Vegetarians usually get the short end of the stick when friends go out to dinner. They get to choose from the two meatless options on a menu, while everyone else contemplates 10 – 12 options.
I’m not a vegetarian – not even close. I may be one of the biggest carnivores you know. But I signed up to write this post at one of Apt613’s contributor meetings, knowing there must be places I could go with my vegetarian friends where we could all have full run of the menu and leave happy.
Ottawa has lots of veggie-friendly places, but I wanted to try places that serve exclusively vegetarian or vegan fare. So for the past few months, I’ve been on a surprisingly delicious journey of tofu, lentils, mung beans and cashew cheese. I had a hard time narrowing down my list, but I’ve gathered up my favourite spots below:
1. Best staple: The Green Door – 198 Main St.
This Main Street staple is one of Ottawa’s oldest vegetarian places, and it doesn’t disappoint. It features an amazing hot and cold buffet, and a large selection of meals to go. All buffet items are clearly labelled, so it is convenient for people eating a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free diet. The buffet has some amazing soups, and the spanakopita was wonderfully flaky. My personal favourite was the avocado salad, which was like a very chunky guacamole – who doesn’t like an excuse to eat guacamole with a fork?
2. Best date night: Café My House – 1015 Wellington St. W
In the heart of Hintonburg, Café My House boasts a plant-focused menu, gorgeous plating and hip decor. Their sharing boards would make an excellent date night order, and they offer 5, 9 or 12-course chef’s choice menus for the more adventurous. I tried this place when the weather was a bit warmer and sat on their adorable back patio. Their cilantro-mango smoothie was an unbelievably amazing mix of flavours, and the biscuit and apple-sage sausage was a perfect brunch dish.
Bonus: Check out their website for vegan travel recommendations – they have a list of great vegan restaurants in Paris, New York City, Bermuda and more.
3. Best restaurant “across the pond”: La Belle Verte – 166 Rue Eddy, Gatineau
Gatineau has a few great veggie places, but La Belle Verte’s friendly service and carefully prepared and presented meals set it above the rest. They have quite a big menu for such a small place – featuring wraps, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and more. Try their famous kale chips covered with vegan cheese, and make sure you save room for their desserts!
4. Best hot spot: Pure Kitchen – 340 Elgin St. and 357 Richmond Rd.
The Pure community runs two restaurants and three yoga studios in Ottawa. Their much-anticipated Elgin Street restaurant opened earlier this year, and it has been packed ever since. Unlike many veggie spots in Ottawa, Pure is open late and serves booze! Definitely a hot spot among vegetarians and non-veggies alike.
Highlights here were the tacos (which feature a chef’s choice filling that changes nightly), the dumplings, and the Victorious Bowl – a Moroccan-inspired lentil and rice dish, served with naan.
Dear Pure Kitchen family, You’re going to want to come to Westboro to eat this dish every day this week. Forever yours (until Sunday), Stuffed Acorn Squash on a bed of Pesto Gluten-Free Pasta. 👌🏽 (ps – it has quinoa, red onions and chickpeas as well. We suggest having it with cashew cheese like this bowl or goat cheese) #pkchefspecials #livinthepurelifestyle #westboro #ottawaeats #ottawavegan #squashislove . . . #livinthepurelifestyle #purekitchenottawa #purekitchen #vegan #vegansofig #vegan613 #613 #ottawa #yow #westboro #vegetarian #ottawaveg #whatveganseat #glutenfree #glutenfreeottawa #ottawafoodies #ottawaeats #vegetarian #eatwell #eatclean #eatwelllivewell #plantbasedpower #plantbaseddiet #plantbasednutrition #healthyandtasty #tastyeats
A photo posted by Pure Kitchen Ottawa (@purekitchenottawa) on
5. Best outside of downtown: Grow your Roots Café and Catering – 220 Terence Matthews Cres.
This adorable vegan café just opened this year in Kanata. It’s owned by 25 year old Mel Boudens, who got her start cooking vegan fare for the Carp Farmers Market. Head there for Sunday brunch (reservations recommended), or try Mel’s famous beer battered avocados with cilantro lime dip.
6. Best cheap eats: Govinda’s – 212 Somerset St. E
Located in a Hare Krishna temple in Sandy Hill, this $7 buffet ($5 for students) can’t be beat! They are only open from 5 – 8 pm on weekdays, but if you can squeeze in a visit I highly recommend it. Take off your shoes and enjoy a hearty meal of rice, curries, pasta and banana bread.
7. Best raw: Rawlicious – 381 Cooper St.
I was surprised how much I liked this place. Their zucchini and kelp noodle pad thai was so light and fresh that I even picked up some kelp noodles from their merchandise counter on my way out. Their seasonal menu features fresh items like watermelon and basil salad in the summer, and heartier flatbreads and pasta in the winter. Rawlicious is a franchise, but it didn’t feel that way. They offered personable, friendly service (they took the time to explain everything there is to know about the raw food movement to my inquiring mind) and their location in an old Victorian house in Centretown was very quaint and cozy – especially the big window seat at the front.
Have any other favourites you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments!