Top 5 Vegetarian Restaurants in Mississauga

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Growing up in a meat-eating home (and, full disclosure, still eating meat on the regular), I was never aware of (or gave much thought to) the intricacies of vegetarian cuisine. I pictured salads and steamed bok choy and other bland, unadventurous dishes. I also pictured disciplined, skinny practitioners and wished I had been born with an affinity for salads (I wasn't). All that said, life has taught me that vegetarian cuisine is varied, diverse and flavourful. You don't have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy spicy tofu dishes, beet ravioli and spicy meat-free laksa soups.

Here's a rundown of Mississauga's top five vegetarian restaurants.

5) Zen Gardens

Zen Garden, located on Maritz Drive near the Derry and Hurontario area, is a vegetarian Asian fusion resto with a bright, airy dining room and an incredibly extensive menu. This place makes it clear that vegetarian cuisine offers endless options and Zen Garden isn't afraid to use soy liberally. They offer soy nuggets ($4.99), soy drumsticks ($5.50) and soy fritters ($6.99). They also have all dim sum, which is a bonus for any non-traditionalist. We tried the Sao Mai ($2.99) and the fried radish pastry ($3.49) and both were predictably tasty. As for entrees, the tofu dishes are all interesting and creative, with the Schezuan Style Spicy Tofu ($9.99) being particularly impressive. The prices are also more than reasonable, which is a plus.


Schezuan Style Spicy Tofu

4) Raw Aura

Raw Aura, Port Credit's Lakeshore-located raw, organic resto, is a treat for anyone looking for creative dishes, inventive and delicious smoothies and an honest-to-god Kensington Market, cool hipster vibe. The tiny establishment is super casual, purposely understated and boasts a crunchy, indie chalkboard menu. This place tends to get crowded and the dishes are a little on the pricey side (two of us ate for a little over $80 with drinks and tip), but the experience is part of the package. In terms of food, you have to try the red beet ravioli ($12). The presentation is top notch, and it boasts beets, cashew ricotta cheese, red pepper marinara sauce and dehydrated kale chips. As for mains, the yellow coconut curry noodles ($15) were filling, if not a little heavy on dominant flavours (there was a lot of coconut, a lot of curry and a lot of garlic). If you want a huge treat, try the Cinnamon Toast Crunch smoothie ($7).


Red Beet Ravioli

3) The Lotus Tea House

The Lotus Tea House isn't easy to find. It's located in the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto on Millcreek at Erin Mills Parkway. Although you do not have to be a regular at the temple to dine there, you will be asked to pay a one-time $30 membership fee for the year to access the resto. Although that sounds steep, the dishes are very affordable, so the $30 is worth it if you eat there semi-regularly. The modest resto, complimented by the absolutely stunning gold temple, offers worshippers and veggie-lovers a small but satisfying menu of soups, teas and waffles -- all for $7 a dish. I tried the oolong tea with dried roses and the rice noodle Laksa soup, both of which were good (although $7 for a small pot of tea is steep, no pun intended). The laksa was relatively large with a pleasantly milky curried broth and generous servings of tofu.


Laksa Soup

2) Udupi Madras Cafe

You'd be forgiven if you said you'd never heard of this tucked-away gem on Enfield Place, right behind the Sussex Centre. It's not visible from the street, but its central location and unique menu brimming with Southern Indian vegetarian cuisine puts this pleasant finding high on our list of must-visit Indian restos. The cafe, intimate and decorated in dark, rich hues, offers diners the chance to sample medu vada (a sort of savory doughnut), various dosas and South Indian Thali, a mini five-course meal served with a pickle, pappad, yogurt, buttermilk, sambar, rasam, poriyal, dal or kootu, gravy, rice of the day, white rice, chapati or poori and the dessert of the day. The Thali is served on a round platter with rice in the center and, despite sounding overwhelming, isn't too much for one person to finish. Diners looking for an even more authentic experience can enjoy a masala chai (tea) after their meal. The fair price point, attentive service and highly customizable menu (you can specify spice, oil and texture level for dosas) makes this inconspicuous vegetarian resto more than worth the search.


Vegetable Thali

1) Guru Lukshmi

Guru Lukshmi, the restaurant that the Toronto Star called "the GTA's most passionate dosa makers" was recently renovated and the new look doesn't disappoint. The spacious dosa paradise (for those who don't know, dosas are South Indian crepe-like wraps served plain or with various fillings) now boasts elegant chandeliers and a modern, contemporary black and white palate. Its menu remains extensive, creative and delicious. We tried the savory Sambhar Vada (spiced doughnuts - $5), the spinach (palak) dosa ($9.05) and the Pav Bhaji dosa ($11 or $13 with cheese). All the dishes were pleasantly spicy, filling and overflowing with potatoes, curry, butter and coriander. The portions here are also huge, so come hungry. For an even more authentic South Asian dining experience, end your meal with a masala tea ($2.50). Be warned that, should you GPS this place (it's located right at Derry and McLaughlin), you will be taken to a townhouse that is definitely NOT Guru Lukshmi. Head towards the major plaza off of Derry if your machinery fails you the way mine did.


Dosa

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Top 5 Vegetarian Restaurants in Mississauga

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