Cynical branding exercise? Welcome to Vegandale.
By ANTHEA ANKA
If you’re fed up with living in a unethical world, how about moving to Vegandale? Vegandale Village – as enthusiasts affectionately call it - has taken over one city block in downtown Toronto and, from the sounds of it, its organisers are planning world domination.
Located between Queen Street, between Dufferin and Brock, this meat, dairy and cruelty -free zone is home to three pioneering vegan brands - Mythology Diner, Doomie’s, and The Imperative - with an aim to more than double in size to seven separate stores by the end of the year.
The concept was born in 2015 when Vegandale’s resident Mayor, Hellenic Vincent de Paul, put together a Vegan Food Festival and marvelled at the two-hour queue for Vegan Big Macs. Hellenic quickly scooped up the chef of the culinary masterpiece to run Doomie’s, a cool, low key bar serving solely ‘junk’ food that puts paid to the myth that vegan fare is tasteless rabbit food.
Soon to follow was Toronto's first all-vegan retail concept, The Imperative, offering everything you need for an 100% ethical lifestyle, from beauty, health and clothing, to housewares and groceries. “Look killer without killing” pronounces a slogan from the store’s walls.
The final feather in Vegandale’s cap is the Mythology Diner, helmed by award winning chef, Doug McNish, who has created a menu that serves posh diner classics and a host of vegan cocktails. From locally sourced ingredients to the vegan leather chairs their customers sit on, ethics is everywhere.
As its creators happily boast: “This premiere destination for the vegan and vegan-curious is the only one of its kind, promoting a world where animal exploitation is a thing of the past.”
Inevitably, the branding of Vegandale has drawn naysayers, who accuse the project of being bourgeoisie and elitist, a cynical marketing exercise - made all the more pointed by the fact that all three current outlets are owned by the same management group, The 5700. But, for self-proclaimed “vegan extremist” Hellenic, Vegandale isn’t a flash-in-the-pan; instead, it is an obligation. “I call myself a vegan extremist because I view veganism as a social justice movement and a moral imperative; not a movement that is based on a trend, a diet or a movement for the environment,” he says.
Three new vegan restaurants – Vegandale Bracitorium, Prohibition Pie, and NYM – are due to arrive soon. Factor in the fourth Vegandale Food Festival (formerly the Vegan Food & Drink Festival), with an expected attendance of 75,000 across the four cities of Toronto, Chicago, New York City and now Houston) in August later this year - and the sky definitely looks like the limit for Vegandale.