1 Café 668
668 Dundas W, at Denison, 416-703-0668.
Named NOW's 2002 best new restaurant regardless of genre, this modestly decorated 20-seat storefront continues to deliver innovative pan-Asian vegetarian fare that's not only healthful but damned tasty, too. Self-taught chef Ngoc Lam draws on her Southeast Asian heritage for a unique spin on Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese vegetarian cuisine that travels far beyond its Buddhist roots, especially when she gooses the garlic. Best: to start, 668 Salad with shredded deep-fried tofu, cucumber, carrot, peppers and grilled cashews, or cold rice-paper-wrapped Summer Rolls stuffed with slivers of deep-fried tofu, carrot, cellophane noodles, wood ear and Thai basil; king mushrooms with faux sirloin over stir-fried mixed peppers, snow peas and baby corn in satay; Spicy Tofu - large cubes of silky-centred deep-fried tofu in a chili-spiked coconut cream thick with julienned carrots, bell peppers and snow peas; for dessert, deep-fried bananas in yummy coconut cream. Complete meals for $15 ($10 at lunch) per person, including all taxes, tip and a ginger beer. Average main $9. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday 12:30 to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday 1:30 to 4 pm, dinner Tuesday to Sunday 6 to 9 pm. Closed Monday and some holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: two steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNNN
2 Live Organic FoodBar
264 Dupont, at Spadina, 416-515-2002.
An offshoot of extremely tiny but widely acclaimed vegan, mostly organic, raw food eatery Live, owner/chef Jennifer Italiano's 30-seat bistro a few doors west is now stylishly done up in mod lime green and saturated orange. One of the best and certainly most adventurous vegetarian kitchens in town. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: although Italiano changes the menu bi-monthly, count on Live It Up Lasagna, uncooked zucchini noodles layered with cashew "ricotta," tomato marinara and basil pesto; vegan sushi rolled in un-toasted nori and stuffed with cooked brown rice (no purist, Italiano isn't afraid to bend the rules), sweetened with beet and mango and garnished with cashew wasabi; Hawaiian Pizza, sprouted buckwheat crust piled with red pepper hemp "cheese," pineapple, faux onion rings, cashew-coriander "cream"; for the newbie, the Raw Combo, a little bit of everything; daily cooked macrobiotic specials with hot miso soup. Complete meals for $35 per person ($20 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a squeezed-to-order juice. Average main $14/$10. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 11 am to 10 pm, Thursday and Friday 11 am to 11 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm, dinner Saturday till 11 pm, Sunday till 8 pm. Closed Monday. Licensed. Access: 11 steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNN
478 Queen W, at Denison, 416-504-5127.
Named one of the 14 hippest vegetarian eateries in North America by VegNews and cousin to Kensington's Urban Herbivore, this verging-on-luxurious lounge uses haute chinoiserie to dramatic effect. Changing daily due to market availability, owner/chef Stephen Gardner's card is always at least one-third organic and often shows more innovation than those that include meat in their repertoire. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: at dinner, start with still-warm house-baked organic whole-grain baguette spread with walnut-spinach pesto and black-olive tapenade, stacked with grilled tomatoes over wilted watercress; continue with a Rawzagna of layered zucchini and portobello mushroom with pesto, sun-dried tomato and hemp butter; squash ravioli wrapped in rice flour with basil, sesame butter and sautéed leek in a tomato sauce; beer-battered tempeh fish and taro chips with tahini-cucumber tartar sauce on dandelion greens; at brunch, pan-seared corn fritters stuffed with zucchini, yam and spinach; scrambled marinated tofu with crispy black bean tortilla; several organic wines by the glass. Complete meals for $40 per person ($20 at brunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of organic wine. Average main $15/$10. Open for dinner Sunday to Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 11 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3:30 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
