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Restaurants

Hogtown Vegan

Posted by Kaela Greenstien / Reviewed on July 21, 2011 / review policy

Hogtown VeganThe Hogtown Vegan is the second restaurant in a little over six months from the vegan restauranteur trio responsible for Kensington Market's all vegan doughnuts and burrito joint, Hot Beans. Having already amassed a strong following, these vegans are multiplying fast.

Upgrading from take-out style counter service to a causal dining sit down model, Hogtown Vegan is a deep South comfort food restaurant. Entirely animal product free version of seriously meaty American foods like chicken n' waffles, mac n' cheese and a classic Reuben are now available for those who have renounced carnivorous ways.

Hogtown VeganApparently vegan Hogtonians were eager for a dose of comfort cuisine causing a food shortage on opening day. I have one friend who can already boast three visits in their first 10 days open.

We came in for lunch on an obscenely hot day but the weather outside and, though the A/C was undetectable, we were brought a plastic jug of water to sip. Dark wood trim and black tables are set against awkwardly bare turquoise walls leaving a sparse interior that will hopefully soon be filled.

Hogtown VeganWe started with the "unchicken" wings ($7), a generous euphemism for deep fried tofu triangles. They were pretty good for slabs of tofu; the light batter, dill and hot sauce dip gave them a needed kick of heat.

Hogtown VeganThe Reuben sandwich ($11) was the first dish that made me remember these were indeed the same people who make some of the best vegan burritos known to Toronto. A a mound of thin, tangled fries sits tall on the plate so intertwined you could easily pick up the whole lot with your fork. They were as delicious as they were innovative. The sandwich was packed with sharp and creamy notes, the pumpernickel rye layered with nippy sauerkraut, house-made strips of seitan (or wheat gluten strips) with horseradish mayo and garlic butter.

Hogtown VeganThe staple of many a Canadian childhood, mac n' cheese ($7) was a disappointing and bland dish with thick white pasta noodles and a thin 'cheese' sauce. There's nothing non-vegan about white pasta, but for $7, I sure would have like wholewheat noodles with a thicker sauce.

Hogtown VeganThe most disappointing dish of the day was the biscuit sliders ($12). Their unfortunate appearance reminded my friend of the food she used to serve in a seniors home and translated into a similarly drab tasting dish of mushroom gravy and veggie sausage over a dry biscuit. The tasty collard greens on the side were definitely best part of the dish.

Hogtown VeganWe were all pretty full but decided we had to try both of the desserts. We started with the key lime 'cheese' cake ($6 plus $2 per scoop of ice-cream) that left us all emphatically making "mmm...mmmm!" sounds with each bite. The thick custard was soft and tangy while the ice cream refreshing. A moment later my friend firmly declared, "you /have/ to try this," after taking the first bite of the flowerless, gluten-free, vegan chocolate torte ($7). We were all blown away by the obscene richness of the soft chocolate and professed we must return one day soon to have it again.

Hogtown VeganWe came out torn about our meal; some of our dishes were phenomenal while others were confusingly bad. Tainting the experience even more was the off-putting service from our waitress who kept all customer interaction to a bare minimum even when I tried to ask about some of the food.

Hgotwon VeganI decided to go back and try what I nearly ordered the first time around, the roasted sweet-potato sandwich ($10) with Caesar salad on the side (lead photo). A tender layer of sweet-potato was topped with marinated red onions and a tangy smothering of kalamata tempenade, a Mediterranean olive spread. The sweet and savoury combination on the sandwich was delicious but in the in salad the sharp taste of romaine lettuce came through more than the Caesar dressing.

Transforming traditionally gritty dishes from the American South to vegan form is a mighty undertaking. Our favourite menu picks, the Ruben, fries and both deserts, were outrageously delicious while other dishes left us scratching our heads. The menu is playful and imaginative leaving me curious to see more of their dishes and how the restaurant will settle in as new genre of vegan dining in Hogtown.

