Have you ever experienced the urge to go out for lunch with your friends, but soon remember that you’re trying to adhere to a strict organic/vegan/vegetarian lifestyle? Are you tired of going out for lunch and your only option is to order the “house greens” salad, and even then you’re not sure how healthy it is?
Many of us have been there, but luckily for us, our beloved Forest City is emerging with tasty and innovative health food restaurants. These spots guarantee you a good time with friends at a super busy spot and let you leave with a belly full of goodness and little regret. That’s certainly a win-win for us. Well, unless you opt for the truffle fries or triple thick peanut butter almond milkshake, make good choices people! Read on to learn about London’s delicious organic and vegan-friendly spots.
Neighbourhood: Old South
162 Wortley Rd. (map)
The flagship location, Plant Matter Kitchen has been serving up organic and plant-based vegan, gluten-free fare since 2016. Since then, the brand has earned itself a badge of honour amongst plant-based Londoners and those looking for a healthy meal in a restaurant atmosphere! Plant Matter was such a hit that they’ve since expanded to two other locations in the city. Patrons will notice the same branding and similar menu items, but the different locations have their own flare. Plant Matter Kitchen is the largest and offers the most extensive selection of food. From baked goods to lunch and dinner – there’s no shortage of variety here. For those looking for a cosier dining experience, they can head to Plant Matter Bistro, which is located downtown and offers similar menu items sans the baked goods! The newest venture for the Plant Matter brand is its amalgamation with the Ground Up Café – Plant Matter Café. Once it’s fully up and running it will offer delicious gluten free baked goods, small meals and vegan grab and go fare. It’ll certainly be a hit amongst Londoners, especially those students looking for a cosy place to study that offers healthy food.
71 King St. (map)
Three words: guilt-free pizza.
Who doesn’t love the idea of indulging in a delicious and satisfying ‘za without crying in agony the next day from consuming so much cheese and carbs? Everyone of course!
Zen’za Pizzeria is one of those little-known restaurants with a quaint, no frills atmosphere offering insanely delicious pizza that’s so good you just want to keep the secret to yourself. On the other hand, you’re dying to tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen to you because the restaurant deserves the business. Us at Santa Knows Best love Zen’za so much that we go almost every other week. The menu offers mostly whole-wheat thin crust dough, with a gluten free option. The entire menu is completely customizable, but they’ve also made up their own creations. You can choose from seven flavour combinations from balsamic marinated mushroom to a greek ‘za. Our personal favourite is their Thaco ‘Za! Perfect for Thaco Thursdays, this pizza features all the favourite taco toppings, but on a pizza! The most important thing to mention about Zen’Za is their commitment to providing vegan and lactose free options. Every single pizza they make comes in a vegan/lactose free version using ingredients like coconut bacon, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese and sausage!
Neighbourhood: Downtown London
252 Dundas St. (map)
While it isn’t a sit-down restaurant, we just had to include Globally Local on the list. This vegan fast-food restaurant emerged a couple years ago and has been wowing vegans and meat-eaters alike. With the majority of their customers being meat-eaters, it’s easy to assume that Globally Local isn’t a plain vegan restaurant. It’s a one-stop-shop for twists on most classic fast-food items. From the “Vopper,” to the “ChickUN preTenders,” and tacos, sausage and ham breakfast sandwiches, scrambled eggs and gyros, there’s sure to be something for everyone on the menu. This is the ultimate destination for comfort food after a night out, or to satisfy that hankering for a hamburger at 4:00 am. Yes you read that correctly, 4:00 am – Globally Local opened up a 24h drive-thru location in early 2017, making it the first vegan fast food restaurant in the world! And you bet they’re serving up fries and a choice of drink with each meal – definitely a game changer for those thinking about going plant-based, as you’ll still be able to indulge in those greasy meals, but in a guilt free, cruelty free way. All while supporting a local business! Us at Santa Knows Best value the importance of supporting local, and Globally Local is no exception to that!
Neighbourhood: Old East Village
623 Dundas St. (map)
The Root Cellar has established itself as a favourite London restaurant for carnivores and herbivores alike! Organic in its roots, this restaurant has made it their mission to provide patrons with twists on classic casual restaurant fare. From wraps and poutine to salad, taco cups and Buddha bowls – there’s no shortage of choice here. They serve lunch and dinner every day as well as an impressive brunch on Saturdays until 1:00 pm. Visit the Root Cellar today and order the sweet potato taco cups with a kale Caesar salad or the water buffalo burger and coconut butternut squash soup- you won’t regret it!
344 Dundas St. (map)
Zen Gardens is a small vegetarian chain restaurant serving up plant-based Asian fare. Don’t let the word “chain” scare you because the beauty of this restaurant is their mission to serve meals that are never bland and packed with nutrition. Their meat substitutes are completely natural with no added chemicals and they inform you of all the health benefits you gain from each entrée. From crispy soy fritters to spring rolls and udon noodle soup, sushi platters and curry vermicelli – the menu is not lacking variety. Our personal favourite are the pan-fried dumplings, order these and you won’t regret it. Asian cuisine is generally very meat-heavy and vegetarians no doubt miss this fare that is always full of flavour and satisfying. Zen Gardens is the answer to those cravings and will leave you excited for your next visit!
Neighbourhood: Hyde Park
1700 Hyde Park Road (map)
100% vegan food, coffee, beer and kombucha. What more could you possibly want? Our friends down at Curley Brewing Company are brand new to the London food and beer scene but have already created quite the name for themselves.
Located on Hyde Park Road just north of Gainsborough Road, this is not your average distillery. Owner and operator, Nigel Curley has masterfully combined two emerging forces in the London food and culture scene: vegan food and craft beer.
Curley grew up making beer with his dad and felt the natural next step would be to open up a nano-brewery. Since they didn’t have their manufacturing licence just yet, they decided to turn it into both a brewery and cafe. The result is a humble destination that boasts some tasty vegan eats and flavourful craft beers!
The menu at Curley Brewing Co. offers casual items such as pretzel bagels with an option to add house-made Curley mustard (yum!). Their TLT sandwich which is a vegan twist on the classic BLT – tempeh, lettuce and tomato. The curried chickpea salad sandwich is packed with protein and flavour. They also offer pesto and tomato grilled cheese and a tempeh Caesar wrap! Pro tip: try their gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookie, and you’ll leave thinking about it for a week – trust us on this one.
While Curley Brewing mainly focuses on their beer, the food selection is undeniably delicious. In addition to providing some excellent in-house eats, they sell some of London’s favourite vegan foods. These items include, but are not limited to Nuts for Cheese which is an artisan based cashew cheese company, and Culture Shock Kombucha. There’s no doubt we’ll be back to Curley Brewing, not just for beer but their mouth-watering vegan food too.