Aux Vivres, Montreal

I’d never been to a full-on vegan restaurant until we visited Montreal earlier this month. There’s such a healthy, take-care-of-your-body, organic pulse to the city, it’s fabulous. Just as I had with Crudessence, I went to Aux Vivres twice. Partly because I was in the mood for another vegan meal, and also because I couldn’t leave without trying their vegan chili fries. A good reason to return, no?

Aux Vivres is a restaurant and a la carte express shop on boulevard Saint-Laurent, just a couple minutes walk from the Mount-Royal metro station. They have a sit-down restaurant area filled with small tables stuffed in the corners all over the place to maximize on space, a to-go counter, as well as a delivery service that you can order from online.

In 1999, the restaurant hit the dining scene in Montreal as a hole in the wall vegan spot ran by Marie-Pierre Michaud; a lady with a passion for organic foods, vegan meals, and balanced nutrition. Shortly after, she hired on Michael Makhan who later became partner and then owner of the up and coming restaurant. To help with design and expansion, Michael enlisted the help of his brother, Liam. Now, four years later, Liam and Michael are true partners, running the successful vegan business on one of the trendiest streets in Montreal.

It’s evident that the two brothers take their business very seriously and are passionate about what they do. Aux Vivres has everything a diner could hope for from a well planned and executed menu, warm and inviting space, community feel, and friendly staff. It’s easy to dine here.

Kevin and I arrived at around 1pm on Monday afternoon. The restaurant was crowded, but we didn’t have to wait for a table. We were seated on the opposite side of the pony wall to the kitchen, a very similar setup one would see at The Naam in Vancouver.

What I loved about the menu (which came in English and French) was that they had symbols for nut, soy and gluten allergens. It made selecting an item so easy! I didn’t have to ask the waiter for substitutions, wait to figure out what I wanted, or settle for something I wasn’t too keen on. Also, there was a little bit for everyone!

I seem to be all about the comfort foods lately so it was no surprise that I was instantly drawn to the comfort foods section of the menu. It’s worthy to note that the temperature was 28C that day and I’d been sweating buckets on the metro just minutes before, yet all I wanted was a big bowl of something warm and filling. With organic brown rice, chickpea & potato curry, salad & chutney, the Mumbai Plate had everything I was looking for, for lunch that day. Kevin was in a burger kinda mood (as he always is) so he ordered the Tofu Burger which was said to be served on a whole-wheat bun with caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce, pickle & chipotle mayo.

We ordered our meal about 5 minutes after we’d been seated, and waited patiently (about 20 minutes) for our plates to arrive.

The Mumbai plate was just the thing I needed. The curry wasn’t too overloaded with spices, had great, fresh flavor (which is often challenging to find in a curry), and the chutney that accompanied the meal was a thing of dreams. I later asked if they offered the chutney through their take-out service and they do not. Boy, they could bottle this stuff up and sell it, it’s that good. The meal came alongside a fresh veggie salad; which I mixed around in the chutney, and a balanced portion of brown basmati rice.

All in all, it was fabulous! And, to my surprise, I was able to polish off the whole meal. One thing I noticed in Montreal is that their portion sizes are a bit smaller than at home here in Alberta. You can finish a plate of food served to you at a restaurant and not feel heavy, bloated, or uncomfortable afterward.

Kevin’s meal on the other hand, wasn’t as satisfying. Unless of course you like snacking on a plain wedge of tofu, then this burger was likely created for you. Kevin found his burger to be flavorless, despite the onions, mayo, and fillings. When we’d read burger on the menu, we’d assumed it would have been a patty, not a slab of tofu in a bun. It was mildly disappointing especially because later, when Kevin told the waiter it wasn’t a good meal, the waiter responded with, ‘Ya, it’s not my favorite either. Kind of tasteless, right?’…. If your staff don’t enjoy something on the menu, chances are your patrons aren’t going to, or should at least be told that the tofu burger is not a ‘burger’ by any meals.

