Food for Thought:
Eating out vegan – part 1
Local restaurants that offer delicious plant-based options
By Penny Arsenault and Irwin Rapoport
April 19, 2023
Cooking at home and having friends over for dinner is great but there are times when one wishes to go out with family or friends, or for a romantic dinner. Montreal is known for its wonderful restaurants and has a well-deserved and established reputation that attracts many visitors.
Socializing and dining with friends is an enjoyable and important activity. The Blue Zones – Blue Zones – Live Better, Longer – an organization that looks into the longest-living humans on the planet, attributes their longevity to strong social ties and a largely plant-based or plant-slant diet.
There is a growing number of plant-based restaurants in Montreal, and regular restaurants offering vegan options. This month, we are virtually stepping out of the kitchen and away from recipes to visit vegan-friendly restaurants in town.
Starting with the exclusively vegan establishments in and around Westmount then including restaurants with great vegan options, we encourage you to enjoy outings with friends, good food, drink, conversation and laughter.
4896 Sherbrooke W
Our very local Aux Vivres is a popular spot for casual lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. If you visit, don’t miss their Okonomiyaki Burger, made perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with shitake mushrooms. Start with their Dahl Soup, the best one in town. For lunch, the Veggie Pate or BLT Wrap Sandwiches are delicious and large enough to share, particularly if you want to include some Wedge Potatoes, which are a treat. If possible, save room for a Chocolate or Creamsicle Smoothie. Take-out and delivery are available, with a boutique downstairs for take-out items, frozen meals, cakes and some grocery items.
What a delight to discover this very vegan-friendly spot on Victoria! With so many options to choose from, Spirulina is an oasis in the otherwise vegan desert, which is Victoria Avenue. Offering a variety of “toasts,” including two types of Avocado Toast, Chickpea Salad Toast, and Hummus, Sprouts and Pumpkin Seed Toast (which can be ordered with or without feta), all served on sourdough bread. Worth a visit just for their very hearty Vegetable Lentil Soup but while you’re there, try out their smoothies and shakes. Bring your own container or eat in if you wish to reduce plastic waste – they encourage it!
NDG boasts a few vegan restaurants close by, and one very nice option is Hello 123 on Monkland. Lovely all-day brunch and lunch, the Almond and Banana French Toast is a good decision for any time of day! The menu includes healthy bowls, salads (including a wonderful Caesar Salad), sandwiches and burgers.
3580 Notre-Dame W
A lovely destination for an evening out, this Italian eatery and wine bar is located on Notre-Dame in Saint-Henri. Here you can enjoy authentic Italian food in a trendy setting, free of animal products. The Grilled Asparagus starter, Focaccia, and Crispy Brussels Sprouts are surprisingly delicious and a perfect lead-up to one of their fresh pastas. Notable are the Ravioli Pomodoro with a perfect tomato sauce (how does one make such a wonderful tomato sauce?!) and the Pappardelle, creatively prepared with dill pesto.
All topped off with an excellent selection of wines and cocktails, and experienced staff to consult.
For dessert, they have daily gelatos worth trying, and a decadent Chocolate Brownie served hot.
While dining out with friends, there are certain cuisines that lend themselves easily to accommodating vegans and vegetarians. If you are a mixed group of omnivores, vegetarians and vegans, there is no need to find new friends; we can all get along in local restaurants that have added vegan menus to their already existing ones.
4435 Ste-Catherine, Westmount
Sushi Pin, a new sushi restaurant, has recently won the hearts of many Westmounters with their friendliness and warm hospitality. They are very happy in their new location and receiving glowing reviews for their food. They will be releasing a vegan menu possibly as soon as May, but keeping its contents under their hat for now. In the meantime, the Cucumber and Avocado Rolls are vegan, and the Green Roll Futomaki is vegetarian (vegan when ordered without mayonnaise). Happy to have them in the neighbourhood!
