Archive for the ‘Vegan-friendly’ Category

Flying Apron (Seattle)

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Bakery
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $$
Time visited: Once
Location: 3510 Fremont Ave North (between N 35th Street and N 36th Street)
Hours:  Monday to Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: (206) 442-1115
Website: http://www.flyingapron.com/

Flying Apron - OutsideWe have to admit that the last time we visited Seattle, we skipped the Flying Apron. This was entirely due to us having read several reviews in which patrons complained about the so-called dubious quality of the bakery’s goods. Now, this was three years ago. We’ve no idea if Flying Apron has improved spoon over spatula since then or if it was always good. It’s possible that the negative reviews were from peeps who simply didn’t know what to expect of gluten-free baking.

We will also admit that it was really silly of us to have avoided Flying Apron. It’s good, you should go there, and you’ll probably end up staying a while. They have free WiFi too, so if you’re not the people-watching patio-sitting type you’ll definitely appreciate cosying up with a tea and a cookie and your laptop at one of their indoor vintage tables.

As with our review of Mighty-O Donuts, we say that Flying Apron is vegan-friendly, not 100% vegan, because they offer cow’s milk for those patrons who would like it in their coffee and tea. For those of us who would rather not drink cow’s milk, there’s the more palatable options of soy, rice, and almond milks available. Their delicious feast of offerings include sweets, savouries, soups, salads, and house-made breads that are all vegan and entirely gluten-free.

Chocolate Chip Cookie - Flying Apron

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Since we were still pretty full from breakfast the morning we visited Flying Apron, we indulged in just two treats: the pecan cinnamon roll and the chocolate chip cookie. Usually it’s pretty tough for us to judge a place having tried only a few of their foodstuffs. But the roll and the cookie were more than good enough to make it certain that the next time we’re in town Flying Apron will be at the top of our to-visit list.

The chocolate chip cookie, made from brown rice flour and potato starch, had a great crispness and held together much better than other gluten-free cookies we’ve had. Not everyone likes their cookies crisp, but this particular cookie has great dunking potential. It didn’t have that home-made taste, as if it had been made in your own kitchen. It did, however, have all the taste of a well-made bakery-bought cookie that was worth every penny we paid for it.

As for the pecan cinnamon roll, it was denser than we would have liked due to the chickpea flour used in the dough. This denseness wasn’t really a bad thing at all; it’s just a result of the nature of the gluten-free ingredients that were used. In retrospect, we had no idea there was any chickpea flour at all in the roll, and this is something we would usually notice (chickpea flour has a flavour neither of us is fond of). The roll was toothsome and had the perfect smattering of pecans and icing sugar. And it held together just as well as the cookie while having a perfectly moist crumb, which you might know is a bit of a feat if you’ve ever tried to bake gluten-free.

Pecan Cinnamon Roll - Flying Apron

Pecan Cinnamon Roll

We also tried their coffee and ordered a soy mocha latte. The beans Flying Apron uses are from the Ballard-based Seven Coffee Roasters. While we’re not sure if it was the chocolate syrup or soy used in the drink or the way the barista made it, the coffee was regrettable. It lacked almost any coffee taste and was pretty weak. We’re sure this can’t be what their coffee is usually like, because a lot of people in the bakery were happily knocking back cups of it.

At the moment we give Flying Apron a hopeful 3.5 out of 5 tofu puffs because we’ve been there just once. We’re sure the next time we visit the bakery will get an enthusiastic 4 out of 5 puffs.

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)

Nuba Restaurant

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Lebanese
Tofu puffs: 4 out of 5
Price range: $$$
Time visited: Nearly a dozen
Location: 207-B West Hastings Street (at Cambie Street)
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Contact: 604-688-1655
Website: http://nuba.ca/

Entrance to Nuba Hastings

Entrance to Nuba on West Hastings

Like its nearby neighbour Gorilla Food, Nuba is another one of the relatively rare subterranean restaurants in Vancouver. Located at the corner of West Hastings and Cambie Street, Nuba’s laid-back, minimalist décor and tempting menus mean this place is hoppin’ from the moment their door opens for lunch until the last call late at night.

