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Doug's Public Kitchen

Posted by Libby Roach / Reviewed on February 5, 2014 / review policy

Dougs Public Kitchen TorontoDoug's Public Kitchen has a simple mission: to make vegan (and gluten free and organic food) comfortable, nourishing and mainstream. That's right carnivores, Doug McNish is on a mission to convert you, and his new spot on Marlee (taking over for the now closed Scratch Fresh Foods) is part restaurant, part takeaway shop and part learning kitchen.

Doug has a huge following in Toronto, with popups at the Brick Works every Saturday and two cookbooks out, so vegan food is not just a job for him so much as a quest, and judging by the crowds there for Sunday brunch, his reach is evangelical.

Dougs Public KitchenFull disclosure: I'm a flesh eating carnivore. I rarely make it two hours without ingesting some part of an animal. The word vegan is usually followed by a pffft in my presence. But Doug's restaurant promised hearty food that would not only satisfy, but nurture and sustain, so I was keen to see how it stacked up.

Dougs Public KitchenCoffee was the first obstacle. Double double (fair trade) coffee ($3) comes in the form of coconut sugar and hemp milk. Not decidedly bad, but not the same. Hemp milk just doesn't dissolve like 10% buttery cream. Aromatic and addictive Hot Chicory ($6) is a better bet, with roasted chicory, dandelion and waft-worthy cinnamon and vanilla. Mini bowls of popcorn are a great replacement for the usual bread basket.

Dougs Public KitchenSmoothies come in mega sized 16 ounce portions and would make suitable meal replacements. The Body Builder ($10) consists of coconut water, hemp seeds, and hemp protein powder and l glutamine. The Berry ($10) smoothie lives up to its name and not much else, with berries, bananas and mangos. There's an add-on list of proteins, berries and seeds starting at a buck a pop.

Dougs Public KitchenSensing I may need to stop for an emergency cheeseburger on the way home, I was surprised to find the Scramble Platter ($16) incredibly hearty and resembling something I would actually eat. Scrambled tofu fills in for the eggs, with caramelized onions, mushrooms and peppers adding some filler. A side bowl of black bean chili tastes suspiciously meaty (but isn`t). The accompanying toast and sunflower seed miso butter is even better than the real thing. A generous portion of home fries and tempeh bacon is almost overkill; the portion is massive.

Dougs Public KitchenChocolate Buckwheat Pancakes ($15) come soaked in the good stuff, maple syrup and chocolate sauce. Citrus and mint fruit salad breaks up the sweetness.

The Vegan Benedict ($17) came disguised as a sesame crusted tofu (egg), with slow roasted tomato, white wine and garlic sautéed spinach on a gluten free English muffin. Coconut Oil, brown rice flour, white wine, lemon juice and Dijon mustard make a mean fake hollandaise.

Dougs Public KitchenSorcery and witchcraft aside, Doug`s mantra `Good food isn`t cheap, and cheap food isn`t good' is on full display here. His prices are on the steep side, but when you factor in that it's all organic and typically local, and the portions are gigantic, you can imagine how high his food costs are.

Doug's Public Kitchen is currently open from Wednesday to Saturday from 11am-6pm for grab-and-go options, and Sundays for brunch, which he welcomes reservations for. Check his website for the occasional pop up dinner and in March for his organic vegan Japanese night.

Dougs Public KitchenPhotos by the author



Kim / February 5, 2014 at 09:51 am
Sounds delicious. I'm not Vegan and I want to try this. As a former restaurant owner, I appreciate chef that cooks with quality ingredient. Can't wait to try!
looks good / February 5, 2014 at 11:19 am
$10 for a smoothie? okay, just checking. bye.
F / February 5, 2014 at 11:24 am
I was thrilled to see a vegan benedict as I'm allergic to eggs but love the taste of hollandaise... but for $17?! I understand that good food isn't cheap but if you add a cup of coffee, that brunch is going to end up costing over $25. Yikes.
MK / February 5, 2014 at 11:28 am
Oh shut up and stop complaining about price. If you can't afford it, great, don't go. Stop thinking the world wants to hear that you are cheap. It is vegan, gluten free, organic food, check price tags - it is expensive because idiots eat meat and dairy all of the time and so the government subsidizes those industries, but not the veggie and fruit and organic industry. The problem is not with this restaurant, the problem is with most of your ignorant, unaware, living.
Nina replying to a comment from MK / February 5, 2014 at 11:49 am
It's a good thing you said that meat eaters are "idiots". Now I know for sure that you're just as ignorant as the rest of us, asshole. The point of the matter is this place is expensive. No need to get your panties in a bunch defending a restaurant you don't own and calling others "idiots" for not thinking the way you do.
Welshgrrl replying to a comment from MK / February 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm
I was with you until the cheap shot at meat eaters being "idiots" and "ignorant". I respect your diet choices, please respect mine.
Kate / February 5, 2014 at 01:18 pm
$10.00 for a smoothy? You don't need to be an evil-processed-food-loving carnivore to realize that's atrocious and that $1.00 add ons are a further insult. While I like the idea of the place I don't think I'll be in a rush to try it.
JL replying to a comment from F / February 5, 2014 at 01:52 pm
I don't find these prices too high - any comparable spot (i.e., not fast-food place) in Toronto that offers brunch is priced in the mid-teens. If it's too expensive for you, you shouldn't go, but you should try the place before suggesting it's too expensive for what you get. I think as tasty vegan place, at fairly conventional prices is well worth a try.
Spadin / February 5, 2014 at 02:44 pm
"Full disclosure: I'm a flesh eating carnivore. I rarely make it two hours without ingesting some part of an animal."