Discussion

40 Comments

Buck / July 20, 2011 at 04:16 pm
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I love you, but please get a different supplier/more of your gluten-free bread. I went in last week at 6pm and you had run out already!
VeganGermfree / July 21, 2011 at 02:01 pm
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I went to Hot Beans exactly once as the counter help prepared my meal with dirty hands, unclean kitchen utensils and was disgusted by the pairing of the restroom & kitchen in the same area. No thanks.
handfed / July 21, 2011 at 02:10 pm
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vegan = high carb.
Ben / July 21, 2011 at 02:12 pm
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I am inspired to go try this place out. Hopefully they have a good beer selection!
hellebelle / July 21, 2011 at 02:22 pm
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oh yay gotta try this place! i enjoyed hot beans but unfortunately ordered my burrito too spicy.
EricM / July 21, 2011 at 03:22 pm
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...so that is suppose to look like 'good' vegan food is it?
Welshgrrl / July 21, 2011 at 03:32 pm
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I've had some delicious vegan food but some of this stuff looks (and possibly tastes) a bit too much like nursing home fare for my liking
Vi / July 21, 2011 at 04:53 pm
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Are those brussel sprouts in the Reuben? Eek! Three Speed at Bloor and Dufferin has the best vegetarian (I'm sure they would be happy to omit the cheese) Reuben. And where is the pickle?! Love my Reubens!
Also, why is everyone always so shocked by how good flourless chocolate cake tastes? All it is, is coco, sugar, oil and vanilla. Of course it will taste good!!!
This food does not look particularly enticing.
Rachel / July 21, 2011 at 06:35 pm
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How long has this place been open?
badcaesar / July 21, 2011 at 08:06 pm
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Top photo: what a sad, sad side salad
anon-y / July 21, 2011 at 08:34 pm
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The first time I went to Hot Beans in Kensington I ordered one of their famous limeaid drinks to go. Once outside, to my horror I realized there was a dead earwig floating around in it. When I went back to return it at the counter, they shrugged nonchalantly, simply dumped my cup out in the sink, and went to pour me another one right from the same limeaid pitcher the earwig first came from. I asked for my money back and bolted. Safe to say I won't be returning - no matter how happy and vegan-y they are. Hopefully this new place won't offer customers earwig limeade. Because let's face it, if you can't keep bugs out of your drinks you really don't deserve my money.
Mike W / July 21, 2011 at 09:23 pm
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Just drink take out the earwig and drink it, you pussy, THEN don't come back.
hop / July 21, 2011 at 11:51 pm
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I don't see the appeal in making tofu like meat. If someone really wants chicken wings, then they would eat chicken wings and not become vegan.
GL / July 22, 2011 at 12:21 am
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spell check: It's 'flourless' not 'Flowerless' as typed above.
Meera / July 22, 2011 at 04:06 am
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I've only had the chance to visit once, but the food was AMAZING! It's exactly what I've been waiting for -- a place that sells 'meaty' (pun intended) vegan food that fills you up for a busy day. I'm tired of the 'vegan option' at most places being a bit of salad or a fruit cup -- those things do not a meal make!
Oliver replying to a comment from hop / July 22, 2011 at 09:08 am
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Some vegans like fried food but they don't support the torture and killing of sentient beings to satisfy a craving.

Best of luck, HV.
Parker replying to a comment from handfed / July 22, 2011 at 02:10 pm
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Vegan=high carb. That's an absolute statement and insupportable.

It's possible to eat a vegan diet that is low carb, it just takes more effort, as does any healthy diet. There are PLENTY of vegans who eat as few grains as possible, instead emphasizing greens (raw and cooked), fruits, and nuts & seeds.
Parker replying to a comment from handfed / July 22, 2011 at 02:11 pm
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That reply was for handfed, BTW.
PurpleNights / July 22, 2011 at 03:02 pm
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I have been to Hogtown Vegan twice since it opened. Currently we do have some good vegan places in the city, or places that have good vegan options, but I am very happy this placed opened up because we need more (good) vegan options in Toronto.

Good things about Hogtown Vegan:
-Pretty decent size menu
-Prices are good
-"Comfort food" (something you might not find at some of the other vegan places around the city)
-They know how to make fantastic collard greens
-The Reuben sandwich is one of the best dishes in the menu
-Their deserts are delicious
-They just opened; they have plenty of time to improve

Bad things about Hogtown Vegan (right now):
-Decor is awful - you don't need to spend a lot of many to make a restaurant look inviting and interesting
-Lack of AC - it's really hard to fully enjoy your meal when you feel like you are in a sauna
-The Mac n' cheese and the Caesar salad dressing needs some tweaking
-The food presentation could be better

All of that being said, please don’t let any review stop you from going to Hogtown Vegan. Go check it out, try as many dishes as possible and then decide for yourself.

I plan on returning many times, enjoy their food and watch them evolve and reach its full potential. When they do, they can be one of the best, if not the best, place in Toronto to enjoy some delicious comfort vegan food.


kay / July 22, 2011 at 03:38 pm
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Since when is a Reuben sandwich southern food? And how hard is it to screw up simple dishes like vegan mac n cheese? There are at least three solid recipes online.

