It is with a great deal of pride that I can say I live a completely vegan lifestyle. Except I occasionally eat fish. And, of course, chicken is a healthy part of any diet. Oh, and if I didn’t have a little beef every once in a while, my iron levels would surely plummet. Wait, does dairy count, too?
Okay, so I’m about as vegan as that smelly guy on the streetcar who claims he’s from our neighbouring star system (Vega, for all you astronomy buffs). That’s not to say I don’t appreciate healthy eating options. But with the abundance of Tim Hortons and Starbucks at every corner, it can be tricky for even the most ardent purist to stay on the straight and narrow all the time.
Fuel Plus is out to change that scenario with a selection of organic coffees and vegan goodies that leave the average doughnut in the dust. Owners Gary Taylor and Chester Wong just opened their health-conscious café last December, but they’ve already earned a reputation for being a healthier and competitively priced alternative to their junkier on-the-go competitors.
Now I know it may be difficult to imagine a morning without Timbits, but you have to try these little peanut-butter bites of heaven called Fuel Balls. A little smaller than Tim Hortons’ ubiquitous spheres, a single Fuel Ball is packed with enough rich flavour to satisfy the sweetest of teeth. Each ball contains about 100 calories and is made from 80 percent organic ingredients — which fits perfectly into Fuel Plus’s nutritional mandate. “We actually created them because of our connection to the running crowd,” Taylor says. “I don’t want to eat a huge amount of food when I run, but you shouldn’t run completely with no energy. The Fuel Ball is perfect right before a workout or with a shot of espresso to start your day.”
There are plenty of delectables populating the café’s slick, modern counters and shelves. My favourites thus far are a vegan chocolate zucchini muffin that is gorgeously moist and flavourful and a cashew cookie you would never peg as vegan and flourless.
“We have a lot of vegan options because of [Toronto bakery] Sweets from the Earth,” Taylor says. “One of the things we wanted to do was use local sourcing where we can.”
There are also some grocery products on the shelves; healthy sweeteners like stevia and xylitol share space with organic proteins and, of course, the café’s locally roasted fair-trade coffee. And priced at a little less than the competition, Fuel Plus’s “Go organic for the same price” claim is winning its share of converts.
For the more adventurous, the café also stocks things like protein shakes and bottled kombucha tea, a tasty, tart drink. A selection of gluten-free pastas and salads round out a selection that will please enthusiasts without scaring away the average Joe looking for a cup of java. “We do a full espresso bar, and we can customize anything with almond milk or soy milk,” Taylor says. “So if you’re looking for a latte or cappuccino, we can use those or organic cow’s milk. And we don’t charge a premium for almond and soy like a lot of places do.”