Archive for the ‘$’ Category

Mighty-O Donuts (Seattle)

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: American
Tofu puffs: 4 out of 5
Price range: $
Time visited: Twice
Location: 2110 North 55th Street (@ Meridian Avenue North)
Hours:  Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: 206-547-0335
Website: http://www.mightyo.com/

Mighty O Donuts - OutsideWe, the Vegan Spoonies, like to think that we’re seasoned vegan donut eaters. Truth be told, we’ve eaten donuts from only four establishments since becoming vegan years ago, in addition to donuts and donut holes bought online and home-made donut holes. In our pre-vegan lives, however, we indulged in many of these cake and yeasted confections. We figure that this experience, combined with our discerning vegan tastes, qualifies us to be darn picky about the donuts we’ve had the fortune to gobble up.

We probably don’t have to tell you that Mighty-O Donuts are beloved well outside Seattle’s city limits. This is so much so that we’ve even seen them for sale in a Whole Foods store in Portland (who the heck’s driving these donuts two hours south of Seattle every day?). And the mere mention of them on Twitter elicits pleas from friends to bring some back to Vancouver.

Are they really that good? After all, donut stores or places that sell donuts are not that hard to find. What is it about Mighty-O Donuts that makes it a place we and many others must visit? How about organic donuts that are perfectly moist with a perfect crumb and flavours and frostings that are just right in taste and thickness? These donuts have a denseness that isn’t too heavy, but they’re also not so light that they’re full of air pockets and dried out like the donuts proffered by many less than vegan establishments. Mighty-O’s donuts, unlike those from the equally well-known Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, aren’t overloaded with frosting or other tasty but over-the-top toppings.

Mighty O Donuts - InsideThe regular Mighty-O menu offers many tempting flavours and three different categories of donuts. They range from the simple cinnamon and sugar donut to fancier flavours, such as raspberry riot and grasshopper (a mint-chocolate creation), as well as cream-stuffed long johns and fritters. They also offer mini donuts in many of the same flavours as the regular donuts. And they always have seasonal specialties, such as the Cookies and Cream donut we tried on our most recent visit (with crush Oreo-like cookies sprinkled on top). The best thing of all is that the donuts are a very reasonable price at less than $2 each. We double dare you to eat just one.

Mighty-O’s coffee is pretty decent too, in addition to being fair trade. While we’re not coffee connoisseurs as much as we are self-proclaimed vegan donut experts, we do know a good cuppa when we sip one. Mighty-O’s coffee is a mighty fine accompaniment to the sweets they offer. If you’re not into coffee, they also offer a good hot chocolate as well as some teas. And they offer rice milk for those who want to avoid soy, which is a pretty rare option where we come from.

Lemon-Poppyseed and Cookies & Cream donuts

Lemon-poppy seed (left) and Cookies & Cream (right)

If you ever were curious about how deep-fried donuts are made, you can watch the donuts being made right in the cafe. Mighty-O uses a nifty little machine that pops o-shaped batter into really hot oil. From there, the donuts float down a short vat of oil where they’re mechanically flipped halfway through cooking. At the end, they travel up a small conveyor belt and topple out onto a cooling tray. It’s really neat to see, especially if you’re all nerdy-like about how the stuff you eat is made.

We have to tell you, though, that the two of us are staunchly divided on our opinions about Mighty-O. While we both love their donuts, one of us thinks they’re the best she’s ever had, the other of us (not the one writing this review) thinks that there’s a bit of room for improvement. According to that hard-to-please Spoonie, the flavour of the donuts is not quite there, whatever that means. That’s why Mighty-O gets four out of five tofu puffs – we just can’t agree on the level of greatness.

Whatever we think, get yourself over to Mighty-O if you have the chance. Despite our spoiled quibbling over its rating, we can promise that their donuts are mighty and will never disappoint.

Cinnamon & Sugar (left) and Raspberry Riot (right)

Cinnamon & Sugar (left) and Raspberry Riot (right)

Raspberry Riot (chocolate; eaten at Porchlight Coffee)

Raspberry Riot (chocolate; eaten at Porchlight Coffee)

BaoQi Vietnamese Eateri

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $
Times visited: 1
Location: 620 Davie Street, Vancouver
Hours: (winter hours) Sunday & Monday – closed; Tuesday to Friday – 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday – noon to 9:30 p.m.
Contact: 604-568-7980

Tofu Bahn Mi - BaoQi Vietnamese Eateri

Tofu Bahn Mi

The moment we walked into this place, we were in love.

