“Vegandale” has been met with both praise and a ton of backlash from many Parkdale residents. I was recently interviewed by Now Magazine for my take on the issue as well as the rise of veganism in Toronto. I’ve outlined my views on the perceived problems with Vegandale, followed by some of my favourite dishes from the controversial restaurants.
1. Vegandale is Gentrifying Parkdale: Yes, Parkdale has been rapidly gentrifying over the past few years, but let’s be real, this backlash is because the 5700 Inc. restaurants happen to be vegan. Are these businesses contributing to the problem with gentrification? Absolutely. Yet all of the storefronts were vacant properties, previously occupied by similarly overpriced and inaccessible restaurants. If it wasn’t the 5700, it would be more of the same. I can understand that one business taking over 5 storefronts is a little excessive. It probably wouldn’t go over well if 5 Starbucks opened up within one city block either (which has probably happened elsewhere in the city), however each location does offer a totally unique menu. And protestors aren’t petitioning a list of demands for the nearby restaurants serving $25 BBQ meat dishes, but Vegandale has obliged regardless and pledged to contribute $100,000 to the Parkdale community.
2. Vegandale Represents “Capitalist Greed and is Branding the Neighbourhood”: Some perceive this moniker as obnoxious, but really, it’s just a nickname. Is anyone attacking businesses marketing Toronto as The 6ix? No, because we all know that Toronto is still Toronto. And as far as I know, only one restaurant actually has the word “Vegandale” in its name. As for the former, Vegandale started as a small, grassroots, Parkdale business that has grown thanks to support from the community.
3. Vegandale Pushes a Privileged and Non-Diverse Diet: See 1, and in addition, much of the backlash I’ve read claims that veganism as a whole doesn’t belong in Parkdale because it is an “inaccessible, white” diet and “insensitive to social justice issues in the community.” Obviously, there has been a lack of research here. A plant based diet is more affordable (and far more beneficial to human health) than a meat and dairy based diet. You don’t have to buy overpriced packaged vegan products or eat in expensive restaurants to be vegan. And globally, the communities who suffer most from animal agriculture are impoverished communities. Vegan diets are common in many cultures globally and within the city of Toronto, for various reasons including religion, cultural beliefs and the simple fact that it is more affordable. Parkdale offers many accessible vegan and vegan friendly restaurants that are operated by culturally diverse and longtime Parkdale residents. We can only hope that Vegandale will help bring more business to the entire Parkdale neighbourhood including the other local businesses. Not to mention, the vegan owner is not white, but a Sri Lankan Canadian who immigrated to Toronto as a refugee. Also, remember that vegans are more likely to be activists for a variety of social justice issues than non-vegans.
4. Vegandale Signage is Offensive and “Self-Righteous”: There is outcry over the “Morality on Tap” and “Not Your Mother, Not Your Milk” signage, which is being criticized as self-righteous and distasteful. Perhaps those who are offended could take a step back and consider why this is objectionable to them. Could it be that the message has a point? 70 billion land animals are bred, raised in horrific conditions and slaughtered each year to unnecessarily feed humans, having a catastrophic impact on the planet, human health, impoverished communities and wild animals, and protestors are upset that Vegandale is being tongue in cheek about it? If these problems are less important than the protestors’ feelings or traditions, a reflection on their definition of “self-righteous” may be warranted. I’m sure most residents understand that this is an important cause and are on board with eating more plant-based meals.
Anyway, now that I’ve voiced my likely unpopular opinion, here’s a little taste of Vegandale. I’ll soon be adding Copenhagen Café once they reopen following flood damage as well as the anticipated Prohibition Pie.
Mythology is probably my favourite of the Vegandale restaurants. The food is incredible and served up by celebrated local head chef, Doug McNish. I have been here several times and will probably keep going back until I’ve tried the entire menu because every dish has been exceptional. Pictured are the Cobb Salad, Fettuccine Alfredo, Crab Dip and my favourite, the Seitan Wings.
Vegandale Brewery / Doomie’s
While most beer is made with vegan ingredients, the brewing methods often use gelatin or casein. This brewery offers plenty of vegan beers and ciders on tap and the pub menu has been provided by chef Doomie who has moved Doomie’s comfort food into Vegandale Brewery. The old location will now be used as a pop-up venue. Pictured is Pommie’s Cider, the “Sour Truth” and the pizza waffle fries and nachos.
Not Your Mother
NYM is a 70’s themed soft serve ice cream bar located within Vegandale Brewery. They offer a variety of menu items reminiscent of Sweet Jesus that you can order in a cup, cone, waffle cone or as a milkshake. I tried “A New Hope” mainly because the all-dressed chips ingredient sparked my curiosity, and because Star Wars. Spoiler: it was delicious.
Hello 123 (not part of “Vegandale”)
While Hello 123 is not operated by the 5700, its location and opening date coincided with the hype (and backlash) therefore I’ve decided to include it in this post. Serving fresh and healthier plant based options than most of the Vegandale restaurants, I recommend their Sunday brunch menu and a spot on the sunny patio.