I decided to compile a list of restaurants that are either vegan or very vegan-friendly that I absolutely adore from the array of restaurants where I've been in the several cities in Canada, Colombia and Ecuador where I've travelled. It's always nice to know someone who has tried these place and can vouch for them. There's always Happy Cow, but this list includes my own personal touch! ;)
1- Zen Kitchen, Ottawa - vegan
Located in The Glebe, this restaurant is easily accessible since it's close to downtown Ottawa without actually being in it, and close to a major highway. One of the co-owners, Caroline Ishii, is the first vegan chef to participate in the annual Gold Medal Plates competition, the first time being in 2010, and won Silver - twice! Although their menu is not very long, their food is incredible. Reservations are not required unless you come in a large group because of the delicate nature of the food (everything is fresh and hard to keep for very long).
Expect to spend around 20$ for lunch and 30$ for dinner; add a bit more if you want wine, of which the staff is fairly knowledgeable and can suggest the perfect pairing for your meal.
2- Le Commensal, Quebec province - vegetarian, vegan-friendly, raw-friendly
This is an incredibly popular eatery in a few cities across the province of Quebec, even for omnivores and, dare I say, carnivores. The food is that good! Le Commensal is a large buffet where you pay for your food by weight. I admit it can get little pricey, especially since everything looks sooooo tempting, but it is definitely worth it! To give you an idea how popular it is, the Montreal building is three stories high and often packed. The actual buffet is on the top floor, so if you chose the basement floor, you're actually getting a workout at the same time! Oh, and the desserts are to die for!
They can cater your event and they sell some of their food in organic stores across the province and in some of the larger cities near the Quebec-Ontario border, such as Ottawa.
3- Vegarden, Medellin, Colombia - vegan
This little restaurant, which is still relatively new in Medellin, is owned by four young Colombian men with a well-developed environmentally-friendly concience. They live on a farm just on the outskirts of the city and work pretty damn hard to make this a success. The price is excellent considering Medellin prices, especially for the quality offered here - and even better for the tourist on a budget. Their chef is trained in both French and Italian cuisine, and it shows! Check out their Facebook page to look at the pictures - trust me, you don't need to understand Spanish to see that they're cooking something good! Or, read my article that describes this place by clicking here.
4- Govinda's - vegetarian, vegan-friendly
This chain is as well-known in the vegetarian community on the international level as McDonald's arches. Looking for veggies while travelling? This is your 'safe spot'. Or, ask for any Hare Krishna owned restaurant. There are a few more that I will talk about here, but this one is really in most large cities of the world. Why? Hare Krishna followers believe that spreading the word about supporting animal rights is extremely important. They strongly believe in karma and say that you can judge a person by the way he/she treats animals. The food is mostly Indian-style, but at times some of the locations offer fast-food style foods and cater to the local cuisine, such as here in Colombia. Every Govinda's here offers empanadas and makes soup the colombian way. And, they are usually very economical, so perfect for the traveller on a budget. Look up the location where you want to go.
5- Fresh, Toronto - vegetarian, vegan-friendly
This spot is the only vegan-friendly one I tried while I worked for a company for three weeks - while they moved from Vancouver to Toronto - that I was there. Granted I didn't look very hard, but I didn't see much where I could eat. Sure, there's always vegetable sushi and falafels, but this was my go-to place for a real vegan meal. And I wasn't disappointed. They have everything from buckwheat pancakes to burgers and pastas, and their specialty is rice topped with a variety of different stir-fries. And everything tastes fresh. Yummy! The price was also good. It's not the most economical of the city, but definitely still very affordable. Expect to pay around 12 to 15$ for a meal.
6- Gorilla Food, Vancouver - raw vegan
Gorilla Food, located downtown Vancouver, offers a fresh new type of food that requires no cooking. As you all know, raw vegan is the next step after veganism, and even though some of us may be thinking about it, most of us may have decided to stop at where we are... including me. However, we can still enjoy raw vegan meals as they are just as wonderful as cooked ones, and offer quite a wide variety of flavours that bring out the natural goodness of our lands! Please note that this is slightly more expensive than eating vegan or vegetarian food due to the delicate nature of the ingredients, but it is definitely worth it!
7- Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Instead of mentioning just one of the restaurants on this street, I may as well speak of the entire path that leads from Broadway all the way to Venables - a 20 to 25 minute walk - which is packed with fantastic vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants as well as organic stores - grocery stores, clothing boutiques, and anything else eco-friendly you can think of - as well as arts and crafts, associations - such as Greenpeace - and much more! If you ever visit Vancouver, it is worth taking a walk here to discover the sites, sounds and flavours!