258 Dupont, at Spadina, 416-513-0479.
Toronto's raw food guru, Jennifer Italiano, returns to the Lilliputian luncheonette that first thrust her into the vanguard of Toronto's dining scene. And though much of the fare on offer remains raw, some of it has been in recent contact with a stove. Best: from an ever-changing card, mains like vegan Mexican-accented lasagna - zucchini "noodles," creamy avocado guac, cashew "sour cream," refried sunflower seeds, and smoky pumpkin seed mole; daily salads like Middle Eastern-style millet rife with chopped parsley and ripe baby cherry tomato, frilly kale doused with a creamy avocado dressing, and a light carrot 'n' sesame slaw in hemp oil and apple cider vinaigrette; to finish, strawberry gingerbread cupcake dolloped with lemony tofu icing, or brownie-like banana strudel topped with walnut brittle. Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottled juice. Average main $5. Open Monday to Friday 9 am to 6 pm. Closed Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: one step at door leads to a very small room, washrooms on another floor. Rating: NNNN
5 Wanda's Pie in the Sky
7 Yorkville, at Yonge, 416-925-7437.
For those who eat - rather than do - lunch, this little cubbyhole with a glass garage door that opens to the street has to be the best deal in Yorkville. Affordable, kookily quaint and especially quick service. Bonus: everything's trans fats-free. Double bonus: owner Wanda Beaver now has a second outlet in tandem with legendary caterer Dinah Koo called Wanda's in the Kitchen with Dinah (1057 Mt. Pleasant, at Sherwood, 416-483-0399). Best: rotating lineup of rustic tomato-sauced pizzas like roasted rapini with red onion and banana peppers; quiche with spinach, red pepper and old cheddar; sandwiches such as Brie on half a pumpernickel baguette piled with watercress, cucumber, lettuce and and lemon-garlic mayo, or sliced avocado on Doughheads' olive-potato focaccia with tomato, cheddar and coriander, sided with Mediterranean-style greens tossed with black olives and feta in light balsamic; to finish, retro butter tarts!. Complete meals for $15 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottle of ginger and lemongrass pressé. Average main $6. Open Monday to Wednesday 8 am to 6 pm, Thursday and Friday 8 am to 7 pm, Saturday 9 am to 7 pm, Sunday noon to 5 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
1438A Gerrard E, at Ashdale, 416-466-0434.
Some may be put off by the way this bare-bones Indian vegetarian kitchen looks, but the inexpensive spice-intensive - salty, sweet, fiery, sour - snacks dished up here cause the palate to detonate in myriad directions. Bonus: Tuesdays, the $4.99 thali goes for all of $2.52! Best: daily thali with veggie subzi (say, eggplant, zucchini, lentil dhal or cheesy matar paneer), plain basmati, roti and papadam; Bhel Poori, spice-drenched basmati mined with chilies, firm boiled potatoes, crunchy chickpeas, lentils and coriander leaves; Sev Poori, milky yogurt dusted with cayenne, and shredded crispy rice noodles kicked with minty relish; Dahi Vada, lentil-flour doughnuts in cool yogurt or fiery sambar; Aloo Tikki, chickpea fritters stuffed with creamy lentils and sided with sugary cardamom chana striped with raw onion; avoid: Seasoned French Fries, frozen McCain spuds with bottled ketchup. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and a large tip. Average main $4. Open Tuesday to Sunday 12:30 to 9:30 pm. Closed Monday. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNN
7 Pulp Kitchen
898 Queen E, at Logan, 416-461-4612.
Further proof Queen East is the new Queen West, and healthy the new hip. Lounge and light funk set an upbeat tone in a calming green-and-birch room with tin ceiling, diner-style tables and a selection of organic fair trade goods on offer next to a rack of browsable books. Service is helpful and friendly. T-shirts and takeout, too! Best: for all-day breakfast or weekend brunch, spelt and blueberry pancakes layered with coconut-banana cream and organic maple syrup; old-school grilled soy cheese on whole grain with optional soy bacon, sided with baked home fries and mixed greens; at lunch, the Meat Lover's Veggie Burger, a beefy 7-ounce patty on a whole-wheat bun garnished with house-made coriander-Dijon mayo; nourishing roasted almond, beet and shallot salad with cranberries over baby spinach. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a juice. Average main $10. Open Monday to 8 am to 5 pm; brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Delivery. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
