Have you ever had a meal so wonderful and delicious you daydreamed about it into the next day? Because I sure have and now that I’m writing about it I’m getting lost in my food daydream all over again! I had one of the most amazing vegan meals this past week. The meal was full of lush green vegetables, pops of colour, and crunchie munchies, and the meal was devoured in Kensington Market’s beloved vegan haunt, Urban Herbivore. Urban Herbivore has been on my “to-go” list for ages and I’m ecstatic that I finally crossed it off! I’ve known about their vegan sandwiches for a long time and I always knew I would get around to trying them out eventually, but I never anticipated falling head over heels in love with their salad bowls. That’s right, I’m a girl in love with a bowl of leafy greens, legumes, and crunchy munchies and I’m already looking forward to my next date at Urban Herbivore. What can I say? I get around.
Urban Herbivore is the sister restaurant to vegan dinner and tapas bar, Fressen, on Queen St. West. Open for business at 9am, Urban Herbivore is the morning, lunch, and afternoon counterpart to Fressen, serving vegan sandwiches, salad bowls, grain bowls, Moroccan stews, coconut curries, fresh smoothies, veggie juices, and vegan baked goods and sweets! When I finally hunkered down and made the decision to go to Urban Herbivore, I went in with the intention of inhaling one of their vegan sandwiches and featuring it the Vegetarian Sandwich Series. I looked up at the menu board, mentally tossed around the option of having either the BBQ tofu or the avocado sandwich, and then looked over at the 2nd menu board with the sandwich, salad bowl, grain bowl, and curry bowl descriptions. And that’s when everything changed.
At Urban Herbivore, you can be the creative master behind your vegan meal! You can mix and combine vegetables, proteins, beans, legumes, and grains to your heart’s content and in the end, you have your very own custom designed salad or grain bowl specially put together by you! Urban Herbivore isn’t set up the same way as Kale Eatery though. It’s not a self-serve buffet. Much like Freshii, you choose your ingredients and someone mixes it all together for you. However, instead of making your choices on menu papers like you would at Freshii, you simply tell whoever is serving you what you want and they put it together in front of you as make your choices.
I was captivated by the possibility of putting together my own special salad bowl combinaiton, so I dropped the vegan sandwich plan like a hot potato. I admit, part of me felt a little guilty for ditching my initial sandwich date for greener pastures, but I made the sandwich date a future rain cheque promise that I was fully intent on keeping so the bad feelings didn’t last for long.
Salad bowls, which are priced at $8.50, start with a leaf base. There are 3 green leafy salads to choose from: mustard greens, baby spinach, and spinach and arugula. After choosing your leafy green mix, you add your choice of 6 different ingredients from the vast array of yummy choices on hand. The selection of vegetables and protein is fantastic! Think green beans, mushrooms, sprouts, roasted peppers, shredded carrots, chick peas, red cabbage, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, beans, tofu cubes, lentils, broccoli, kimchi, pickled vegetables, and so much more. Then, you finish off your special salad bowl with some texture and crunch in the form of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or sliced almonds, and finally, your choice of dressing.
Okay, so let’s break my salad bowl down. I chose a baby spinach and arugula green leaf mix because they’re my favourite leafy greens and to that I added snow peas, whole mini button mushrooms, roasted red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, lentils, and some delicious cubes of tofu. I went wild for the sunflower seeds and topped it all off with some lemon tahini dresssing. This salad was, by far, one of the best vegan meals I’ve ever had in my life. I know a salad seems very simplistic and dare I say, a little boring to some people, but I’m telling you, this salad bowl was so incredibly delicious I devoured it all and still wanted more.
The salad bowls are big and lush and so full of energy and life. I don’t think you could ask for a better meal. The textures and flavours were fantastic. The sunflower seeds, lentils, alfalfa, and baby spinach leaves amped up the crunch factor ten-fold and the lemon tahini dressing was creamy and refreshing and flavourful. Ever since I had tahini sauce with falafel several years ago, tahini has been one of my favourites and it totally gave the whole salad that extra bit of richness and creaminess.
Even though I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I love the versatility of it all. There are so many ways to integrate fruits, grains, legumes, proteins, and vegetables into delicious and filling meals and I’ve been lucky enough to mix and match and try out new foods and combinations in the company of vegetarian and vegan friends who live by these foods and only these foods. Going to places like Freshii and Fresh have been so much fun simply because of the creative freedom I’ve had over my food and Urban Herbivore is exactly the type of vegan eatery that feeds my love of food and creativity all in one.
Urban Herbivore is located at 64 Oxford Street in Kensington Market, with a second location in Eaton Centre’s Urban Eatery.