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Cafes

Hibiscus Cafe

Posted by Devon Scoble / Posted on May 24, 2009

Hibiscus Cafe TorontoWhy Hibiscus Cafe doesn't charge more for its delicious treats is one of Toronto's greatest mysteries. It seems to me that healthy food is like bikini material: the less there is, the more you pay. But for some reason Hibiscus Café has decided to buck the trend of overcharging for animal-optional, gluten-free delights, opting instead for reasonable prices, good service and a pleasant atmosphere. Masochistic fans of hipster pretense and unfriendly service are advised to quit eating and head to American Apparel instead, because while Hibiscus Café is bang-on the trend meter with its super healthy fare, the service is anything but snotty.

Excited by the full page of crepe selections on Hibiscus' small but varied menu, my lunch companion and I both ordered buckwheat-flour crepes: hers filled with mushroom, spinach and mozzarella cheese, and mine with basil, tomato and goat cheese. At $5.50 each, we had a little room in our budgets for more, requesting beet soup and a strawberry soymilk smoothie respectively.

My cup of soup arrived first, accompanied by a homemade cracker of apple, zucchini, and sunflower seeds. I was expecting a lot less for $2.75, but gladly accepted the generous steaming mug of sweet beets and roasted roots. I'm still finding it hard to believe that this incredibly smooth, immensely flavourful dish was completely dairy free, but my server confirmed it twice. At least I think he did. He was talking, saying something like "Blah blah blah dairy free" while I was intoning, "But it's sooooooo creamy".

My cracker was equally inspiring, unique for being plant-based, grain-free, house-made and delicious. Sweet apple, earthy zucchini and rich sunflower seeds have been joined in holy dehydration to create a union that is strong enough to withstand a good soup-dunking, but delicate enough to delight all on its own. The strawberry soymilk smoothie ($3.50) was just as yummy, providing an evenly blended mix of fresh strawberries and sweet soymilk.

Hibiscus Cafe

Barely had my love affair with the beet soup begun when Hibiscus Cafe's signature buckwheat crepes arrived, delivering a kiss to my taste buds and a blow to my culinary ego. Many times have I tried to master the gluten-free pancake, but somehow the buckwheat flour always leads me to produce thick, heavy hockey pucks. Not so these crepes, which are flavourful enough to add pizzazz to the dish, but light enough to let the fillings take center stage.

And, oh the fillings! Basil is treated with the cavalier panache of lettuce, shredded and tossed liberally throughout the crepe. No mere accoutrement, the basil competes for stage time with a creamy goat cheese and luscious tomato slices. Roasted eggplant pesto spread thinly across the crepe's surface ensures that each bite delivers a savoury blend of fresh deliciousness.

Hibiscus Cafe KensingtonThe mushroom, spinach and mozzarella crepe is excellent, too. Despite being totally raw, mushroom slices are thin enough to add earthy tones to verdant spinach without overpowering. Mozzarella is light and soft, and the roasted eggplant pesto repeats its flavourful dance across crepe and tongue.

Although I was initially put off by Hibiscus Cafe's lack of green salad and their dark, pokey bathroom, they won me over in the end. For food this good, I will gladly abstain from my beloved mesclun mix and suffer the indignities of walking through the kitchen to get to the loo. Hell, for these flavours, I'd probably be willing to suffer poor treatment, slow service and dirty looks, but I'm grateful I don't have to.
Hibiscus Toronto

For their fresh, innovative fare, excellent service and ability to be both super-cool and super-delicious, Hibiscus Cafe has earned my undying affection, and taught me that sometimes love can be spelled C-R-E-P-E.Hibiscus Cafe Kensington Market

