Earlier this month we published the first part of our favourite vegan restaurant round-up, and we’re happy to now bring you our second instalment.
Read on, herbivores (and curious carnivores!) for your new go-to spots.
Candle Café & Candle 79 (New York)
The evolution of the Candle Café began in the summer of 1984, when Bart Potenza purchased a local health food store and juice bar located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. From the previous owner, he inherited the nightly ritual of lighting candles to bless his establishment, and renamed the restaurant the Healthy Candle to make it his own. In 1987, Joy Pierson joined Bart’s team and became the in-house nutritionist for the fast-growing eatery, and eventually he became an invested partner.
In 2003, Candle 79 was born just five blocks away. This two-story, upscale dining experience incorporates the famed organic plant-based cuisine of the Healthy Candle in a more formal setting, featuring organic wine and a full eco bar. Candle 79 has twice been rated as Zagat’s #1 vegetarian restaurant, earning a local and international reputation and boasting a regular clientele that includes neighbourhood residents, celebrities, politicians, and corporate executives from around the world.
Candle Café West opened its doors in April 2012. Deemed a hybrid of the original Candle Café location and Candle 79, this gorgeous space is located on Broadway between 89th and 90th. It accommodates around one hundred guests at a time, with a spacious eco-cocktail bar and elegant touches. The Candle Café West menu has similar items as the other two locations, with a full bar that includes organic spirits, wines, beers, and specialty cocktails.
Candle Café West is also certified kosher.
Serving the vegan community for more than a quarter of a century, Mildreds has earned the right to call itself a neighbourhood institution. Nestled in bustling SOHO, it boasts a no–reservations policy, so expect to hang tight at the bar while a table opens up. The welcome is warm, the vibes good, and the menu inventive, drawing on Asian and Middle Eastern dishes like gyoza dumplings with a mirin and soy sauce. The substantial ‘burger’ (which changes daily) is a fan favourite.
To end the meal, creative desserts are worth leaving room for, and even the wine, coffee, and tea are locally sourced and organic. Service is perky yet comfortable, ensuring that this place will surely remain on the hot list of every vegan (and their equally happy non-vegetarian friends) for another twenty-five years.
Gentle Gourmet (Paris)
French cuisine may be all about dairy and meat delicacies, but the Gentle Gourmet is setting out to “combine the finesse of French gastronomy with an ethical and ecological dimension,” all while preserving the pleasurable experience of eating fine foods. Established in 2009 by Deborah Brown Pivain, Caroline Pivain Quan-Ngoc, and Alexandre Pivain, Gentle Gourmet, like all things French, doesn’t shy away from sophistication. The restaurant offers a menu toted as “Vegan Haute Cuisine”, concocted from ingredients that are locally sourced and seasonal, as well as mostly organic. Guests can sample classic French dishes with none of the guilt; foie gras is reimagined as a “Faux-Gras”, served with white tea and bloody orange agar jelly, and a vegan fondue is tantalizingly cooked with shallots, nut oil, and deglazed white wine, and served with thyme croutons.
A new seven-course tasting menu allows patrons to sample a wide array of offerings, including the decadent French desserts. Pair it with a fine French wine (or several) and settle in for a lavish, Earth-friendly, quintessentially Parisian meal.
Located in one of Toronto’s most dynamic neighbourhoods is a restaurant that is taking the plant-based lifestyle to high style. Although there are plenty of vegan restaurants in Toronto, few are as striking as Planta. Although founder Steven Salm and head chef David Lee don’t call the experience vegan, it’s clear that there is no use of animal products in anything from the establishment’s refreshing décor to the vast number of menu ingredients that are sourced at local farms.
Planta is no exception to the rule when it comes to the city’s popular restaurants — if you want a table, book well in advance. Once inside, guests can wait at the bar and experience organic wines, craft beers, and a menu of cocktails crafted using cold-pressed juices.
The menu at Planta offers plant-based dishes ranging from coconut ceviche to a carrot dog with spiced fries to lettuce wraps with rice noodle. Desserts like Young Thai Coconut will tantalize your taste buds. The recipes are carefully curated to create a balance of unique dishes and good old classics. Plant–based ingredients are utilized and transformed in creative ways to develop the much-needed textures and flavours that make the food at Planta satisfying and exciting.
Raw Aura (Mississauga, Canada)
Port Credit is a waterfront village just twenty-six kilometres west of downtown Toronto, boasting a wide selection of restaurants, shops, cafés, and its very own lighthouse. In the commercial core of this village lies a restaurant that by all accounts meets the criteria of what most would consider a typical vegan café. Raw Aura is a small, casual, cozy, and intimate retreat with the kitchen situated right in the middle of the dining room, where familiar foods are prepared using only raw and vegan ingredients. Nothing is heated to a temperature above 105° F.
The menu at Raw Aura consists of a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, wraps, noodles, desserts, smoothies, and juices. There is also a selection of organic and gluten-free beers and organic wines. This café radiates all the goodness of a vegan lifestyle and is the beacon of plant-based wholesomeness, with a menu that is not too big but perfectly curated. The falafel wraps are delightfully packed with romaine, tomatoes, red onions, and cashew tzatziki, all delicately wrapped in a crunchy collard green leaf. The nachos with walnut taco meat and cashew sour cream are packed with delicious fixings, and the kale chips are to die for. Our favourite by far is the pasta Bolognese, prepared with zucchini noodles, sun-dried tomato, and sunflower seed sausage.
Full and bite-size desserts are also packed with rich, intense, fresh flavours. They serve as a great finale to an experience that embodies all that is awesome about being vegan.