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culture

Best Bets for Vegetarians and Vegans at Winterlicious 2013

A top-ten list of meatless options.

A trio of dips from Ouzeri. Photo from the restaurant's {a href="http://www.ouzeri.com/"}website{/a}.

Winterlicious
January 25 to February 7
Prices vary

The restaurants that participate in Winterlicious have menus that are generally pretty heavy on the meat, which is great news if you’re into some carnivore-friendly winter comfort food, but not that appealing if you’re an herbivore. In past years, attending the annual prix-fixe food festival as a vegetarian usually meant eating pasta or Indian food; visiting a participating restaurant as a vegan was mostly out of the question.

Happily, the 2013 installment of Winterlicious is making things easier for plant-eating Torontonians: the lineup of dishes at participating eateries includes dozens of vegetarian options, and there are even some vegan meals available. Meat-free dishes are helpfully marked on the Winterlicious website. Here are our 10 best bets for veggie dining.

1 Frida (999 Eglinton Avenue West)
This Mexican hotspot was recently named one of Toronto’s top 100 restaurants by Joanne Kates. Winterlicious is a great time to try it for lunch ($20) or dinner ($35). For lunch, start out with the vegetarian enchiladas with tomato-ancho sauce and Oaxaca cheese and enjoy stuffed chile poblano rellenos as your main course. If you choose dinner, you’ll have an app of empanadas with charred poblanos and vegetarian tostadas for your entree. For either meal, you can try Chef Hadad’s award-winning churros filled with goat’s-milk caramel and blueberry coulis.

2 Prime (18 St. Thomas Street)
If you’re looking for vegan fine dining, you’ll want to make a reservation at Prime in the Windsor Arms Hotel, where the meatless options were developed by chef Doug McNish. For $25 you can enjoy a lunch of kale salad with avocado and mustard dressing, and barley risotto with truffle oil. If you’re going to spring for the $45 dinner, you’ll dine well on miso-glazed tofu and wild-mushroom pastilla with pea pistou. Dessert in both cases will be all-vegan truffles made with almond butter.

3 Southern Accent (595 Markham Street)
Creole food and vegan cuisine make for an interesting combination at Southern Accent in the Annex. Dinner’s a bargain at $25, especially when you get options like chipotle corn chowder, spaghetti squash tossed with jerk-spiced polenta cubes, mushroom grillades with hominy grits, and vanilla-bean sorbet with fresh fruit.

4 Tabülè (2009 Yonge Street)
Head north on Yonge for veg-friendly Middle Eastern fare at affordable Winterlicious prices. Tabülè is offering lunch for $15 and dinner for $25 during the festival. You’ve got plenty of vegetarian and vegan options here, including lentil soup, fatush, a selection of classic Mediterranean dips, veggie kebabs, falafel, fried cauliflower or eggplant, beet salad, baklava, and pistachio sorbet.

5 259 Host (259 Wellington Street West)
Indian cuisine is very vegetarian friendly, but if you’re going to get it during Winterlicious, get the best. This spot in the downtown core serves delicious Indian dishes in a great-looking atmosphere, and your meat-free options for lunch ($15) and dinner ($25) are plentiful. You can’t go wrong with sprout salad with lemon-cumin dressing, jackfruit with garam masala, and mango kulfi for lunch. And try a samosa sampler, squash bhaji with chana masala and naan, and betel leaf-flavoured ice cream for dinner.

6 EDO (484 Eglinton Avenue West)
Japan’s seafood-heavy cuisine doesn’t seem veg safe at first glance, but midtown restaurant EDO has put together some options for Winterlicious herbivores. After a salad roll starter, dinner entrees ($35) include vegetarian sushi and a shabu-shabu soup with mushrooms and bok choy. Enjoy a hint of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony over dessert with matcha custard.

7 Bloom (2315 Bloor Street West)
Enjoy the tastes of Latin America at this spot in Bloor West Village, where your $20 lunch or $35 dinner will start with a creamy soup that includes onions and huitlacoche, a flavourful corn fungus less romantically known as corn smut. Your main meal will be a spinach tamale with poblano-tomato salsa, and then you can counter that spiciness with the sweet taste of chocolate tres leche cake for dessert.

8 Boehmer (93 Ossington Avenue)
This spot on the Ossington strip focuses on local offerings, which means lots of great winter vegetables in their plant-happy Winterlious offerings. Start your $45 dinner with a beet salad with blueberry vinaigrette, dig into a hearty main meal of gnocci with wild mushrooms and tomato sauce, and grab the lavender crème brulée to end the evening.

9 Ouzeri (500A Danforth Avenue)
If you’re going to eat Greek during Winterlicious, you should head to the Danforth, where you can choose from a few veg options at Ouzeri. Get the classic Greek gigantes dish as an app for lunch ($15) or dinner ($25), and try the veggie mousaka for your entrée. Greek yogurt with honey poached figs is the perfect finish.

10 Tundra (145 Richmond Street West)
Looking for a taste of Canadian-inspired cuisine? Head to the Hilton on Richmond. Tundra’s Winterlicious menu is the same for lunch ($25) and dinner ($45): the seedling salad includes walnuts, chèvre, and ginger-plum vinaigrette, and the entrée of cardamom-scented eggplant and Yukon cannelloni sounds full of flavour. You’ve got a few options for dessert, but you can keep it Canuck with either the clementine with Canadian ginger or foraged raspberries with tarragon sorbet.

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