Discussion

33 Comments

Liam / November 17, 2008 at 04:43 pm
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My favorite cafe in the market, fantastic vegan and gluten free food.
Margot replying to a comment from Liam / January 24, 2009 at 12:19 pm
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Sounds fabulous !! I'll be over very soon to try the GLUTEN-FREE!!
Eve / January 24, 2009 at 11:59 pm
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hibiscus is unbelievable! the food is amazing and its all so cute!
they have buckwheat crepes, which you can order of the suggested menu or make up you own, and they're all amazing. your savory ones come with a nice pesto and with the sweet ones you can get dolce de leche [none of that sprinkled sugar bs]. they have nice little salads with lots of real veggies and their soups are usually really special [vegan and GF], you can get them on a mug [my favourite!] and it comes with a delicious little gluten-free cracker (its all made there!)
oh i could go on forever on how much i love that place. its really cozy and the staff is adorable!! too bad they're closed on sundays
Janna / March 14, 2009 at 10:47 pm
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VERY impressed! Great food - worry-free Vegan options and friendly staff make it a repeat destination. I was very happy (and satisfied) with my savoury crepe and bean salad. Next time I hope to try a sweet version of the crepes. Homemade cookies were nice for dessert; very light but I didn't feel tired and stuffed when I left - it was perfect :-)
homeslice robinson / May 24, 2009 at 12:46 pm
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dude.
so good.
eat here at least once a week.
salad & soup combo = best value on the menu...
their smoothies are off the charts too
impeccable staff who obviously put a lot of tlc into their meal preparation.
worth every penny.
boom!
Darcy K. / May 25, 2009 at 12:24 am
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Haha! I've been commenting here for the past year that you needed to visit and review this place. In addition to wholesome, flavorful, fresh prepared food, you couldn't ask for nicer owners, either. I hope Henry (I think that's his name) raises his prices a bit because he's paying the bills, not himself. I would hate to see this place go bust & be replaced by a dirty kebab shop just because the owner(s) aren't making enough money.
Courtney / May 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm
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I had no idea that place had Vegan stuff! I'm so going there, it looks awesome.
yammy / May 26, 2009 at 06:03 pm
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The Earl Grey ice cream is super amazing. Honestly this is a real unique K-Town gem.
Sarah / May 29, 2009 at 07:08 pm
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Earl Grey ice cream, say whaaaat? Next time I am in Toronto, I should hit this place up!
Gwenyth Love / June 8, 2009 at 11:37 am
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Awesome review for an awesome cafe. I loved the food here and can't wait to go back again!
jenny / July 15, 2009 at 09:16 pm
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http:/The soup and salad deal at HIBISCUS is the BEST DEAL IN THE CITY for a fast, cheap and cheerful lunch, brunch, dinner...even breakfast (as I have had on more than a few occasions). A lovingly prepared bowl of quinoa, tiny cubed marinated tofu, grated beets, carrots, steamed broccoli, sweet potatoes, with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and cranberries. This is ONE HECK OF A BOWL OF SUPERFOODS!!!!

BTW- anyone interested in FREE VEGAN CUPCAKES should come on down to my show right across from HIBISCUS on Augusta Ave. this Friday July 17th, 2009. We will be there with a slew of homemade vegan treats...for vegans and non vegans alike, it's your chance to taste how treat like animal product free goodies can be!

xo jenny
THE VICIOUS GUNS
Jenninat0r / July 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm
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I went to Hibiscus twice last week and brought both of my friends who weren't vegetarian and they loved the crepes and the salads! They use good cheeses in the crepes (like blue cheese and brie) and are willing to customize and switch up the combinations of ingredients. The service is great although it's a bit of a wait as they make the crepes on the spot but it's worth it!
Alex / August 7, 2009 at 04:15 pm
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Awesome! I've passed by this place so many times (ironically, usually looking for a good restaurant to suit my dietary sensitivities!), I can't believe this gem was there waiting all along!

I can't wait to try this out!

Thanks!
Nicole / November 1, 2009 at 02:06 pm
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I love this place. The service and food is always excellent.
BobblyHead / February 11, 2010 at 03:56 pm
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This place is awesome! They have a small menu but I've gone there with my boyfriend every Saturday since we've discovered it.
Their soup & salad combo is my favorite; the squash-based soups are always served piping hot and have a perfect blend of flavors. The salad has a mix of a lot of my favorites - quinoa, chilled sweet potato, broccoli, avocado, lentils & kidney beans, okara... yum. :)
The crepes there are yummy too - we've tried the blue cheese and pear combo. Nice thin crepes that are never greasy.
Service here is always so warm and friendly - the staff is polite and greets us with a smile every time we visit. We've become regulars at this place because of the atmosphere and great food. The place is small with a couple of tables and a bench, but the wait is never long and always worth it.

Highly recommended!!! <3

ps - my only complaint is that I am occasionaly (deeply) upset that they are not open on Sundays.... I want my delicious food available to me at all times!! :)
Tom / February 20, 2010 at 01:12 pm
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The best of the best!!

Nicest people..best food..