BaoQi is an adorable little Vietnamese restaurant tucked away between several sushi joints on Davie Street between Granville and Seymour streets. It’s easy to overlook, and we have, in fact, walked by it on a few occasions without any notice. Even from the outside, it still doesn’t look very striking. But walk through the door and the cozy atmosphere will have you thinking you’d like to stay for quite a while.

While seeing the huge, beautiful goldfish in a floor tank just inside the doorway left us a bit unhappy, there was nothing else about the restaurant we didn’t like. Although it is a small space, there is a large booth with seating for eight and a long, beautiful wood table with wood stools that seats 12.  One of the most interesting aspects of the restaurant’s decor is a wall decorated with vintage frames and black and white photos of two striking Vietnamese women from the 1940s and 50s.  Other small touches, like a shabby chic bench and coat hooks, as well as the delicate glass cylinders on the tables holding sleek black chopsticks, give this place a charming character.

Vegan Cuon - BaoQi Vietnamese Eateri

Vegan Cuon Rolls

The menu boasts two delicious vegan options, a Tofu Bahn Mi (a Vietnamese sub sandwich) and Vegan Cuon Rolls (rice paper salad rolls). Now, before you think “Not all vegans like tofu”, this is not the kind of tofu you’re likely thinking of. The tofu in the bahn mi and the cuon rolls is a fried, minced, marinated bean curd that mingles with a mixture of juicy, crisp, and fresh ingredients. 

The lone server’s warm greeting endeared us to the place, and we were totally smitten when he brought us a deliciously fragrant cups of tea as we waited.  Less than 10 minutes later, with everything made fresh to order, he smilingly presented our carefully packaged food – all of it for less than $11.50, including taxes.  Wishing us well on our way out the door, we gleefuly exclaimed how excited we were about the food. He chuckled and smiled from ear-to-ear, wishing us well once more.

So, how was the food? Oh my goodness gracious! It was good. The bahn mi’s bread had the perfect crispness on the outside and pillowy softness inside. The filling was layered with lightly pickled daikon and carrot, fresh cucumber and cilantro, and spiked with a wee bit of jalapeno. The bahn mi was so good our toes curled with happiness. (Yes, our toes curled. Cats do it too when they’re happy.)  And the cuon rolls?  Just take a lookie-loo at that picture! More delicious, shredded tofu surrounding layers of crisp lettuce, more lightly pickled veggies, and vermicelli noodles with a not too sweet peanut dipping sauce. The final touch is the fresh basil leaf just inside the top of each roll.

It’s obvious that we’ll be back many, many times. As for the veganizable menu options, we’re not sure. But we’re definitely going to be investigating them tout de suite!

Trees Organic Coffee (Granville Street)

Some vegan options

Cuisine: Coffee and Tea
Tofu puffs: 3 out of 5
Price range: $
Times visited: At least a dozen
Location: 450 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC V6C 1V4
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: 604-684-5060; www.treescoffee.com

Trees Organic Coffee

Outside Trees Organic Coffee on Granville Street.

Trees Organic Coffee is the second coffee shop that The Vegan Spoon’s reviewed, and while we don’t intend to make it a habit of reviewing every coffee shop we’ve been to, we do think there are a few that are worthy of mention.

The Trees location on Granville near West Hastings has been around since 1996, and we’ve been going there since 1998. In our dreadful pre-vegan days, we, along with everyone else, scarfed down their cheesecake. It is, after all, what the small Vancouver-based chain is most well-known for. It also offers a small selection of fresh sandwiches, samosas, croissants, and breakfast items—none of which are vegan. There are Italian sodas available, as well as juices, but we’re not sure if the soda syrups are vegan.

While Trees doesn’t have any vegan cheesecake, it does sell a vegan scone. And a fine scone it is, too. It seems to have the flavour of both a cinnamon-sugar donut and a cinnamon roll. Packed with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dried apricots, it’s made with whole-wheat flour, so it packs quite an iron-rich punch. It also has a perfect moistness and texture that would convince any scone aficionado that it wasn’t vegan. We’re told that the scones are made fresh every day and that it’s always the same vegan scone on offer. This lack of variety is fine, though, because its cinnamony goodness is the perfect accompaniment to a soy latte. Don’t wait too late in the day to get your scone; by noon or late afternoon, you’re likely to find yourself scone-less.