8 Boom Shiva
1180 Queen W, at Northcote, 416-538-1300.
What other vegetarian joint serves dinner to a rockin' soundtrack of Metric, the White Stripes and Maximo Park? Those used to the comatose vibe at Le Commensal will likely hate this hipster resto, but that's the point. Bonus: more than 50 specialty brews at the huge S-shaped art deco bar. Best: shareable tapas-style starters like warm organic Medjool dates stuffed with stinky Taleggio cheese; zucchini timbales stuffed with garlickly lemon-scented white bean purée; polenta wedges studded with black beans and chipotle, sauced with roasted tomatillo; raw rice paper wraps packed with sweet arame seaweed, carrot, daikon and snow pea with thick tamarind jam; starchy daily specials like Korean-style buckwheat soba noodles with cubed tofu, black 'n' white sesame seed and fiery cabbage kimchee. Complete dinners for $40 per person (brunches $20), including all taxes, tip and a glass of organic plonk. Average main $8. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5 pm to midnight; bar till 2 am. Closed Monday, holidays. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
89 Roncesvalles, at Marion, 416-530-5885.
Once a cavernous Polish restaurant, this now-airy two-storey café is part neighbourhood hang, part activist art gallery. Dawdle over fair trade lattes while browsing a selection of leftist zines, or connect the laptop to the Interweb with free WiFi. Bonus: though not entirely vegetarian, nearly everything's organic and/or planet-friendly, even the takeout containers. Best: mains-sized salads like Inga Pirca Salad, organic greens blanketed with nutty quinoa, lentils and bulgur in nippy sun-dried tomato vinaigrette; Cuenca Salad, the same greens topped with roasted red and gold beets, organic chèvre and black olives in honey-orange dressing; Burrito Al Trote stuffed with mashed sweet potato, black beans and cheddar; the Altiplano Wrap with black beans, cheddar, chipotle and avocado; to finish, St. John's Bakery's warm organic apple pie. Complete meals for $18 per person, including all taxes, tip and a fair trade Americano. Average main $9. Open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 9 pm, Sunday 10 am to 6 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
10 Urban Herbivore
64 Oxford, at Augusta, 416-927-1231.
An offshoot of wildly successful Fressen, owner/chef Stephen Gardner's completely vegan café at the top of the Market offers a short card of salads, sandwiches and super takeout soups. There are a few whoopee-cushion-like stools set up around a butcher-block table, but most do take-away. Bonus: besides being dairy-free, most everything's organic. Double bonus: cooking classes. Best: to quench thirst, sensationally flavoured fresh iced lemonade mixed with wild raspberries or pucker-intensifying cucumber, or winter-chillin' hot chocolate; a revolving lineup of memorably massive muffins like raspberry with pineapple or a wheat-free spelt version with contrasting almonds, dates and sweet potato; salads such as baby spinach in cranberry vinaigrette with shiitakes, grape tomatoes and broccoli; enormous veggie sandwiches like roasted red pepper and sliced yam on multigrain spread with spinach-walnut pesto and olive-date tapenade; for home, returnable Mason jars of soups like cumin-kicked Mexican black bean loaded with garlicky legumes, carrots, corn and celery. Complete meals for $10, including all taxes, tip and a lemonade. Average main $7. Open daily 9 am to 7 pm. Closed Mondays in August, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: four steps at door, no washrooms. Rating: NNN
11 Get Real
135 Ossington, at Argyle, 416-532-4564.
In a small converted row house in downtown's newest gentrified nabe, this veggie vittle venue encompasses a bright front room decked out with blond moulded chairs and glass-topped café tables and a private patio out back complete with acid-flashback mural and rocking horse. Best: from a short card of straightforward veggie dishes, plump samosas stuffed with curried tofu and spinach; Spicy Bean Burger on a whole wheat bun topped with dill pickle and cheddar, as close as a dedicated veg-head need ever get to Harvey's; house greens tossed with toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh basil and either crumbled tofu or creamy blue cheese; daily specials like tofu jambalaya and veggie meat loaf; at brunch, a proper English breakfast of free-range eggs, tofu strips marinated in vegan Worcestershire and organic baked beans; vegan Belgian waffles made with unbleached spelt flour topped with maple-glazed fruit compote and shaved organic chocolate. Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and an organic espresso. Average main $7. Open Tuesday to Friday 11 am to 7 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Closed holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free, small washroom on same floor. Rating: NNN
