A growing crop of Canadian restaurants are up-levelling their sustainability efforts. They’re shining the spotlight on local and ethical ingredients, innovating with plant-based menus, tackling food waste, and on a quest to reduce environmental impact.
In Calgary, a pioneering Canadian restaurant grows its ingredients and taps into renewable energy sources to power operations. Whole-animal butchery and preservation methods let a Saskatoon spot get the most out of its ingredients. In Kitchener, a beloved bar and grill transforms veggie scraps into food for farm animals.
Honouring the environment is as important as serving exquisite food at these eco-friendly restaurants. Read on for a guide to Canada’s 13 sustainability stars.
Fable Kitchen – Vancouver, BC
Fable Kitchen earned a loyal following in Vancouver—and MICHELIN Bib Gourmand status—for its unfussy approach to farm-to-table fare. The restaurant champions sustainability by making the most of homegrown ingredients, which means an ever-evolving menu that could include pan-seared gnocchi with squash purée and a pork chop with warm fingerling potato salad. Fable’s locavore ethos extends to its drinks list, which highlights British Columbia’s talented producers from Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley. Even its interiors are a hat-tip to an area icon—the restaurant is decked with wood beams reclaimed from the century-old Cecil Hotel, which shuttered in 2010. Grab a seat in front of the open kitchen to best appreciate the local ingredients that shine in every dish.
River Café – Calgary, AB
A trailblazer in Calgary’s farm-to-table movement, River Café has showcased the best of Alberta’s regional bounty since the 1990s. In addition to partnering with local purveyors, the restaurant grows many of its greens, herbs, berries, and edible flowers onsite, eliminating the energy needed to transport and refrigerate ingredients shipped from elsewhere. River Café’s sustainability focus stretches beyond ingredient sourcing. The restaurant works to reduce its energy and water use and minimize its waste: its reliance on 100 percent wind-generated and green gas energy, plus house-filtered water (served in reusable bottles) are just a handful of the reasons it’s an eco-friendly standard-setter.
Cafe Mosaics – Edmonton, AB
Cafe Mosaics specializes in fresh vegan and vegetarian comfort food. The down-to-earth Edmonton restaurant promotes sustainability through its meat-free menu. Eclectic, scratch-made dishes include wasabi mushroom ceviche and a lentil curry bowl with seasonal vegetables. Not to mention enticing all-day breakfast options such as huevos rancheros and cinnamon apple pancakes. Many of the products used in the restaurant are organic, others are consciously sourced from responsible farms, and vegetarian dishes feature free-range eggs and cruelty-free cheese. The cheerful, earthy interiors are decked with repurposed materials, plus local art that’s often for sale.
Balkan The Greek Restaurant – Banff, AB
This family-run restaurant has delighted Banff for the better part of two decades with fresh, flavourful Greek food. Balkan’s Mediterranean menu includes plenty of vegetarian options, such as falafel pita and a hearty Greek bowl with fried chickpeas. Balkan has Level 2 LEAF certification status, a Canadian designation that highlights foodservice operators’ commitment to sustainability in key areas such as food waste, energy and water use, and food purchasing. The restaurant is also a proud member of the Banff Hospitality Collective, which has successfully nixed plastic straws from all its venues, organized community clean-ups, and is currently working to expand an organic composting program.
Odla – Saskatoon, SK
Odla takes farm-to-table dining to new heights. For starters, the restaurant is co-owned by Farm One Forty less than 30 minutes away, just outside Saskatoon. The farm provides all of Odla’s pasture-raised pork and grass-fed beef and lamb for the restaurant’s meatballs and poutine broth and also contributes honey from its own apiary, as well as fruits and veggies. Throw in eco-friendly practices such as whole-animal butchery and a penchant for canning, pickling, and preserving to limit waste, and you have a restaurant revered as a sustainability champion.
Borealis Grille & Bar – Kitchener, ON
Kitchener’s innovative Borealis Grille & Bar is a certified B Corp to support its commitment to environmental and social good. The restaurant’s setting, a former schoolhouse dating back to the 19th-century, shows how it reuses whatever is possible—chalkboards and other design elements from the original building blend into the pastoral decor. Borealis got rid of plastic straws long before Canada moved to ban single-use plastics and uses naturally derived or enzyme-based cleaners in its kitchen. It’s also partly powered by solar roof panels. The restaurant even gets bonus points for feeding its neighbors: it freezes its veggie scraps to serve as feed at a local pig farm.
