VEGETABLE KINGDOM (443 Adelaide West, at Morrison, 416-703-6447) Besides the usual holistic stuff you expect at a one-stop organic grocery -- they even sell meat! -- there are first-rate prepared sandwiches and salads as well as frozen reheatable entrees. Healthy has never tasted so good. Complete takeout meals for $12 per person, including all taxes. Open Monday to Friday 9:30 am to 7 pm, Saturday 9 am to 6 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
whenever organic food comes up, one of the usual objections is its cost. But checking out the produce at Vegetable Kingdom, the alternative grocer we tipped you to a few years back, the prices seem quite reasonable. Sure, they're not as dead cheap as Kensington or Chinatown, but they're about the same as those you'll find at the St. Lawrence Market or in a supermarket.
And the food -- meat, too -- is not only organic but locally grown.The Kingdom's little cafe may be long gone, but owner Anita Armstrong and chef Bryon Davidson -- ex of Oasis, the Elmwood and Fentons (!) -- have developed an appealing line of takeout foods.
Their curried potato salad is the best I've ever had, thick with spuds, apples, yams, green beans, sweet peppers and peas, all dressed in a marvellous mayonnaise.
Barley salad (both $4.49 for a 16-ounce tub) screams roughage, loaded as it is with crunchy, uniform bits of grain, corn, celery, carrot, brown lentils and green onion. It's splashed with a light minty vinaigrette.
Think of the roasted veggie sandwich on multigrain ($4.25) as an extremely healthy BLT. In a blindfold test, you'd swear its firm soy-marinated tofu is smoked bacon. Delish! So, too, is quiche ($3.95), an eggy custard depth-charged with cheddar and mushrooms in a thick fluted crust.
Over in a freezer case, the Kingdom offers more than 20 different kilo-sized frozen entrees that are perfect for those in a hurry who have an aversion to fast food.
Mexican cannelloni ($11.95) sees cornmeal-dusted wheat noodles wrapped around ground beef, basmati rice, red and green peppers and corn kernels and doused with garlicky tomato sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella.
Campfire baked beans ($9.95) find navy, pinto and cave beans mixing it up in a tangy molasses-Dijon sauce full of crunchy tomato, carrot, onion, celery and peppers.
Who says vegetarian grub has to be boring?
CITRON (813 Queen West, 416-504-2647) The all-in-black downtown set discover a new shade of hip -- brown! Stylish and understated in-crowd cafe with surprisingly price-conscious non-fashion fare that most won't notice is veggie-friendly. Best: filling vegetable soups like paprika-spiked Hungarian mushroom; southwestern vegetarian lasagna with organic greens; grilled veg and organic green salads. Complete dinners for $30 per person ($10 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open daily 11 am to 2 am. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Fully licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
KING'S CAFE (192 Augusta, 416-591-1340 or 416-591-9160) This ovo-lacto vegetarian eatery serves up healthy and nourishing meals that often hit the spot despite some of the weirder mock-meat specialties. Best: asparagus hand roll (tender stalks, pickled carrot, meaty mushrooms and leaf lettuce in a toasted nori wrapper); fried udon noodles with baby corn, spinach, julienned red pepper, chewy 'shrooms and tofu "beef" that's actually quite tasty; Greg's great green tea ice cream for dessert. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Saturday 8 am to 9 pm, Sunday 9 am to 6 pm. Unlicensed. Smoke-free. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
LOTUS GARDEN (393 Dundas West, 416-598-1883) Buddhist vegetarian cooking takes tofu and wheat gluten and turns them into tasty and textured meat substitutes -- only here with the culinary contrasts inherent in Vietnamese cuisine. Best: raw rice wrappers packed with crunchy jicama, lettuce and mint leaves and peanuts, with a sweet-and-sour citric vinegar dip; glutinous agar salad with juliennes of carrot and daikon and imitation fish-sauce dressing; organic shakes like durian, soursop or avocado; fried banana fritters and silky honey-ginger tofu pudding. Complete dinners for $10 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open daily noon to 10 pm. Smoke-free. Cash only. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN