Being Vegetarian in St. John’s, Newfoundland

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One of the more challenging things I’ve found since I moved to St. John’s is maintaining a balanced vegetarian diet. I mean, it’s hard anywhere outside of major cities (and perhaps the South Shore of Nova Scotia, where I’ve met more veggies than anywhere else), but I’ve found it particularly challenging here for a few reasons.

Depending on what grocery store if is you visit, the options are fairly limited. I live close to a Sobeys which has unfortunately gone weeks barren in certain things — there was a 3-week period where they had no spinach and barely any other leaf-type foods, which was fairly frustrating. Being limited to public transit and my own two feet means I have less access to the other stores around. I think Dominion would probably have a wider range but I imagine they face the same supply issues that the other stores do. It was particularly dismal last winter when there was a huge storm and week-long power outage right after Christmas — when the ships can’t dock in the harbour, the stores don’t get replenished. Sigh. IMG_1477

On the plus side there are a couple of vegetarian restaurants that I’ve consistently had good experiences at. The Sprout (http://thesproutrestaurant.com) is a fantastic place that I’ve been to with many non-vegetarians and they’ve all had positive things to say. It can be very busy there at times, especially weekend evenings, but during the week it’s usually pretty easy to get in (I was there on a Monday recently and it was pretty empty in the late evening). The staff are all nice and pretty accommodating. I love the Pad Thai (I usually take half of it home) and the Veggies on Rice, which has fried tofu on top that I could eat for every meal. Seriously, I can never make my tofu taste that good. It was like what I imagine chicken fingers taste like (not that I have a very good point of reference…)

The other main spot for veggie eats is the Happy Hummus Hut (https://twitter.com/happyhummushut). They offer different stuff every day and are really good about posting (with photos!) on social media so you can see what’s up. I tend to think of their food as mostly lunch-types, soups, wraps, stews, and of course Hummus. They’ve got some very creatively flavoured hummuses and I wish I could say I’ve tried them all. They also do gluten free stuff, and apparently now they deliver, which is kind of amazing. It’s a small operation so they will occasionally close early due to weather, etc. but are really great about letting everyone know via Facebook and twitter. As someone who can never make vegan chilli that tastes any good, I definitely recommend that if it’s on offer!

I’ll also add that the Risotto Cakes from The Rooms restaurant are awesome. They’re the background image for the header on this post. It’s all I ever eat when I go there.

Overall, I don’t want to paint a cynical picture. It’s definitely possible to thrive being veggie here — somehow I’ve done it for two years, and I know I’m not the only one. People can be less understanding about it here, particularly since so many regional dishes are reliant on seafood or salted pork or even moose. But a little determination and resilience means anything is possible, right?

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