Thrive Organic Kitchen
Thrive Organic Kitchen is a bright and sunny vegetarian restaurant on Lakeshore West; removed from the downtown core, it's located in an area where vegetarian destinations are scarce. The 75-seat eatery aspires to be an oasis for a health-conscious clientele looking for a meatless menu in a relaxed setting with fair trade coffees, free wifi, and a sprawling summertime patio.
In some ways, Thrive feels more like a community centre rec room than it does a restaurant. The spacious room boasts a fireplace and couches off to one side, while a coffee and juice bar lines the back wall.
A banquet hall in the basement has been rented out to a yoga studio, and the restaurant draws a crowd made up of post-workout diners, lunching ladies and a few students and freelancers hunched over laptops.
Owners David Perez and Pat Zisis aren't just interested in serving meat-free foods, but also ensuring maximum nutrition. The expansive menu offers ample variety while promoting a diet comprising 70% raw roughage and 30% cooked food.
Brunch is served on weekends, but during the week morning options are still plentiful. There's an array of fresh-baked muffins as well as all-day breakfasts such as the Amigo Wrap (lead photo, $9.50) a thick handheld burrito packed with an omelette (or tofu scramble), grain and nut chorizo, black beans, sofrito, cheddar cheese, baby spinach and avocado.
The juice bar is a central feature, offering blended smoothies and fresh juices like the Detox ($6.50 for 12 ounces), made with beets, apple, cucumber, celery and ginger.
The rest of the menu offers an eclectic assortment of dishes including tacos, burgers, pizzas and sandwiches.
The house burger ($12) sees a sprouted bun slathered with chipotle cashew sauce then stacked with a dense, savoury grain and nut patty and loaded with cheddar cheese, sautĂŠed onions and mushrooms. Tomato slices and sprouts, dress it up, and it's served open-faced to show off a swirl of egg-less basil coconut mayo. A combo with a choice of soup or select salads can be had for $4 more.
To finish, there's a macadamia tiramisu ($10) that's both raw and vegan. Layers of coffee scented "lady fingers" are alternated with rich nut mousse and finished with sprinkle of cinnamon - the classic flavours are there, but the texture is incredibly dense, the nuts not really fine enough to ascertain a truly creamy quality. Nevertheless, it's delicious and will easily indulge anyone looking for a sweet fix without going of the rails.
For those that like to imbibe with dinner, there are a handful of options too. A shortlist of beers includes Naughty Otter Lager and Mill St. Organic by the bottle.
The restaurant offers discounts for marathon runners, health-oriented workshops, and consultations with a staff nutritionist for those that are really keen. For the rest of us, it's just a solid option for meat free dining in the west end.
Photos by Jesse Milns