Once inside, you’ll see that Nuba has two areas – one with table service and the other with cafeteria-style seating where you mosey on up to the counter to peruse the giant chalkboard menu on a wall. If you’re keen on table service, reservations are a must, especially in the evenings. Show up without a reservation and the staff will try their best to accommodate you. But be prepared to be a bit rushed though your dinner. Our experience has been that while we get a table, it’s usually been reserved for someone else. Try not to be offended when the bill ends up on your table before you’ve finished eating. The servers do their best to be polite, but they can be quick to usher you out the door in time for the arrival of the next guests.

The Spoonies love Nuba for a several reasons: there are quite a lot of vegan options (the menu states everything is vegan unless otherwise noted), the food is delicious, and anyone you take there will find something on the menu to love, which makes it a great place to go with omni friends.

Mhjadra Plate

Mjadra Plate

There isn’t one thing at Nuba we’ve tried that we haven’t liked. The Spoonies are divided on the roasted potatoes that seem to be paired with many offerings. But that’s just about personal finickiness. Keep in mind that there are separate lunch and dinner menus at the Hastings location, though most of the vegan items available on the lunch menu are available during dinner service.

Even the most committed eggplant hater will adore the baba ghanooj. It has a luscious smoky caramelized flavour and you won’t be able to stop dipping into this creamy appetizer. While hummus may be a common offering on many a menu, Nuba steps theirs up a level by drizzling a heavenly golden, fruity olive oil over their hummus.

We lust over the Mjadra (pronounced “mah-ha-dra”) and Najib’s Special so much we often negotiate who’s ordering what, just so we have at least one or both of these dishes. The Mjadra is an amazing green lentil and rice dish of the most delicious flavour, topped with perfectly crisped onions. The Najib’s Special is crispy browned cauliflower perfectly paired with lemon and tahini. Be sure to order the mezze size of both these dishes if you want a little for everyone to share. If you’re not so much into sharing, we also highly recommend getting a plate instead. Just beware that you’ll likely be plenty full with a plate, if you manage to make your way through one.

If you and your dining partner(s) feel like grazing, splurge on the La Feast (just remember to ask your server to make it vegan). The mezze and pita falafel offerings are equally good, but we’ve found the mezze size to be more than filling where we’ve ordered other appetizers. Sadly, the mushroom-y vegan hushwie has disappeared from the both the lunch and dinner menus, but we hope that someday it will make a reappearance.

Najib's Special

Najib's Special Plate

On the dinner menu, the vegan options from the lunch menu are still available. One shining difference is the vegan meshwi. If you order this offering, you’d better arrive at Nuba very hungry. The dish’s skewers of grilled mushrooms and vegetables are large the hummus and taboulleh plentiful. Since the Spoonies can be creatures of habit when it comes to finding really good dishes we like, we’ve yet to try the eggplant with Lebanese ratatouille, the house fattoush salad, the eggplant stew, or the grilled laffa and labneh. But, if these dishes are like everything else vegan on the menu, we’re certain these items won’t disappoint.

Of course, there’s dessert options as well, along with freshly squeezed juices and a decent selection of other beverages, including wine (not all of them vegan). We’ve never had enough room left for dessert and usually avoid ordering drinks since it means less room for the all important food. If you’re brave enough to have tried the dessert, let us know. One of these days, we’ll learn to leave a little room for a sweet encore.

As much as we love Nuba, it does have some faults. During several visits, our dishes arrived without some ingredients. Specifically, the Mjadra frequently doesn’t come with the promised avocado or jalapeno. The hot sauce included with some dishes almost never makes an appearance. The baba ghanooj and hummus mezze never come with as much pita as they require. And once in a rare while it takes the servers a few tries before they remember what drinks you ordered or that you ordered a drink at all. Despite these sticking points, the service is generally friendly and there’s usually a quick turnaround from the time we’ve ordered to the time our food arrives at the table. And the atmosphere is easy-going with a hang-out kind of vibe. Nuba’s definitely the perfect place to take out-of-town friends, for a romantic tête-à-tête, or to rest your weary feet post-downtown prowl. Come hungry and leave plenty stuffed and happy.

