Your guide to summer's friendly fare

By Ashley Fehr and Vanessa Knight 

As more and more information surfaces on issues such as climate change, pesticide or chemical use, and our local economy, more and more of us are asking the simple question: Where does our food come from? For those health- or environmentally-conscious individuals, the answers often result in dietary changes; some choose the 100 mile diet, eating only food grown or raised locally; some decide to cut out factory-farmed meat and animal products; still others decide to cut down on meat in general, become a vegetarian, or cut out absolutely all animal products and become vegan. Whether you’re just cutting down on meat or you’re going full vegan, finding places to eat can be difficult. A lot of the places with better options (including some that we’ve listed below) are located in Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump on the Skytrain or get in a car to find a good meal. Get on the web to do a little research about what’s in your area, or encourage the shops and restaurants you frequent most to bring in more sustainable options. In the meantime, here’s a compilation of some of the best places in the Lower Mainland to get your sustainable grub on! We’ve listed under each place their location, and price point rating on a three-point scale.

Bandidas Taqueria

Price: $$

Location: 2781 Commercial Drive

There are a lot of great places to choose from for a great dinner and drinks with friends but as summer winds up it seems only fair to suggest Bandidas; one of the most summer-feeling restaurants that isn’t on the beach. With $3.50 beers and thirst quenching drink specials this place is perfect for a perch at the bar and great conversation. If you’re hungry, they specialize in tacos and burritos with great side salads made with in-season vegetables. Bandidas is primarily vegetarian and offers vegan alternatives with the use of the popular vegan Daiya Cheese brand and other substitutes. According to the website they buy their produce from local markets and bring them in with a bicycle and cart. All sauces, tortillas and the like are made in house, and all the beer and wines they carry are local.

Look them up at bandidastaqueria.com

Farmer’s Markets

Price: $ to $$

Location: Find one in your area!

Farmer’s Markets are a great place to get fresh, local items, and chances are there is one in your area. Matthew Stuart from Training Wheels Farm says “students should shop at the market because you actually get to meet the grower. You can ask questions and find food that meets your value system.” While chain grocery stores can offer artificially low prices because of subsidies around food shipments, “you can find deals on things when you shop in season” recommends Stuart, “The best advice I could give is spend a little more on things that are important to you … And then say ‘thank you’ for all the hard work that these people have put in to deliver the food, it will mean a lot.” 

For more info on farmer’s markets visit bcfarmersmarket.org and bcfarmfresh.com

Karmavore Vegan Store

Price: $$$

Location: 610 Columbia Street (New West)

Karmavore is an adorable store nestled on Columbia Street in New Westminster. The store has a very strict policy; no-animal products, by-products or testing went into anything they carry. Co-owner Jennifer Jamal says that she and her husband started Karmavore to “make it easier and more accessible to live a vegan lifestyle and also to make a way to generate funds for animal charities.” The store has two levels; upstairs they have various vegan products such as clothing, shoes, soaps and vegan resources, and downstairs lies a plethora of vegan treats. In addition to a frozen and dry goods sections, they have a great deli selection as well as a small take-out menu including their fantastic soft-serve, vegan ice cream. The prices may not be considered student friendly, but there are often day-old items as well as a student discount. Of course one of the greatest parts is that you can also find out about local initiatives to help our fellow creatures; like Jamal says, “It’s all for the animals.”

The Organic Grocer

Price: $$$

Location: King George and 74th Ave

Since 1993 The Organic Grocer has provided Newton with a variety of organic products, including a very large supplement selection. Pam Duff is a registered medical nutritional consultant who works at the grocer, she says “our supplements section is quite extensive as well as our body care section. We also have registered holistic nutritionists and a master herbalist on staff.” The store is Certified Organic, which means that “We have to follow some stringent regulations we cannot have produce in here that has been sprayed or raised with any kind of chemical.” In terms of stocking local foods, Duff says “we try to go with local products and then branch out from there.” Unfortunately their prices are fairly high for students, so this store is great for specialty items and if you want to talk to a professional about supplements for your diet. They do have a points system, so you can accumulate discounts.

Planet Veg

Price: $

Location: 1941 Cornwall Avenue

If you’re heading to any beach near Kitsilano, it can be difficult to choose which delicious food place to grab some grub from. Two blocks from Kitsilano beach, Planet Veg offers Western-Indian cuisine that is wrapped up in a tidy square to make it easy to carry to the beach. Owner Chitra Bansal says that when ordering her ingredients she makes every effort to have local products, and all sauces and foodstuffs are made in house. When asked why make such a healthy fast food options, Bansal says, “I myself am a vegetarian and I know that it is difficult to have healthy choices when eating out. I want to make sure people are able to eat healthy meals.” With nothing over $10 this is one of the most affordable and healthy meals in Kitsilano.

Sushi

Price: $ to $$

Location: Richmond is a great place to find excellent sushi

This isn’t a particular restaurant, but if you want to eat out with a vegan, sushi is always a great option in the lower mainland. Prices tend to be uniform, and you can usually get a vegetable roll, avocado roll, and a couple pieces of inari (bean curd wrapped around rice) for under ten bucks. If you’re concerned about sustainability but not strictly veg, you have even more options. Because sushi is served raw, the fish must be of higher quality, which can tend to (but not always) mean more sustainable practices. According to the Living Oceans Society website, “Companies like Bento, Tomiyama and Tokyo Express are getting on board with SeaChoice to provide sustainable options to their customers.” SeaChoice is a healthy oceans seafood program put together by a group of conservation organizations.

Check www.seachoices.org for more information and a sustainable sushi guide.

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