Friday, May 04, 2012

Toronto Day 6

April 26, 2012
I had enough time on my last day in Toronto to squeeze in two final meals and a bit more sight-seeing. I decided to start things off at Toronto's famous St Lawrence Market (supposedly the world's best food market!). The market itself was pretty quiet on a Thursday morning - it seemed quite small to me, but I imagine it's a bit more bustling when the farmer's markets are on each Saturday. The downstairs area has a decent selection of cafes, including my breakfast destination: Cruda Cafe.

Cruda Cafe is a raw, vegan and gluten-free cafe tucked away in the markets. Sadly, the blueberry pancakes I wanted are only available on the weekends (I was constantly amazed by how many breakfast places in Toronto were totally focussed on the weekend), so I was forced to choose from the lunch menu. It's all raw - wraps, salads and a few bigger meals. I settled on the enchilada rawrap (avocado, vegan chilli and seasonal veggies, $9).

This was an amazingly healthy start to the day - the combo of the dehydrated wrap and fresh veggies was bursting with freshness and colour. The chilli was a bit odd - I think it was mostly made of tiny little mushroom pieces. It tasted nothing like chilli, but was a hearty savoury accompaniment to all the vegetables. At $9 this isn't a particularly good value meal - it's pretty small - but that's the price you pay for raw food I guess.

I couldn't resist supplementing the healthy wrap with one of Cruda Cafe's signature desserts - a vegan Nanaimo bar ($4.50).

This was wonderful - bittersweet dark chocolate layered on top of a cashew cream middle and a chocolatey, seedy, nutty base. Delicious.

Loaded up with raw nutrients, I hit the city for a while. Toronto is a great city for wandering - there are loads of distinct, interesting neighbourhoods. It's not particularly scenic, but there's a lovely atmosphere to the place. Still, my feet were eventually worn down from all the tramping and I tracked down some decent coffee and free wi-fi at Dark Horse - nice to find another proper latte after some of the swill I'd had elsewhere.

Recharged, I headed off to find some lunch. I had so many places I wanted to try: Urban Herbivore, Live Food, Hibiscus, Hot Yam, Rawlicious, Rancho Relaxo, Sneaky Dee's, Green Earth even vegan-frinedly chains like Lick's Burgers, Magic Oven and Chipotle. Instead, I just went to the nearest veg place I could find: Vegetarian Haven.

Vegetarian Haven is an all-vegan Asian influenced place that has a pretty great reputation - it won dine.TO's best vegetarian restaurant and has lots of great reviews on Yelp. The lunch menu has a decent number of options: noodles and wraps, salads and a half-dozen bigger main meals (or entrees as North Americans insist on calling them).

I was very tempted by the spicy coconut curry seitan and the sizzling seitain in black bean sauce, but decided to go mock-meat free and try the spicy eggplant tofu (Asian eggplant fired up in a hot wok with hot chilli slices served with purple rice, $11.95).

This was a great way to end my vegetarian tour of Toronto - the mix of fresh veggies, fiery chilli sauce, lightly seared tofu chunks and a cute dollop of purple rice made for a deeply satisfying lunch. They don't pull their punches on the chilli, which is perfect for this dish. I was sad not to try the tofu drumstick or their range of vegan desserts, but there was plenty of food in this one meal, and I had over-eaten my way through the week. Service was friendly and efficient (as it was everywhere I went basically) and the atmosphere of the place was low-key and welcoming (the surrounding tables seemed heavily populated with professors from the nearby university). Vegetarian Haven hadn't been that high on my list of must-visit places in Toronto, mostly because it's schtick (Asian-style vegetarian food) is not one that's hard to find in Melbourne. But it was great - really worth a visit if you're looking for some middle ground between diner-style fried goodies and raw food.

So, six days (4 full days and 2 part days really) and ten restaurants later, my Toronto trip was over. It's a great city, and a great city for veg*ns - very reminiscent of Melbourne in many ways. The people are friendly, there are trams, the place is bursting with culture and there's food - more food than you can possibly tackle in under a week. I can't wait to go back. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who suggested restaurants and activities for me!
Cruda Cafe has been met with universally positive blog reviews - check out: Toronto Vegetarian, Toronto Coffee Shops, Raw Candy, Going Raw - A University Student's Experience, Food Art Life, Greatest Wealth, Vegan Backpacker and The Healthy Hipster.

As for Vegetarian Haven, Life's Tasty Adventures, JYG's Urban Adventures, What We Eatin': Where We Eatin', the recreational vegan, Gail at Large, MeShell in your city and Newman Improved all loved it, while they call me queen of the universe was a bit less impressed.

Cruda Cafe
Downstairs at the St Lawrence Market, 93 Front Street East, Toronto 
647 346 6502
Salads and meals $8-$14, Fancy juices $5.50-$6.50, Sweets ~$5 (all plus tax)

Vegetarian Haven
17 Baldwin Street  Toronto
416 621 3636 
Main meals: $10-$16 (plus tax and tips)

Accessibility: Cruda Cafe is downstairs at the St Lawrence Markets, although there's a reasonable possibility that there's a lift (I wasn't paying attention pre-coffee). Ordering and payment takes place at a relatively low counter, and there are reasonable tables nearby. Vegetarian Haven has a flat entryway and isn't too crowded inside. Ordering and payment happens at the table.


  1. Really enjoyed your Toronto posts. Canada is definitely on the wish list.

  2. Interesting. I lived in the t dot in 2001-2005 and I found it decent for vegans, but you've highlighted some places that either I hadn't been to or didn't exist back in those days. anyway, good work, enjoy your trip.

  3. Glad to hear the end of your trip was worth it... Those two restos, combined with Commensal, are my 3 least favourite vegan restos in Toronto. Next time you come, you definitely have to check out Belmonte Raw. A bit further East but totally worth it. I also really like M&B Yummy for Ethiopian (all vegan joint!), but it is further West. :)

  4. The food looks excellent, so jealous.

    So happy that you got to try a Nanaimo bar!

  5. That last dish with the purple rice looks divine! Yay for awesome vegetarian alternatives :).

  6. Yes there is an elevator to get down to Cruda from Front street... or you can go down the hill and enter from the sides straight into the lower level.