Nuba 1 Lentils

Mjadra Mezze

mushroom plate

Veggie Hushwi Plate

Falafel

Falafel Plate

 

Bandidas Taquiera

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Tofu puffs: 3 out of 5
Price range: $$
Times visited: 5
Location: 2781 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m. – Midnight; Brunch daily until 3:00 p.m.
Contact: http://bandidastaqueria.com/

Veganized Huevas Rancheras - Bandidas

Veganized Huevas Rancheras

We first discovered Bandidas back in early 2009, a few months after they first opened their doors on the Drive. After having discovered a huge number of vegan-friendly brunches in Portland, we were pretty darn excited to find out about an all-vegetarian Mexican-style brunch spot right here in Vancouver.  Be warned, however, that if it’s the weekend and you have your heart set on brunch, you’d better show up when they open or be prepared to wait awhile (and maybe even wait outside, regardless of the weather).  Bandidas’ is immensely popular and is nearly always packed, especially on the weekends.

There are quite a few brunch spots in the city, though not too many of them are all that vegan friendly or offer decent vegan options. (Yes, we know about The Perch, and of their vegan brunches – we plan to check them out very soon.) Unlike many brunch spots we’ve been to both in and outside of Vancouver, Bandidas is one of only a very few that offers brunch 7 days a week. This is pretty fantastic since anyone visiting Vancouver can be assured of having a warm and satisfied belly any day of the week.

Vegan French Toast with sausages and bacon - Bandidas

Vegan French Toast with Yves sausages and bacon

For vegans, pretty much any dish on the brunch menu can be veganized, with eggs being replaced by a butternut squash and organic tofu scramble and Yves veggie bacon strips and sausages available as side orders. They also use Daiya in any dishes that call for cow’s milk cheese. We’ve tried their Huevas Rancheras, The Hicks Benny, and the Breakfast Burrito, most of which are all delicious and all made using fresh, house-crafted corn tortillas.

The best thing of all about Bandidas is that they have not one but two explicitly vegan options on their brunch menu: The Vegan, a scrambled tofu plate with veggies, pinto beans, and ranchera sauce, and Vegan French Toast.  While we have had better French toast elsewhere, we’ll take the French toast at Bandidas since it’s all we can get in Vancouver. (Again with The Perch – we’ve heard they *might* have a vegan French toast option at their Saturday brunches, and if they do, we’ll let you know.)

Bandidas used to craft an almost amazing house-made vegan sour cream, which we would have liked even more if it weren’t for the fact that they used a vanilla-flavoured soy milk to make it.  We’re told that the recipe was difficult to make consistently, and now they use a pureed tofu and lemon juice sour cream with their vegan offerings.  They also offer honey butter for their vegetarian customers, with an so-so vegan alternative being made with margarine and sugar.  Even though the servers at Bandidas are pretty quick to make the switch between vegan and non-vegan condiments, be sure to ask for the vegan “honey” butter when you order corn bread (yes, the corn bread is vegan too!).

Breakfast Burritos with Daiya - Bandidas

Breakfast Burritos with Daiya

Brunch aside, Bandidas also offers tempting lunch and dinner options.  They’re fully licensed, featuring a bar stocked with several local wines and brews. For the teetotalers and straight edgers, there are organic teas, organic coffees, and virgin drinks, including our favourite: Ella’s lemonade, served in a mason jar just like many of their other beverages.

We like their Los GLD nachos so much that Bandidas’ creation has forever changed how we make nachos at home.  We’ll admit that we haven’t been to there so often for lunch or dinner, though we have had the Ronny Russel and the Leona Gayle hand tacos. We have to confess that we like the hand tacos at La Taqeria better, although the hand tacos at Bandidas are decent nonetheless.

