For anyone who’s not only vegetarian but also on a gluten-free diet, it’s a little tricky to find substitutes for delicious foods such as bread, soup, and ice cream. But fear not: Toronto is blessed with quite a few eateries that either specialize in gluten-free cuisine or offer some dishes free of gluten. This week, I present Hibiscus Café.
Tucked away in Kensington Market, Hibiscus Café is a small restaurant that specializes in buckwheat crêpes and homemade desserts — both without gluten. Due to its tiny dining area and rising popularity, queues of 20 minutes are common during brunch time and many patrons prefer to order takeouts, though I did manage to dine in recently on a weekday night without waiting.
The décor in Hibiscus is rustic and homey, a bit like visiting a grandparent’s kitchen in cottage country. Old park benches and metal patio chairs adorn the interior, which is shaded in natural greens and browns. On the walls, shelves, and cupboards are filled with books, jars of oils, and purchasable greeting cards.
As a gluten-free crêperie, Hibiscus’ menu specializes in just a handful of items, but the quality of the dishes make up for the limited choices. Besides the crêpes, the soup and salad combo is a popular choice, with very plentiful portions. A small soup comes in a mug and is certain to fill up some room in your stomach. It’s also surprisingly creamy and thick for a gluten-free soup. The salad is a delightful surprise as well, made with green beans, tofu, asparagus, quinoa, squash, and other fun veggies. Another recommended starter is the soy smoothie, which comes with fruit pieces in a variety of flavours.
The crêpes are the main attraction at Hibiscus and here, the selection is quite varied. You can choose from savoury or sweet crêpes; the former are mostly made with vegetables like spinach, mushroom, and tomato paired with cheese, while the latter are fruit-based with additional flavouring, like apple, pear, and kiwi with cinnamon. The buckwheat crêpe itself is delicious, thin, and slightly chewy in the middle, while crunchy at the edges.
A visit to Hibiscus isn’t complete without sampling their homemade desserts, which are a big draw to gluten intolerants typically deprived of ice cream and baked goods. First, there are the cookies, which come in flavours such as cocoa coconut, strawberry pistachio, green tea, and black sesame, and the trusty double chocolate. Then, there’s the ice cream, with exotic flavours like earl grey, chai masala, raspberry coconut, and a host of other fruit flavours. Finally, the brownie is also a must-try.
At $6-9 for a crêpe, $4.50 for a smoothie, and under $10 for the soup and salad combo, Hibiscus Café is a healthy, yummy, and affordable eatery for anyone with dietary restrictions, or anyone who would like a casual, light, but filling meal.
238 Augusta Ave.
Mon.-Sun. 11:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M.