For vegans, it’ll be tough for Vancouver to top 2011. Last year, seven fully vegan establishments—Nice Shoes, Edible Flours, Vegan Pizza House, Indigo Food Café, Loving Hut Express, Chomp Vegan Eatery, and OrganicLives’ second location—all started up in the space of 10 months. Plus, the inaugural Veg Fest Vancouver in June 2011 was followed by the first-ever Vancouver Vegan Prom in November 2011.
Nevertheless, 2012 has been no slouch either. If 2011 was the year of vegan business openings, 2012 was the year of the vegetarian restaurant. Hopefully, the shiny new entrants, including Tera V Burger and the Parker, mean we’ll finally stop hearing the names of the Naam and Foundation muttered in response to requests for vegetarian eatery recommendations.
This year also saw local authors Dreena Burton (Let Them Eat Vegan!), Carla Kelly (Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking), and Aaron Ash (Gorilla Food) put out new vegan cookbooks. In July, the inaugural Victoria Vegan Festival gave Vancouver vegans an incentive to cross the Strait of Georgia. Let’s not forget the highly anticipated release of Daiya Foods’ dairy-free cheese wedges in the spring.
All in all, it’s been another banner year for local vegans. What follows is a look at five new vegan-friendly establishments that made Vancouver’s food scene even better in 2012.
1. Fairy Cakes
With Fairy Cakes (3586 Fraser Street), Vancouver got its first vegan cupcake shop. After months of delays, owner Cera Rivers held the “spectacular opening” of her nut-free cupcakery on March 10 and 11. Fairy Cakes is conveniently located for vegan shoppers; it’s two doors down the street from Nice Shoes, the city’s first vegan footwear store.
2. Heirloom Vegetarian
Half of the menu at Heirloom Vegetarian (1509 West 12th Avenue), described as Vancouver’s largest vegetarian restaurant, is vegan. Led by executive chef Georgia Morley, the upscale joint opened on October 10 in South Granville. Heirloom’s plates are meant for sharing and are well suited for dinners celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and so forth. The wild and foraged mushrooms, and chai pumpkin mousse are heavenly.
3. Three Jewels
While higher-end eateries have received the lion’s share of the attention this year, the arrival of Three Jewels (1179 Commercial Drive) in East Vancouver gave casual diners something to crow about. The food at the Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant—which held its grand opening on July 29—is all vegan, though the eatery offers cow’s milk as an option alongside soy milk for bubble tea and Vietnamese iced coffee. Two delicious dishes are bun cha gio chay (vegetarian spring roll vermicelli) and bun bi chay (vegetarian shredded pork vermicelli).
4. The Acorn
Since its opening in July, the Acorn (3995 Main Street) has garnered many rave reviews from professional critics and Facebook foodies alike. Owned by Shira Blustein and Brian Skinner, the upscale vegetarian restaurant and bar took over Cipriano’s South Main space with the aim of breaking the “brown rice and tofu” mould. The Acorn’s vegan options include a raw zucchini lasagne and a chocolate peanut terrine.
5. Café by Tao
For raw foodists, Café by Tao (120-260 West Esplanade) in North Vancouver may be the most welcome addition to the local restaurant scene. Opened on March 9, Agathe Mathieu’s raw vegan restaurant offers a menu that’s completely organic and wheat-free. The Lower Lonsdale café isn’t fully vegan, however, since it has cow’s milk available as an option for coffee and tea. Found in the courtyard of an office complex across the street from Waterfront Park, Café by Tao serves raw mains such as a burger, lasagna, and pizza, and several kinds of sugar-free vegan cheesecake.