Thursday, July 9, 2015

Being Vegan in Hamilton: Part 1

I moved to Hamilton last year from North Bay, Ontario and was immediately struck by how incredibly vegan friendly it is compared to what I am used to. I guess it's not all that surprising; Hamilton is significantly more multicultural than North Bay, which is notably monochromatic, and it is  kind of HUGE comparatively. In spite of this, I am finding that being vegan anywhere presents its own unique set of challenges. In North Bay, I struggled to find restaurants that had a large number of vegan options,  but for the most part (perhaps this is because it is a college/university town, or maybe just because it is small) I never had trouble finding  chefs who would happily whip up something vegan for me (without having to be told what vegan means). And even though grocery stores seldom stocked the plethora of vegan alternatives you find in larger cities, North Bay's few grocery stores happily began stocking veggie sandwich meats and dairy free cheeses when requested.

Hamilton is a whole different ball game, and while I really do love this city, I find myself getting increasingly frustrated with the ignorance of some of the people I meet, especially in the service industry. A couple of days ago, for example, I went to a new pizza place that just opened up in the strip mall by our house to ask if they could make vegan pizza. I wanted to know, obviously, if there dough was vegan, and what non meat, non-dairy options they had. The girl at  the front counter responded: "No, sorry, all our dough has gluten". ....I didn't even know how to respond. I explained that I wanted something without animal  products, and she just stared at me blankly.

How is this something that people don't know?! Granted, its not as though we have vegan education in public schools but still!

Nonetheless, there are lots of places in Hamilton to eat vegan, even if there are fewer places now than there were when we moved here (RIP Affinity!).

So, I came up with a little list of our favourite places to eat vegan and find vegan products in Hamilton in the hopes that it will help out other vegans who are new to the city, or those who are looking to start incorporating ethical choices into their lives (vegan or not). This is definitely not a comprehensive list, but its a start. I will do my best to post another with awesome vegan stuff in Hamilton  later  in the summer.

Food Places (Vegan/Vegetarian)
There aren't a ton of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Hamilton, surprisingly, but the ones that exist are pretty damn good.

  1. The Green Smoothie Bar: this place on James St. North is all vegan and serves smoothies, yummy puddings, and fast order food. They also have some groceries and supplements. They recycle EVERYTHING and every time I go in there the staff are friendly and informative.
  2. Bridges Vegetarian Cafe: Bridges is a vegetarian restaurant on the McMaster main campus. Make  sure you specify that you are vegan,  though, because they do serve dairy products. 
  3. Lettuce Love Cafe: This is actually on John St. in Burlington. But for a 15 minute drive, its pretty damn worth it. They are completely vegan, and offer lots of different  options from smoothies to burgers to soups. They are a little pricey, but worth it for a once-in-a-while vegan treat. Their nachos are super good, but VOMD doesn't like cilantro so if you are of like mind, don't order them, or ask for them sans cilantro.
  4. DEMOCRACY: Holy crap is this place amazing. They make the BEST soy lattes in the city and have an entirely  vegan menu with full meals, snacks, baked goods and awesomeness. 

Food Places (With Vegan options)
Vegetarian Combo Platter at Wass Ethiopian Restaurant
  1. Mulberry: Its a standard coffee shop, but they can make you an awesome vegan sandwich and they serve yummy vegan cupcakes and cookies. Try the chocolate cookie with dates and oats. I forget what it is called but  it is  UNREAL when you heat it up.  
  2. Wass Ethiopian: This place is so much fun. They have about five or six vegan entrĂ©e options, but you can get them on a platter all together for about $13. You eat everything with injera, a flat, pancake like thing made of fermented grains. Its excellent. VOMD and I go here about once a month.  The vegetarian combo platter is enough for both of us if we get extra injera. Also, you get to eat with your hands! Who doesn't love that?
  3. Pita Pizza (Main St. E): This place is your standard shawarma and pizza place that you find all over Hamilton, but with the exception that they make a falafel pizza that is completely vegan! Its so good with extra veggies. 
  4. Cafe Oranje: This is a cute little Dutch inspired coffee place on King St. down town. They often have gluten free vegan blondies and vegan date squares and these amazing chocolate peanut butter crunch bars, and they just started stocking vegan nanaimo bars! They can make you a latte with soy or almond milk and are generally pretty good. I just wish they made vegan boterkoek. I would die of happiness right there. 
    Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch Bar from Oranje (the picture does not do it justice)

Happy Eating! 



  1. Lots of those sweets come from Cake and Loaf, which always always has vegan baked good options!
    Also in the Hamilton Farmer's Market there are two veg-friendly places, one with vegan meat alternatives (soy and gluten) and another with pre-made tasty treats.

    One more on Dundurn is Good To Go, which has vegan meals and treats, too.

    Welcome to Hamilton!

    1. I love Cake and Loaf! We just tried their mushroom pie. It was unreal. I will definitely check out the places at the farmer's market. I go there often, but I always just stay where the veggies are and don't wander much.

      Thanks Melanie!