Coming from Australia, where vegan options are scarce, I figured things would be more or less the same in the land of bacon, poutine, and maple fudge.
How wrong I was.
I arrived and basically emptied by bank account and made it rain vegan cheese, almond milk, plant-based poutine, and animal-free muffins.
It. Was. Bliss.
Vancouver is a bit of an alternative bubble, so I’m currently not sure how the rest of Canada stands up in terms of vegan options, but watch this space and follow me on Instagram! I intend to find out.
So without further ado, here are the places that make being vegan in Vancouver super-easy.
1. Virtuous Pie (Chinatown + home delivery)
This is some of the best pizza I’ve had. Ever. And I’ve had a lot of pizza.
Coming second only to Gigis in Sydney, the people at Virtuous Pie hand-make all pizza and ice-cream from 100-percent plant-based ingredients. They don't try and replicate traditional pizza with no cheese or packet vegan cheese – they use combinations of plant-based ingredients and highlight them so cheese isn't the main component.
The ice-cream is made with a range of different milks and coconut oils, which means the texture isn’t light and icy like most ice creams with an almond milk base – it’s really rich, creamy, and everything ice-cream should be.
Stranger Wings: White base, spicy buffalo cauliflower, crisp fried shallots, blue cheese drizzle, scallions.
Superfunghi: White base, cashew mozzarella, herbed potatoes, truffle almond ricotta, wild mushrooms, rocket.
Ice-cream: Coffee + donuts.
Ice-cream: Double chocolate + salted caramel.
2. The Wallflower (Mt Pleasant)
This was the very first diner I went to, and I was so impressed. The place looks like something from a 70s sitcom with rounded ceilings, bar stools, booths, bright walls, and a record player, and serves everything to suit carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and coeliacs.
Beer is on tap, there’s a large collection of spirits behind the bar, and they serve everything from brunch to dessert – you won't be disappointed.
Vegan Benny: Veggie sausage, marinated tofu, cheesey sauce, english muffin, hash browns. Pesto Focaccia Sandwich: Sundried tomato pesto, grilled tofu, sprouts, tomato, avocado, cucumber, vegan mozza.
Vegan Hummus Melt: Focaccia, hummus, spinach, onion, mushroom, vegan mozza.
Waffles: Choice of blueberry & whip or bananas & peanut butter syrup.
3. Meet On Main (Riley Park + Gastown)
With a huge range of fries, burgers, bowls, beers, and desserts, it’s easy to forget this place is 100% vegan. The owners of Meet aimed to create a room built for socializing, crafty drinks, and good food where no one feels left out for their food preferences, and they’ve really succeeded.
The atmosphere is upbeat, alternative art is all over the walls, there's always a movie playing behind the bar on a tiny TV/VHS hybrid from the 90s, and the food options are so diverse I've even heard meat-lovers rave about it.
Satay Sauce & Spicy Mayo Fries: House-made almond satay sauce, chipotle mayo, topped with pickled onions.
Marinated Portobello Burger: Marinated & grilled portobello, topped with our house-made chipotle mayo, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, house feta & pea pesto.
The Meet Burger: House-smoked burger with sautéed ‘shrooms, chipotle mayo & two crispy onion rings.
Noodley Thai: Rice noodles, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, marinated tofu, tossed in our almond Thai sauce, finished with fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, cashews, scallions & a wedge of lime.
Chocolate Coconut Ganache Tart: Yum!
4. The Naam (Kitsilano)
Going strong since 1968 and open 24 hours a day, this place is something of an institution in Vancouver. Serving vegetarian and vegan meals, beers, desserts, and everything in between, it feels a bit like you’ve just stepped in to a hippy commune with large quantities of really tasty food.
They also have live music, art shows, and events, they sell their own sauces, and have won too many awards to list. I haven’t been here that much because I live on the east side, and Kitsilano is west, but there are so many things on this giant menu that I want to try!
Naam Dragon Bowl: Steamed veggies on organic brown rice with miso gravy, tofu, peanut sauce, grated carrots & beets, organic alfalfa sprouts & wakame.
Thai Dragon Bowl: A coconut curry sauce on steamed veggies & organic brown rice with sautéed tofu, alfalfa sprouts, grated carrots, beets & fresh cilantro.
Apple & Blueberry Pie: Yum!
5. Storm Crow Tavern (Commercial-Broadway)
This place is like the basement wish you had in high school. It’s decked-out in everything to do with games, science fiction, cult classics, horror films, comics and more, and there are multiple groups of people spread out over large tables talking deeply about what move to make in the board game they’ve been playing for three hours.
When you sit down you get two menus: the food menu and the game menu, and the staff are on-hand to give you recommendations, from easy two-player card games, to extravaganzas with thousands of tiny pieces and novels for rulebooks.
The food menu is also packed with different options to suit vegans and meat-lovers, and serves the Elvish Veggie Burger, aka the best vegan burger I’ve ever had, ever.