None of those dishes look great. Especially those biscuits. Where in Southern USA do they make shit like that?
Unsatisfied / July 24, 2011 at 02:49 pm
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went in there once and got unnecessary rudeness by a woman who worked there. don't know if she is an owner or just staff, but i wonder if it's the same person as in this review (see robyn's review):

http://www.yelp.ca/biz/the-hogtown-vegan-toronto

if this business is going to thrive, there MUST be a focus on honing their customer service skills. so far, it is mostly terrible. i know it can be hard to work in a customer service environment (i have done it myself), but she was really awful to me for no reason. if she can't hone those skills, then she shouldn't be out front and should hire people who are there to give customer service. this only brings down your restaurant because you lose customers, and word spreads.
erin / July 24, 2011 at 06:52 pm
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Just went there today and we'll definitely be going back!

The Good:
- Key Lime 'cheese' cake and flourless chocoloate torte were awesome
- Jack Slaw, Reuben and Fries were enjoyed
- Po'boy was delicious (although I would have preferred a smaller but - ended up being 2/3 bun 1/3 filling)

The Bad('ish)
- everyone at our table felt the dishes were overly salty (particularly the collard greens)
- roasted sweet potato sandwich - flavors just didn't seem to mesh (was enjoyed more after the tapenade was removed so it could just be personal preference)

In the end the bad wasn't so bad and could easily be improved in the coming months. Hope that the staff at Hogtown are looking at reviews and comments like these so they can make the place even better!
I love carbs. / July 25, 2011 at 10:04 am
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To handfed:

Carbs are good for you. They're the only food that feeds your brain. Vegetables and fruit are carbs. I suggest you get educated on nutrition before making such bold statements.
Charade / August 21, 2011 at 11:57 pm
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Could not handle how salty the food was. Probably won't be going back.
Daniel / November 27, 2011 at 07:56 pm
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Atmosphere and service is absolutley terrible. Portion sizes wouldn't fill a baby. However, they tasted decent. Will never go back ever.
mark / December 28, 2011 at 10:02 pm
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When this place opened I was so excited to have a vegan restaurant a couple of blocks from my home. Sadly this place is one I'll never go back to after two attempts. If you're vegan and want a Macdonalds/ bar food substitute then you might like this place. If you like vegetables, good cooking and imaginative cuisine don't bother. I feel the chef could use some cooking lessons.

The food is grossly over salted and the strong flavours would be at home at the CNE fairway or any hot dog stand or drive through fast food joint. I could not get the taste of curry powder mayo out of my mouth even after mouthwash! My partner who is not a picky eater couldn't finish half of her dinner because of the salt. we both took two days to recover from the indigestion. Very disappointing but other people seme to like it but then again people love KFC as well.
Danny P / January 27, 2012 at 09:51 am
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So are a bunch of the comments here from fake posters/trolls? The portions at this place are enormous, saying they "wouldn't fill a baby" is ludicrous...maybe a baby whale. Food is great, anyone complaining about the salt level needs to get their head examined for not understanding the whole diner/comfort food point of the restaurant. If you want raw/super healthy food there are plenty of options in the city. The only complaint I could realistically have is the lack of extra wait staff. They always only have one poor beleaguered waitress running around trying to serve every table and the 3 or 4 groups waiting at the door, which is insanity.
Rena / February 6, 2012 at 07:14 am
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I just went there for the first time last night and I was very impressed! I had the "Phish and Chips", which I found to be seasoned really nicely, and my boyfriend had the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, which he also really enjoyed.

The food is definitely heavy and comforting, and not at all what you'd expect to see at a vegan restaurant. I wouldn't go there all the time, but it's definitely a nice treat when you want some comfort food. Yeah, the lack of vegetables was surprising for a vegan restaurant, but that's what makes it different, I guess. It's a nice treat once in a while to get vegan food that isn't a magic tofu wrap from Fresh (although I do love Fresh).

The waiter I had was really nice- we were a little overwhelmed by the non-traditional menu, but he had some good recommendations and the service was quick.