One of our only complaints with Bandidas is about the Mexican rice that accompanies the tacos and enchiladas.  Every time we’ve had it both the rice and the garlic used in the rice have tasted something akin to stale. We’re not sure if this has changed since we’re pretty hesitant to try anything with the rice in it again.

There used to be a much-coveted window table with two rocking chairs.  Sadly, the rocking chairs are no more, though additional seating has been added in the already cozy restaurant. There is also bar seating available with a view of the kitchen. And, Bandidas is kid-friendly!  There’s even a ramshackle bookshelf by the entrance with various papers, magazines, puzzles, story books and novels for both adults and kids.

The Vegan - Bandidas

The Vegan

Another thing we really appreciate about Bandidas is their love of bike culture. With an oft-crammed bike rack out front and vintage bike decor in the restaurant, Bandidas rides the sustainable line by using pedal power in lieu of a company car or truck. Although we haven’t yet seen it yet, they’re said to have a custom-built bike trailer they use to transport the restaurant’s food and equipment. And if you don’t ride a bike, Bandidas is easy to get to by bus or Sky Train.

Because Bandidas’ has a fairly small kitchen, their made-to-order food can sometimes take a bit of time to arrive at the table. Be patient with the servers, who are amazing in handling a very busy bunch of tables. They’ve always been nice, and are really good about checking to see if you’re happy and that you have everything you need.

Bandidas is the only place that gives us a reason to be up and out of the house before 10 a.m. on a Sunday and travel all the way across town with growling bellies. We hope they’re here for a long time to come, and to this we have to say ¡Bandidas de larga viva Taqeria!

Muffintop Corn Bread - Bandidas

Muffintop Corn Bread

 

Sejuiced

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Tofu puffs: 2.5 out of 5
Price range: $$
Time visited: Nearly a dozen
Location: 1958 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Hours: Sunday & Monday, 9:00am – 6:00pm; Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00am – 8:00pm
Contact: http://www.sejuicedvancouver.com/

Outside Sejuiced

Sejuiced

You might be asking why we’ve been to Sejuiced so many times if we’re giving it only 2.5 tofu puffs? Well, because it’s so close to our apartment it’ll do the trick for when we’re really busy or simply too lazy to cook. After all, Sejuiced is better than some restos we’ve been to, vegan or not.

Having frequented a similar restaurant in Toronto called Fresh, at first we were excited to find Sejuiced. With some of the same items on its menu that Fresh has (and maybe not so coincidentally the same names for a few of the smoothies Fresh used to serve), Sejuiced seemed like it had promise. And really, it’s a pretty good place to go if you’re looking for simple, healthy food (minus the cheese, eggs, honey, and milk they also serve). Our appreciation of Sejuiced went up a few points recently when we discovered they were offering the one vegan cheese that could launch a thousand grilled sammies – Daiya cheese! But if you’ve ever been to Fresh, then you’ll have to knock down your expectations a few notches, because Sejuiced just isn’t there yet in both quality and tastiness.

To preempt the stuff we’re not so keen on, we’ll start with what we do like about Sejuiced. If you’re on the go and have nary a crumb for breakfast, their scrambled tofu breakfast wrap is delicious and filling (just beware of the ketchup – they make their own and put honey in it too).  Their burgers, like the Thai burger, are decent, especially if you’ve overloaded on sweets and other junk and have a craving for something that won’t make your insides groan with revolt. Their Power House yogi bowl is good, though it could use a bit more sauce over the brown rice. The grilled cheese and veggie sandwich is delicious with Daiya (remember to ask for vegan cheese instead of the cow’s milk cheese), and it’s perfect on a rainy day with a side of steamy soup.

Inside Sejuiced

Inside Sejuiced

Now, the biggest issue we’ve had with Sejuiced is the chalkboard and print menus. For some time after we started visiting there, there were no print menus that we ever saw, only a chalkboard menu. This means we never knew to avoid the ketchup in the scrambled tofu wrap. Of course, now that we know, we order the wrap sans the honey. However, we wish that they’d just get a ketchup without honey. We’re pretty certain it isn’t so hard to find a supplier with a decent vegan ketchup. Making this change would mean that a few more of the menu items could be vegan. Be sure to check out the print menu for items marked vegan, as the chalkboard menu is not marked as such and can be misleading. Also, a few of the smoothies have honey or other non-vegan ingredients in them, so be sure to read through the ingredients and ask to have your smoothie made vegan-style.