Plant Matter Kitchen – London, ON
Plant Matter Kitchen is all about minimizing its environmental footprint. The popular vegan spot draws on culinary influences from Korea and Italy for plant-based dishes made with organic and locally sourced ingredients. Creations such as Bangkok nachos (plant-based beef and cashew cheese) and pot pie featuring house-smoked tofu are fresh and filling. The restaurant partners with dozens of local businesses around London to create its crowd-pleasing menu for items such as vegan cheese, produce, and fresh tortillas. The interiors are also locally accented, decorated with handcrafted furniture by a London-based wood supplier.
1 Kitchen Toronto – Toronto, ON
From its (mostly) plant-based menu to produce grown onsite, sustainability steers 1 Kitchen Toronto. The restaurant is a zero-waste operation, which means it works with companies to convert its kitchen oil and grease into biofuel and uses an onsite composter to turn organic waste into soil. For its meat dishes, 1 Kitchen prioritizes responsible, local sourcing from purveyors who raise animals ethically and aim to reduce their own environmental impact. Organic and biodynamic bottles headline the drinks menu, while cocktails are made with cold-pressed juices. The bright, stylish setting in one of Toronto’s most sustainable luxury hotels is an added green perk.
Bistro 67 – Whitby, ON
Whitby’s Bistro 67 stands out for its distinctive location in the W. Galen Weston Centre for Food at Durham College, which includes an agricultural growing field, apiary, pollinator garden, greenhouse, apple orchard, arboretum, and hydroponic farming facility. Meals at the groundbreaking restaurant, which could include grilled Ontario flank steak with chimichurri salsa or green pea and lemon risotto, are farm-to-table feasts featuring ingredients grown on the property. The kitchen doubles as a learning site for the college’s students who prepare the dishes alongside experienced staff. Diners get up close and personal with the origins of their food here: Bistro 67’s windows overlook the centre’s scenic fields and gardens.
L’Orignal – Montreal, QC
This cozy Quebecois restaurant chooses its ingredient suppliers thoughtfully, considering not just their proximity but their dedication to sustainable cultivation practices. The restaurant’s seasonally-driven menu changes frequently, but expect comforting dishes that match its cottage-inspired decor, such as bison burgers made with meat from a family farm in nearby Rawdon. Game meats and seafood get top billing here, including some of the city’s best freshly shucked oysters, sourced from a family-run fish market.
Bloom Sushi – Montreal, QC
Bloom Sushi gives a sustainable spin to a popular Japanese dish. The restaurant presents imaginative vegan and vegetarian takes on sushi. “Salmon” sashimi is made from konjac (a starchy bulb root) and umami-rich rolls are filled with fried oyster mushrooms, plant-based cream cheese, or crispy tempeh. A partnership between Sushi Momo owner Christian Ventura and LOV founder Dominic Bujold, Bloom Sushi respects traditional sushi-making techniques while embracing a more eco-friendly alternative to the seafood. Bloom’s sleek decor featuring whitewashed brick and delicate floral accents lend a Zen vibe as you tuck into a meat-free, Japan-influenced meal.
Studio East – Halifax, NS
Since taking over Studio East in 2019, co-owners Guy and André Pratt have maintained a razor-sharp focus on sustainable, locally sourced ingredients. Farm-to-table cuisine with Asian touches results in dishes such as Atlantic beef burgers topped with pork belly and housemade hoisin sauce and PEI mussels in red curry. Studio East also offers a variety of vegan dishes including marinated crispy tofu and kung pao-style cauliflower. When it comes to drinks, there’s a locally rooted drinks menu showcasing regional wine, cider, and microbrews.
Portage – St. John’s, NL
Top Chef Canada winner Ross Larkin and his wife Celeste Mah, who was recognized as the country’s Best Pastry Chef by Canada’s 100 Best in 2019, helm Portage. The locally driven restaurant has a tidy bistro menu featuring shareables such as savoury bread pudding and beef carpaccio. The menu and restaurant space are purposefully small, making it easier for Larkin and Mah to source lower volumes of ingredients from local producers. The restaurant joins forces with foragers to acquire ingredients such as black currant leaves and lovage (a perennial herb that tastes like celery), which Mah often uses in her exquisite desserts. Potage also relies on creative strategies to reduce waste, such as turning fish bones into broth and making sugar from leftover vegetable skins.