (veggie, seafood and meat varieties). My friend Wendy (fellow reviewer) often stops by Ginger at Yonge/Bloor for a large Vietnamese Sub for $2.95 (sure beats Subway or Mr. Sub). She is very happy with her selection as the sandwich is large, fresh, and best of all cheap. Can’t complain.

Okonomi House

23 Charles
416 925-6176


Definitely not vegetarian friendly at all. Vegetarians beware! Located right at Charles near Bloor right beside 7 West and across from the Manulife Centre, this cosy dim-lit 10 table space has been serving Japanese food for many years, claims my friend

The menu is 2 pages, very simple. It’s divided into main dishes, okonomi yaki [Japanese egg pancake], side ordders, beverages, and desserts. Main dishes include teriyakis served with rice and stir fried vegetables. Items include beef, chicken, salmon, yakiniku, tofu, and seafood teriyaki. Also included is a yakisoba and seafood yakisoba dish. All dishes are made with chicken or fish stock so let them know WAY before hand that you’re vegetarian. Side orders include miso soup (not vegetarian), noodle soup, stir fried vegetables, rice, green salad, seafood salad, sunomono, and edamame.

The Okonomi Yaki, an egg pancake fried with vegetables with your choice of either beef, chicken, pork, bacon, vegetable, shrimp, squid, scallop, ($5.25-$5.85) or seafood deluxe ($9.95).

Unfortunately the vegetable okonomi yaki is made with fish stock so I was stuck ordering the tofu teriyaki ($6.05)but the teriyaki sauce is fish vbased so my dish was flavoured was soy sauce, how tasteless and salty.

Okonomi House also serves plum wine, saki, and a variety of Japanese and domestic beers ($4.40-$8.50). I’ve notived that many Japanese restaurants do not meet the needs of vegetarians. It seems all of their vegetable dishes include a lot of beansprouts but no real vegetables. For example, I ordered a side of stir fried vegetables ($2.95). In terms of vegetables, there were very few brocolli and carrot, but most of the vegetables were bean sprouts which are not that filling, mostly containing water and fibre. Daniel ordered the Salmon Teriyaki which came with Salmon marinated in a nice sauce. He loved it. It came with rice glass noodles, rice, and some vegetables. I think he was very happy with his meal. He also ordered a beer as well [The Japanese Sapporo $4.10]

Excellent prices, all under $10.00 and excellent, well informed service. Thank goodness the waiter told me about the fact that hardly anything was truly vegetarian.

Unfortunately, I do not think I’ll go back to Okonomi House since there are no dishes for me there and although service was great, they were not accomodating or flexible. Accepts credit card and Interac. Open late. Liquor license.

7 West

7 Charles

7 West is located on 7 Charles street, on three floors of an old converted Victorian home, with hardwood floors, exposed brick, and a fireplace. It’s just one block south of the Yonge/Bloor intersection. They serve many vegetarian meals and the prices are really affordable for what you get. The drinks are expensive, though. Never go on a Saturday night because this calm, cool, funky, hip cafe becomes a busy, crowded cheesy bar with macho guys with way too much cologne and women who look like whores socialize and drink and the whole ambiance becomes all loud and resembles a bar- YUCK!

Go during a weeknight or during the day on the weekend. I usually order the vegetarian chili or the grilled vegetable sandwich with a lot of chick pea green salad. It’s colourful, fresh, and portions are decent. 🙂 My veggie chili was a bit liquidy, but it’s quite tasty and not expensive.

They also serve excellent salads, and light meals, desserts, and full course dinners. You get good quality food and good service. Just avoid going Friday and Saturday night.

7-West also serves brunch on the weekend. There is small one-pager, in addition to the menu, with traditional brunch fare with affordable prices. Drinks are bit high (Diet Coke for $3.00) but I had the granola with fruit and yogourt for $6.00 and my brunch date had eggs, peameal bacon, with a chick pea green salad and service, presentation, and quality of food was good.

Saigon Sister (closed 2008)

774 Yonge
(416) 967-0808

Located right at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, this super trendy place looks super slick with white walls, minimalist design, and sleek beechwood slabs throughout. Decor is clean lines, hip, cool, funky, with minimalist decor. Almost looks like a hospital. Imagine entering one big room with an open second floor overlooking the first. Saigon Sister is somewhat affordable ($9.95-$17.95 for main dishes).

Known as Vietnamese with style and flare, this place was super noisy with well groomed cool people. Wendy and I went there before our show last Thursday night and we started our adventure with an order of vegetarian hot and soup for me, and a glass of fruity sweet wine for her. It was cool to see that they have smoothies that were thick and smooth and a long list of vegetarian items that were marked with an asterix. I ordered the vegetarian hot pot for $13.95 which came with rice or noodles (did not eat them) and came with fried tofu, bok choy, stir fried vegetables in a lime juice sauce. The dish was simply divine, very different than the usual salty soy sauce stir fries I am used to. Wendy had fish with stir fried vegetables and she said her food was the best she’s ever had in a long time.

