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Finding my sweet spot for plant-based food at Hello 123 in NDG

    The trend towards reducing or eliminating animal products in one’s diet remains very popular among a certain segment of the population. As a result, the number of plant-based options at grocery stores and restaurants continues to be on the rise.

    I am not someone who considers myself either a proponent of plant-based products nor have I ever described myself as “vegan.” That being said, I remain intrigued and interested in how some of these food products -if you put a blindfold on or were not told the ingredients – taste like food products I fancy.

    Enter Hello 123 (hello123forever.com), a plant-based restaurant and bar on Monkland Avenue in NDG. The owners had invited me to give it a try some time ago. Recently, I took them up on the invitation and indeed I was pleasantly surprised.

    Hello 123 first opened on June 1, 2019. Co-owners Eric and Tony, along with their partners, had previously traveled to Toronto to see the first franchise on downtown Queen Street. They were immediately sold on the concept. They choose an excellent location, on a trendy street. The restaurant can accommodate 42 diners indoors and 24 more on a seasonal patio.

    messy wedges

    Eric greeted me on the evening I visited, outlining their very interesting menu.  I started with some messy wedges, roasted potato wedges, with cashew cream, avocado, sunflower crumble, scallions, pickled onions and coconut bacon. I added a side of mayo for dipping and devoured the wedges. 

    There is a category on the menu called “Hands,” which means that it sounds like items you need not use a fork and knife.  There were burgers, sandwiches and the shiitake shawarma wrap. The latter piqued my interest. Each item comes with a choice of house salad, French fries, or roasted potatoes. I opted for the salad. The wrap contained shiitake, tomatoes, lettuce, pickled onions and house garlic mayo. I savored every bite.

    shiitake shawarma

    My friend decided to dive into the  “Comfort” section and the house favorite,  the La-La-La-Lasagna. It is made with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, béchamel, ‘cheez,’ tomato sauce, tofu ricotta Caesar salad and garlic bread.

    “For the vegan clientele, if they can make something themselves then they will probably not eat it here,” Eric explained. “Lasagna, be it meat or vegetarian, is a time-consuming meal to make. So That is one of the reasons why it is so popular.”

    That and the fact it is really good!

    Some of the other appetizers and shares include a dahl soup, spicy samosas and tamarind dip, sweet potato fries, roasted brussel sprouts, tempeh tacos, cauliflower lettuce wrap and nacho party. Regarding the “Hands,”  the Hello Burger and Ba-con Cheezeburger are popular. Ditto for the pulled pork and breakfast sandwiches.

    There are a wide variety of bowls and salads. Other comfort food items include spaghetti with “meat” sauce, cauliflower mac and cheese, red Thai curry, sesame stir fry, shiitake tao and butter chicken.

    Oh yes, they have some decadent desserts. The mocha chocolate cheesecake sounded good to me. It is made with cashew nuts, but when the final product came to the table there was no sign of the cashews. This tasted like the chocolate cakes I have grown to love over the years. It did not last long on my plate.

    Will Hello 123 expand? Just before the pandemic, there was a second location in Old Montreal.  With the restaurant industry in free fall at the time, they had to close their doors. While the owners would love to see more franchises open, for the time being, they will continue to finetune the Monkland locale.

    They even have plant-based drinks here. Eric sent me home with the Shalom (spinach, apple, kale, cucumber, ginger, lemon and chlorella) and the Hola (carrot, apple, orange, ginger and lemon).

    Hours of operation are: 

    • Monday to Thursday:  11 am to -9 pm
    • Friday: 11 am to 1 pm 
    • Saturday:  10 am to 11 pm
    • Sunday: 10 am to 9 pm.

    Hello 123 is located at  5700 Monkland Ave, For more information call  514.483.1123 or e-mail eric@hello123forever.com.

    Log on to www.hello124forever.com

    Mike Cohen

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