Meh, the fries and coleslaw were delicious!

As bad as I felt for Kevin’s meal being sub-par, the day I ventured out on my own to Jean-Talon Market, I decided to stop in at Aux Vivres again for another tasty vegan meal out on their patio this time.

I’d only had a Jugo Juice smoothie 5 hours prior to my visit, so I was ready to indulge in some chili fry goodness – another comfort food classic on their menu. I decided to order a small side salad to balance things off. The side salad itself was gorgeous – crisp green romaine covered in purple cabbage, shredded carrots, and beets, with a generous helping of sprouts, it was just what I needed to accompany the bowl of deep fried fries that was to come.

And come it did! I chose to opt-out of the sour cream they generally serve with the chili fries as it’s made from soy. The chili itself had tofu in it, but I figured the more soy I could try to avoid, the better. The chili fries came with 5 potato wedges and about 1.5 cups of veggie chili. Again, the serving size wasn’t too large, the dish was perfectly spiced – not too spicy, not too bland, just right.

I ended up having a conversation with one of the men sitting adjacent to my table who happened to have visited the same Sivananada ashram I had in India just a couple of weeks after me. Small world, right?

All in all, Aux Vivres is a fabulous restaurant, filled with great gluten-free, vegan meals, eclectic menu items, and an interesting dining atmosphere. I would definitely go again!

HP Rating

  • Ambiance: interesting space with lots of corners, nooks and crannies. Small tables sprinkled throughout to maximize on dining space and a great outdoor eating space. Some may feel that it’s cramped, but I liked it 4/5
  • Authenticity: Menu items are original, made fresh, with wholesome ingredients. Passion goes into the work done here, it’s obvious!  4/5
  • Ease of ordering and menu readability: The easiest menu I’ve ever come across. It had a guide to show which items had nuts, soy and gluten with small icons throughout. It was easy to see what I could and couldn’t have. I didn’t need to ask the waitress a thing! 5/5
  • Food: My three dishes were fantastic – great flavor, interesting ingredient combinations, perfect portion size, and all around delicious! I was disappointed that they offered gluten-free items but none of them included their sandwiches, burgers, or wraps. Would have liked to see gluten-free bread of some sort or the option to have the burger without the bread. Kevin’s was lacking taste and creativity. 3.5/5
  • Plating: bright, fresh and simple. Plated very cleanly on unique plates. 5/5
  • Service: didn’t have much of a chance to interact with them as the menu was easy to read, the food came fast, and there were no issues. Was a bit disappointed that the server didn’t immediately tell Kevin that the tofu ‘burger’ was just slab of tofu in a bun but later told us that he wasn’t a fan of the burger himself… after Kevin told him it was a sub-par meal. 4/5
  • Value: average cost for vegetarian-style, organic food. Nothing out of the ordinary, but didn’t feel like a bargain either. 4/5

Total: 29.5/35 = 84%

Aux Vivres on Urbanspoon

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    • Nope, it wasn’t removed from the bill. We paid for it :( Kevin had maybe… two bites?

  1. I went three times when I was in Montreal in July. The first time I had a Coconut BLT which was HUGE but tasty. I had never had coconut bacon before. I liked it! I also had a chocolate chocolate chip cookie which was huge and yummy. The second time I went I had a buddha bowl with tempeh (I think when they give you the choice between tofu and tempeh the tempeh is better) and it was delicious. Something I could easily do at home. The third time I had a choco-classique smoothie and a Mekong sandwich, which the tofu was fine in because of the sauce. I wish you could have tried the BLT and the smoothie I had, so good!

    • The coconut bacon intrigued me too, but they couldn’t offer it gluten-free. Sounds like you had your fair share of good eats when you went to visit Montreal, that’s so fabulous!

  2. Leanne, you write the most amazing restaurant reviews, did you know that? If I had a restaurant (and served good food, obviously) I would be absolutely delighted to have you review it.

