So many wonderful vegan comfort food spots in Toronto, not enough time to try them all! I finally got myself over to the Vegan Hogtown on Bloor (between Dufferin and Ossington) after living downtown for almost a year. Vegan chicken and waffles? Mac and cheese? Chili cheese fries? Yeah I definitely knew I had to hit this place up at some point and I’m glad I did.
We decided to try the fried shiitake clams, nachos, and fries supremacy.
As for drinks, we drank whatever on tap that was on special that night. I forget what it was but it was a local craft brew and I do remember it was quite good and reasonably priced.
So many choices! I love a good vegan philly cheesesteak or pulled pork sandwich but we opted to order off the (non-sandwich) entree list not pictured here.
Nothing fancy for the cutlery and water.
The fried shiitake “clams” were delicious. They came with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce that disappeared quickly. We really love shiitake mushrooms so these were probably the hit of the night.
“Why bother calling them clams? They’re just fried mushrooms. Why not call them that?” Mr. Spoon wondered.
I don’t know why, I guess it’s just part of the shtick. Why call any vegan food anything, really? I know some people hate when vegan food is named after what it’s meant to resemble, especially when it’s not a super accurate recreation. Why call it “pulled pork” when it’s really pulled mushrooms? Well, why call pork “pork” when it’s really a pig? Who knows why, that’s just what people call it. I’m fine with people naming vegan food after “normal” food (obviously) but I guess it’s not for everyone.
The fries supremacy were pretty good. I wouldn’t say they blew my mind but they did all get eaten. Personally I don’t find yellow nacho cheese sauce all that exciting so perhaps we should have opted for the chili cheese fries that had different toppings. But we were already getting nachos with all the nacho toppings anyway so figured this would be fine.
Don’t get me wrong, they were good, and the cheese sauce and vegan sour cream were both pretty realistic. But even if these were vegetarian and I still ate dairy I probably still would’ve been a little “meh” on them. That’s just my personal taste and not a reflection on the dish itself.
Nachos are where it’s at, though, am I right? I love a good nacho plate.I liked these nachos. What more is there to say? They were crunchy, thoroughly topped and there was guacamole. Maybe a bit heavy on the beans but otherwise A+
Mr. Spoon’s dad tried the “Peppersteak and Dumplings” TVP (textured vegetable protein) steak and dumplings in a mushroom-beer gravy, with collard greens and sweet potato mash on the side. I have to say that’s quite a sloppy presentation. The steak, dumplings and gravy met everyone’s approval. Mr. Spoon thought the gravy might’ve tasted like a packaged mix of some sort, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but at least it tasted all right. Everyone found the collard greens a little bitter but that’s just the way they are. I had some with my dish as well and found them okay, I just added a little extra salt.
The sweet potato mash was definitely quite sweet for me. I have more of a salty tooth than a sweet tooth but I think it was a good match for my dish of chicken and waffles, which came drenched in syrup.
Mr. Spoon ordered a caesar salad and it was quite disappointing. I don’t see many “fakin’ bits” or much “creamy Caesar dressing” in this picture but I guess there was a little bit… The thing is, this is a guy that really likes Caesar salad, he appreciates a GOOD Caesar salad, so to be served this… Well it seems a little half-assed, to be honest. I really hate to be harsh, especially to a vegan restaurant, but this was just gross and pathetic. Some of the lettuce (which you can’t see in this picture, it was buried) was wilted and rotting. Like, not just a little old but actually melted and slimy in some parts. And it wasn’t just a tiny bit, it was a fair amount of slimy lettuce. That’s fricking gross.
It took a while but we eventually flagged down our waitress to send it back. She did ask if he wanted a replacement but obviously he didn’t. I would expect a way better salad from a vegan restaurant to tell you the truth. Even without the rotten bits, the presentation was boring, the salad was bland, the lettuce seemed like it was from a bagged mix, the almond dust “parmesan” on top was nothing special, there wasn’t much taste or pizzazz… What’s the point, really? At least the waitress took it off our bill but it was definitely a let-down.
I would say overall my meal was probably the best one. Slightly less sloppy, and definitely more interesting. I love a good fried veggie chicken. Here the texture was nice and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. I liked the combination of flavours and textures on the plate. Getting a forkful with a little bit of everything on it was quite nice.
I’ve never had chicken and waffles before so I was really looking forward to this. Everything was really tasty and I definitely enjoyed it. The only problem is I was super full from trying all of our appetizers and sampling everyone else’s food (visiting a vegan restaurant is the only time when I get to sample other people’s food so I always take full advantage ) that I had to take most of it home for leftovers.
Luckily my leftovers were just as good for lunch the next day, maybe even better because the syrup had really soaked into the waffles and I drizzled a little extra on top. Yum.
Overall, though, I don’t think I would go back to the Hogtown Vegan after our first experience there. It was interesting and I’m glad I got to try it, I thought the prices here were pretty reasonable (except the $10 disappointing Caesar), even our pints were only $5 that day. However, the service was really not that great and we could’ve had a better time.
One thing that was annoying was we ordered three appetizers to share among us, and after a few short minutes (we weren’t even halfway through them) ALL three of our entrees came out as well. So the table was absolutely crowded with all of our dishes and all of the food was going cold before we could finish eating anything. This place is meant to be casual, but I’m sure this is still a pet peeve for anyone, regardless of whether they’re in a pub or a fine dining restaurant.
This place is really not that close to me either, so for me personally that’s a factor as to why I most likely won’t make the trek back out. I could potentially see myself popping in here for a beer and to split a plate of vegan nachos again but I wouldn’t tell someone from out of town “oh, you HAVE to go here!”
If you’re really keen on checking out their signature dish of chicken and waffles, I would say go ahead and try for yourself. I truly did want to like this place and maybe one day I’ll give it a second chance, but for now it’s not on my short list of places I need to go back to or tell everyone about.
Have you been to Hogtown Vegan in Dovercourt Park neighbourhood? Know a different cool vegan joint with kick-ass chicken and waffles? Leave a comment to let me know about it.