The popularity of plant-based food is soaring across the world, and things are no different in Vancouver, Canada. Notoriously a health-orientated city, in the past few years Vancouver has seen numerous vegan eateries pop up, and while long-established restaurants like Acorn and Heirloom remain popular, I found it was the newer restaurants that served up the most enticingly innovative dishes. From the best cruelty-free comfort food to fresh mezze plates and brand-new plant-based pop-ups, here’s where to eat vegan in Vancouver.
For those who think a vegan diet means forgoing burgers and mac’n’cheese, MeeT proves that this doesn’t have to be the case. Serving up an array of plant-based comfort food, MeeT is famous for its juicy burgers, the most popular of which is the Angry Burg, a beer-battered burger tossed in buffalo hot sauce, topped with guacamole and cool ranch dressing. The Mighty Mac Burger is another excellent choice; who’s going to say no to a burger topped with mac ‘n’ cheese? Of course, this is vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, but the cashew cheese is just as rich and creamy as the dairy kind (really). For a slightly less filling alternative, opt for the marinated portobello burger, topped with chipotle mayo, grilled onions, roasted peppers and vegan feta.
For the more health conscious, the Macro Bowl will hit the spot — marinated tofu, kale, brown rice, steamed broccoli, chili and mushrooms, topped with green onions, sesame seeds, marinated mung bean sprouts and drizzled with a tasty cashew gravy. Be sure to leave space for MeeT’s most popular side: the Sweet-Chilli Cauliflower Wings. Deep fried in house beer batter and generously glazed with a sticky and sweet chili-ginger sauce, they’re gorgeously chewy, and very addictive. There’s also a varied drinks menu with specialty craft cocktails, vegan wine and beer, and a daily happy hour.
There are those who still scoff at the idea of vegan pizza. Those people probably just haven’t eaten at Virtuous Pie. Vancouver’s newest plant-based pizza place is just as much of a hipster hangout as you’d expect, but this isn’t a case of style over substance (though the restaurant, with sleek marble counters and exposed white bricks, is undoubtedly stylish). There are two types of pizza base to choose from — regular wheat-flour and gluten free — but it all comes down to the toppings. Most popular of all is the Stranger Wings pizza; it’s topped with creamy cashew sauce, buffalo cauliflower, fried shallots, scallions, and a piquant “cheese” made from soy and tahini.
All the vegan cheeses at Virtuous Pie are house-made, and they’re excellent, from the mellow cashew mozzarella to the softly whipped truffle almond ricotta. The restaurant steers away from mock meats, preferring to highlight the power of pure veg, but if you really fancy something a bit meatier, the house meatballs will do the job. It isn’t just pizza where Virtuous Pie excels. Try their ice creams as well. Made with coconut and cashew milk, there are 8–10 flavors on offer, from the basics to specialty flavors like “donut.” And remember, there’s no such thing as cholesterol in a plant-based diet, so don’t feel too bad if you need to order three scoops.
While not actually a vegan restaurant — or even vegetarian — Lebanese eatery Nuba is worth a visit for those in search of non-meat dishes. There are plenty of vegan items on the menu, and because food is made to order, many of the dishes can be veganised. Nuba is a great sharing restaurant: go with a group and order as many dishes as you can. Start with the basics like Baba Ghanooj, hummus and falafel. The try other dishes like Najib’s Special — crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon, sea salt and served with tahini — and Mjadra – lentils and rice with onions, jalapeño, avocado and caramelized onion.
For something a little lighter, there’s always a fresh vegan soup of the day, and the organic red lentil soup is aromatic and warmly spiced. The Vegan Stew — seasonal vegetables stewed with onions, tomatoes and chickpeas — is ideal if you fancy something a bit heartier. The pita bread rolls are another popular choice, and the vegan Veggie Fraiche is a sublime blend of flavors and textures, with baba ghanooj, taboulleh, red peppers, carrots, green onions, cucumber and avocado, all rolled up and packed with organic greens, tomato, homemade pickle tahini and hot sauce. Save room for the indulgently sticky Lebanese pastries!
On the newest and most exclusive end of the spectrum is Terra Vancouver, a gluten-free vegan pop-up that aims to send diners on a culinary adventure using local and sustainable plant-based products. For too long the limited dining options for gluten-free vegans were bland and uninspired (at best!), but Terra proves that a plant-based gluten-free diet can be complex, unexpected, flavorsome and indulgent. Dishes are strikingly innovative as well as packed with character; this is vegan gluten-free fine dining at its best. So what kind of dishes can you expect here?
Think local asparagus served with marinated zucchini, lemon confit, almond and garlic puree, peas and quinoa, with a sprinkle of charred asparagus jus; or perhaps potato rosti with truffle duxelle, roasted turnips, king oyster mushrooms and celery root, topped with a rich drizzle of vegan demi-glace; or maybe nettle-crusted mostarda with crispy fried broccoli tips, poached apple and sorrel. Finish off with chocolate mousse, raspberries and lemon balm on a crispy, crackly base that pops in your mouth, all dusted with cocoa crumble. The vegan, gluten-free scene in Vancouver will never look the same.
Selene Nelson is a UK-based food and travel writer. Follow her foodie adventures here.