Inside Hello 123, Kupfert and Kim’s hip snack bar

Vegan small plates and cocktails, coffee and a dance floor


Hello 123 (1122 Queen West, at Lisgar, 416-532-3555, hello123forever.com) is the cafe and snack bar answer to Toronto’s favourite plant-based fast-casual spot, Kupfert & Kim.

If you’re a city-dwelling herbivore, or work in office territory and let guilt over your eating habits get the better of you, you’re likely already familiar with K&K and its well-honed formula: Hearty grain bowls and boxes and indulgent bites of dairy-free desserts, available for speedy takeout. 

But at 123, which occupies a sunny corner space on nightlife-dense Queen West, founders Mark Kupfert and Daniel Suss saw an opportunity to play with a new day-to-night concept.

“When we signed the lease, we thought, not only is this spot more ‘dinner’, it’s more ‘late night’. We saw the opportunity to try something new,” Kupfert says.

“We could still have accessible, affordable food, but maybe add interesting cocktails, a wine program, and create a bit of a vibe, while still offering smoothies and breakfasts. We could create a sort of all-day space.”

DSC_0005.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

Kupfert describes the Hello menu as “part of the same family, but it’s more grown-up, slightly more elevated”. They took pains to diversify the menu, breaking out of the grain-bowl paradigm to offer snackier fare, shareable platters, and more elegantly-plated mains. (The few holdovers from the original spots, including a couple of grain bowls, were brought in to help regulars who were expecting a Kupfert & Kim location ease into the new menu.)

Though the dishes are a departure, their ethos – emphasizing the flavour of plants, rather than trying to replicate what isn’t there – remains the same. “I’m not into the faux meat thing, really,” Kupfert says.

DSC_0023.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

Complementing the food is an expanded bar menu that continues what the brand started at its Spadina location, including organic and biodynamic wines selected by The Living Vine, as well as takes on classic cocktails made with pressed juices and vegan ingredients.

Breakfasts, smoothies and coffee are on offer during the day, catering to the local freelancer crowd by night, Kupfert says, they’re hoping to clear the tables and host dance parties with DJs. “We really want it to be a community space that transforms, just like the food transforms during the week,” he says.

Here’s a closer look at the dishes on the menu.

DSC_0009.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

Braised cabbage and romaine ($11.50) comes with hemp tahini dressing, sunflower crumble, pickled onions and smoked coconut chips and house croutons.

DSC_0125.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

The “Green xxxxx” ($14) is a bowl piled with pesto quinoa, seared tempeh, steamed kale and bok choy, cucumber, sauteed zucchini, avocado, hemp, lemon vinaigrette and pumpkin pesto.

DSC_0192.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

The Lettuce Wrap Paleo Party ($15) recasts Kupfert & Kim’s hemp and sunflower “paleo balls” as a filling for DIY lettuce wraps. The platter also comes with cauliflower hummus, za’atar salsa, cucumber salad, roasted eggplant, rutabaga mash, carrots, chimichurri and tahini.

DSC_0207.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

Satisfying chili cumin sweet potato noodles $12.50) are topped with scallions, roasted almonds, lime and sesame.

DSC_0162.jpg

Natalia Manzocco

The Pretty Decent Salad ($12) comes stocked with cauliflower, kale, arugula, quinoa, chia, berries, cucumber, radish, sumac, roasted almonds, hemp, sunflower seeds and fresh herbs.

nataliam@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

Leave your opinion for the editor...We read everything!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *