Vancouver Weekend: We're Thinking....Vegetarian

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      Need something to do this weekend? Here are five Vegetarian spots that'll make you forget that you're a meat-lover.

      Bandidas Taqueria , 2781 Commercial Drive

      If you’re a vegetarian looking for a serious Mexican fix, it doesn’t get much better than this homey Commercial Drive nook, which features tasty, veggie-loaded spins on classic dishes like burritos, tacos, fajitas and enchiladas. We like the Ronny Russell burrito, which bursts with roasted yams and onions, fresh guacamole, black beans, purple cabbage, and pumpkin seeds. Of course, we here at the Straight are also suckers for a good brunch, and Bandidas serves up the best between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, which gives us more than enough time to get down to the Drive on a hungover Saturday. Popular options include hearty dishes like huevos rancheros (made with handmade tortillas), or a bowl of Mrs. Cohen spicy tortilla soup, which comes finished with avocado, tortilla chips, feta, cilantro, and two poached eggs. If you don’t make it in time for the full brunch menu, a smaller list of breakfast items is available all day long. Vegans needn’t worry: many items on the menu can be made to suit your needs, too. If your sweet tooth is nagging at you after you’ve gorged, the cinnamon flan is a must.

      The Foundation: a vegetarian joint so hipster that it doesn't even have its own website.
      Google Street View

      The Foundation, 2301 Main Street

      It’s likely that many a die-hard carnivore has admitted defeat at The Foundation. The textbook-hipster joint—complete with mason jars masquerading as water glasses—does vegetarian so well it’s arguable that staunch meat-eaters may not even realize they’re going without taste of our fine feathered, finned, and four-legged friends. At the very least, this must be the case for anyone who’s ever helped themselves to the aptly named Utopian Nachos: a massive serving of baked tortilla chips loaded with black beans, corn, jalapeños, and layers upon layers of perfectly melted cheese. The Spicy Peanut (rotini pasta tossed in a rich, holistic peanut sauce) is another lip-smacking standout, while the flavour-packed Katered Affair (a guilt-free smorgasbord of hummus, greens, tofu, and yams) comes in a portion big enough to cover lunch the next day. Sure, the booming Biggie album on loop means it can get a little loud here on Friday nights, but why talk when you can be stuffing your face with hearty peanut burgers, coco-chili-lime-glazed veggies, and, oh yeah, some of the tastiest sangria in town?

      Heirloom Vegetarian offers a killer meat-free brunch—and lunch, dinner, and dessert—in a sleek, streamlined space.

      Heirloom Vegetarian, 1509 West 12th Avenue

      The first thing that strikes you about the South Granville district’s Heirloom is the sleek, expansive room in a historic building. No granola-crunchy, hippie-dippie touches here, just clean white walls and whitewashed bricks, giant multipaned heritage windows, and mid-century-cool chairs around the pale-wood tables. Antique teacups and vintage trowels on the wall give an old-farmhouse feel to the contemporary-chic setting. And that same vibe plays out in the creative menu of fresh vegetarian and vegan food, much of it sourced from local producers. Let’s start with brunch: for big eaters who don’t think meatless dishes will fill them up for the day, just try to wolf down the delicious Heirloom Scramble, beefed up (if you’ll excuse the term) with organic Saskatchewan quinoa, kale, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese. The eggs are free-range, of course. Vegans, meanwhile, can chow down on a heavenly chia coconut muesli or banana French toast with cashew cream. For lunch, try the Heirloom grilled cheese, with its melty aged white cheddar, arugula, and apple slices on sourdough, or a vegan kale Caesar topped with beet chips and cornbread croutons.  For dinner, the veggie burgers come piled high with fixings like beet bacon, arugula, cider aioli, gorgonzola cheese. You can also opt for a side of avocado frites. Compliment it all with one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails—say, a bracing gimlet with fresh cucumber and mint. Note that the menu changes seasonally.

      Café Deux Soleils' signature dish: veggie pot pie covered in mushroom gravy.
      Cafe Deux Soleils

      Café Deux Soleils, 2096 Commercial Drive

      In a city that perpetually bulldozes over its own history, Café Deux Soleils offers comfort not just for the belly, but also for the part of your brain that needs a little relief from the perpetual psycho-geographical trauma. Standing on the more, um, colourful end of Commercial Drive for over 20 years, it’s a link to the past as resonant and important as Joe’s Café. As for the menu, that tofu scramble or veggie hash and eggs will hit the spot while junior chows down on a checkerboard grilled cheese or oven-roasted fries. But the signature dish, served all day, is the veggie pot pie, a miraculous thing doused in mushroom gravy with enough carbo-heft to keep the family's most ravenous meat-eater happy.

      The Naam has been voted by the Straight's readers as best vegetarian restaurant for 18 consecutive years.

      The Naam, 2724 West 4th Avenue

      With its live music, comfy vibe, rotating art shows, and one of the warmest and most secluded patios in Vancouver, it’s no wonder that Georgia Straight readers have voted this funky 24-hour Kitsilano eatery as the city’s best vegetarian restaurant for 18 consecutive years. The Naam’s manager, Glen Delucas, relies on women of Punjabi descent to whip up zesty and delicious meat-free options that are as international as the city itself. Unpretentious entrées include Thai noodles, an Asian noodle bowl, fettuccini, and teriyaki stir fry. There’s also a wide range of veggie burgers, including our favourite, the Hawaiian-themed Maui-Maui platter. What keeps some folks returning are those legendary gluten-free dragon bowls offering authentic flavours of Mexico, Thailand, and India. Save room in your stomach for the decadent double-fudge cake. For vegans and those with celiac disease, there’s a banana-date-nut cream pie with no sweeteners, no eggs, no dairy, and no wheat. Here’s a fun fact: one of the Naam’s owners, Bob Woodsworth, is the grandson of J.S. Woodsworth, founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which was transformed into the New Democratic Party in 1961.

      Running every Thursday, Vancouver Weekend spotlights five Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.