RAWLICIOUS (3092 Dundas West, at Quebec, 416-551-3161) Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip, and a lemonade. Average main $9. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 7 pm, Friday 11 am to 9 pm, Saturday 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday and holidays noon to 5 pm. Unlicensed. Access: two steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Until quite recently, the junction was the neighbourhood that gentrification forgot. Sure, property values just south of the Dundas West strip have always been astronomical - they don't call it High Park North for nothing - but the commercial stretch west of Keele, due to a combination of antiquated blue laws and literally being on what Toronto the Good long considered the wrong side of the tracks, has been depressed since the 50s.
Lucky us. Otherwise, the nabe's majestic early-20th-century streetscape - storefronts like the brick-lined beauty that co-owners Angus Crawford and Tracy Mulvihill have converted into a raw food café - would have been eradicated years ago.
Open since April, the inviting space sports an open kitchen, warm pine planking and several seating areas, including a room decked out solely with pillows for those who like to assume Downward Dog while eating dinner. There's even an infrared sauna in the basement as well as magnetic resonance stimulation, if your batteries need charging.
But we're here for a different kind of boost. A six-pack of nori-wrapped maki ($6) sees crunchy sprouted quinoa standing in for traditional sushi rice alongside thin strips of carrot, avocado and cucumber. The same raw veggies pull double duty as the stuffing for a pair of spring rolls ($5), their translucent rice paper wrappers one of the few cooked ingredients on the totally vegan card.
We high-five Rawlicious's tasty salad of sliced ripe strawberries and dehydrated pecans over organic baby spinach in gingery date vinaigrette. But the kitchen's Caesar (both $7) is as disappointing as most every other in town, consisting solely of a heap of knife-cut romaine in a pseudo-Parmesan dressing made with processed pine nuts.
We're also skeptical of Rawlicious's wraps (all $8), especially when we discover that they come wrapped in bitter leaves of collard greens. But by the second bite of the falafelesque nut-loaf patty, basil pesto and tomato version, we're instant devotees.
Our second pilgrimage begins with the house's dip platter ($10), a pile of flatbread crackers made from nuts 'n' seeds coupled with garlicky sprouted chickpea hummus, sweetly intense mango chutney and watery tomato salsa. If we'd known in advance that Rawlicious's pizza ($9) topped with puréed tomato and too many sliced green olives came on the identical cracker crust, we wouldn't have bothered ordering it. Some biodegradable toothpicks would have come in handy afterwards.
Like the raw lasagna served at both Live Organic Food Bar and Fressen (see listings, page 36), the "pasta" in Rawlicious's extremely rich Zucchetti ($10) is made from long strands of raw zucchini that duplicate the taste and texture of the real thing. Dressed in a creamy pine nut approximation of an alfredo sauce, the sizable main gets even richer when ordered with a trio of nutty hamburger-style "neat balls."