Vegan scone

The vegan scone at Trees.

Speaking of lattes, it’s not so much the coffee at Trees as the soy-milk options that got us really excited. It’s the first place we’ve ever encountered where a dispenser of soy milk stands proudly next to cow’s milk and cream dispensers at the condiment bar. (Yes, that little station in a cafe where you get the lids and the sugar is called a condiment bar.) So, if you’re feelin’ the drip coffee, you don’t even have to pay extra for the soy. Some cafes will give you the soy-milk carton if you ask, but other cafes will still charge as much for soy as they would if you’d ordered a latte. And, at Trees, ordering a soy latte will cost you only 25 cents extra, opposed to the 45 to 60 cents charged elsewhere. Of course, still having to pay for subbing soy sucks.

While we’re discussing lattes, we’d like to say that whatever blend Trees uses for its decaf lattes is quite nice. It’s no Continental Coffee, but it definitely holds its own in terms of standing out from those other generic places. You know, Timmies, Blenz, and that other chain from Seattle? Star-something? Anyway, Trees’ decaf blend tastes, to us, very much like dark chocolate without the chocolate flavour, ya know? For some people, it might not be stellar enough to go out of their way for. But at $2.93 (before taxes) for a tall latte, we recommend giving it a fair shake at least once.

Soy lattes

Tall and grande decaf soy lattes at Trees.

Should you care to sit down to enjoy your coffee and scone (or tea, as there is an excellent variety of teas available), there is plenty of seating the length of the café, and there’s even a couch—right below the “tree” near the entrance. At the moment, the Canada Line construction leftovers on Granville Street make getting to Trees’ front door quite a hassle. That said, whenever we’ve been there there’s been plenty of customers who have made the roundabout trek to get into the café, and that’s gotta mean something when it comes to Trees’ quality. This also means that, while accessibility is usually no problem for the stroller set or peeps with mobility devices, at the moment this is not so.

Trees is also open later into the day, which is nice for date-night after-dinner coffee or for meeting up with friends before heading out for a movie or a bar. There is an events schedule on the Trees website, and it appears that the Granville location hosts music nights. Their Twitter feed has also mentioned movies. Lately, though, it seems that there is neither music nor movies at Trees. We assume this is because of the ghost town construction on Granville has created. When all is clear, we’ll update this post to let y’all know.

In the meantime, get your tush over to Trees and show ’em how much you love their vegan scones. Perhaps if enough of us show up and ask for Chi Cake, vegans and non-vegans alike can enjoy cheesecake at Trees.

Continental Coffee

Some vegan options

Cuisine: Coffee and Tea
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5 (what are tofu puffs?)
Price range: $
Times visited: 7
Location: 1806 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC V5N 4A5
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: 604-255-0712

Continental Coffee

Continental Coffee on the Drive.

Honestly, the brew at Continental Coffee on the Drive has got to be the best coffee either of us at The Vegan Spoon has ever had. It was adoration at first sip. Seriously. We don’t mess around with this kinda stuff. It does Starwhoever to shame, hand over mug. The lattes at Continental Coffee are so good we take a one-hour return trip across town just to get a cup. We’d even bet you it is some of the best coffee to be had in all of Canada. Go ahead—prove us wrong.

The prices are fantastic: less than $3.50 (including taxes) for a 12-ounce cup with soy milk (they use Vitasoy). And they even offer rice milk, which is a rare option at coffee bars in Vancouver. Unlike some places we’ve sipped at, the folks at Continental Coffee are wise enough to use unfortified original Rice Dream, which doesn’t separate/curdle as much in your coffee as other brands of rice milk. If you wanna take some bean home with you, you can buy it right there; one-half of the back of the cafe is a retail beanery.

Our enduring favourite—the decaf latte with rice milk—is like the ambrosia of coffee, and this is why: there is a smooth, rich molasses-like note to the brew that is not at all bitter. The taste will make your tongue high-five your mouth. Yup, we’re talking coffee here, not wine.

