Earth Day on April 22nd annually gives us an occasion to think about greener practices. These restaurants make it easy to embrace plant-based eating year-round.
By Gail Johnson
If there’s a single current food trend that stands out from the rest, it’s the surging popularity of plant-based eating. People who are opting for vegetarian and vegan diets for health, environmental or ethical reasons are discovering a whole new delicious world. Chefs are getting more daring, using ingredients that grow out of the ground. And plant-based restaurants are popping up like pea shoots all over B.C. Here are a few in right-sized places that are worth seeking out.
Tofino may be tiny, but its food scene is tremendous. The town’s first fully vegetarian and vegan restaurant, Bravocados, is helmed by executive chef Dave Thielmann. His secret weapon? Not being vegetarian himself. He knows what certain dishes with animal products are meant to taste like and he loves the challenge of re-creating them with plant-based ingredients.
His menu features pulled jackfruit instead of pulled pork, while “faux” fish and chips consists of panko-crusted banana blossom. And if some people think everything tastes better with bacon, they probably haven’t tried his vegan rendition, made with Japanese eggplant, paprika, maple syrup and soy in a process that involves baking, dehydrating, and flash frying. facebook.com/bravocados
RENEGADE KITCHEN & CRAFT BAR, KELOWNA
What started out as a food truck is now a cozy, funky, brick-and-mortar eatery. What hasn’t changed throughout Renegade’s evolution is owners Meghan Carr and Shaun Sanders’ goal of proving that eating vegan doesn’t mean sacrificing taste. They call their food the “gateway drug” to plant-based dining.
Poutine with house-made cheeze curds is a local favourite; the “pulled pork” version has braised jackfruit with miso gravy. Then there are fried pickles, “calamari” of hearts of palm served with cashew tzatziki and salads “that don’t suck,” in menu terms. Renegade also showcases works by local artists and features a hyper-local selection of craft beer, wine, and cider on tap. renegadekitchen.ca
SMUDGE WHOLE FOOD NOSHERY, SALMON ARM
This quaint little café (under Rochelle Westgarde’s new ownership as of fell 2019) specializes in vegan comfort food. Among the most popular dishes are a bright and abundant falafel bowl of greens and pomegranate seeds with a lemon-maple-tahini dressing, but some people come in just for the gluten-free black-bean brownies.
You can also pick up glorious individual pieces of seasonal produce to snack on, like hand-picked carrots (60 cents each) and pears (50 cents), or baskets of varying fresh veggies and fruit. smudgewholefoodnoshery.com
SPROUT PLANT BASED EATERY, NELSON
Who says you need to eat chicken to enjoy Wing Night? Nelson’s Sprout Plant Based Eatery has “cauli wings” on special once a week, alongside $5 beer, wine and cider. The bright and airy vegan eatery has developed a following as much for its nutrient-dense bowls and smoothies as for its donuts (in flavours like matcha almond and blackberry lemon), pecan tarts and apple fritters.
It also hosts community workshops, such as a recent one on how to make your own re-usable beeswax food wrap, that helps locals embrace the kind of holistically greener lifestyle the Kootenays are known for. facebook.com/SproutEateryNelson
VIRTUOUS PIE, VICTORIA
Founded in Vancouver by father-and-sons team Ron, Ben, and Alex Milne, Virtuous Pie is known for what only some of us consider bona fide food groups: pizza and ice cream. But everyting is made in-house, and it’s all vegan.
Three-day hand-stretched dough is used for the individual pizza, which come with artisanal nut-based cheese substitutes like cashew “mozzarella” and truffle almond “ricotta.” Toppings run the gamut from charred corn and chili broccoli to buffalo cauliflower and hot honey. Creamy small-batch ice cream comes in flavours like Thai tea, cookies and cream or pumpkin pie; with any flavour, you can make it a kombucha float! Plus there’s beer, wine and cider on tap and a daily happy hour. Virtuous Pie also has locations in Toronto and Portland, with more to come. virtuouspie.com