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.

Dharma Kitchen

100% vegan

Cuisine: Asian
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $$
Time visited: Several
Location: 3667 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6R 2B8
Hours: 7 days a week, noon to 10 p.m.
Contact: 604-738-3899

Dharma Kitchen

Dharma Kitchen.

You know how some restaurants play their music so darn loud you almost can’t hear yourself talking to your friends? Dharma Kitchen is definitely not that kind of place. It’s a humble little space that doesn’t seem like it has much going on. In fact, if you’ve never been there, it’s unassuming facade can make it easy to miss. But, as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. Well, most of the time anyway. And this is very much the case for Dharma Kitchen. Hidden behind the modest blue exterior is an inviting, tranquil atmosphere. This tranquility is embodied by the very polite and attentive staff. Yeah, the place looks a little tatty, but simply put Dharma Kitchen is like a warm, fuzzy blanket, especially on drizzly, chilly Vancouver evenings, when all we wanna do is hibernate.

Dharma Kitchen differs from many Buddhist eateries in that its fare is not the typical Chinese cuisine laden with mock meats. And it uses both onions and garlic, unlike most strictly Buddhist eateries. The simple Thai-inspired menu offers rice bowls, burgers, salads, soups, fresh juice cocktails and smoothies, hot beverages, and a few desserts. It’s not fancy food, but the simplicity is quite refreshing if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed or indecisive when there’s too many options on a menu. And the prices are reasonable as well. A typical meal for two with entrees and chai will cost less than $30, including taxes and a 15% tip.

Indochine Bowl

The Indochine Bowl with miso gravy.

So, what about the food? Honestly, it might not knock the socks off most people. In fact, it could be said that The Naam has better comfort food than Dharma Kitchen, that is if you like your table grimy, your servers a tad disinterested, and your food run-of-the-mill. But Dharma Kitchen offers comfort food that is prepared with care and attention. That’s more than obvious when you finish your meal and, for a brief moment, feel serene and as if all is right with the world. Well, that’s how we’ve felt anyway. A bonus is that, like the Naam, Dharma Kitchen is one of those places you can bring a meat-eater to and they’ll probably leave just as pleased with their dinner as you are.

We highly suggest beginning your meal with a large steamy cup of their delicious soy chai. Like any masala chai worth its name, the Dharma Kitchen’s chai is perfectly spiced black pepper with a bit of lemongrass. Yes, we said black pepper and lemongrass. Never mind how weird that sounds. Just try it. We’ll bet you won’t be disappointed.

The appetizers, such as the Tamarind Soup, Dharma Miso Soup, and the garlic and lemongrass sauteed mushrooms are also light but tasty. They’re the perfect size to keep you from totally gorging on the main course, though we can say that, along with a drink and main course, getting an appetizer pretty much means no room for dessert. This is fine, though, if you aren’t a fan of pudding-like desserts. We’re particular fans of Chinese-inspired tapioca desserts, and the warm Banana Tapioca Pudding definitely won’t disappoint. Dessert like this is comfort food at its finest. If that’s not your taste, there’s also the equally tasty Sweet Rice Pudding with raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, and coconut milk.

Blue Jean Buddha Bowl

The Blue Jean Buddha Bowl with coconut gravy.

As entrees go, our favourite by far is the Indochine Bowl with its mouthwatering marinated and grilled tofu, freshly grilled veggies, and perfectly savoury miso gravy. Dharma Kitchen’s miso gravy could win a kitchen brawl against the Naam’s miso gravy any day. The lip-smacking Buddha Bowl with its marinated tofu cubes, fresh veggies, and a Thai peanut sauce is also worth a try. Then there’s the Thai Burger with Thai peanut sauce, cilantro, bean sprouts, and green onions, as well as the Bengal State Burger topped with a curried peanut sauce, fresh spinach, and tomatoes. Burgers are accompanied by your choice of roasted potato slices or a fresh salad. We’ll admit that sometimes the “roasted” potatos leave something to be desired. We think they’re just boiled sliced potatoes that are browned a little under a broiler. So go with the salad instead—you’ll feel the better for it when thoughts of dessert come around. That said, the Blue Jean Buddha roasted potato bowl with sauteed bean sprouts and onions, marinated tofu, and your choice of four gravies or sauces is pretty good. The yummy Red Curry Tofu dish is large enough for two people and is laden with freshly grilled bell peppers, tofu, and mushrooms, all on a bed of freshly cooked brown rice.