And if you’re of the dogma of tea, you’ll find plenty of options in this regard too.

For people-watching, this is one of the best places in town to do it. With near floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding almost half of the cafe, and seating inside and out, this is a place where you can park your caboose and read a book, peruse the paper, or surf the free Wi-Fi. Nobody’s gonna hurry you out the door. If you’re inclined to mosey on down the street with your coffee, there are few places in town more funky than the Drive.

This, sadly, is where the love ends. Continental Coffee has no vegan munchies, the addition of which we think could only make the cafe that much greater. And recent remodeling of the inside did away with the cozy little nook that the new prep area currently occupies. A few coats of paint have really brightened the place up, and it looks great, but we preferred it the way that it was—a little incognito. Staying open past 6 p.m. on Saturdays would be a mighty sweet bonus too.

But really, we’re playing tiny violins here. The place is beyond awesome, and there’s little need to question why this place has been a veritable landmark for almost three decades.

The Naam

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Eclectic
Tofu puffs: 2.5 out of 5 (what are tofu puffs?)
Price range: $
Times visited: More than a dozen
Location: 2724 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6K 1R1
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Contact: 604-738-7151; www.thenaam.com

The Naam

The Naam is a popular eatery in Kitsilano.

The Naam is a Vancouver institution of sorts, having served vegetarian food at its West 4th Avenue location for more than 30 years. Year after year, it garners first place for the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the Georgia Straight‘s Golden Plates awards. At almost any time of the day, you’re likely to find a lengthy lineup winding out the doors. You can buy its much-lauded miso gravy on local grocery-store shelves. And, we’ve heard it’s the first place in Vancouver to have offered the revered Daiya non-dairy cheese as a vegan option on its menu.

And yet, the Naam is so overrated.

The Naam is not the place to go if you want to get your server’s attention for any particular reason. It’s also not the place to go if you like your food served in less than 40 minutes, or if you insist on a clean table that doesn’t have the remains of the last patron’s food on it. And while its rather extensive menus have plenty of comfort food options, the fare is generally mediocre and nothing you couldn’t easily make better at home. So what draws people to this rather grungy but perpetually cramped food spot? It seems that no matter your foodie persuasion, carnivores and veg-heads alike congregate here to hang out, chow down, and just chill. It’s a hang-out kinda place with live music in the evenings, a semi-secluded patio, and plenty of people-watching to be had. They also offer beer and wine, with several decent vegan beer options. The Naam is a place you go to catch up with friends while grazing over vittles that will likely leave you full without breaking the bank.

Like many other places that serve a cuppa brew, the Naam charges extra (60 cents extra!) for subbing soy in any hot bevvie. That’s not so cool. And while some may enjoy their large selection of cakes, pies, and other baked goods, in general the Naam’s deserts are of the kind that usually make most non-vegans cringe and wonder why the heck we’d want to give up eggs and milk. And the Thai Noodles: it’s ones of the worst dishes we have ever had the misfortune of ordering. The Naam’s idea of a “zippy sauce” tastes suspiciously like bottled ketchup. Consider yourself warned.

So what, then, do we like about the Naam? There are definitely a few redeeming choices to be had. We absolutely love their Thai Gado! It’s a massive plate of bean sprouts, roasted potatoes, and cubed tofu topped with freshly grated carrot and beet, all slathered with a tasty spicy peanut sauce and tangy tamarind sauce. We order it sans the sliced boiled egg. Then there’s the Golden Dragon Bowl. So very tasty and ridiculously filling—we dare you to finish it all in one sitting. The sesame fries with the Naam’s signature miso gravy really are something to crow about. Just keep in mind that while we’ve been told the restaurant’s gravy is vegan, the bottled stuff sold in stores contains honey. Their Naam burger platter is enough to feed three people (or two very hungry peeps). And the simple vegan Steak Platter with it’s veggie-nut patty and steamed veggies is not too bad either, though the addition of the sesame fries puts its fullness factor over the top.

So, to go or not to go is always the question for us. With better options so close by, there isn’t any particular reason we’d go out of our way to visit the Naam. If you’re not in any hurry, you don’t mind standing in line for at least 15 to 20 minutes, and you want the kind of food you’d make at home without all those annoying dishes to wash afterward, then the Naam is the place for you.