Friday, September 25, 2009

Vegan Friendly Restaurants: Magic Oven

I, like most vegans out there, find that the biggest challenge is finding restaurants that 'understand'. I'm never selfish enough to force my omnivore family and friends to go to a vegan-only restaurant, but it is nice to find middle ground and find a restaurant that caters to both worlds. Your big-chain 'roadhouses', as I like to call them, usually have one item out of dozens that can be considered vegetarian. If you ask for that meal without the cheese, then, voila, you have one stinkin' vegan dish. I was in one of these restaurants in Niagara Falls recently and had to walk out. Not a single item on their menu did not contain meat - not even their salads.

Anyhow. On to the real subject. Magic Oven is a chain of 7 restaurants in the core area of Toronto. Founded in 1997 by Tony and Abby Sabherwal, all the Magic Oven restaurants take pride in cooking vegan-specific items and vegetarian-specific items as well as dishes made with organic meats. All vegetarian dishes can be made vegan with the substitution of always available vegan cheese.

The Magic Oven group pride themselves on being friends of the earth using bio-degradable packaging when possible and using recycled cardboard and paper. An interesting note is that all the restaurants are reclaimed sites that were saved from demolition and all furniture and fixtures are recycled.

Not including all their vegetarian dishes that can be veganized with the substitution of vegan cheese, there are several vegan items on their menu. Some tasty delights include:
  • Vegan Magic Pizza topped with tomato pesto sauce, zucchini, artichokes, portobello mushrooms and roasted peppers.

  • Whole Wheat Penne with a mix of garden vegetables in a rose sauce.

  • BBQ Tofu with Spinach, warm grilled ciabatta sandwich.

  • Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake or Carrot Cake.

  • Edamame - Steamed baby soybeans.

  • Green Tea infused organic tofu fingers.

  • Mixed Beans & Grains in curry-lime.

There are several more and they all sound delicious!

I was able to ask Tony a few questions about the restaurants and here's what he had to say:

Q. Since you serve meals containing animal products as well as vegan, what percentage of your customers would you say are vegan?

A. We have 5-10% of Vegan guests.

Q. Have any customers ever claimed that your food was the reason they went vegan?

A. They are appreciative of our vegan choices and our commitment to vegetarians and vegans. I know of lots of meat eating people who have shared vegan dishes with their company and loved it.

Q. What is the weirdest question you've had about vegan food from a non-vegan customer?

A. "What kind of people eat this?"

Q. Which gender of customer do you find more often orders vegan?

A. 50:50 split.

Q. Have any celebrities ever eaten from your vegan menu?

A. We do not track such sightings/events.

Q. Who is the most famous person to eat vegan at your restaurant?

A. I thought fame was equal - 15 minutes each. (awesome answer!)

Q. What is the rarest, most exotic ingredient you use in your cooking?

A. Green Tea Infused Tofu Fingers - it is not rare - it is the preparation and the chemistry within the body that makes it unique. All our pizza dough is vegan.

For store locations, hours of operation and full menus including pricing, check out their website. As for what I'm ordering next time I'm there:

  • Green Tea infused organic tofu fingers

  • Bombay Green Salad

  • Garlic Lover's Magic Pizza (sans asiago cheese)

  • Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • Beer! - all restaurants are licensed

I would just like to thank Tony Sabherwal for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and I wish him the best in his endeavors.

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