TAO RESTAURANT / CAFE I CHING
4242 Decarie, NDG
An NDG favourite, Tao features Thai, Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine. While these cuisines are often difficult for a vegan, Tao boasts an entirely vegan menu entitled Cafe I Ching. Spicy Soups, Pad Thai Noodles, General Tao Tofu, Green Curry and many other items can be enjoyed without animal or seafood ingredients. Light and lively family-style dining and even the fortune cookies are accidentally vegan. Take-out and delivery are available.
Greek cuisine is very friendly for a vegan looking for options on a regular menu. Orthodox Greeks remove animals from the menu for many days each year (Food for Thought: Vegan dishes for Lent) so many of their traditional favourites were developed for those times of the year. As a result, there is much to choose from in Greek restaurants across the city.
Our local Greek restaurants include:
435A Décarie, NDG
Recently changed from Lesvos, Molyvos is across the street from Tao Restaurant/Cafe I Ching. They also allow patrons to bring their own wine.
4785 Sherbrooke W, Westmount
A beloved staple in the neighbourhood, with an outdoor terrace in the summer months. It is also a bring-your-own wine establishment.
4114 Ste-Catherine W, Westmount
In the former Gladstone restaurant location, is high-end Greek dining with wonderful service.
What to order: Greek Salad (hold the feta), Lima Beans in Tomato Sauce, Grilled Vegetables, Grilled Oyster Mushrooms, Stuffed Vine Leaves, Fried Zucchini and Eggplant Chips, and Lentil Soup.
Indian cuisine is often vegetarian-friendly, and knowledgeable restaurant staff can direct you to dishes that don’t contain dairy.
STAR OF INDIA
5864 Sherbrooke W, NDG
We recommend this restaurant which has established a loyal clientele in the West End and has been serving traditional Indian food for lunch and dinner for 30 years in its downtown location. Take-out is available as well.
Montreal vegan restaurants
Finally, here are some of the excellent vegan restaurants in and around Montreal:
276 Ste-Catherine W, Place des Arts and 545 Milton, McGill Ghetto
Lola Rosa offers an entirely vegan menu of extremely tasty and diverse plates as well as a nice cocktail and wine menu. Ceasar Salad, nachos, burgers and daily soups, each dish is better than the last. Hard to decide what to order here. Try the house cocktails!
330 Mont-Royal E, Plateau Mont-Royal
Ohana Sushi has reinvented vegan sushi with food as delicious as it is healthy. Their menu includes Sushi, Pad Thai, Poke Wraps and soups with gluten-free options. You most certainly won’t miss the fish! Ask anyone who has eaten there, the food is astounding.
288 Ste-Catherine W, Quartier des spectacles and 368 St-Paul W, Old Montreal
With their love of sushi and even bigger concern for the planet, their mission is, in their own words: “Taking a compassionate look at the future of our planet and our fish, we’re inviting our customers to join the movement. We’re not only dreaming of a better world, we’re contributing to sustainable development through innovative thinking.”
1259 Ste-Catherine E, Gay Village
This bistro in the heart of the Village offers brunch, lunch, and dinner. Perfect for a daytime coffee on the go or an upscale dinner with exquisite service. Bold dishes, gourmet cocktails, a daring wine list, all vegan, and all day.
6660 Clarke, Mile-End
The very first fully vegan ramen restaurant in Montreal, Umami makes its homemade noodles from organic wheat in addition to making its broths, tsukemono, kombucha and sprouts! The restaurant offers several varieties of ramen and classic Japanese bistronomy in a vegan version. Also to be experienced, their sumptuous wines, cocktails, and delicate sakes. At Umami Ramen, experience cruelty-free gastronomy at its best!
Stay tuned for more restaurant reviews as we will be dining out at others over the next few months.
Next month’s column is back to cooking, just in time for Barbecue Season. Be on the lookout for everything you need to know about cruelty-free grilling!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome!
Feature image: Sushi feast at Ohana, ohanasushi.ca
A figure skating coach and ballet dancer, Penny Arsenault is a friend to cats, dogs, and all animals, dedicated to fitness and nutrition, and tireless in her optimistic pursuit of the improvement of urban gardens, and preservation of wild spaces.
Irwin Rapoport is a freelance journalist with Bachelor degrees in History and Political Science from Concordia University.