One aspect of the foodie trend that I love is the subsequent dying stereotypes surrounding vegetarian cuisine. The image of tasteless tofu sitting next to raw vegetables is far from reflecting what actually makes up really good vegetarian dishes. Edmonton’s been moving in this direction for a long time with awesome comfort food spots like the Clever Rabbit on 124 Street and my personal favourite food truck ever, Sailin’ On, the owner of which now also runs the kitchen at the Buckingham on Whyte Avenue.
A new favourite haunt of mine for vegetarian comfort food options is Garneau’s Café Mosaics. Nestled near the end of Whyte Avenue, just past the Silk Road Spice Merchant, sits the unassuming eatery that looks like it’s been crafted entirely from recycled materials. Some of the tables have wicker basket chairs, perfect for storing jackets and bags when you sit down to eat.
Cafe Mosaics offers familiar dishes you’d find at most diners like burgers, wraps, and entree dishes that take full advantage of the creative liberties you can take when it comes to translating the familiar into vegetarian. The Curry Dinner is a good example of this. The stir fry combination of tofu and seasonal vegetables mixed in a coconut curry sauce and served with a side of rice and quinoa is a fun take on the typical diner stir fries. South Asians flavours have always meshed well with vegetarian cuisine. The pronounced spices do a lot especially with tofu and spice is an often missed key when it comes to creating complex flavours.
Where Cafe Mosaics shines especially well is with brunch. The tea infusion lattes are reason enough to get up early on the weekend. If tea isn’t your thing, they do a good job with coffee as well. But don’t stop your early morning trip at beverages because you’ll be missing so much of what makes mornings at Cafe Mosaics so great.
If you’re into savoury breakfasts, try their take on a deconstructed eggs Benedict. Poached eggs on a bed of hash browns made from potato, sweet potato, and pumpkin topped with Cafe Mosaic’s house made hollandaise sauce and served with a side of grilled asparagus grapefruit. It’s hearty and delicious, with its true shining moment beaming out from the bed of hash browns. The pumpkin and sweet potato add a sweetness and a texture variance that may have ruined me for any other hash browns for a long time.
For those seeking a sweeter breakfast, go for the Experimental Pancake. It’s a single flapjack the size of your plate and topped with a cream sauce, Cafe Mosaic’s signature veggie sausage, peanut butter, and with a side of maple syrup. The bottom of the menu offers up a few more added options for a couple of bucks extra. I highly recommend adding blueberries. They mix in with the cream sauce and cover the flapjack, which will also have blueberries mixed into the batter, hitting all the right sweet notes anyone with a first thing in the morning sugar craving will be seeking.
Even if you’re just looking for a solid snack, Cafe Mosaics has you covered. Their Crispy Vegan Spring Rolls are a solid choice, but when are spring rolls not a solid choice? A surprisingly awesome snack is the Mosaics Vegan Wings. The consistency of them are more akin to a veggie pakora than they are to their meaty counterparts and the barbecue dipping sauce on the side is peppery and sweet, melding nicely with the mix of spice in the wings.
The upturn in the quality of vegetarian cuisine in Edmonton is both adding a whole new set of culinary options for us avid eaters and introducing a whole new set of challenges for local chefs. It takes a lot of creative ingenuity to figure out how to imitate the comfort foods we all know and love but prepare them with some of the ingredients thought to be the most essential. It’s also challenging diners to think about what they want to eat differently. It’s showing that vegetarianism and veganism isn’t necessarily giving up on something, but just a shifting of thought in our relationships with food.
Introducing some of these options to your diet or even fully adopting the lifestyle of avoiding animal products is becoming easier than ever, and it doesn’t even require any of the negative stereotypes that typically accompanies it. Every time I have gone to Cafe Mosaics, I have gone with fellow omnivores who simply wanted to enjoy some interesting and delicious food. Every time we leave Cafe Mosaics, we are happy, full, and talking about what we want to try the next time we’re up this early in the morning.