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Victoria tops list of vegan-friendly cities

A recent analysis of the most vegan-friendly cities in Canada put Victoria at the top of its list based on the availability and price of vegan food
Assistant general manager Ceri-Anne Lewis and chef Charles Mendoza in front of the MeeT restaurant on Blanshard Street, which is now the largest of the Vancouver-based group of vegan restaurants. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

An analysis of the most vegan-friendly cities in Canada put Victoria at the top of its list based on the availability and price of vegan food.

BonusFinder Canada looked at the number of restaurants offering vegan options with ratings of 4 or more on Yelp, and included data on meal prices and ratings to determine the most “vegan-friendly” city.

Victoria was followed by Hamilton and London in the top three. Vancouver took seventh place with Winnipeg. A high average price in Vancouver worked against its large number of restaurants with vegan options.

When the co-owners of the MeeT Restaurant Group decided to expand from Vancouver to Victoria, they banked on Victoria’s openness to vegan cuisine.

With just shy of 200 seats, MeeT on Blanshard, in a space that was formerly a Boston Pizza, is now the largest of their four restaurants.

Their biggest of three Vancouver locations has 150 seats including a patio, said co-owner Jason Antony, who has been vegan for almost 20 years.

“A greater percentage of the people in Victoria, whether they’re plant-based or not, they’re open to eating food that they like,” he said. “That was a belief we had earlier on and it’s something that so far has proven to be the case.”

MeeT doesn’t market itself as a vegan restaurant, Antony said.

Sometimes people come in expecting to find meat on the menu because of the name, and they might not immediately realize they’re looking at plant-based items, he said.

With dish description that include “marinated steak curls” and “charred chikkin skewers,” the menu doesn’t loudly advertise itself as vegan.

“It’s just food. If you like it, that’s good. If you don’t like it, it’s fine,” he said.

At Green Cuisine, a vegan restaurant open since 1990, owner Andy Cunningham finds that his plant-based food is as popular with omnivores as it is with vegetarians and vegans.

“Mostly they’re people who like our foods and just want to incorporate more vegetarian dishes in their diet,” he said.

Cunningham said many on the West Coast are environmentally minded and aware of the meat industry’s impact on climate change.

Jordan Reichert, co-founder and a director of Vancouver Island Vegan Association, said Victoria offers a good mix of fully vegan restaurants, eateries with plant-based options and grocery stores stocked with vegan items, so you’re never too far from a good vegan option.

The large student population in Victoria could be a factor in the city’s embrace of plant-based diets, he said.

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