vegan duchess toronto
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The Vegan Duchess

The Vegan Duchess wants to show midtown diners that eating raw, gluten-free and vegan doesn't have to be bland. The tiny takeout spot near Yonge and Eglinton uses only organic produce and zero sugar or gluten in any of its recipes - from salads and pizzas to burritos, wraps and raw zucchini "pasta".

Owner Luis Calma explains that when he first switched over to a raw and gluten-free diet, "I found that all the recipes were really interesting and really tasty." So he decided to open up an eatery of his own.

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Now, the former Flight Centre location is not only a popular lunch spot with locals - it's also become a destination for those with dietary restrictions looking for something new. The menu includes entrees, smoothies, snacks and sweets, all of which are made on the premises.

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Their most popular dish is the falafel wrap - which surprised the staff, given that it's built on a wrap made of collard greens instead of a pita - but their pizzas, built on a crust made of dehydrated red pepper, buckwheat, flax and sunflower seeds, and a touch of Italian seasoning, are a pretty close second.

The pizzas ($15) come in two varieties: An Italian variety with kale, cashew "ricotta" and a tomato-pepper-basil sauce; and a pesto pineapple with spinach parsley pesto and a generous smattering of olives.

Of the two, the latter is my fave - the pesto is ultra-fresh (and a little reminiscent of tabbouleh, thanks to the healthy dose of parsley), and the pineapples provide just enough sweetness to add some contrast.

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Raw pasta, made from spiralized zucchini, is available as spaghetti and meatballs, a raw take on pad Thai, or in a Mediterranean version with more of that pesto and olives. At $15.50, it's a hefty serving (there must be three huge zucchini in that takeout box), and the raw veggie noodles are surprisingly satisfying - like eating a salad you can slurp off a fork.

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If you're craving sweetness, grab the crepes ($12) off their all-day brunch menu. Made from dehydrated fruits like apples and bananas, they're wrapped around berry coulis and whipped coconut cream, served with a super-rich chocolate sauce.

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Like any self-respecting health food joint, they also do smoothies and juices; a fave is their Green Protein Machine ($8), which features kale, hemp and hemp milk, banana, vanilla and pineapple (it all adds up to a gentle banana flavour with a hint of herbaceousness). A superfruit-focused juice cleanse will soon complement their juice menu.

vegan duchess toronto

They also offer grab-and-go munchies, including raw nachos and bags of cheesy kale chips (both $9). On the dessert side of things, there's apple crumble ($8) and a chocolate brownie ($9), as well as bags of raw coconut macaroons ($9). Essentially, they've got all the raw makings of a healthy lunch.

vegan duchess toronto

Photos by Hector Vasquez.


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