12 Simon's Wok
797 Gerrard E, at Logan, 416-778-9836.
Now ensconced in relatively fancier digs two doors west of its original gloomy storefront location, owner/chefs Simon Peng and Carmen Huang's low-key hole in the wall on the fringe of Chinatown East and Riverdale continues to be a beacon of health and good taste for east-side vegans. Don't knock the mock - Chinese Buddhist temple cooking rarely gets this palatable or deftly executed. Best: to start, Special Homemade Stuffed Bean Curd, large eggroll-sized deep-fried packets of bean curd sheet full of crunchy carrot, bamboo shoots and wood ear fungus; mains like "shrimp" tossed with cashew, cabbage, peppers and 'shrooms; extremely gingery ginger fried rice; Szechuan spicy tofu with mushrooms, soft tofu and chili oil coupled with barbecue-style gluten, mushroom and Chinese cabbage; huge meal-in-one soups like three types of fungi (bamboo, yellow and snow), and a feel-good vegetarian version of Shark's Fin Soup; brown rice pudding with coconut cream. Complete meals for $13 per person ($10 at lunch), including all taxes and tip. Average main $7. Open Sunday to Thursday 11 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, but crowded tables, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
243 Avenue Rd, at Roxborough, 416-922-5415.
Located in the Hare Krishna Temple, this vegan cafeteria offers a tasty ever-evolving lineup of South Indian curries, rice dishes and salads in the no-frills basement of an old Christian church. Those afraid they're about to be inducted into a cult have nothing to fear. Although there's likely to be a celebration with singing and dancing going on in the main room, which everyone's welcome to observe -- or join -- there's no proselytizing. They do sing that same song over and over. Bonus: because the church is a registered charity, dinner's tax-deductible. Kid friendly, too. Best: no set menu, but expect things like hearty lentil dal studded with cinnamon bark and whole chilies; meatball-like chickpea kofta with yogurt sauce; puréed Brussels sprouts or tofuesque cabbage paneer sabzis; roti lashed with curry leaf; chapati; papadam; cooling cabbage and carrot slaw; halwa semolina pudding with raisins and honey. Complete dinners for a suggested $7 donation, no tax, no tip and a glass of bottled water. Average main $7. Open for lunch Monday to Saturday noon to 3 pm, dinner 6 to 8 pm. Closed Sunday. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: 10 steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
14 Sunny Cafe
322 Bloor West, at Spadina, 416-963-8624.
Toronto's first - and until recently only - exclusively vegan and organic resto, this unpretentious spot has been operating independently out of Noah's Annex outlet since the early 90s. Thanks to an extensive lineup of Mediterranean-influenced mains, some macrobiotic, sold by weight, Sunny's popularity with the cash-strapped isn't surprising. Bonus: discounts for students, seniors and members of the nearby JCC. Warning: limited counter seating, so consider takeout. Best: from the spectacular salad section of the buffet, virtually uncooked crisp baby bok choy in sesame seed vinaigrette; spicy rice vermicelli salad with carrots and scallions in Thai-terrific sesame-peanut dressing; ripe tomatoes and pressed tofu cubes in a garlicky basil vinaigrette; gently oiled sweet beets; from the mains, roasted potato halves dusted with oregano; baked beans in tomato sauce; rice noodle lasagna with tomatoes, sweet peppers and onions; portobello mushroom stir-fry with brown rice, onions and spinach. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a fresh-squeezed carrot juice. Average main $5. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 7 pm, Saturday 11 am to 5 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, but tall counters and no washrooms. Rating: NNN
