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Restaurants

Cruda Cafe

Posted by Meaghan Binstock / Reviewed on July 6, 2010 / review policy

Cruda CafeCruda Cafe is not the kind of place you'd expect to find in the St. Lawrence Market. It may be a great place to shop for fresh veggies, cheeses and breads, but if you're looking for lunch, the options aren't exactly healthy.

Enter Cruda Cafe, a vegan resto dedicated to using fresh, organic ingredients to create dishes that consist of living foods, either raw or cooked at low temperatures so that all nutrients remain intact. Suddenly the St. Lawrence Market, where local, fresh ingredients are readily available every day, makes sense as a location after all.

Cruda CafeAfter wandering around the Market's maze of food vendors and cafes for a while, I finally find Cruda hidden in the back corner of the lower level, across from a fluorescent-lit food court with plastic tables, which on this beautiful day is expectedly vacant. The small cafe offers eco-friendly takeout containers, so we opt to get our lunch to go and head for the sunny picnic tables on the Market's main level.

While we mull over the many options, an affable employee offers me a raw coconut water to drink ($4.99). When I oblige, he quickly turns around, takes out a whole coconut and drills a hole into the top to place the straw. It doesn't get much fresher than this, and the juice is delicious and refreshing.

Cruda CafeAs we select the items we'd like to try, we witness the owner preparing our dishes from fresh ingredients right in front of us. Unfortunately there's no soup special today, but vegan chili ($4.50) turns out to be a very acceptable substitute. A generous portion of the chili, consisting of various veggies including mushrooms, carrots and tomatoes, as well as nuts and seeds, is topped with a giant dollop of fresh guacamole. Savoury and crunchy, the chili is a great start.

Cruda CafeThe Glow Salad ($8.50) comes with heaps of greens, beets, carrots and other vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, edible flowers and big slices of avocado. The salad is crisp, fresh, and undeniably healthy. The vegetables taste great, but the house carrot-apple-ginger dressing falls a little flat.

Cruda CafeThe Enchiladas ($7.50), stuffed with veggies, chili, salsa and the same tangy guacamole, rolled up in a flourless corn wrap, are tasty enough, but slightly lacklustre in flavour.

Cruda CafeThe Gnocchi Carbonara ($10) is by far the best item we try, and probably one of the best vegan dishes I've tasted. Raw vegan gnocchi might seem like blasphemy to the true pasta lover, but this creative dish, call it what you may, is delicious.

A bed of zucchini noodles is topped with house-made dumplings of cashews and essential oil of rosemary, each one a burst of intense flavour. The dish is then smothered in a creamy, garlicky sauce and topped with fresh pea shoots. We definitely have no problem making this dish disappear.

Today there's also a crepe special ($5.50), and the owner tells us we are the first ones to try this new creation. The strawberry crepe, red and white, is intended for her special Canada Day menu. Imagine a healthy, naturally flavoured version of a strawberry fruit roll-up, filled with coconut cream and fresh strawberries. Not much else needs to be said.

Cruda CafeWhen told that the vegan Nanaimo Bar ($4.50) is a signature Cruda Cafe dessert, usually sold out by lunchtime, we can't resist. The sweet, chocolately confection, with a layer of cashew cream, is a highly enjoyable take on the dairy-filled classic.

Cruda CafeA visit to the St. Lawrence Market always makes for a great afternoon, and with Cruda Cafe's healthy lunch offerings, the trip is even more worthwhile.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30am-5:30pm.

Photos by Taralyn Marshall

Discussion

42 Comments

foodnut / July 7, 2010 at 10:29 am
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some nutrients are actually enhanced with cooking. like lycopene. a raw vegan diet doesn't necessarily mean a healthy diet.
corina / July 7, 2010 at 10:29 am
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oh my god thank you for posting about this! our office just moved down to queens quay and i am already sick of loblaws lunches and while some st.lawrence options are great, they are as you mentioned, not exactly healthy. i am going to track this place down TODAY!
LJ / July 7, 2010 at 10:52 am
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the colours in the pictures are so amazing
EP / July 7, 2010 at 11:10 am
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I'm sorry can someone explain why my comment was deleted? I was just pointing out the similarities with NOW's review..
Tim replying to a comment from EP / July 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm
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Your comment was removed because we viewed it as link spam and unfair. Discussion in this comment thread should pertain to the restaurant (or review) itself. For more details on the site's comment policy please read this:

http://www.blogto.com/commentpolicy/

EP / July 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm
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What's BlogTO's policy on plagiarism?
TL replying to a comment from EP / July 7, 2010 at 01:10 pm
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What a surprise! Two reviews of the same restaurant being similiar?? Like...they reviewed the same dishes?? What are the odds?!?!