The seating at this place is interesting. There is a central dining hall with rectangular long tables and wood hard chairs. There is a row of booths, all connected like a schoolbus. These seats are enclosed in a white alcove. Seats are white leather (I think?) and tables are sleek and cool. Service is prompt and staff are accomodating and friendly. I did ask for more veggies or tofu since I had asked to leave out the noodles/rice. They did not comply. The portions were not large so of course I was still hungry. I drank about ten glasses of refreshing water flavoured with lemon juice (supposedly it aids digestion!)

There is a back terrace for summer dining that is a private dining space in the heart of downtown Toronto. We’d definitely go back since the food was high quality, fresh, piping hot, and service was reasonable. Bathrooms are gorgeous, with funky sinks, beechwood bathrooms stalls with unfinished wood slabs, and minimalist design.

We were impressed with this new restaurant and it shows by the crowds of people that Thursday night.

Reviewed by Mark

7 West

Last night I went to 7 West after a movie. There aren’t a lot of places that are 24 hours & decent, but this is one of them. They haev recently changed their menu, and so though the prices are not as cheap as they once were, there is more variety in the food, and it has been upgraded somewhat. I do think that $3.50 for juice is not quite reasonable. Our server was fabulous, very attentive, quick, and he was very flexible, allowing me to get an extra item on my salad – no problem. I ended up with a sandwich ($10) that contained prociutto, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado & buffalo mozzarella. Thankfully, they were generous with their meat portion to the point that I had to take half of my sandwich home. The sandwich was accompanied by a massive salad, containing many types of vegetables & chickpeas . it was gooooood. My friend had the rose ravioli ($13)- her usual dish, and she liked the plate clean!

Despite the price increase, this was overall a positive dining experience, and little surprise, I will be back.


Living Well (closed in 2007)

692 Yonge
(416) 922-6770

Urban, funky, laid back ambiance, with Asian, Indian, and Arabic cuisine. The place is on two levels: a bar upstairs and a restaurant/lounge for food, drinks, hanging out, or enjoying a simple dessert. There is a back terrace on the main floor and a lounge/bar on the upper floor. Both floors are large and sits about ten tables. The food is flavourful and spicy with large portions and a diverse menu. The restaurant staff are very flexible in making the selections vegetarian friendly. The place is very gay friendly.

There is an interesting mix of people and the tables are close together. There are a lot of people watching and overall ambiance is comfortable. Part of the kitchen is open concept so you can see the chefs prepare some of the food. The entrees are $10.00 and up. Large portions and dim lighting and interesting art work make this place very unique.

I usually order the Vegetarian Moroccan stew with chick peas, red kidney beans, potatoes, mushrooms, green and red peppers, and onions, with cous cous. The meal was bursting with intense flavour. I have also ordered the Malaysian Chicken Stir Fry with peanut sauce and without the chicken. It is more expensive but has a lot of vegetables and is fabulous. Although prices are more expensive, ($10-$15 for an entree) the food is excellent and it is a great place to bring a date.

Brownstone Bistro

603 Yonge
(416) 920-6288

How can I sum up this restaurant? Great food, trendy decor, friendly staff, but very slow service, but when I went last summer 2002 to Brownstone, the waiter failed to mention that all of the food we ordered was not available so they got creative and made up their own dishes. To our surprise, the food we ordered contained nothing that we expected. The food itself was fresh, tasty, and flavourful. The prices are high and the head waiter had major attitude. He argued with us that he ran out of the food we had ordered so he had his team of chefs make something completely different. He never notified us that the meals we ordered were not the meals we received. The service was very slow and the head waiter was very rude to us.

In sum, I would never go back to Brownstone ever again because they are disorganized and they do not listen to their customers. The head waiter kept on telling us how we did not understand that he ran out of the food needed to prepare our dishes so he made us alternate dishes. The problem was that none of the waiting staff informed us. Too stressful, too pricy, too long a wait, this place was a great disappointment.

Friendly Thai, The

500 Queen W
(416) 366-1221

Very funky, exotic ambiance, dimly lit, soothing, calm, atmosphere. They have a variety of mildly spicy, spicy, and very spicy authentic Thai dishes with many vegetarian selections. On my first visit to The Friendly Thai in September 2001, I ordered the vegetable stir fry with cashews and the portion was large and there were so many vegetables, it was a paradise for me. The sauce was wonderful and I was quite full. On my other visits, I had the vegetarian hot and sour soup which was very piping hot, very spicy and very fresh and flavourful. I then had the green vegetarian curry ( they also serve a red curry) with tofu and vegetables. Portions are decent and the food is fresh and tasty. Most items contain fish sauce or anchovy paste so if you are vegetarian, please notify staff. They are very accomodating.

Prices are reasonable, some below $10.00 but expect to pay between $10-$15 a plate. Very large menu with a vegetarian section. Many locations in the city but surprisingly does not have that “restaurant chain” ambiance. This particular location is in the heart of Queen West between Spadina and Bathurst.