So my grandfather in Bombay never ate anything which came from an animal — it turns out he was all about that plant life eons before it became trendy (and Oakville and Burlington restos are clearly winning when it comes to the ‘forks over knives’ game!). The cranky old guy who runs my gym is vegan. So’s my brother, who’s significantly younger and throws down in the kitchen like a certified G. Our dad enjoys telling random people (including servers at restaurants) that two of his three children have taken after his father. Since I’m on that #gymlife and it’s in my bloodline, I’ve embraced eliminating meat and dairy – when possible – but still enjoy an Angus burger and fries on a cheat day. Does this technically make me a meat-eating vegetarian, or flexitarian? Who knows, and who cares! I’m not one for labels and just love great food … end rant. Here are the top 5 vegan places in Oakville and Burlington.
5. Boon Burger Cafe
Burlington & Oakville
The good folks at Boon Burger prove you don’t necessarily need meat to create a phenomenally satisfying meal. Their Cowboy burger is the topseller in Burlington and boy, it’s massive. Made from scratch, burgers are handmade, grilled, baked, and served on a whole wheat bun. The black bean patty comes with BBQsauce, “bacun,” lettuce, tomato, and it’s slathered in Bermuda sauce (which really should be called Vegan Big Mac sauce because it tastes gluttonous and McDonald’s has officially been replaced for all cheat meals going forward). This Canadian chain, or “world’s first vegan burger cafe,” has mastered selling plant-based junk food for the masses. Hot sauce and other (less important) condiments are already on the table, surrounded by a massive roll of brown paper towels. The environment is quirky and full of farm animals. Very friendly staff wear black T-shirts reading ‘boonivore’ on the back. After one bite of the Cowboy, I want one, along with everything on their menu. P.S. Another must-have? The oh-so-trendy Pulled Jackfruit Poutine — fries are baked, topped with yams and sprinked with sesame seeds.
Must-try: Cowboy Burger ($11)
This 100 per cent vegan, gluten-free, peanut-free restaurant packs a serious flavour punch in the menu which “ain’t your mama’s rabbit food!” and is comprised of mains such as sandwiches, bowls, burgers and salads. My favourite lunch is the Mexicali Burger. The Ohana Bowl is also delicious, with teriyaki soy curls, pineapple, cremini mushrooms, edamame, cashews, and sesame seeds. Their menu is fun; with substitutes such as tempeh bacon, teriyaki tofu and smoked gouda “cheeze,” Vegebitez doesn’t sacrifice flavour in their healthy picks. For the occasional treat or cheat day, be sure to try their baked goods and milkshakes (we love the Amaretto flavour because alcohol). The resto, in a plaza on Neyagawa Blvd., is a happy place with lilac, turquoise, and pineapple motifs.
Must-try: MexiCali Burger ($16.95)
3. Trish Juice
There’s beets, spinach, kale, and spectacular customer service in south Oakville. And it’s not pretentious or overpriced. Trish Juice opened in spring 2018 along Lakeshore Rd. W. (meaning there’s a good chance this cute resto might be near your home or work). It’s a great breakfast, lunch, or light dinner option, especially after a particularly punishing training session in the weight room. Or if your hands are full with a baby — the owner will stop what she’s doing to help a mom with a stroller get in and out the door. But back to the bevvies. I love me some fresh juice, and the beet juice, with carrot and lemon, didn’t disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather eat my calories than drink them but there’s one exception and it’s a real juice made right before my eyes, full of brightly hued fruit and vegetables, poured into a tall glass. Trish Juice is in the former K.B. Rugs spot. You’ll find hip, trendy items such as Avocado Toast, (we tried the Hummus Toast, topped with alfalfa sprouts — yum). This independently owned and operated juice bar will not only serve fresh juice, but also smoothies (including bowls), milkshakes, cocktails, salads, wraps, and quick health shots. Even better news? All menu items are under $15 — so it’s perfect for anyone looking for a healthy, affordable lunch. Exhibit A: Avocado Toast – served on rye bread – is $2.99. Exhibit B: Salads and wraps are $5.99. We dug right into the Maple Apple salad (it’s perfect for a sweltering summer day — ask for it without feta or dressing), with spinach, kale, chopped almonds and walnuts, granny smith apple, and a tangy maple dijon dressing. This is also the spot to visit if you want to hop on the turmeric bandwagon.
Must-try: Beet juice.
2. Bahn Thai
Burlington & Oakville
This long-running Burlington favourite on Fairview has been pleasing diners for about 17 years (and 10 years in Oakville’s Towne Square). Thai cuisine is my absolute favourite (after Indian, of course) with its liberal use of staple ingredients such as peanuts, basil, coconut, coriander, tamarind, and lime. Popular appetizers include Thai Spring Rolls and the foolproof Mango Salad. But I’m super hungry so it’s all about the mains: Green Curry with tofu, and Pad Thai — it comes with egg, chicken and shrimp but they’ll omit those for you. The signature dish features noodles topped with fresh, generous pieces of cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, and crinkle-cut carrots. For dessert, you’ve got to try the sticky rice with mango — it’s downright sinful. The Fried Tofu and Taro are on my ‘to-eat list’ for next time (and there will most def be a next time!). Service is fantastic.
Must-try: Green Curry ($13.95).
1. Lettuce Love Cafe
Delicious bites await at this tiny vegan/gluten-free eatery renowned for its menu. I had the Power Bowl, a nutritious dish made up of organic steamed quinoa, grilled sweet potatoes, black beans, braised kale, avocado, grilled portobello mushroom, brazil nut parmesan, and lemon tahini sauce. It was beyond delicious and full of so many complementary flavours. It was chased with an ice-cold chocolate smoothie comprised of almond milk, raw cacao powder, cacao butter, coconut oil, bananas, dates, cacao nibs, and sea salt. It wasn’t a sweet drink and I loved everything about it. This eatery simultaneously helps you stay on track with your fitness goals and hits numerous cravings. And most of all, it’s incredibly tasty. Where else can you find a win-win-win?
Must-try: Power Bowl ($16).
Come for the Eggless Egg Sandwich and leave with dessert — a plant-based resto has opened along Lakeshore Rd. E. — so tell all the vegans, raw food enthusiasts, and Paleo/Crossfitters in your life. If you’re looking for a place to grab cheap eats in downtown Oakville, this is your next stop. Dar Nabati opened April 27 and is offering up a variety of light options. One of the very best items on the menu: Baked Egyptian Falafel ($5.95). They’re made with fava beans and served hot, without a hint of dryness, and drizzled with tahini. (And I certainly don’t miss the upset stomach which accompanies traditionally fried falafel). The Eggless Egg Sandwich ($8.25) is delicious, garnished with scallions and dill. You should try it.
Must-try: Eggless Egg Sandwich ($8.25) & Baked Egyptian Falafel ($5.95)