So, I'd say check it out if you feel like comforting greasy diner food instead of the usual salad or rice bowl!
lucy replying to a comment from Oliver / March 6, 2012 at 07:33 pm
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well said. well said. :):):)
Erin / March 24, 2012 at 03:29 pm
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Many of the comments on this article date back to when Hogtown first opened. I will admit that I wasn't overly impressed with the food in the opening weeks, but since the introduction of a new, revamped menu, the food is definitely crave-worthy. Entree plates are nicely filled out with two sides, and everything just feels more complete.
Megan / June 26, 2012 at 03:22 pm
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I have been to Hogtown Vegan 5 or 6 times now and am hooked! The portions were generous (including appetizers) and there were quite a variety of options. My friend who eats more wholesome vegan food had their tofu topped dinner salad and loved it. Honestly, this isn't the place for a salad though. My favourites are the Mac and Cheese with mashed sweet potatoes and collard greens, the unchicken wings tossed in buffalo sauce, the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich and the Fried Apple Hand Pie. I have never been let down or gone home without a full tummy! Also, I have had the same woman serve me every time and she has been super nice! It might just be because I treat her like a human being so she reciprocates that behaviour. Maybe the others who have had bad service experiences there just got unlucky. We all have bad days sometimes, even those who work in the service industry!
I would and have recommended Hogtown Vegan to all my friends. Also, they have good local beers! I urge you to give them a try!
Rena / July 4, 2012 at 03:38 pm
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I just went back for another try and had the pulled unpork sandwich- mm-mm!!! Like I said, it's a nice place to treat yourself to richer vegan fare than the rice bowls and grilled veggie wraps you find at 90% of the other veg restaurants in town. It's cool they're doing something different.
Tara / November 18, 2012 at 06:33 pm
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Gave this place a try. It was absolutely awful. Ordered the peppercorn steak which comes with collard greens and sweet potato mash. The steak was in in a puddle of salt broth with weird spongy white things (still don't know what they were,) the mash was seasoned to taste like pumpkin pie filling but really not in a good way. The greens were well cooked but were drowning in oil and, again, way too much salt.
This dish was recommended by the waitress saying it was the best dish they served. If that's so, then I'm very happy I didn't order anything else.

I will definitely not be returning
Lynn / February 4, 2013 at 10:13 am
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I ate here last night and it was pretty good! I used to be vegan, though I still avoid meat so I was excite to try the vegan version of foods that I still won't eat. I had the philly cheesesteak sandwich. It was pretty good - a huge portion! I would try something different next time but overall, I was impressed.
AshK / February 18, 2013 at 04:03 pm
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For people who are actually celiac sufferers, be aware that although this place marks their menu items as gluten free when I asked about it the (very nice and helpful) waitress told me that everything is cooked in the same deep fryer and she wasn't sure about their tortilla chips - which means as usual, unless you want another salad - nothing on the menu is ACTUALLY gluten free.

They are really nice and the food s delicious but unfortunately I probably can't eat there again.
Anna Synenko / June 12, 2013 at 02:55 pm
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Hogtown Vegan is just not that great, food wise, I'm thinking. Like, have we fallen so far from the gastronomical path, that bland, unspiced, seemingly baby-like food is okay at high prices because it's "hip" or "vegan". I cook vegan a lot and my food doesn't taste like this slightly upscale hospital food...Just sayin'...After I left, when the waitress got surly because I asked for the radio to be lowered so I could eat in peace (the place was empty so what would be the big deal, right?) I went down the road and had a decent lunch with a waitress that was nice to me, a customer, and at half the cost of Hogtown's bland hipness...
samsam / September 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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I got sick after eating there. And found out later that my friends have had the same experience. Do no recommend.
anne / January 21, 2014 at 01:44 am
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I have also gotten sick after eating here and so have several of my friends. Some dizzy and flushed similar to an MSG reaction and some more unpleasant digestive upset.
sergio / January 26, 2014 at 03:48 pm
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A bag of pasta is 99 cents, to charge 7 bucks for that sad looking Mac n Cheese is ridiculous, $3.99 sounds about right to me.
I'm sorry but most people know that the cost of vegan ingredients is lower than their meat counterparts, this people are charging 11 bucks for a soy burger or $10 for a sweet potato sandwich?? This place makes me want to eat meat again. The best way to make more people go vegan its to make vegan food attractive and affordable: because the vegan lifestyle is affordable. They're obviously trying to stuff their pockets with money out of some fools.
Making a difference? not. Good thing is Toronto is changing for the better and soon someone will open a vegan resto with the right formula. Watch and learn Hogtown
smarterthanthou replying to a comment from I love carbs. / March 25, 2014 at 04:31 pm
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you are the one in need of nutrition education. carbs do not supply your brain, glucose does. and you don't need to eat glucose either thanks to this thing called gluconeogenesis.

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