Vegan in Toronto Part 2: Fresh on Spadina & Hot Beans

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Part 2 of eating Vegan in Toronto. Fresh was at the top of my list of vegetarian restaurants to visit while I was in Toronto. The truth is I almost didn’t make it at all. Although I had no plans for the weekend when I arrived in Toronto, my schedule filled up pretty quickly. Friday was lunch at Urban Herbivore with my uncle and then Saturday we ended up grabbing a bite at the St.Lawrence market which I am writing about in another post.

Dinners were all booked for the weekend and none of them at restaurants. Friday night’s dinner is worth mentioning. I made a delicious pasta dish with my uncle, made with onions, peppers, fennel, cooked slowly until they were nice and sweet, and then mixed with white beans and pasta. I will be recreating this recipe to share here and most likely adding some kale.

That left me with Sunday lunch to try another vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Toronto. I had plans to meet up with my friend Christina for lunch. Although I really wanted to try Fresh, I also really wanted to try Hot Beans, which is a vegan burrito spot in Kensington market. What a dilemma! Christina was down to try Fresh again. She hadn’t been often.

She met me at Kops records on Queen St. one of my favorite places to buy records in the city. On my walk down to Kops I couldn’t help but stop in a few grocery stores in Chinatown. That will be another post. I have never seen so many different types of greens in my life.

By the time I got to Kops I didn’t have much time to dig for records before Christina came to meet me. The guy working at the store asked me if I was looking for anything. Since I didn’t have much time but wanted to find some good stuff I asked him to show me some records that he really liked that I wasn’t likely to know. He showed me A LOT of good stuff in a short period. I didn’t want to leave.

Thankfully Christina is awesome and chilled with me listening to some amazing records for a while. I ended up getting a few, one of them being a movie soundtrack called Charleston Blue by Donny Hathaway and supervised by Quincy Jones. Need I say more? It features the studio version of Little Ghetto Boy.

Back to the food. All this amazing music didn’t leave us with much time because I had to be back in an hour to cook a feast at my aunt and uncle’s. 3pm on a Sunday. Restaurant was packed. We waited 15 minutes or so to be seated. Unfortunate since we were in a hurry, but a promising sign for what was to come.

Since I had been wanting to try Fresh for quite some time now, (I discovered the restaurants through their great cookbook reFresh). I wasn’t content with just trying one thing on the menu. Christina also loves food so she was okay with ordering way more food than we needed, and trying a few things.

We started with the cornbread served with flax hummus. I was curious to see what it was like and compare it to the cornbread at Aux Vivres in Montreal. The cornbread was very different from the one at Aux Vivres. I would describe it as healthier tasting. Although both are very good, I prefer the combination of guacamole and cornbread that is served in Montreal. The flax hummus served at Fresh was delicious as well.

We ordered 3 dishes off the menu. The Buddha bowl on soba noodles, the Powerhouse bowl with brown rice, and last but not least the Bbq burger. Choosing only three dishes on the menu was no easy task. Especially when you are starving as we both were. Everything sounded so good, and based on the food we saw around is we were confident that everything was good.

The Buddha bowl which is pictured at the top of this post, consists of “Thai peanut sauce with marinated tofu cubes, tomato, cilantro, cucumber, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, herbs & spices”. According to the waitress this is one of their most popular dishes. After tasting it I understand why. It is quite delicious. I would recommend it and definitely order it again.

The Bbq Burger consists of their “high-protein house-made vegan burger with tangy bbq sauce, quinoa onion rings, garlic mayo, napa cabbage, hot banana chilies, tomato & lettuce served on a whole wheat bun with a side of marinated kale slaw.” The onion rings can hardly be considered healthy, but they were certainly delicious. The burger itself was excellent with the combination of toppings. I can be quite picky when it comes to these things.

The marinated kale slaw was excellent and a great way to add some nutrition to the dish. One of the reasons I often hesitate to order the tempeh burger at Aux Vivres in Montreal is because the meal consists of bread, tempeh, and potatoes. When I go to a vegan/vegetarian restaurant I like to eat a nourishing meal, most of the time. BBQ Burger with kale slaw, definitely a win.

The Powerhouse bowl is made with “avocado, chick peas & grilled tofu steaks with sunflower sprouts, toasted nut & seed mix, tomato, red onion & spicy tahini sauce”. This is more like the type of dish I like to order at these types of restaurants but there was no way I wasn’t digging my chopsticks into a Buddha bowl that afternoon.

Thankfully Christina and I were sharing so I got to enjoy a Powerhouse bowl as well. I really liked this bowl except for one thing. The taste of raw red onion. I have never been a huge fan of raw onion, and this dish didn’t win me over. I found the taste overpowering in the dish. The sauce and flavour of the ingredients together were outstanding, but in my opinion, leaving out the onion would allow one to taste/enjoy the rest of the dish even more. Some people love the taste of raw onion, especially red onion, which is what was used here, so it’s possible that my opinion isn’t shared by the majority. Christina did agree as well though.

We didn’t quite finish all the food we ordered but were determined to make it to Hot Beans. Christina came up with the genius idea of calling Hot Beans and ordering some burritos to go so that I would have one for the train ride home the next day. Genius.

I did find it absolutely hilarious that after having stuffed our faces at Fresh, before even finishing eating, we were calling to order burritos for take out, all as quickly as possible, so that I could rush back to cook a feast that I would have to eat in a couple hours. Obsessed with food a little? Thank you Christina.

We packed up what was left of our bowls and headed over to Hot Beans. Love that name. I love my beans!!!

I ended up saving my burrito until I got back home in Montreal. I wanted to heat it up again so I could fully enjoy it. I had ordered the Black Bean Burrito. Spiced black beans with shredded smoky coconut. “All burritos are stuffed with garlic-annatto rice, salsa, lettuce, chili aioli, and chipotle sauce”. Adding guacamole is definitely a smart move here. The burrito definitely was spicy enough for me, but I am assuming that if I had ordered in the restaurant itself I would have had some kind of hot sauce option. No matter to me, a perfect opportunity to enjoy my homemade habanero hot sauce. I had forgotten how good this is. Wow. One of the best hot sauces I have ever had, and I am not just saying that because I made it.

Have you ever been to any of these restaurants? If so let me know what your experience was like in the comments below?
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