Montreal's Vegetarian Must Eats
Eating out as a vegetarian, vegan, or raw vegan can be an extremely frustrating experience—especially while traveling. You often either have to special order vegetarian versions of normally meat-loaded dishes and getting charged the same amount, or having them interpret "vegetarian" as "chicken is okay." Or you have to choose from meagre options like nachos, hummus, caesar salad, or a veggie burger bought from the frozen aisle of the supermarket.
Luckily Montreal is an exception. Although it's classically known for its smoked meat, rotisserie chicken, foie gras, and meat-loaded poutines, it's also a true delight for herbivores. Due to the high concentration of university students, and general left-leaning politics, Montreal has a very large vegetarian community. Below is the best that Montreal has to offer for vegetarians, vegans, and raw vegans, ranging from simple sandwich counters to fancy establishments, and from Indian curries to vegan sushi, this list has you covered.
Aux Vivres is by far the most famous veggie joint in Montreal, with good reason of course. It serves high-quality, delicious food at reasonable prices. This bright place is always a buzz with locals sitting in booths, at the smoothie bar, at tables inside, or on the patio out back. Attached to the main restaurant is a small grab-and-go counter with sandwiches and various veggie products to take home and use yourself. It fills up fast, so get there early as they don't take reservations.
Their menu is influenced by a few cuisines including Indian, East Asia, Greek, West Coast, and Mexican. They have amazing sandwiches wrapped up in naan bread, curry dishes with rice, delicious and satisfying salads, rice bowls, and burgers. They also serve really great milkshakes and smoothies, and dish up some great desserts. It's really hard to lose, everything I've tried has been fantastic.
If you want to go a little bit upper scale, but still well with the realms of reasonable and affordable, Invitation V is an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians alike. Their menu is much smaller, and the atmosphere a lot quieter and refined. From my experience diners seemed to treat this as place to have a several course meal, possibly on a date or with friends you want time and space to engage with.
I've sampled everything from the soups, salads, appetizers, burgers, pizza, and more, and it's all been high-quality and delicious. Diner's favourites include the Invitation V signature salad, the very intricate hot pot, tempeh satay, and the burgers. They even have a vegan sea filet, if you're missing the tastes of the sea.
"The Green Panther" has been a go-to "quick fix" for me and my friends for a long time. It's a simple counter-style eatery that specializes in sandwiches, epic salads, soups, delicious smoothies, and desserts. The bread and butter of this place are its falafel sandwiches, which come in a whole-wheat pita with ingredients like pickles, sprouts, veggies, and tahini. They also have tofu, tempeh, and veggie pate as well. You can combo your sandwich with a soup or salad if you choose, or you can go for the gigantic and delicious salad with sweet potatoes, beans, and a variety of roasted vegetables. They're fantastic. And every smoothie or dessert I've tasted has been delicious.
They also have a daily meal that's generally some sort of hot dish served with rice and a green salad, which are always a nice change-up if you get tired of the regular menu. And they have a cooler section that contains some of their condiments or meals to-go. There's locations in the Mile-End and downtown, both are worth your time.
Crudessence is the go-to place for anyone following a raw diet—but it's by no means exclusively for raw eaters. Although the menu is dominated by raw options, there are plenty of options if you insist on having had something heated before consumption. They specialize in healthy, nutritious food, so all the dishes are quite fresh and are guaranteed to not leave you feeling sluggish or heavy. Oh, and they're great.
There's several locations but they're all cleanly and simply decorated, quite small, and have a section to buy vegan and raw products to take home. Definitely worth a visit whether you like your food cooked or not.
Lola Rosa is a confusing establishment. Why? Because there's two locations and they have different menus and vibes. The one on Rue Milton is much smaller, and seems to cater more to the student vibe of the neighbourhood. The menu is smaller, simpler, and is predominantly influenced by Indian and Mexican cuisines, with the addition of salads and baked favourites like quiches and mac & cheese. The one on Rue Parc is larger and a bit classier, but not necessarily anymore expensive. The menu is a bit larger and adds to the Mexican and Indian options with miso soup, a moroccan tagine, hemp burger, lasagna, and the grand daddy of options—poutine. That's right. True, quality, vegetarian poutine. They're both great locations either way.
Many people also swear by the legendary nachos. Piled high with guacamole, beans, salsa, cheese, and tons of veg, this is a great dish to share with friends. And it's available at both locations.
One of the most difficult parts of being vegetarian or vegan is having to give up cuisines that you originally immensely enjoyed because they were very meat-centric. Luckily Sushi Momo comes to the rescue for Japanese-food lovers that have since become vegan or vegetarian. This place serves absolutely stunning sushi that either uses tofu to recreate the classics like Dynamite rolls, or sticks to fruits and vegetables to make some creative rolls—such as a poutine roll. Aside from sushi they also offer tempura, jack fruit au gratin, tofu, dumplings, and wakame—but don't expect udon, ramen, soba, or teriyaki dishes. It's sushi first and foremost.
As my tattoo artist said, if money was no object, he would gladly eat here everyday for the rest of his life. The sushi is fantastic, but be warned that it costs from $4-6 for basic 6 piece rolls, to the fancier versions that run from $6-12 rolls for a 4-6 piece roll when ordered ala carte. They also have a combo menu that gives several different rolls of sushi with a salad or miso soup at a discounted rate. Come early because it gets busy.
Yuan is the place to go if you're hankering for real Chinese cuisine, without the piles of weird, unidentifiable meats. Come here with friends and order a wide variety of dishes to share, or if you're looking to sample a bunch of dishes and stuff yourself silly, drop by for dinner and get the buffet for $20. The food is great, 100% vegetarian, and it's unlike the typical Chinese restaurants you find in the West serving nothing but sugar-coated deep-fried meats. It's legit.
This Indian restaurant is named after the multi-section metal dish that the meals are ladled onto, which has also become the name for the meal you traditionally eat off of them. A thali meal features a variety of Indian curries served with starches and a variety of other condiments, and is traditionally eaten for lunch in unlimited quantities. This place offers 3 vegetarian curries (from a choice of about 9), served with a huge piece of naan bread, a pappadam, a mound of rice, and salad, and is available day and night.
You can also add some delicious samosas, lassis (yoghurt drinks), or Indian sweets to your meal, but be warned that the portions are very generous. My favourite curries are palak paneer (spinach and cheese), chana masala (chick pea), and mixed vegetables.
Go forth and eat!
Hopefully you have a better idea of excellent places to satisfy your conscious eating ways while in Montreal, now all you need to do is eat it. If you have any suggestions of things I missed, please let us all know in the comments below.
Eat meat and are looking for food that's either unique to Montreal or showcases the strong immigrant communities? Check out my other articles Montreal's Must Eats and Montreal's Ethnic Must Eats. Enjoy!