A few years back, we had concerns that there weren’t enough new vegetarian spots opening to make this a competitive category in the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. Uhm, our bad.
Times have certainly changed, and so has interest in plant-based dining. While it's possible to find something veg-friendly on pretty much any menu in the city at this point (and to have that something be more exciting than the house salad or a sad veggie burger), there are dozens of rooms now that make vegetarian or vegan dining the main event. Here are our top five.
1. Do Chay
The East Van room puts clever, plant-forward spins Vietnamese classics, starting with its now-famous Ish sauce, a vegan take on the ubiquitous fish sauce. But the delights abound on the menu here: think XO potstickers with mushroom and cabbage subbing in admirably for the traditional pork, spring rolls with a plate of mustard-green leaves for wrapping, and delightfully chewy pan-fried daikon cakes embedded into a small omelette and topped with perfectly crispy fried shallots. (Read our full review of Do Chay here.)
2. The Acorn
Julia Stiles just wrote the intro blurb for the Acorn's first cookbook, but if the star's stamp of approval isn't enough to get you in the door, we can guarantee the haloumi and chips (a fish-and-chips dupe on a bed of fresh, minty peas and fried zuchinni cakes) will. Shira Blustein’s Main Street staple continues to be so inventive and thoughtful that it almost seems criminal shoehorning it into a category other than “most awesome.”
3. Aleph Eatery
A homey Palestinian spot that's flavourful first, vegetarian second. Our food editor fell hard for the eatery's potatoes, of all things: super-crispy, with a beautifully light tahini and what tasted like fresh-grilled peppers, all served in a gorgeous lapis-hued bowl.
4. Virtuous Pie
Pizza without the cheese might sound akin to an Oreo without the creamy filling, but what some might consider a limitation, Virtuous PIe (which now operates multiple outposts) has turned into an opportunity for experimentation (the obligatory Margherita aside).
The Ultraviolet, with walnut and arugula pesto, cashew mozzarella, oven-dried tomatoes, purple kale, caramelized onions and pine nuts, is as good as it sounds—although not any better, as no one flavour really stands out. The Stranger Wings, however, lives up to its name. With crisp buffalo cauliflower, fried shallots, a blue “cheese” drizzle and scallions, the pizza bianca is not only addictive but pleasantly spicier than you’d expect—just the sort of surprise one hopes for in a vegan pizzeria.
The restaurant is a counter-service concept that has cozy seating for two dozen, with a menu offering vegan twists on comfort food classics. Choices include a breaded and fried seitan (Chick-Un) sandwich with miso aioli, a plant-based burger with fried onion and pickles, and the hotdog-esque "Chorizo-Verde on a Bun" made from tomatillo, cilantro, and poblano pepper. Sides include baby gem, curry caulifower, and roasted kabocha squash salads, and well as chili cheese fries, tempura onion rings and mushroom XO roasted broccoli. (Read our full Beetbox review here.)