15 Bo De Duyen
254 Spadina, second floor, at Sullivan, 416-703-1247.
Don't let the dreary decor of this second-storey incense-scented Chinese/Vietnamese vegetarian resto put you off, because this is some of the best grub on the avenue, vegetarian or not. Pronounced "Bo-day-dween" and staffed by affable family-style servers who've been propping up toddlers on high chairs at polypropylene-covered tables since 1992, the large room also features a very lengthy card full of surprises. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: to start, crunchy deep-fried spring rolls stuffed with al dente taro and carrot julienne, or the amusingly dubbed Golden Balls, chewy deep-fried nuggets of tofu, mushroom, carrot and corn; impressive mains like fried bean sprouts with sliced Chinese mushroom, bamboo shoots and multi-coloured sweet pepper strips in light veggie broth; E-Fu noodle gently doused with smoky sesame oil and mixed with spicy julienned veggies à la Swatow; Deluxe Mixed Vegetables - vibrant snow peas, broccoli, carrot, bok choy, Chinese mushrooms and faux barbecued pork over vermicelli. Complete meals for $15 per person ($10 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a Tsingtao. Average main $8/$6. Open daily 11 am to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: 17 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
1411 Gerrard E, at Hiawatha, 416-466-9777.
The latest offshoot of Sidhartha, quite possibly Little India's classiest curry house, this charming room in the former deplorable Bombay Bhel offers an all-vegetarian lineup that incorporates the rich sauces of the north and the fiery chilies of the south. Warning: slim pickin's for vegans, since nearly everything comes dripping with clarified butter or substitutes meat with cheesy paneer. Best: from the all-you-can-eat buffet, fabulously fresh onion bhaja with both tamarind and mint sauce; buttery lentil dal makhani; tofu jalferezi with snow peas; al dente aloo gobi with potato and cauliflower; paneer in puréed spinach; deep-fried kofta "meat balls" in creamy turmeric gravy; from the bread basket, whole wheat parantha and aloo naan topped with curried potato; from the à la carte card, baked tandoori tofu; for dessert, cardamom-syrup-soaked gulab jamon and creamy kheer rice pudding; to kill the heat, a stomach-soothing lassi. Complete dinners for $20 ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a lassi. Average main $9. Open daily for $8.99 lunch buffet 11 am to 4 pm, for $10.99 dinner buffet 4 to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
17 Vegetarian Haven
17 Baldwin, at McCaul, 416-621-3636.
This pleasant generic bistro - narrow mirrored room, exposed brick, jazz Muzak - specializes in the kind of hippie vegan health food that first blossomed with flower power. When this earnest kitchen rises above that era's stereotypical brown rice and lentil cliché, the results are often surprisingly tasty even when garlic-free. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: starters like tofu "turkey" drumsticks complete with sugar-cane handles dunked in atomic red sweet 'n' sour sauce; charbroiled seitan or organic tofu burger topped with grilled bell pepper on a whole wheat bun plated with blue corn chips and salsa; Thai Garden Rolls stuffed with vermicelli, soy-marinated tofu, bean sprouts and mint; seasonal soups like silky tofu in hearty vegetable stock swimming with pureed cauliflower, carrot and potato; humongous meal-in-one Souper Bowl noodle soups with Chinese veggies, slurpable rice noodles, baby bok choy and "pastrami" that tastes just like the real thing. Complete meals for $25 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a squeezed-to-order juice. Average main $12/$9. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday 4 to 10 pm. Closed holidays. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
18 Udupi Palace
1460 Gerrard E, at Rhodes, 416-405-8189.
The first Canadian outlet of a U.S. chain of south-Indian-style vegetarian restaurants, this white-on-white room is so spotless one could eat right off the white ceramic floor. Or the sterile, unadorned walls if the food would stick to it. Through open doors, one notes a gleaming stainless steel kitchen where an all-male staff dressed in jeans and matching golf shirts polish things that are already lustrous. Best: from a dozen or so dosai, lacy crepe-like wraps made from fermented lentil flour that measure up to 24 inches in diameter and range from flapjack-thick to tissue-thin, like the vellumesque Paper Dosa coupled with tame lentil, carrot and pepper sambal, pasty coconut relish and coriander-mint chutney, or Special Rava Masala Dosa, a green-chili-flecked pancake that's as hole-y as Swiss cheese; battered and deep-fried yellow banana peppers stuffed with curried potato and pea masala. Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes and tip. Average main $7. Open Sunday to Thursday noon to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday noon to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: six steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
