UPDATED FEB 17, 2020
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? Now, brunch can be different. These restaurants have championed the healthy brunch in Vancouver — they’re plant-based heavyweights and owners of hearty, wholesome meals. Take your pick!
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 for your 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, which it definitely does).
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 hotspot uses fresh, local produce for a menu that covers most dietary restrictions. Savor 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 café that offers a simple, healthy breakfast bar. Grab a serving of overnight oats or muesli, or for a few extra dollars, get the full yogurt parfait layered with granola and berry compote. 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). You’ll love the bright, airy decor at any of their eight Toronto locations, which includes their newest grab-and-go “Tractor Digital” spot in the Park Place Retail Concourse.
For the friends who refuse to try a vegetarian meal, take them to Bandidas Taqueria. 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) packed with pinto beans, fresh cut salsa, and guacamole, all inside 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 the table is inside Farmer’s Apprentice. The menu changes daily for a reason — local farmers bring in seasonal and fresh produce and the chefs work their magic. Expect delicious veggies or organic meat paired with a perfectly poached egg. Fitt Tip: brunch is only served on weekends, so get there early to beat the line. Another 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. Here you can refuel after an in-house sweat session. TurF is both a health-focused café and studio that hosts boxing, strength, or yoga classes — all in the same space. The “Brunch-ish” menu is stocked with gluten-free toasts and vegan bowls and served all day. The Morning Greens, Potato Benny, and Banana Bread French Toast are all pretty powered up, but you can add a protein (eggs to salmon to pork sausage) for that extra boost.
This vegetarian spot is housed in a beautifully restored heritage building just off South Granville and West 12th. It’s a crowd favourite for a few good reasons: the Avocado Benedict and the Brassica Hash topped with broccolini, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Remember, you get what you pay for, and while it’s a bit pricey, you’re repaid in high-quality ingredients and a badass 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 hoping 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 café and grocer are classic Commercial Dr. stomping grounds for the all-natural community. These guys are solid on their promises of organic, plant-based, and local food. Stop by to see how the owners have stocked the restaurant with bookshelves (super handy for post-meal inspiration) and have tucked a grocery market behind the seating area. Despite all this, everything still feels cozy and welcoming. 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 maintains a laid-back and chic mood. 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 a 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 café 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 cozy space for brunch you'll never want to end.
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