Hot Beans has recently opened in Kensington Market. The idea to open a vegan taco restaurant in the area is such an obviously brilliant idea, it's surprising it has taken this long to happen. Located on Baldwin Street near Spadina, this new restaurant takes over the space from the short-lived Harapeko.
Inspired by the prevalence and variety of vegan cuisine in cities like New York and Portland, co-owners Madeleine Foote, Scott McCannell and Ross Corder have created a restaurant that caters to both Toronto's vegan community and the city's foodies.
The deliciously tingling aroma of hot sauce fills the air as we line up to order, and I find my eyes watering slightly. Taking our order, Foote smiles and patiently explains the menu to our group of non-vegan diners, answering our questions about the taste of certain meat substitutes.
The menu is small, with a selection of three types of both burritos and tacos. The latter come with one side, a choice of rice and beans, chips and salsa or creamy slaw. Breakfast options are also available on weekends.
I decide to take my chances on the jackfruit "pulled pork" taco with a side of slaw ($8.50), while my dinner date orders the yuba "chicken" taco with the rice ($8.50).
We wait for our meals in the small dining area, a few steps up on a mezzanine overlooking the kitchen. Perched on a tall stool, we watch our tacos coming together like vultures waiting for their prey. Very meatless, vegan prey.
Our food is delivered in biodegradable containers - a wonderful detail, Hot Beans does not have a garbage can, just a green bin and a recycling box.
The jackfruit tacos are full of juicy bits of fruit, doused in delicious BBQ sauce with a small dose of cashew sour cream and pico. The texture is not as chewy as I was expecting, but the taste is pleasant. The coleslaw is finely ground, refreshing and creamy, without the vinegary aftertaste slaw so often has. This side dish is the perfect pairing for the generous helping of housemade habanero sauce I pour on the entire meal.
The yuba tacos are incredible, savoury and meaty, and we all agree the faux-chicken's consistency is better than the jackfruit's. While quite tasty, the rice and beans are slightly dried out. We got the last scoop of the batch though - from our seats, we can see the fresh portion, which looks much more appealing.
We are then privy to the frying of a fresh batch of lime and coconut donuts (UPDATE September 11, 2012: Hot Beans no longer serves donuts). As we watch Foote dipping the warm pastries into the silky lime frosting, we give in to our urge to rush down and try one. Perfection - they are dense and soft, topped with a dusting of toasted coconut shavings. Accompanied by a glass of tangy homemade limeade, it's the ideal way to end our experience.
Hot Beans is open daily from 11:30am to 8:30pm.