Another issue we have with Sejuiced is the salads that accompany the burgers. There aren’t any fries on the menu, which is actually a refreshing departure from standard menu fare. Instead, Sejuiced pairs their burgers with a too simple baby greens salad with a few slivers of sweet bell pepper and a Green Goddess-style dressing that seems like it has a little too much apple juice in it. We’ve been to far too many restos where the “salad” offered is a very sorry excuse for something that could so easily be better. And while Sejuiced steers clear of the dreaded iceberg lettuce salad, they really could benefit from putting a little bit more effort into their greens, as well as offer at least one other kind of salad dressing for those who aren’t into the sweetness of their current dressing.

Power House Yogi Bowl - Sejuiced

Power House Yogi Bowl

The menu offerings are pretty simple. There are rice bowls, wraps, soups, sandwiches, breakfast items, and desserts from local purveyors such as the lemon-vanilla Chi Cake created by Alan Munro, the rich chocolate-covered bliss balls and hearts from Sweet Cherubim on Commercial Drive, as well as a chocolaty Nanaimo Bar. There’s never been anything vegan on the menu we haven’t liked, though there is virtually nothing Sejuiced offers that couldn’t be made at home and likely for a cheaper cost. But the appeal is that Sejuiced makes everything for you, and if you’re not inclined to cooking in the first place, then you’ll appreciate what they have to offer.

As you can see from the photos here, there is seating for two at a bar table just outside the front window of the restaurant. The inside is very small with seating for a maximum of 14 people.  And there’s not too much line up or waiting room for those waiting for takeout.  Luckily, we’ve never seen it so busy at Sejuiced that we’ve had to wait for a table, and many people seem to be content with taking their orders to go.

If you happen to find yourself out and about on 4th Avenue with a grumbling tummy, then head over to Sejuiced for some nourishing, uncomplicated food.

(Oh, and we appologize for the lack of food photos – as it often happens we forget to take pictures of something before we eat it.)

Vegetable Soup with Grilled Daiya and Veggie Sammich

Vegetable Soup with Grilled Daiya and Veggie Sammich

OrganicLives

100% vegan

Cuisine: Raw
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $$$
Times visited: 4
Location: 1829 Quebec Street (at 2nd Avenue), Vancouver
Hours: 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Contact: 778-588-7777
Website: http://www.organiclives.org/

Creamy Zughetti - OrganicLives

Creamy Zughetti with Earth Salad.

However you choose to pronounce the name of this place, it really doesn’t matter. Once you’ve taken a bite of their delicious fare, all you’ll remember is that you must come back for more.

With a take-out deli and juice/smoothie bar, grocery section, and sit-down dining, you really can’t go wrong with whatever catches your eye at OrganicLives. It seems that almost from the moment this place opened last spring, it’s been a hit with most everyone who’s walked through their doors. Owner Preet Marwaha told us that some folks like the food there so much they drive in from dozens of miles away just to stock up on supplies and  satisfy their cravings for a little bit of organic raw goodness.

And if you’re not local but you’d like to see what they have on offer, head on over to their website and peruse their online store. In addition to a number of food ingredients, they also have the much sought-after VitaMix blenders for sale, as well as books, DVDs and a larger selection of dried fruits and other goods not available in the store.

The location Organic Lives occupies is part of a large former warehouse that’s over 100 years old. Various architectural features of the original building structure can still be seen throughout the restaurant. It’s a very simple space but clean, with seating for 16 people and plenty of room to maneuver about the other customers with your shopping basket. There’s also some bar seating available in front of a picture window with a full view of the behind the scenes preparation. There are two entrances on Quebec Street (one with stairs, one without), and a large bathroom at the south end of the restaurant, roomy and accessible, with a few turns.