    And I totally agree on that burger being extremely disappointing. I too, would’ve expected a tasty patty made from tofu and OTHER yummy ingredients. Oh well, I now know never to order that from their menu. I hope that they will make a few changes to that item if they come across your brilliant review!

    Well, here’s another restaurant that you had me want to pay a visit too. Need to add that one to my list! :)

    • Aw, thanks Sonia! It’s so challenging to make sure I include everything, I’m happy you think I write good reviews!

      Yes, the burger was very disappointing but my food was brilliant! Not sure I could ever get Kevin to go back… but I know I would!

  3. Besides the burger, I am totally intrigued by this place and wish it was a little closer so I could go :)
    Sometimes I find that places that specialize in gluten-free, vegan and/or raw food get a little too confident that people will just eat it (and like it) because it is their only option, like we won’t know the difference or won’t be too picky. However I would say way too many of us have learned to cook amazing foods for ourselves, since it can be hard to go out and find it, so we know what good food tastes like. We are likely more educated on good flavors, tastes and techniques than the average eater, we have after all, had to be creative with our food, for good reason, so you can’t fool us. Death to the bland tofu burger!! haha

    • That is a fabulous observation, Beth. I’d never thought of it that way, but you’re SO right!

  4. I’ve never been to Montreal before, but it’s nice to know they have veggie options if I do visit. Super disappointing about the burger though! (And I can’t believe they didn’t take it off the bill!) Hopefully the staff will talk to the manager about it. Love your restaurant reviews!

  5. I LOVE Aux Vivres! I would go everyday if I could! The last time I went I ordered the Sirrocco sandwich on chapati bread it was AMAZING! It’s grilled eggplant, hummus, roasted red peppers, lettuce & olive tapenade! Seriously out of this world and HUGE! I would suggest getting it on regular bread for a normal meal ( I ordered the chapati but split it with my mom since we had the drago bowl to tackle also!)

    Also, love their carrot cake!!

  6. One of my favorite places! I love the weekend brunch! I can’t wait to head up there in September for some delicious eats!

  7. wow! awesome review — thanks for sharing! i LOVE montreal, but have never been to Aux Vivres ,, will definitely try it now! if you’re in the ottawa area, theres an AWESOME vegan restaurant in Gatineau called La Belle Verte. their food is amazing!

    • Thanks Leslie, I’ll be sure to remember La Belle Verte. Have a lovely day!

  8. I’m a local.

    Next time you come try the dragon bowl (it has the same sauce they put in the BLT) and ask them to put coconut bacon on top. You will not be disappointed.

    As far as I’m concerned you guys ordered some of the worst stuff off the menu. The smoothies are to die for too. Not a big fan of their desserts (can’t eat them anymore either, and they seem to have taken the gluten free pie off the menu… not that it was ever any good).

    Glad you enjoyed eating in my fair city. Next time you might want to check out La Pantere Vert and Bombay Mahal (for some vegan/gluten free indian food – so cheap and perfectly flavourful — not if you don’t like spice though). Viva Vegan has amazing vegan/gluten-free cupcakes that are pretty much my saving grace on any day I feel pouty about being unable to order dessert.

    • Thanks Alice! We’re planning to go there on Monday, so I’ll try the bowl for sure. You’re not the first person to tell me that! Great to know about the pie, too. So much good info, thanks again!

  9. Oh wow, my husband was just in Montreal last week working over there (we live in Scotland) so I’m so jealous that there’s so many places for vegans to eat as there’s none where I live! I agree with Beth that when you go out for a vegan/gluten free meal it needs to be extra special as we make such great things at home for ourselves anyway. I am so often disappointed eating out when I know I could make better at home. The only option for me as a vegan is to order a plain jacket potato with a plain side salad which will have lettuce, one slice of tomato and one slice of cucumber if I’m lucky. I bring a pot of my own hummus and slap it on. So boring! I only eat out for the sake of my husband getting something non vegan and to save us the washing up once in a while. Montreal looks amazing!

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