Guest post: Vegan in Vancouver! »
I live on a tiny island with a bunch of happy-meat-eating hippies with no love for vegans, so when I make a trip over to Vancouver for such insignificant, fake reasons such as “meeting with my thesis advisor” or “researching an article,” I eat and drink like a madwoman and, for efficiency, operate on the understanding that there are at least six meals a day.[Ed.: the ONLY way to travel!] I went to grad school in Vancouver for two years and though I haven’t finished my real thesis, I have made progress on my dissertation covering all the vegan food Vancouver has to offer. Here are my peer-reviewed findings.
I hope you brought your passports, because Canadian border guards have something to prove. Once you’re done with the hellish process of waiting for an hour in line and lying about the pounds of pot you intend on bringing home from British Columbia, Vancouver will welcome your vegan selves with open arms.
Let’s start downtown, shall we? People will have warned you that Vancouver’s downtown eastside is the slummiest slum ever, and it might be true, but stop being a snob—you are hungry and no one is going to kill you. Probably my favorite restaurant in the city and fully vegan, Radha Yoga & Eatery offers a rotating seasonal menu—cajun tempeh pictured—and is all sorts of green with its locally sourced produce and green technologies. Shout out to the amazing SOLEFood urban downtown eastside garden project who supply Radha. Don’t worry, you don’t have to use a neti pot or meditate before you’re fed, and there are no horrifying rules against garlic/onions/booze. I’m looking at you, Supreme Master. The desserts at Radha—even the raw ones—are just totally amazing. Vegan baklava made with Canadian maple syrup and local B.C. hazelnuts can be yours! Radha earns extra points for hosting and helping promote Vancouver Vegan Bakesales, such as the one on Mar. 9 benefitting the BC SPCA in the wake of those horrible sled dog murders you might remember sobbing about when the news broke a couple of weeks ago.
Two vegan-friendly restaurants in the microbrewery-filled Gastown neighbourhood are Wild Rice and Nuba. A “modern Chinese cuisine” restaurant where you can get cocktails made with ingredients such as lychee-infused vodka and rosemary-infused local gin, Wild Rice’s kitchen is dairy-free, which means that all of the vegetarian options, of which there are many, are vegan! VEGAN DIM SUM! The hot and sour soup is the best, and they offer stuff like tofu bacon, curry buns, and bean curd rolls filled with the freshest Chinatown mushrooms.
The Lebanese restaurant Nuba offers the best cauliflower you will ever taste and it will make you look at cauliflower as though it was like, I don’t know, something far more exciting than cauliflower. Called Najib’s Special, it is deep-fried cauliflower with perfect mystery spices tossed in lemon juice and served with the best hot sauce of all time. You can get it alone or in a pita, but don’t stop there! Get the falafel (pictured!) too. And dessert. They always have vegan sorbets, and usually a feature vegan dessert.
Now I’m going to tell you about a taqueria. You guys are probably sitting in your apartments in the Mission eating your Papalote burritos and saying, “Oh no she didn’t! This Canadian girl is NOT telling me about good Mexican food in CANADA,” but shut up—we have immigrants too and their health care gives them the happy incentive to open up delicious Mexican restaurants. La Taqueria is probably the most authentic one with vegan options, and even though there are only two vegan taco options—Tinga de Hongos, sautéed fresh mushrooms in spicy chipotle sauce, and De Picadillo, sautéed tofu in the best spicy sauce—they are impressive and worth the trip!
Vancouver has some pretty nutty rules about street food, but last year saw quite a few openings. Where it all began though, is at Japadog. A happy marriage between Japanese inspired condiments and hot dogs, at Japadog, you can get a veggie dog with toppings such as pickled daikon, shredded nori, teriyaki sauce, etc. Specify no mayo! Whatever, Sushirito, you totally stole Japadog’s shtick! Oh, and famous people really like it there, even dicks like Anthony Bourdain.[Ed.: he is SUCH A DICK!]
Back to Mexican, we have Bandidas Taqueria on Commercial Drive. Bandidas is all vegetarian and very vegan-friendly, with house-made vegan sour cream and Daiya cheese. Oh, did I neglect to mention that Daiya was INVENTED in Vancouver? You’re welcome. I’m not the biggest fan since it kind of gives me Daiyarrhea, but Vancouver places loving on the Daiya include the Naam, Vancouver’s oldest vegetarian restaurant—try the Tempeh Reuben—The Wallflower, vegan chili-cheese thunder fries; Sejuiced, delicious albeit expensive veggie burgers; Loving Hut, currently closed for fire damage or some other suspect Supreme Master activity but otherwise serving Daiya pizza, nachos and surprisingly few even remotely Asian-inspired options; and more.
Café Kathmandu, located next door to Bandidas Taqueria, serves up Nepalese food with a million vegan options and the most hilarious/awesome/politically engaged owner ever. Try the momos! Chutney Villa and Saravanaa Bhavan are both South Indian restaurants, and both will provide you with perfect dosas. Gorilla Food is the raw vegan joint and though I could spend all day long poking fun at raw foodists, I can really get down with Gorilla Foods’ incredible raw pizzas, salads (pictured), smoothies, and desserts. Just beware of potential Katie Holmes encounters! Scary!
The Eatery is probably the least authentic Japanese restaurant in a city full of Japanese people, but they make crazy and amazing vegan sushi, and the decorative dolls, toys, lowbrow art, crazy lighting, and stiff drinks, will enhance your acid trip in no time. Just a block or two from The Eatery is Dharma Kitchen, a typical vegetarian (vegan other than honey in the chai) Buddhist-leaning restaurant, where you can get miso soup along with a decent rice bowl (pictured) to help assuage the previous night’s shameful transgressions. (tip: they pretend that Boca burgers are tempeh).
Did you know that Vancouver has a “sky train” (light rail) public transit system (thanks, horrible Olympics!) that will make you daily MUNI-users sob in envy? Jump on it and head out to the charming suburb of New Westminster to visit the all-vegan shop Karmavore. Considering slitting your wrists because Field Roast isn’t available in Canada? Karmavore has it, and vegan soft-serve ice cream too boot! The trip was worth it, because now you can dive into some vegan pho or the multitude of other vegan options at Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House.
Because you are now on the next flight to YVR, I implore you to also check out Victoria, a ferry-ride away from Vancouver, B.C.’s capital, and home to Sarah Kramer. Here’s a little guide I wrote for VegNews.
I know I missed a ton of places, but I hope I at least somewhat increased my country’s tourism and will maybe receive a break on my taxes?
The Brownie Parfait at Radha. Jesus H!