Raw Pizza - OrganicLives

Flatbread Pizza with Caesar Salad.

If you can get past gawking at the unusual selection of raw ingredients displayed in-store, you’ll find an extensive selection of gourmet dishes on their sit-down menu. Rather than muck about with creating silly names for things like “cheese” and “milk”, the menu gets straight to the point, calling mock dishes by their not so vegan names, such as the chive foie gras in the French Country Feast. Not to worry, everything on the menu is 100% vegan, so order with abandon!

The offerings in the deli section are equally tasty, with wraps, sushi, prepackaged dessert nibbles, freshly juiced concoctions, smoothies, and more available for toting away. And lest your eyes and hunger get the best of your reason, know that the smoothies are large enough to be meals themselves. So beware when you’re thinking of ordering a smoothie, lunch, and dessert. You’ll likely not be hungry for many hours after eating that much food.

When you see the desserts you’ll be sorely tempted to start with those first. Staff say that customers have named the desserts themselves, calling one of them “heaven in your mouth” (this is the cake slice simply known as Ganache). There’s a dessert for nearly every taste and craving, some of the most delicious being the pecan pie-like Caramel Cinnamon pie, the Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake, and the walnut-studded slice of fudge. The dark, dense macaroons are also popular, as is the unusual strawberry shortcake. It may just be that after seeing their resolve-weakening creations, you might just skip the main course altogether and just have desert instead. Paired with their delicious Almond Chai Latte (either hot or cold) or and espresso, dessert will leave you as pleased as a cat with catnip.

Raw Caramel Pie - OrganicLives

Caramel Cinnamon Pie with Pecans.

If you can’t decide what entrée to go with, we can promise you the pizza, which is much like Hawaiian pizza, is an excellent place to start. The pizza’s accompanying Caesar salad’s almond croutons are a delicious surprise. If pizza’s not your style, the Lasagna’s tasty combination of herbs with nutmeg-macadamia-pinoli cheese, sun-dried tomato sauce, and hemp basil pesto will definitely have you wanting to dance on the spot with happiness. The Mexican Spirals and Thai Curry dishes are also quite tasty. Want a dinner for two? Many of the entrees are easily sharable, though we think you’ll want to have many of the dishes all to yourself.

The appetizers on the menu are perfect for sharing, especially if you have several friends dining with you. The delicious Crackers and Cheese are belied by their simple name, and the staff swear the Bruschetta & Peruvian Olive Platter, though small, is very popular and worth a chance. It’s a good thing most of the appetizers are small, because you’ll need the room for the main course.

Speaking of the staff, they’re some of the most sincerely nice and attentive servers you’re likely to encounter in a restaurant. They’re observant, thoughtful, quick and eager to offer menu suggestions and a “tour” of the desserts displayed in the deli case. In fact, the servers very much cultivate the pleasant and relaxing atmosphere, the absence of which would make Organic Lives an otherwise sparse space. Preet and his staff are always excited about striking up a conversation and giving you honest answers to any questions you might have.

And one last note: be prepared to spend some time here. Most dishes from the sit-down menu are made from scratch when they’re ordered, and this may take a little time. We assure you – you’ll be more than pleased you waited. If you’re in a hurry, then visit the deli section and have a look at take-out options for quick to-go options.

This is a place we hope to visit many more times to come, and we think that once you give OrganicLives a try, you and even the most anti-raw person you know will want to come back for seconds too.

Raw Lasagne - OrganicLives

Lasagne with nutmeg-macadamia-pinoli cheese and Caesar salad.

Raw Nachos - OrganicLives

Nacho platter.

Raw Mexican Spirals - OrganicLives

Mexican Spirals.

Raw Crackers and Cheese - OrganicLives

Crackers with three cheeses.

Raw Strawberry Shortcake - OrganicLives

Strawberry Shortcake.

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake - OrganicLives

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake.

Raw Tiramisu - OrganicLives

Tiramisu.

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.