19 Buddha's Vegetarian Foods
666 Dundas W, at Denison, 416-603-3811.
Possibly the bleakest eatery in town - think Beijing, 1957 - this austere white and grim grey room comes staffed by smiling servers in green smocks. Despite its satanic address, the sterile space decorated with only an incense-burning shrine to the Buddha and some travel posters slings sizable Chinese-style veggie noshes on Pyrex pie plates that are nutrition-conscious and consciousness-raising. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: three kinds of mushrooms - meaty 3-inch Chinese, slivered button and whole straw - show up alongside Chinese broccoli and carrot, mixed with thick rice noodles, in veggie broth alongside rubbery hair seaweed and with Asian greens and wheat noodles; toasted cashews add crunch to a stir-fry of pressed tofu, celery, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, red pepper, baby corn and fresh garden peas; greasy-good deep-fried spring rolls and burrito-sized bean-curd-skin rolls stuffed with bamboo shoots, wood ear fungus and carrot; deep-fried wontons wrapped with gluten and dipped into old-school sweet 'n' sour sauce. Complete meals for $9 per person, including all taxes and tip. Average main $6. Open Wednesday to Monday 11 am to 9 pm. Closed Tuesday and Christmas. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: three steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
20 Kensington Natural Bakery
460 Bloor W, at Brunswick, 416-534-1294.
Originally based in Kensington Market, owner/baker Quang Dieu's 99.8 per cent all-natural vegetarian cafeteria - no dairy, egg, refined sugar, artificial colouring or preservatives - offers more than just a large selection of nutritious pastries and breads (42 at last count). He also dishes up more than 20 diet-conscious casseroles and prepared salads sold by weight. Other locations: 1255 Sheppard E (as Green Life Café), at Old Leslie, 416-498-8992. Best: genuinely hot 'n' spicy deep-fried tofu satay in tomato sauce with crunchy onion and garlic; sweet multi-bean and corn chili sided with nutty lentil brown rice; creamy potato, carrot and tofu curry; lasagna-like Rice Noodle or Tofu Banquet layered with veggie-full tomato sauce and - shudder - real mozzarella (the only dairy in the house), served with house roughage (lettuce, green pepper, red cabbage) in dilled soy dressing; salads like cashew with diced bell pepper and corn; for dessert, old-school organic butter tarts and organic whole wheat blueberry croissants. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a squeezed-to-order juice. Average main $5. Open daily 9 am to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
21 King's Café
192 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-591-1340.
Since this Kensington Market ovo-lacto vegetarian eatery launched four years ago, it's ditched its oddball lineup of mock meat dishes (nigirizushi topped with chocolate sprinkles? we think not) in favour of a card that most will recognize. Friendly uniformed servers break into Happy Birthday - in Mandarin - when occasion warrants, and at the back of the bright, high-ceilinged room there's a small shop carrying the café's prepared entrees. Warning: bring your own wasabi. Best: King's Noodle Soup with thick, slippery rice noodles, broccoli and deep-fried tofu; crustless quiche, an ingenious blend of sun-dried tomato and cheese (feta, mozzarella, cottage), couscous, spinach and eggs served with organic greens in yogurt dressing; from the special spring and summer menu, Jasper rolls, sheet rice noodle spirals wrapped with al dente asparagus, carrot, crispy bean curd crumbs and soy "ham" dipped in sweet teriyaki sauce; Lettuce Wraps, iceberg lettuce leaves loosely folded around diced 'n' curried carrot, peppers and corn. Complete meals for $18 per person, including all taxes and tip. Average main $9. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, Sunday 11:30 am to 9 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