I feel like a million bucks everytime i leave there

:)
Katelyn / March 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm
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Another Painful heart because they are not open on Sunday's. Went in yesterday for lunch and it was packed. Seems people are finally discovering the greatness of Hibiscus. They have a fabulous display of g-free, vegan desserts and truffles that are my new favorite treats. great service as well.
Nicole / April 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm
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I really have enjoyed my meals at Hibiscus. The staff is friendly and genuine... The food is fresh and nourishing. What more could you ask for?
Zoe / May 7, 2011 at 12:01 am
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Great attention to detail and their food shows that they honour the properties of the ingredients they use. A gem.
hhhhh / May 17, 2011 at 02:19 pm
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Crepe was fresh and savoury. I usually get sick after eating in restaurants because they put so much salt and oil but I felt nourished for once. I got combo they also served daily soup which was great too
I ordered mango smoothie at separate occasion and it was rich and creamy.
check this place out
PurpleNights / July 20, 2011 at 01:46 pm
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The Best Ice Cream EVER!!!!

And the service is great! Very friendly and unpretentious.
Joy Moyer / August 24, 2011 at 10:28 am
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My friend Amy Lau took her daughter to lunch here and she highly recommends that I try it. I am actually looking forward to trying your fare. I will give you my verdict after I have tried it.
laptop review / January 5, 2012 at 03:37 am
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i can agree with the article
Suzanne / April 28, 2012 at 10:12 pm
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They have upped their prices since this review was written (I paid $10 for a aforementioned crepe), but it was still worth every penny. They were able to accommodate for vegan diners, and I honestly enjoyed every bite. My only regret is that I didn't have room for more, as the portions were generous. You can tell the ingredients are fresh, as the help staff were running errands to local produce markets. The owner was also sampling a home-made peanut butter square (also vegan), which I enjoyed. I will be visiting again!
Jules / June 6, 2012 at 08:52 am
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The best! Wonderful friendly staff and clean delicious food everytime. Try their dessert bars and cookies you'll be pleasantly surprised. I often go just for the salad because it's something very delicious and too intricate to try and make at home. This spot nailed it!
Cece / October 3, 2012 at 12:33 am
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My friend and I went in about 15 minutes before closing because we stupidly didn't check their opening hours before walking in. The gentleman at the cash register simply told us not to worry, order anything we'd like, and to take our time eating.

And, top it all off, the buckwheat crepes that we ordered and the side salad were amazingly delicious. Thanks for the recommendation BlogTO!
mel / January 25, 2013 at 08:39 pm
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love this place! so reasonably priced, the food & coffee are DELICIOUS, and the service is great. the super cozy and relaxed setting makes me never want to leave.
J / March 18, 2013 at 11:37 am
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The soup and salad combo was delicious. The gluten-free brownie was too gummy for my taste and not worth the price.

Service was inattentive or discriminating, can't tell which. I came with a friend and we were told to sit at the entrance to wait for a seat, but when two middle aged ladies dressed in hipster clothing came in after us, they were immediately squished into a table beside other patrons who were eating. I almost piped in, "We've been waiting to be seated at a table for 15 min" but I decided not to make a scene since I was with a friend.
Alex / June 2, 2013 at 07:50 am
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The food here looks amazing. Is Hibiscus Latin for Hipster?
Heather / September 16, 2013 at 03:35 am
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Could not have been more pleased. Ate here yesterday for lunch with my husband and 3 kids (all under 5). The staff were very accommodating, friendly and efficient. We all shared the soup (squash) and salad combo with an extra side salad and one crepe with pear and walnuts. It was plenty for the 4 of us (baby not eating solids yet). We only just managed to squeeze in ice cream (amazing flavours) because we could get gluten free cones! (My kids and I have never been anywhere that offered vegan ice cream and GF cones). Definitely a highlight. Only down side was the washroom....but I'd return to eat here every time I'm in Toronto from now on.
Ikas / January 28, 2014 at 11:11 am
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This restaurant renovated in the end of 2013. They got themselves a new set of washrooms. (wink)
Luckily the food stayed the same.
I think it's the best what have happened to Kensington Market's gluten free community.
Absolutely loving this new space and their crepes with soup and salad.
shirley / April 27, 2014 at 11:07 am
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are the crepes vegan? or do they use eggs.... going to be there in june can't wait
Gordon / July 3, 2014 at 10:17 am
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Prices are not as mention in this article... check the online menu http://hibiscuscafe.ca/

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