Hyde park’s newest vegan restaurant-Can't Believe It's Not Meat

Author: Daniella Morgan-Pascuavalca

Photographer: Anna Kuryla


“What restaurant are we going to?”

“Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat”

“I know, but what’s the restaurant called?”

“Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat”

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The new Hyde Park restaurant does bear the name Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat, having opened in early April by the same owner of its neighbour, Soul Shack. The first striking realization is that the space is incredibly small: an entire wall is a mirror, and there is only one cashier staring us down in an empty restaurant. We’re intimidated by the apparent lack of seating and customer base on a Thursday night. Upon viewing the menu, we’re even more overwhelmed. Expensive. Confusing. Limited. Unfortunately, some of our questions are never met with answers, such as: Why are there five smoothies on the menu but only the smoothie of the day is offered? Why is the chili seasonal? Why have they run out of chicken nuggets by 6:30?

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Furthermore, the lack of communication between the cashier and kitchen is a little unnerving. After being told they have no milkshakes, we watch a member of the kitchen staff take two chocolate milkshakes to the cashier’s table. Our food takes fifteen minutes to arrive during which we watch five misplaced McDonald’s advertisements on the big screens.

Luckily, I bring my token vegan friend, Oliver, to help us review the food. The restaurant strikes Oliver positively, and states that although the food is overpriced, it is enjoyable, and he believes that the mission of the restaurant is worthwhile: allowing meat-eaters to feel more comfortable transitioning to a plant-based diet. I also bring Oliver for his notoriously quotable demeanor, providing us with his in-depth vegan perspective: “I also enjoy foods that are trying to capture the flavour profiles and textures of more traditional foods, and I think there’s a place for that, especially for those who are trying to transition to veganism”.

The non-vegans have a negative view of the restaurant, tainted by the memory of the taste of meat. The quality of the nacho cheese lacks substance, the chicken and hot dog taste like a bland, monotonous brand of Tysons in the frozen food section of Target. Sadly, the food does not have the same taste or aesthetic of the hip and trendy restaurant, focusing too much on the extra packaging and to-go appeal.  

As Anna finally remarks, “The restaurant is a niche that needs to be filled in Hyde Park… I just don’t think the execution was that great”. Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat is not fooling anyone, but it’s forging an imperative path and deserves credit.

Melanie WangComment