West End Well can compete with Herb & Spice, but no vegan destination


IMG_0963 exterior, cropped saturatedA new cooperative grocery/cafe/performance space just opened right down the street from me in Hintonburg.

It called the “West End Well,” and I was very excited to head over there this morning to see if Hintonburg had gotten itself yet another vegan destination.

I’ve got to admit I was a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice space. It’s big, beautiful, and has a really nice produce section. It also offers IMG_0964 fruits & veggiessome vegan staples like Tofurky and Field Roast sausages and Daiya.

It’s also got Zengarry nut cheese, Strawberry Blonde Queen Elizabeth cake (bought that!), and the requisite wall full of fair trade organic chocolate. There was a new one there called “chocosol” which declares that it is not chocolate but an invitation to social justice. So of course I bought one because who can refuse an invitation to social justice when it is offered for a mere $5.59? I hope the company puts my contribution towards a better bean grinder because the chocolate was kind of gritty. Though sometimes I wonder if these barsartisanal companies make their food like that on purpose. You know, they make some perfect, creamy chocolate then say, “Hmmmmm, it doesn’t taste artisanal enough – throw some dirt in!”

When I walked in the door, I was fully prepared to commit to spending the bulk of my grocery budget there if they could provide two things: Silk Soy milk and non-bricklike vegan bread.

They didn’t have the Silk but the person at the counter dutifully wrote down the suggestion. Their regular in-house bread isn’t vegan but the gluten-free stuff is. The staffer was very emphatic that the gluten-free bread is not as gross as she’d expected, and is also the best gluten-free bread she’s ever had. I explained with equal enthusiasm that I might buy a loaf of gluten-free bread for the sheer joy of punting it down the road if I didn’t think I’d break my foot on it.

menuAs for the cafe menu – well, there it is, have a look. Given the relative vegan-friendliness of the grocery section (right on par with Herb & Spice, Rainbow and all that), I was surprised that the cafe so fully embraced the bacon-loving hipster ethic, but there you go.

Despite its, shall we say, “misalignments” with my own ethics, I give the West End Well three and a half lentils out of five. It’s pretty, it’s got a lot of vegan stuff, and it’s closer than Herb and Spice.

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