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For meat-free magic, head to Mount Pleasant: these are some of the best vegetarian restaurants in Vancouver.
Long gone are the days when vegetarian Vancouverites were stuck with a green salad and a side of fries: plant-based options are now essential to any modern menu in the city. That’s especially true on Main Street, where chefs are making magic out of meat-free dining.
3995 Main St.
Even without limiting the geography to Main Street, it would be impossible to do a proper veggie-powered Vancouver tour without The Acorn. It’s like making a list of the 200 greatest singers of all time and not mentioning Céline Dion.
Despite being located conspicuously on a busy corner, the room has an intimate vibe thanks to a curtained, speakeasy-style entrance and tealights casting long shadows on dark wood walls. My dining pal and I were further warmed by thick slices of tangy sourdough topped with flaky sea salt—but, from there, the chef’s menu turned fresh and light: creamy hummus with radishes; rich lentil pâté with pickles on crunchy crackers; razor-thin slivers of rouge vif d’etampes pumpkin squash with hazelnuts and mint. The Acorn takes full advantage of the seasonal veggie rainbow, and every dish was as colourful as it was tasty.
>And just when it began to feel a little too fresh, more coziness arrived: the flageolet beans with tomato and kombu pistou became my favourite part of the meal to that point, mainly due to the bull kelp, which brought an unorthodox umami twist to this perfect winter dish.
But the beans were soon bested—the sweet treat served at the end of the evening blew my mind. The Acorn’s corn ice cream is next- level: velvety and bright, embracing all of the natural sweetness of the vegetable. It was unlike any dessert I’ve had before, and it proved that, in the right hands, veggies aren’t just versatile: they’re infinite.
3240 Main St.
This city’s veggie scene is so hot that the folks at Victoria Drive’s Via Tevere wanted a piece of the proverbial vegan pie: their 2020 opening, Pizzeria Grano, is now one of Main Street’s freshest 100-percent plant-based haunts. My partner and I grabbed the last two bar chairs on a Friday night, securing ourselves front-row seats to the Neapolitan-style dough show. The preparation is artful, but the experience here is more fun than fussy: watching the team hand-stretch the dough and slide each pizza into the domed brick oven adds a theatrical element, and the pies (we went with the Bee Sting and the Gorgonzola) arrive accompanied by pizza scissors and an invitation for you to cut your own slices.
I find vegan “cheese” hit or miss, but the Bee Sting nails it with both the creamy bechamel and the bubbling mozzarella made from cashews working to balance out the heat from the Calabrian chili and plant-based pepperoni. And the vegan honey really leaves you wondering why every pizza doesn’t have an element of sweetness.
The Gorgonzola again delivers on the vegan cheese front, with cloud-like dollops all over. It’s a decadent pie thanks to a roasted garlic base and tons of caramelized onions, plus a crunchy “bacun” crumble.
It’s tough to stand up to Via Tevere’s celebrity status, but Grano is easily the Solange to Tevere’s Beyoncé—a little more indie, a little less awarded, but an icon in its own right.
2702 Main St.
>Even three weeks in advance, the only reso I could snatch at Andrea Carlson’s Burdock and Co was at 9 p.m. on a Thursday—this 34-seat restaurant was a tight squeeze even before it earned a Michelin star last October. Now, it’s positively buzzing. My partner and I weren’t seated until 9:30 (a glass of prosecco on the house made up for the wait), simply because the diners who were occupying our table didn’t want to leave. And who could blame them?
Now, Burdock isn’t strictly vegetarian, but it has been plant-forward from the start: chef Carlson is a champion of local producers and seasonal veggies. My request for a plant-based version of the tasting menu was met with a breezy “Of course!” and the first dish was a stunning take on pâté made from butternut squash and drizzled with an earthy parsley root soubise. The next dish—a pillowy puff pastry topped with delicate slices of spice-poached Red Ace beets—absolutely floored me, even though I’m generally not a beet gal (sue me!). Our server explained that the process of poaching the beets in vinegar, black pepper and cardamom removes some of the “dirt” taste that typically turns off beet-haters like me. This is the dish that little beets dream of becoming when they grow up.
Another highlight was the salsify (think parsnip’s cousin who loves alt music) in a rich miso-hazelnut sauce, served with a lovely little potato croquette—it was hearty and balanced and comforting and defied every negative “vegetarian” stereotype.
>Despite the painstaking, Michelin-level planning and execution from Carlson and her team, the menu here demands a laid-back vibe, and our dinner stretched longer into the evening than we had planned. Like the diners before us, we were caught up in the intimate, thoughtful, easygoing nature of the space, and the food was so good that time felt irrelevant.
3941 Main St.
Can you even read the words togarashi fries and not order them? I can’t. The Acorn’s little sister serves up this spicy dish with kimchi aioli and plenty of green onions. It’s an excellent sidekick to the End of Days burger, which really shines thanks to cherry tomato jam from Vanmag Producer of the Year Klippers and slices of eggplant bacon that are about a hundred times better than they sound. (I’ve never been a follower of the church of eggplant, but this had me thinking of converting.)
4298 Main St.
Nary a basic dish to be found here: this restaurant has chill vibes but crazy-good food. Chickpea’s Mediterranean comfort food dishes are vibrant, hearty and fresh. The classic falafel, rice bowl-style, is my go-to (garlicky falafel plus fried eggplant equals plant-based satisfaction). Plus, a pitcher of one of their choose-your-own-spirit, no-frills classic cocktails ($29 for a 6-oz booze base) is an affordable way to get a little buzz on. Hey, we can’t have wine pairings with every meal.
4288 Main St.
Think your favourite bar food, but make it vegan: sweet chili cauliflower wings, fries with cashew-miso gravy and burgers that aim to do everything beef does and more. The burg topped with pickled jalapenos and mac and “cheez” is my pick (and is proof that vegetarian meals can leave you with the same holy-smokes-I’m-full feeling that non-veggie meals can).