Animal Liberation Kitchen, a new family restaurant in Riverside, is proving meat is not synonymous with a rich and satisfying meal.
“I’m not vegan because I don’t like the taste of meat,” says ALK chef and founder Tanya Spasic. “We are Serbian. We ate meat three times a day.” She’s vegan because her daughter helped her to finally see where meat comes from.
“We’ve always been animal lovers in our family, I was rescuing animals since I was a little kid,” but that connection between eating the meat and loving the animals was kind of a disconnect,” says Tanya. “A huge disconnect.”
Immediately she began creating vegan versions of her family’s favourite dishes. Then her son raved about a particular stew, telling Tanya she should sell it. That was six years ago. Dozens of wildly successful festivals and sold out markets were followed by phone calls for catering. For years, ALK was the only vegan vendor in Toronto.
“We always wanted to open in the east end,” she says. “The west end has its own vegan neighbourhood but there are not a lot of vegan options here.”
The tiny take-out restaurant features a variety of savoury dishes including BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sliders, Smoke Mac and Cheese as well as healthy desserts and smoothies. And Riverside is eating it up.
“Enthusiasm of the people who live here is what keeps us going,” says Tanya. That, and the desire to educate more people on the benefits of going vegan.
“We are selling and making and eating vegan food because of animals as well as the health benefits,” she says. “It’s amazing how much lighter and more energetic you feel after a period of not eating dairy and meat.”
Karen Lloyd is a writer, photographer and website designer in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood. This blog is part of the series Riverside Business Profile. Read other blogs from her: Riverside Patios, Places to Stay in Riverside, Brunch Spots, Health & Wellness in Riverside, Kid-Friendly Riverside, Event & Catering Spots, Riverside Chefs, Self-Care in Riverside, It’s Easy Being Green in Riverside, The Dirt on Gardening in Riverside, Eat Around the World in Riverside, and Saying ‘I Do’ East of the Don.