There comes a time—after Thanksgiving gluttony and before the Christmas binge—when it’s a good idea to step away from the meat. These vegan takes on traditional comfort fare will ease the transition.
Clockwise from top left:
Castro’s Lounge’s oven-baked nachos
A mountain of fried corn chips meets two liberal layers of Daiya “cheese” (an arrowroot and cassava concoction) and jalapeños. The nachos are then smothered with house-made guacamole, salsa, and Cuban black beans, which add a hint of spiciness and pay tribute to the restaurant’s national theme. “Vegans are all around us in the Beaches,” says chef Chris Melsted, who recently defected from the Healthy Butcher. “And we like to give people what they want.”
$16. 2116 Queen St. E., 416-699-8272, #BCH
Magic Oven’s Black Magic pizza
Voted best vegan pizza by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, the Black Magic pie is no work of witchcraft. “I wanted to offer vegans flavours that were available to meat eaters,” says owner Tony Sabherwal. To do so, ingredients from 10 Ontario farms end up in a peppery pizza of steamed kale, garlic, sundried tomatoes, purple Thai basil pesto, and mozzarella-flavoured Daiya cheese. An organic-flour crust provides a suitably virtuous finish.
$13. 798 Danforth Ave., 416-462-0333, #DAN
Hey Meatball’s spaghetti and vegan meatballs
This variation on the Italian staple begs the existential question: We know what it isn’t, but what exactly is it? The meatless balls are made from ground crimini and portobello mushrooms, softened lentils, roasted sweet potatoes, herbs, and seasoning. Bread crumbs hold everything together and lend the chewy texture. “The vegan meatballs are one of my favourite things on the menu,” says chef Paul Baneham. “And when the staff need a snack, they usually go for them first.”
$13. 719 College St., 416-546-1483, #COL
The Hogtown Vegan’s unchicken and waffles
“Vegan food is synonymous with health food,” says The Hogtown Vegan co-owner Scott McCannell. “But sometimes it’s awesome just to eat some deep-fried shit.” This signature dish is happy to oblige. Hunks of soy and wheat protein are dipped in vegan buttermilk, dredged in a mix of spices, then tossed in the deep fryer. The crispy faux-fowl is stacked on a toasted waffle before being topped with a silky syrup made of vegan butter and a good dose of cayenne.
$13. 834 Bloor St. W., 416-901-9779, #CHP
Disgraceland’s vegan rib-wich
Not only did McDonald’s just move in down the street from Disgraceland, they brought their McRib out of hibernation, as well. For this more natural take on the sandwich, chef Evan Graham’s deep-fries a soy patty, then coats it in a tart barbecue sauce spiked with Jack Daniels, molasses, and liquid smoke. It goes on top of a pile of lettuce and coleslaw, which keeps the sauce from soaking through the grilled Kaiser bun. And since, as Graham says, the dish is meant to be “a meat-and-potatoes kind of meal,” an avocado spread gives it a creamy finish.
$11. 965 Bloor St. W., 647-347-5263, #BCT