1085 Bathurst, at Dupont, 416-537-8513.
Operated by the local followers of Hindu meditation guru Sri Chinmoy, Toronto's longest-running vegetarian restaurant (est. 74) features a time-warp lineup of 60s hippie-style health food like steamed veggies, tofu and organic brown rice. A recent renovation means the new tables in the large front window surrounded by plants are particularly appealing, but the best meal deals continue to be found on the retro resto's south Indian card. Best: all-inclusive Indian Assortment comprises samosas stuffed with curried green peas and spuds, chickpea-battered potato bonda and fritter-like eggplant bhajia teamed with tart tamarind and coconut chutneys, two main courses like smashed potato with turmeric and mustard seeds or squash, spinach and carrot sabzi, and sides of sour anchaar pickle, puffed puri or flat pappadum and yogurty raita; to drink, rosewater-sweetened lassi or summer-only iced chai; for dessert, chocolate tofu mousse with vanilla hemp ice cream and ricotta whipped cream. Complete meals for $15 per person ($10 at lunch), including all taxes and tip. Average main $8/$6. Open Monday and Tuesday 11:30 am to 9 pm, Wednesday 11:30 am to 6 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11:30 am to 9 pm. Closed Sunday. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
23 Camros Organic Foods
25 Hayden, #6, at Yonge, 416-960-0723.
This low-key Persian-inspired vegetarian take-away specializes in nutritious mostly organic grub that's not only inexpensive but free of trans fats and preservatives. Long a fixture at Dufferin Grove's Thursday farmers market, owner/chef Mojdeh Shams's mostly vegan and generally organic lineup seems more about dishes that are good for you than those that just taste good, but occasionally the two concepts collide deliciously. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: from the buffet, choose a combo from four of the following for only $8.99 - veggie stews like split yellow lentil with carrot and potato, red kidney beans in vibrant spinach purée, or garlicky zucchini with Italian-style tomato; brown basmati rice balls stuffed with dates or plump sultanas and crushed walnuts; from the salad bar, bracing grated beet with carrot, nutty quinoa with broccoli, or Tex-Mex black bean with diced red onion; to finish, massive almond spelt cookies; to drink, fair trade coffee in filtered water. Complete meals for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottled juice. Average main $5. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 8 pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
24 Full Moon
638 Dundas W, at Denison, 416-203-1210.
Located on the same stretch just west of Chinatown and south of Kensington as Café 668 and Cafe 666 (or Buddha's, as the latter is officially known), this newish Chinese veg spot housed in the sadly missed Ban Vanipha also features a few one-of-a-kind Southeast Asian-influenced dishes. Glass-topped tables and a plethora of plants give the inviting room an elegance uncommon for the neighbourhood. Bonus: 100 per cent vegan! Best: crisply deep-fried rice-paper-wrapped Saigon-style spring rolls packed with carrot julienne, shredded wood ear fungus and cellophane bean thread; chewy bean curd stick disguised as roast lamb in thick, tasty gravy; named for a Buddhist sage who's achieved nirvana, bountiful portions of Arhat chow mein - pan-fried wheat noodles topped with lightly sauced broccoli, bok choy, sculpted carrot, Chinese mushrooms and cauliflower; deep-fried fruit rolls with sliced banana, melon, grapes and maraschino cherries. Complete meals for $20, including all taxes, tip and a domestic lager. Average main $8. Open Sunday to Thursday 11 am to 9:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10:30 pm. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN
25 Naturally Yours
100 King W, at Bay, 416-368-0100.
In the food court of First Canadian Place, this terrific take-away devotes itself exclusively to vegetarian and vegan guilt-free snacks and lunches. Though several other eateries found along the subterranean PATH have appropriated the concept, Naturally is the true original. Bonus: vegan pizza! Double bonus: check out its website (www.naturallyyours.ca, what else?) for daily specials. Best: garlicky lentil loaf with carrot and onion, topped with tofu-whipped mashed potatoes; remarkably flavourful Mediterranean-style Greek tofu tart on phyllo, thick with spinach, basmati rice, potato 'n' onion; whole wheat tortilla-wrapped yam burrito with additional kidney beans, salsa, cheddar, cumin and lime juice; whole-grain salads like Couscous Carnival - finely diced mango, apple, technicolour peppers and dried cranberries in a mango vinaigrette; zero-fat salads like artichoke antipasto or roasted eggplant, zucchini and carrot in honey mustard dressing; to complete, organic honey-bran muffins or gluten- and dairy-free cheesecake topped with Ontario blueberries, virtually as rich as the real thing. Complete lunches for $9 per person, including all taxes. Average main $6. Open Monday to Friday 8 am to 6:30 pm. Closed Saturday, Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN