“If I could eat vegan food like this every day, I would definitely go vegan.” This is the compliment that Eric Chao, owner of Parka, lives for. Longtime vegan and environmentalist, he quit his job as a retailer clothing director to open the Queen West vegan comfort food joint in 2017.
“One of my goals has been to shatter people’s misconceptions about what vegan food is,” he says. “What makes our food so special is that we take comfort foods – which are traditionally considered guilty pleasure – and remove some of the guilt while retaining the pleasure. We have made a conscious effort to focus solely on the plant-based whole food ingredients. “
Parka’s new ultra-sustainable menu prioritizes local sourcing and sustainable agriculture. Highlights include cashew mac ‘n’ with mushrooms and truffles and a jicama “fish fillet” sandwich. “There’s a feel-good factor to eating something you know is good for you,” Chao says, “and for the planet.”
Here, Chao shares her favorite vegan food in the GTA.
No Mapo at Fat Choi, 94 Ossington Avenue.
“The Nyonya eggplant is cooked to perfection and the canned vegetables added just the right amount of tart and crunch, which was countered by the sweet flavor of the soybeans. Overall, this dish is incredibly balanced with incredible depth of flavor and texture.
Vegan Tuna Croissant Sandwich at the Danish Vegan Bakery, 1312 Queen Street West
“One of my favorite breakfast foods: the star really is the phenomenal vegan croissant they make, which has perfect flakes on the outside and layers of butter on the inside that look like the real thing. ”
Jacquier BBQ Pizza at Pizzeria Du, 536 Queen Street West
“This is my favorite vegan pizza since I first tried it. There’s a lot going on with unexpected ingredients and combinations, such as barbecue jackfruit with grilled pineapple, green onion, and ranch dressing, but it all works incredibly well together. In addition, the crust is also very good: thin and light, but it holds the toppings well.
Teriyaki Karaage Sandwich at Tsuchi Café, 688 College Street
“I was blown away by this sandwich when I first tried it and have wanted it ever since. I was really impressed with their fidelity to the original flavor of karaage, which is traditionally Japanese fried chicken, crisp and thin on the outside, juicy and tasty on the inside; here it’s made with a delicious tempeh instead. When paired with their “egg” salad, teriyaki sauce, lettuce, and soft, chewy shokupan bread, it’s pure perfection in a sandwich. “
White Taupe with Plantain, Grilled Pine Nuts, Mezcal, Maitake Mushroom and La Bartola Cocoa Butter Candy, 588 College Street
“All of La Bartola’s food is masterfully executed. This dish really stood out to me because the mushrooms had such a unique and satisfying depth of flavor that I had never tasted before, which was perfectly balanced with the delicate yet sophisticated flavors of the rest of the dish.