From the same folks that opened up Hot Beans in Kensington Market, The Hogtown Vegan (834 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON – Bloor @ Shaw) is a new vegan comfort food place near Ossington Subway station. That area is getting fantastic for vegan food options. Leaving Ossington Subway you have a choice of going right or left at Bloor Street, and either way you’ll get a decent vegan option within a block or two (Hogtown Vegan or Nazareth Ethiopian or heck… even Disgraceland.)
I’ve been to The Hogtown Vegan twice in the last month, and I really wanted to like this place. Other than it’s lovely veganness, it’s got a lot of things going for it. A sit down restaurant within walking distance from my home that serves North American style cuisine? What’s not to love? Well, there is stuff not to love. But there is also lots of stuff to love.
The first time we went in, the service was great. I’ve seen the same server at Hot Beans, and she’s always been friendly and helpful. It was another one of Toronto’s hot hot hot days, and they didn’t have the air conditioner running (yet.) Overall I felt hot and probably drained three jugs of water all by myself (to her credit, our server was awesome and kept us well watered.)
We started with the Hogtown Wings, which turned out to be my favourite item, on both occasions. On our first visit they were moist in the way most foods get after being prepared and then left to sit, second time they were fresh, crispy and delicious. I absolutely love the creamy dill dip. It also comes with hot sauce and a few slices of carrots (which I thought was a great touch.)
I ordered the Unchicken and Waffles, trying to clear my mind of any former magical southern comfort food experiences (Souley Vegan, Oakland, CA) but probably failing to a great extent. When they arrived, they looked great. Waffles, herb breaded chicken-like pieces of mystery, and a side caesar salad. Unfortunately, the waffles that arrived were gummy and didn’t seem very fresh. Reminded me again of food that had been prepared too far in advance, considering how easy waffles are to make, it was disappointing.
Then the unchicken. Oh the unchicken. Two gardein-like pieces of overly moist breaded chickeny things. I’ll admit to feeling a little dejected at the breaded gardein cutlets, I was hoping for something a little more creative. But ultimately the real problem was that they weren’t crispy at all.
Thankfully the side caesar salad, with it’s creamy dressing, croutons and tempeh bits was great. The flavours all worked well together and complimented each other perfectly. Which is why I ended up ordering the caesar salad entree on the next visit.
I can’t really comment on the food I didn’t have directly, but here’s a few visuals for you. On the first visit, my friends ordered the Biscuit Sliders and the Hogtown Burger.
Second time around, my significant other got the Reuben, and I took a bite (okay, a big bite, maybe more like several…), and it was good! The house-made shaved seitan was great, and the different layers (sauerkraut, a horseradishy mayo, garlic and sprouts) worked really well together on very yummy pumpernickel rye bread (doesn’t hurt that that’s one of my favourite breads too). If I was there again… that’d be my choice. The healthy side of fries didn’t hurt either. (Though I’d hope they wouldn’t stuff the deep fry basket with as many of those thinly sliced potatoes at a time, because we ended up with a bit of a fries bird nest.)
We also ordered The Fries Supremacy which was a little appetizer basket of fries, slathered in cashew sour cream, a house made cheese sauce (you might be familiar with it from Hot Beans), and topped with lots of sliced green onions.
Our dining companion ordered the Chickpea Salad Sandwich with a side of Collard Greens.
There was still lots of room for dessert so we tried the Key Lime “Cheesecake”. It was tasty, almost hitting that sweet and sour balance spot on, but made me nostalgic for the better vegan cheesecakes of my past (Cafe Bliss, Victoria, BC and Remedy Cafe, in Edmonton, AB.) Eventually, I’d like to try their flourless chocolate cake.
Recommendations so far: Hogtown Wings, The Fries Supremacy, and the Reuben.
I have great hope for The Hogtown Vegan, and that hope is that they continue to grow and improve.