8- Zyng Asian Grill, Montreal - Vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly
This is the place to go so that omnivores, carnivores and herbivores can all enjoy a wonderfully fresh meal! The idea behind this is that you have the option to build your own dish, and they prepare it right in front of you! You chose from a selection of noodles and rice, then pick your sauce and your protein, head on to the salad/stir fry bar, fill your bowl with your favourite veggies, give it to the cooks, and wait for the magic to happen! The result: your own favourite temptation!
9- Vegetus, Medellin, Colombia - vegetarian, vegan-friendly
The only item on the menu that has non-vegan items is whatever contains their soy cheese, as it has casein, an isolated milk protein. Anything else here is vegan, and the restaurant is co-owned by a vegan married to a vegetarian. They focus on colombian food with a bit of an international twist, but most of the items are vey typical to the home country. However, everything is fresh and tasty, and this place is home to the best vegan ice cream I have ever tasted! Made with oatmeal milk, it is fresh, creamy and packed with flavour! A must for any vegan who craves healthy food while on a trip in this city!
10 - Lenteja Express, Medellin, Colombia - Vegetarian, vegan-friendly
For a quick bite in Medellin, look for this restaurant. They have two locations in the highly touristic parts of the city and the food is mostly burgers and quesadillas. Let them know you are vegan if you want to eat tofu instead of cheese.
11- El Loto Azul, Bogota, Colombia - vegetarian, vegan-friendly
This is a Hare Krishna-owned restaurant and they consume dairy, mostly just cheese, but other than that, the food is vegan. Let them know you are vegan and they will cater to you. The food here is mostly typical colombian-style but they do have a few east indian type of items. They also have a small store on the second floor selling east indian products and the owners are very friendly!
12- Perfection-Satisfaction-Promise, Ottawa - vegetarian, vegan-friendly
This is a very small, cozy restaurant near Ottawa University that offers a very healthy-oriented style of vegetarian food. They have a set lunch menu and offer other options a la carte. They also have a small variety of east indian food since, once again, this is a Hare Krishna-owned restaurant, but with a twist: their specialty is the "Painted Potato", where you chose from either rice, baked potato, fries or mashed potatoes, then add your own sauce! You can pick two selections for the larger size, and can chose from chili, mushroom gravy, guacamole, cheese sauce (don't forget - they're not vegan), and many more! The price range is very reasonable and they even have vegan desserts - yum!
13 - Manantial, Quito, Ecuador - 95 per cent vegan
This is probably the only vegetarian restaurant I tried while I was in Ecuador since I was broke and restaurants that cater to meat-eaters actually cost much less! But this place was still very reasonably priced for someone who is on an Ecuadorian salary, and has a very good menu a la carte. Set lunch is always vegan and costs 2US dollars (remember that Ecuador uses American money now). Otherwise, you can get a falafel sandwich for only 1 dollar in a few places if you stay away from the tourist areas, or a full regular set lunch for only $1.50. Ask them not to put the meat, and the soup is often just a plain veggie soup, but still ask about it, just in case.
14- Los Girasoles, Cartagena, Colombia - mostly vegan
This is one of the rare vegetarian restaurants in this city. Although there is quite a high volume of vegetarian and vegan-friendly international-type cuisines offered here, such as falafels and veggie sushi, I am surprised at the very low level of vegetarian restaurants. This is the one that I found was most vegan-friendly since the set lunch never has animal by-products, nor do the desserts. It is entirely colombian-style and offers a good variety of fast-food options as well. The owner is very friendly and handles the cash register. This is also a natural products store, so you can stock up if you need anything.
The other vegetarian restaurant of the city is Hare Krishna-owned and called El Sol de la India, but most of the items contain dairy.
15- Boulevard Sesamo, Bogota, Colombia - vegetarian, vegan-friendly
This restaurant is very reasonably-priced for the traveller on a budget! It is a place to get vegetarian and vegan versions of colombian comfort food and most of it is fast food and not all that health-focused, but definitely a treat. If you let them know you are vegan, you will be fine, but make sure you mention it as you may get quite a few surprises. For example, the hot dogs come with cheese, and quite a lot of it - so much you can't even see the sausage anymore. I've never had the set lunch so I can't comment on that, but it seems to be mostly vegan.