Good thing that you're keeping a keen eye on Toronto restaurant reviews for us lowly diners.
EP replying to a comment from TL / July 7, 2010 at 01:14 pm
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Actually it's more that the opening phrases of both reviews are almost exactly the same. Same concept and some of the same words. But I guess in this day and age it's no longer a big deal to take ideas from someone else's work.
RP / July 7, 2010 at 01:16 pm
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EP, that's a really dumb comment...the only similarities between the two reviews are that they both use the same opener for one of the paragraphs (i.e. the word "Enter" - pretty standard for paragraph openers), and both mention the flourescent-lit food court, which is a pretty common observation. Go stuff some raw veggies in your pie hole and shut up.
This looks like a great healthy and tasty place to eat and I think the reviewer did a really great job enticing new customers to try it out.
RP / July 7, 2010 at 01:16 pm
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Also the photos are amazing!
EP replying to a comment from RP / July 7, 2010 at 01:21 pm
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I'm sorry, but this:
"St. Lawrence Market might be a great place to shop for organic veggies, but if you’re looking for a takeout nosh a bit friendlier to the planet than back bacon on a bun, pickings are slim.

Enter Claudia Gaviria.."

and this:
"Cruda Cafe is not the kind of place you'd expect to find in the St. Lawrence Market. It may be a great place to shop for fresh veggies, cheeses and breads, but if you're looking for lunch, the options aren't exactly healthy.

Enter Cruda Cafe.."

..Are almost exactly the same to me. So why don't you go stuff your own pie hole?
Rocky / July 7, 2010 at 01:49 pm
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Now you're making me crave pie holes.
d replying to a comment from foodnut / July 7, 2010 at 01:53 pm
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your dead wrong. go read

im not on a raw vegan diet but i know for a fact its the healthiest diet FACT!
emmzee / July 7, 2010 at 02:24 pm
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I can't imagine switching to a vegan diet, but the photos make this restaurant's food look pretty good. I'd try it.

Does anyone else think their choice of name is a bit unfortunate? It's a little too close to "Crud Cafe" which isn't at all appetizing ...

Also, to "d"; that's a fantastic argument you've got there. Consider me convinced. {scarcasm}
JR / July 7, 2010 at 02:58 pm
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Is it just me, or is "in the bowels of..." likely not the best way to describe the location of a restaurant.
Laura / July 7, 2010 at 03:40 pm
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I am vegan, and I've tried the tomato almond soup and a salad with shaved parsnip a little while back from this lovely place... very fresh and delicious. Not cheap eats, but definitely worth it.
Katie replying to a comment from emmzee / July 7, 2010 at 04:20 pm
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The name doesn't bother me, but that's probably because I'm Italian... Cruda is the Italian word for "raw" :)
G / July 7, 2010 at 04:41 pm
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I am SOOOO excited to try this place it looks so amazing.
helen / July 7, 2010 at 04:43 pm
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no way, i had no idea that there was anything remotely vegan in the middle of that cheese-and-meat wonderland. i definitely want to try it!
Bosco / July 7, 2010 at 04:54 pm
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Not that Now's food reviews haven't been self-plagiarized for the five years I've lived here. I love learning about that new restaurant Fressen every week!
fiveteamer / July 7, 2010 at 05:29 pm
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Must be nice to CHOOSE not to eat animal products.

Eric26 / July 7, 2010 at 05:37 pm
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If you want to go on a "raw food diet" eating 100% raw food is probably not a good idea. Sure, you'll survive, but the bioavailability of nutrients in some foods are greatly increased by cooking. As always, eating healthy means more than just following a diet. You'll have to do research of your own.
Derek replying to a comment from EP / July 7, 2010 at 06:10 pm
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Just to be clear, plagiarism involves the theft of that which is original, novel or unique to a given author's work. The passages to which you refer are similar because they are both basic and, to be honest, rather banal observations about the location of the restaurant. In short, it's not really surprising that two reviews of this restaurant would take the same introductory tact.

And, perhaps most importantly, our reviewer refrains from the use of the word "nosh," a most annoying lexical choice which would surely discourage anyone from the act of imitation.
Jen / July 7, 2010 at 06:34 pm
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I had the enchiladas a little while ago and really liked them! I thought the flavour was great!
Sct / July 7, 2010 at 07:41 pm
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I really enjoy trying different places in the Market and surrounding area! Now I have to try this one!
foodnut replying to a comment from d / July 8, 2010 at 08:17 am
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i've been studying nutrition at an accredited university for years now. any diet can be unheathly if you aren't getting the right balance of nutrients. you're over-simplifying it.
also, lycopene IS definitely enhanced with cooking.
il / July 8, 2010 at 09:53 am
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Vague references to "veggies" in a number of menu item descriptions. It's a vegan resto.
LB / July 10, 2010 at 05:54 pm
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great descriptions of the different foods available at this cafe, you can really taste it in your head and everything sounds delicious...i have had the gnocchi carbonara and the vegan chili which i could re-taste while reading this review. I do think i will be returning to try out those desserts, the nanaimo bar sounded especially delicious. really good review on a really good place...
ps..i hope you paid no attention to the "now" guy, sounds to me like he is someone who finally got one article published and is looking for any reason to bring it up
EP replying to a comment from LB / July 10, 2010 at 05:58 pm
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First off, I am not a guy, and secondly, I do not write for "now" or have any relationship with whoever wrote that article. I just noticed the similarities and pointed them out.