Look, I don't care if you eat meat. I'm an omnivore myself. But this kind of faux-but-not-really-faux-macho, look-at-me-I'm-a-meat-eating-iconoclast posturing is so. Fucking. Boring. Just eat a fucking vegetable without making a federal case out of it. Food is food. As long as it's quality ingredients and well-made.
John Tucker / February 5, 2014 at 06:48 pm
We've been twice already. The food is not just healthy it is excellent. And we will be going again and again.
Liv / February 6, 2014 at 09:54 am
This looks great, but definitely too pricey for the portion size...I mean $15 for 3 small pancakes? Pass.
Marlee Villain / February 6, 2014 at 05:46 pm
Portion size???? Maybe you eat too much. I know you write stupid shit too much!
Vegan102 / February 7, 2014 at 12:09 pm
Support this restaurant!
TL / February 7, 2014 at 01:23 pm
The menu looks identical to the one Doug consulted for the Windsor Arms. Yes, good local produce can be expensive, but the prices here compared to say Grasslands, which is on Queen West and charges around $13 for a much larger portioned brunch, this does seem over the top. Marlee isn't exactly a dining destination. Agree about the pancakes looking small. There's nothing I hate more than paying a lot for vegan food and going home hungry.
Toots / February 8, 2014 at 07:36 am
The vegan brunch at the Windsor Arms sucks.
Vegan102 / February 8, 2014 at 01:08 pm
TL....Grasslands is NOT ORGANIC, that's a big difference.
FoodMonster / February 10, 2014 at 04:33 pm
Finally! A place where I don't have to worry about what I am eating. As a vegetarian I always get stuck eating at Fresh (where you pay THE SAME PRICE for Bob's Red Mill gluten free pancake mix, bagged vegetable from China, disgusting tempeh bacon and NON ORGANIC juice!) Great to see a business with such a wonderful commitment to ingredients. Also have been to Grasslands and it was very underwhelming, and cheaper but that's what you get when the restaurant lives off of GFS. We all "vote with our dollars" I'd rather put my money into something better.
Tony / February 11, 2014 at 12:14 am
Amen FoodMonster!
Those places pawn off "healthy" as "organic" because people are too lazy to ask questions and look beyond the branding.
Shari / February 13, 2014 at 03:54 am
I dare you haters to go have that tofu benedict and tell me you are still hungry after. It's huge and delicious....and I eat meat too!
Lisa Simone / February 13, 2014 at 09:29 am
I'm a HUGE fan of Doug's brunches, I pretty much only go to Brickworks in the winter to grab his vegan french toast.

RE: prices, it's all relative. I'd rather spend my money fuelling my body with good, healthful foods that are ethically sourced and give up something else but to each their own!

If this even piques your interest I highly encourage you to give his Public Kitchen a try :)
Leslie Milthorpe / February 13, 2014 at 10:01 am
Ok, let's put it in perspective. Nutrient dense food is more expensive than food that is not. Good health comes from eating less calories that are nutrient dense, not the other way around which is what we are used to in most traditional restaurants and traditional standard american diets (sad).

I bet if you split any of these meals with your cafe companion, savouring the taste and textures while appreciating the work that went into the creation from the farmer who chose to grow organic produce that made it possible to have it in the first place, sourcing it from a reputable places that are not on our doorstep, to the exceptional skill it takes to prepare it in a way you will not only enjoy it but remember it, you would be satisfied on many more levels.
Vibeke / February 13, 2014 at 09:22 pm
Oh we should all be so lucky as to eat Doug's delicious food! Who cares about price when you're chowing down on such amazing food! Doug McNish is a man committed to excellent ingredients. You get what you pay for!
Elizabeth / February 24, 2014 at 07:27 pm
I am a fan of Doug's cookbook and look forward to having a meal in his new restaurant. The Sunday brunch is calling to me! Any restaurant that is dedicated to organic, vegan, locally sourced food is worthy of support. It's too rare in Toronto where the vegan/vegetarian restaurant options are often not as delectable on your plate. As much as I wanted to love Hogtown Vegan I was disappointed in the menu offerings, heavy on fried foods.
It would have been helpful to have the actual address and phone number of Doug's restaurant in the review.
Best of luck, Doug.

Nikki / May 22, 2014 at 11:00 am
This would be great for vegans and omnivores alike. You don't need to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy foods that don't contain animal products. In fact, most of what omnivores eat is vegan anyways... No need to insult vegans, or insult omnivores on their food choices...

That aside -
I'm excited to try Doug's restaurant. "Eat Raw Eat Well" was one of the first vegan cookbooks I had purchased in my quest to eat healthier a few years ago - and if the food in his restaurant is anything like the food in his cookbooks (or at the pop-up at Brickworks, yum!), then it'll be a great experience.
Of course it's going to be on the pricey end of things... It's organic - which is always more expensive. We vote with our wallets - if we make the choices to buy more organic foods, eventually prices will go down for these ingredients.

And the pictures in this article make me super hungry...
A vegan in a vegans, vegan world / October 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm
I ate here a few weeks ago and I got very sick. I am still having complications with my arsehole. IE, tearing and bleeding.

Will not go back. Thanks.
ned start / May 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm
Why does every good vegan review end with someone lying about things. Idiot.
Anthony replying to a comment from FoodMonster / July 22, 2015 at 07:02 pm
you are so bang on, China frozen vegetables and GFS; Gordon Food Service, specialising in bottom of the barrel pricing and anything but local and sustainable lol. One does indeed get what one pays for. Natural is a far cry from local and organic. It just ain't fair to comapre prices with a place that ain't locally conscious and organic to one that is. And omg your comments on Fresh are bang on. I dig Vital Life and Camro's btw - truly great vegan food.

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