For this edition of the Modern Mix Vancouver Weekend Brunch Series, I had the opportunity to meet Michael Lyons, the co-owner behind Graze Vegan Restaurant on Fraser Street. Graze is a contemporary vegan restaurant, with a homey diner feel, which serves many locally and organically produced brands and ingredients.
The concept behind Graze Restaurant originates from a deep-rooted passion in owner Michael Lyons’ vegetarian lifestyle and concern for animals and our environment. Although the menu offerings at Graze are suited towards all lifestyles, I can see why customers with a dietary restriction (such as being one of 12,000 vegans in Vancouver) enjoy being at a restaurant which will go the extra mile to cater towards their needs.
I ordered the Vegan alternative to a traditional English Breakfast, to see how Graze “veganizes” a familiar breakfast platter. In replacement of sausage, the English Breakfast at Graze comes with a flavourful and crumbly rosemary fennel “sausage”. Instead of toast, you can opt for the gluten-free chickpea flatbread instead. Because Graze is a vegan restaurant, Michael explains that it was an easy transition to offer gluten-free options for several menu items. Beans had a spicy kick, as did the chili ketchup which accommodated the potatoes.
My friend ordered the Waffle Sandwich ($15) which had a BBQ-marinated pulled seitan (think: Vegetarian alternative to pulled pork) as the filling. Aside from a small side serving of bitter citrus coleslaw, we felt like both our dishes lacked fresh vegetables.
We also ordered a pancake sample made from buckwheat, which is very healthy for you, with a mild syrup and bourbon banana whip (why not fresh banana?). I personally like the taste of buckwheat; it’s familiar to me because I grew up eating buckwheat berry waffles from Nature’s Path for breakfast. Again with the comment on fresh produce, the pancake could have easily had fresh fruit as a topper, but instead it was served with white-wine poached fruit and preserved citrus peel. It was tasty, like a jam, but not the mouth-watering burst of freshness you receive with fresh, seasonal fruits.
For drinks, we both ordered local options. I had a glass of Kombucha (fermented tea) served on tap by North Vancouver’s Ethical Soda ($6), while my friend also had a local tea drink from Whistler-based Namasthe Tea ($3). The drink menu at Graze is quite extensive – lots of local choices from craft beer breweries (like Stanley Park and Whistler Brewing), a twist on classic cocktails (their mojito is made with coconut water) and healthy non-alcoholic organic beverages like orange juice, almond milk and coconut water.
Speaking of drinks, the bar in the back corner of the restaurant has several eye-catching features. The side wall is lined with patterned tin tiles and different shapes and sizes of glass bottles hang from a wooden log, hung from the ceiling. I adore the combination of wood, glass and tin.
The next time I return to Graze, I would like to try them out for dinner and order their Perogie dish ($16). Michael likens the restaurant to a Perogie Factory” in the evenings. Their gluten-free yam and eggplant perogies are one of Graze’s most popular menu items and is seved with sauteed oyster mushrooms, pickled beet shred, smokey eggplant & mushroom stripes, smoky coconut cheddar sauce, sour coconut cream and spicy tomato jam.
In conclusion, if you are vegan or have any other type of dietary restriction, Graze may be the long-awaited safe dining haven for you. For the rest of us, Graze is an eye-opening and educational experience for meat eaters who are curious about the Vegan world. If Michael is around when you visit, he’s got some great insights to tell about the lifestyle choices he made in his early adulthood, which has led him on the path of becoming a vegan, vegan restaurant owner.
To find out more, visit grazerestaurant.ca.