But whatever.. I still intend to try the restaurant.
JW / July 21, 2010 at 09:01 am
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Oh Good someone finally shut up EP. Kudos
E / July 23, 2010 at 06:13 am
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Can anyone tell me what kind of flowers are on the salad? They're very pretty.
AlmostBrit / July 31, 2010 at 09:35 am
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They are pansies! I suppose they are edible (well, they must be, as they are on something edible) but it is usually nasturtiums (leaves as well as flowers) which people cook with.
PC / August 1, 2010 at 10:03 pm
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WHY IF RAW FOOD IS A HEALTHY WAY OF LIVING, PEOPLE WORKING IN THAT PLACE LOOK UNHEALTHY, FAT AND RUDE. TASTE NOT GREAT !!!
Meringo / January 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm
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Aieee... I was very excited about this place. Food was okay, I suppose. It may had been great, but it overshadowed what happened after. My cousin and I both ate there, and had a violent er... plumbing issues afterwards. Maybe they had bad vegetables just that day, but we are scared to eat there again. I loved their dessert, mango pie thing though.

Great photos, by the way.
Eric Hacke / February 25, 2011 at 04:04 pm
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I had the Gnocchi Carbonara there once. A little heavy and bland for my tastes, and I like veg food. Maybe I'll try the enchiladas next time. Also, a little pricey. $5 for a coconut with a hole in it? I get that these places are usually more expensive, but you need to make sure the quality is there. Fressen is a good example.

As an aside, I don't understand people who hate on vegetarian/vegan food. They always come out of the woodwork anytime you even mention not eating meat for even a single meal. And these posts attract them. Do you find carrots threatening or something? I don't think you can lecture about nutrient-levels while munching McDonalds, or steak and steamed potatoes.

Here's the thing with vegetarian food. It's like any other food. It's not like you have to eat it all the time or not at all. You can choose to eat it when you want it, just like Mexican, Chinese or anything else. It's not an all or nothing religious decision. Relax.
P Dot / March 3, 2011 at 01:39 pm
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Had a salad there today and OMG this place ROCKS!!! I saw ot on blogTO a while ago and always meant to check it out. Today I did and will be back for sure.
whatiswrongwithyoupeople / September 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm
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you people with seemingly not a whole lot to do are at least entertaining...thanks for the laughs and keep up the hostility!

oh, I might try the restaurant, feeling vegetarian today.
Julia / January 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm
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Bad service, they recommended me a product that tasted terrible "apple pie". I asked, what is better- blueberry tart( 1 left) or apple pie(3 left)? She said apple pie, as the other girl laughed. Apparently everyone knows it's not good and she recommended it because she had to get rid of them. A friend told me after, blueberry tart was better, their apple pie sucks. It was common knowledge. This was coming from a raw vegan. I took two bites out, threw it out. What a waste of $10. They laughed. Pastries in general, not that good there. Btw I'm vegan, but I avoid this place because of this. I will never go back and will not recommend this place to anyone.
ST / January 29, 2012 at 08:33 am
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The food was okay but the service was terrible. I kept on having to change my smoothie order because they were missing so many of the fruits in them. Being in the St Lawrence Market, I wondered why they hadn't replenished their stock from the many fruit stands a few steps away. The smoothies we got were served somewhere between room temperature and luke warm, not very refreshing or appetizing. Finally, I was charged 1.00 for the smoothie plastic cup itself. At 6.50 for tiny smoothie (that didn't contain half the fruits it was suppose to) the 1.00 just seemed ridiculous. I felt like I was being penalized, as a first time customer, for not knowing that you had to bring your own mug.Needless to say, I will NOT be returning to Cruda.
Maureen replying to a comment from Julia / January 30, 2012 at 09:03 am
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If it was done to me Julia, I would have made the laughing girls WEAR the apple pie. Some servers need to know their place.
Naadia / January 6, 2013 at 11:57 am
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The idea behind eating raw is that it's easier to digest raw foods, and so your body saves some energy that it would have otherwise needed for that purpose. So it seems strange to me that raw food would cause "plumbing issues". I've heard that if you consume something difficult to digest and then eat raw vegetables, the vegetables can rot in your stomach before your last meal passes through the pipes. I am thinking animal protein is the likely culprit here, but some people can't even mix nuts into a fruit smoothie without having digestive problems. Perhaps that's the issue.
james austin / April 6, 2013 at 09:36 pm
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Had the worst salad of my life here last week. The St. Lawrence Green Market Salad promised "micro greens, carrots, beets, avocado, figs, goji berries, nuts and seeds, infused with kombucha coconut oil agave dijon dressing." There were no micro greens, only baby arugula. After walking around St. Lawrence market and seeing all the beautiful sprouts and micro greens for sale, it was pretty surprising and disappointing to not get any in this salad. The avocado was brown, there were 2 goji berries in the whole salad, the 'nuts and seeds' were just a few sunflower seeds, and that dressing was one of the most disgusting things I have ever tasted. My friend and I ate about 3 bites each and threw the rest out. I assume their other items must be better or they would have closed down long ago, but now I'm afraid to try anything else.

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