Remember the days before you realized pancakes were true to their name (it’s just cake in a pan, people) and that hollandaise is butter sauce? Brunch was a luxury. An indulgence.
But it still can be. And we’re not talking about swapping out real food for some kind of juice cleanse. These restaurants have championed the healthy brunch in Vancouver — they’re plant-based heavyweights and owners of hearty, wholesome meals. A ton of these spots are already dinner favourites for the veg-friendly — so check out the morning menu for your next brunch date.
Breakfast. Pizza. And this isn’t the sad, cold leftovers from last night’s delivery. The Chinatown and UBC pizza shops stick to their strengths for weekend brunch. We’re talking vegan, gluten-free breakfast pizza on a menu rounded out with tacos and calzones meant for a hot early morning meal. Try the AKA Benny Eggs breakfast pizza topped with tofu scramble, arugula, tomatoes, and cashew cream hollandaise (also offered as a side if this sounds like something you need in your life).
Check out Nuba’s modern but cozy locations in Kitsilano, Mount Pleasant, Yaletown, or Gastown for Lebanese brunch. The brunch menu is small but super fresh and always delicious. At least half of the menu is vegetarian and any meat on the menu is halal, non-medicated, and hormone-free (all the more reason to add a side of lamb sausage to your order). Wash down your Healthy Wake-Up or Breakfast Manoushe with a made-to-order fruit and veggie drink from the juice bar.
The Naam is both OG vegetarian—established in 1968—and one of Vancouver’s few restaurants open 24/7. Right in the heart of Kitsilano on West 4th Ave, breakfast is served every day from 6am to 11:30pm (and later on weekends). The hippie hot spot uses fresh, local produce for a menu that covers most dietary restrictions — from vegan pancakes to veggie sausages to modifications on the classic American breakfast. Fitt Tip: In true good karma fashion, The Naam will swap eggs for scrambled tofu, in any dish, at no extra charge.
Looking for something quick and casual? Tractor is a cafeteria-style cafe that offers a simple, healthy breakfast bar. Grab a serving of overnight oats or muesli, or get the full yogurt parfait (layered with granola and berry compote) for a few extra dollars. The ever-favourite avocado shows up on the menu as an add-on, toast topper, or vegetarian breakfast sandwich (if you’re not feeling the bacon option). All three of their downtown locations (and one in Kits) are bright, airy spaces with minimalistic decor.
This is the place you take your friends who refuse to try a vegetarian meal. The hearty portions and explosion of flavours at this Mexican brunch spot have fooled more than a few carnivores. Hit Commercial Dr. to find this taqueria serving vegetarian plates (with vegan and gluten-free substitutes) filled out with pinto beans, fresh cut salsa, guacamole, and handmade corn tortillas. It doesn’t matter what you order; it’s going to be delicious (but huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos are a safe bet). The best part? Breakfast is available all day, every day, and the extended brunch menu is served every day until 3pm.
If you’re looking for farm-to-table brunch, make sure that table is inside Farmer’s Apprentice. The menu changes daily for a reason; local farmers bring in whatever is seasonal and fresh and the chefs work their magic. Expect delicious veggies or organic meat paired with a perfectly poached egg. Though, brunch is only served on weekends, so get there early to beat the line. Fitt Tip: Check out the Friends of Farmer’s and get to know their list of local suppliers.
If you want to earn your brunch, head to TurF in Kitsilano to refuel after an in-house sweat session. TurF is both a health-focused cafe and studio that hosts boxing, strength, or yoga classes — all in the same space. The “Morning-ish” menu is stocked with gluten-free toasts and vegan bowls, and served all day. The Lentil Grits, Baked Oats and Groats, and Wild Mushroom and Cashew Cream Ricotta Toast are all pretty powered up, but you can add a “Happy Protein” (eggs to salmon to lentil balls) for that extra boost.
This vegetarian spot is tucked into a beautifully restored heritage building just off South Granville and West 12th. Heirloom is a crowd favourite for a few good reasons: banana french toast, avocado benedict, hash topped with quinoa nut fritters (don’t ask, just eat!). Remember that you get what you pay for (it’s a bit pricey, but you’re repaid in high-quality ingredients and a damn good meal). The brunch menu is fully vegetarian, but there’s a field roast sausage on the side menu if that’s the type of protein you’re fiending for. Fitt Tip: Heirloom has a juicery across the street and a counter-service operation in Ambleside if you’re short on time.
Chickpea feels like a kindergarten classroom — if five-year-olds cooked up delicious, vegan Mediterranean dishes between nap times. Menus stuck in children’s books and crayon-coloured art make Chickpea stand out from your average hipster brunch spot on Main St. Order the Shakshuka Boker for a pile of warm chickpeas (surprise, surprise), sauteed vegetables in a tangy tomato sauce, and your choice of toppings: veggie sausage or crispy eggplant and falafel, to name a couple. Stay on the savoury train with one of the latkes or indulge in the gluten-free blueberry pancakes.
This cafe and grocer is classic Commercial Dr. stomping grounds for the all-natural community. These guys are solid on their promises of organic, plant-based, and local food. The restaurant is stocked with bookshelves and is cozy despite the grocery market tucked behind the seating area. (Though, this is super handy for when you’re feeling inspired after a meal in the cafe!) Yes, the menu here is limited, but it damn sure doesn’t disappoint. For instance, The Hippie’s Breakfast is a raw—but filling—bowl with spiced buckwheat “grawnola” and topped with nuts, seeds, and seasonal fruit.
The menu items may be a little vague (“Kale” or “Artichoke” tells you the main ingredient, but not how it’ll show up on your plate), but Acorn is well worth the blind faith. The dishes look ready for a gourmet magazine photoshoot, but the restaurant vibe is still laid-back and chic. The upper Main St restaurant is “vegetable forward” and focuses on local, fresh ingredients — including a seasonal dish that changes daily. Everything can be vegan or gluten-free-friendly, and a meal here is prime tactic for converting your diehard meat-loving friends.
Nelson The Seagull is all about simplicity, but they're pretty bold in only having four options on a breakfast menu. Nevertheless, the straightforwardness of a poached egg over avocado toast, homemade muesli and almond milk, and aged white cheddar on pieces of freshly baked sourdough makes for one of the most authentic cafe experiences you can have in Vancouver. Pair that all-day menu with the craft coffees from their espresso bar and the European vibes of their cosy space for brunch you'll never want to end.
**Updated by Audrey Lim, February 2019