My Favourites (this is literally copied straight from the menu):
Elvish Veggie Burger: Straight outta the Silmarillion this nature-lover’s sandwich packs roasted corn, black beans, carrots, onions, broccoli, lentils, and rice in a chickpea patty, served with veganaise. (Elrond Burger: Upgrade to the immortal, awe-inspiring ‘Elrond’ burger with guacamole, jalapenos, and Daiya vegan cheese. Lothlorien awaits!)
Nachos Apocalypto: As heralded by Aztec priests, Quetzalcoatl the great winged serpent, and Mel Gibson, this is the nacho plate of the End Days. Comes with cheese, jalapeños, red onions, roast corn and black beans, served with salsa and guacamole and sour cream of DOOM. (Enhance your nacholonious experience by upgrading to the Cajun Chicken Hillbilly Nachpocalypse, or sub in vegan cheese.)
Chickpea Fries: A Storm Crow classic! Like regular fries, but made from chickpeas and stacked in a weird non-Euclidean geometry. Comes with spicy sriracha aioli, or sun-dried tomato aioli. (Switch to vegan gravy!)
Patton Oswalt's Sadness Bowl: Sometimes you can’t fight back the tears. Sometimes, the darkness wins. And sometimes a salad with lightly drizzled vinaigrette is not equal to the sorrow you feel deep in your emos. And, my friend, those are the times that you look deep into a Sadness Bowl and see it looking back into YOU. What it is is a bowl. And in the bowl are fries. And on the fries is chili. And on the chili is melted cheese. And on the melted cheese is delicious, steaming gravy. And on top of that we add a sizzling hot meatstorm of either beef or chicken, as you prefer, at which point the whole gastronomic experience is similar to being chained to the front of some mohawked mutant’s S&M nitro truck in a black leather post-apocalyptic future. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. (You could even make this thing vegan and gluten-free with vegan cheese if you prefer. And you’re crazy.)
6. The Acorn (Riley Park)
I ended up here by accident one morning when I was looking for a diner on Main Street that opens before 11am (heads up: diners don't generally open before 11am), and I'm super glad I did! The Acorn have a very unique menu that you won't find anywhere else. I got the coffee cake French toast, star anise mousse, blood orange jus, and coffee syrup because it sounded interesting – I had no idea what it would look like, but I wasn't disappointed when it came out – it was so different to everything else.
Everything on the menu is vegan, made from locally-sourced ingredients, creatively constructed, and around 200-percent fancier than everything else on this list. I've only had one thing on this menu, but it's in my list because I really want to go back and try it out again – the other dishes flying around the restaurant looked fantastic.
7. Jam Jar (Commercial-Broadway + Gastown + home delivery)
This East Mediterranean restaurant has a range of omnivore and vegan options, and should be on everyone's list of places to eat – it's excellent value, and I'm obsessed with their cauliflower. I don't know what they do to it (extract it from a unicorn, cover it in fairy dust, who knows), but it doesn't really taste like cauliflower – I like regular cauliflower, but this is a thousand times better. On top of that, they have the best hummus in town. It comes in many different varieties (last time I was there they were spruiking blueberry hummus), and it's so good they jar it and sell it separately for as little as $5 a jar.
The restaurant is small and cosy, with large windows, wood tables, a full bar, and a really lively atmosphere – I love going when it's cold and filling up on the tasting plate and wine.
Dips: Hummus, Muttabel (eggplant), Spinach, and Mohammara (red pepper + walnuts).
Falafels: Comes with tahini to dip.
Makali: Deep-friend cauliflower with pomegranate molasses.
Makdous: Pickled eggplant stuffed with chili + walnuts.
8. Sula Indian Restaurant (Commercial-Broadway + home delivery)
I love Indian food, but it can be really difficult to work out what has butter and cream in it unless you ask someone. Sula have made being vegan in Vancouver really easy by putting 'vegan' labels all over the menu, and given that Indian food is my hangover food of choice, I love this feature – trying to explain that you don't eat dairy when you're hungover is the worst.
Sula cater to meat-eaters as well so everyone's happy, and their food is really authentic. I was talking to someone (a meat and veggie lover) about the Indian food in Vancouver, and we both said 'Sula!' at the same time – it's that good.
Vegetable Samosas: spiced potatoes, onions and peas stuffed in a savory pastry.
Vegetable Vindaloo: Assorted Vegetables in zesty, onion, coconut curry with vinegar.
Vegetable Coconut: Assorted Vegetables cooked in creamy coconut curry.
Vegetable Pakoras: Otherwise known as fritters, these fried snacks are served with tamarind sauce and chutney.
So there's my guide to being vegan in Vancouver!
These are just my favourites, but there are plenty of other places around that have loads of vegan options, including a range of Vietnamese (yes, you can get vegan pho), Chinese, Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Mexican, and loads more. I'll probably update this list, so stay tuned.