Although the Spoonies are not big salad people, we have tried a few of the salads. The Dharma Salad is pretty good, and like many of the salads offered it’s large, fresh, and simply adorned with grilled baby portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, grilled eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini with a tasty dressing served on the side. The Buddha Salad’s marinated tofu cubes, steamed spinach, and grated beet and carrot also make it worthy of a nosh. The salads are pretty much meals themselves, albeit light meals.

We know Dharma Kitchen’s not everyone’s favourite. It’s uncomplicated food in an uncomplicated restaurant. Go expecting it to be what it is, and you’ll enjoy it. The servings are decent sizes, and you’ll leave feeling plenty full. And since there aren’t too many 100% vegan eateries in town, this is one place where you can satisfy your hunger and not worry about what objectionable ingredients might be making it into your food.

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.

Gorilla Food

100% vegan

Cuisine: Raw
Tofu puffs: 3 out of 5
Price range: $$
Times visited: Way too many times to count
Location: 101-436 Richards Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2Z4
Hours: Every day, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: 604-684-3663; www.gorillafood.com

Gorilla Food

The entrance to Gorilla Food.

This review is a little one-sided. See, only one half of The Vegan Spoonies will eat at Gorilla Food. This is definitely not because there’s anything bad about the place. It’s just that some people don’t like raw food that much. That’s all good.

The original Gorilla Food was located just half a block north of its current location. It was a little takeout window that was perfect for cyclists and pedestrians. In the fall of 2008, owner Aaron Ash moved the restaurant to a larger space—a hip subterranean burrow with a decidedly cozy feel and earthy look. Below-street-level restaurants are unusual in Vancouver, but despite the radically different setting and menu options at Gorilla Food, this place attracts a diverse number of people—everyone from businessmen in suits and dreadlocked Rastafarians to punks and emo kids.

There is a small amount of seating, enough for about 15 to 20 people. Regrettably, the space is not really kid-friendly; there is little space to maneuver with a stroller, so you’ll have to pack it up before heading in. It may also be difficult for some people with accessibility concerns to get down the short but steep flight of stairs leading from the street into the restaurant.

As if it isn’t cool enough that a little raw-food vegan restaurant such as this is thriving in downtown Vancouver, Gorilla Food uses 100% biodegradable sugarcane-based paper containers and cups for most of its takeout food. And they use Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap in the bathroom! The hand soap is sort of a big deal when you think about it. We’ve been to many vegan and vegetarian restaurants that overlook the animal ingredient/animal testing aspect of products used in their bathrooms.

Thai Fresh Wraps

Thai Fresh Wraps.

Gorilla Food offers a decent selection of smoothies, fresh juices, sprouted snacks and crackers, appetizers, salads, and main courses. But keep in mind that its kitchen uses a lot of seeds and nuts, so this is not a good place for anyone with nut or seed allergies. Also—and we have to say it—this is not a place that most people we know like to eat at all the time. They say it’s the place they go when they need to feel more nourished and a little healthier. And it’s not cheap; the average price of most menu items is $6.50. And that’s not including a drink or dessert. Keep in mind that Gorilla Food accepts cash only, so don’t forget to arrive with cash in hand unless you want to leave with an empty tummy.

My favourite dish by far is the Thai Fresh Wraps. They are “Three collard leaf wraps filled with a sprouted sunflower seed and veggie pate, sesame seasoned coleslaw and served with a ginger raisin chutney.” They’re actually an appie, but I find them filling enough to eat on their own as a main. Another good main is the Veggie Burger. This is the best item to start off with for anyone new to this kind of cuisine. It looks impressive on a plate and is such an interesting combination of flavours and textures. The Falafel is surprisingly good, but I’d pass on the Green Taco and the Cashew Alfredo Zucchini Linguini—both of those dishes were oddly bland and too watery. And the pizza is an acquired taste, so it’s not the best item to start with.

Sprouted Chili Almonds

Sprouted Chili Almonds.

As far as appies and snacks go, the Sprouted Chili Almonds, the Sunny Ginger Nori dehydrated crackers, and the guacamole and crackers are hits. The guacamole is so creamy and perfectly seasoned with finely minced onions and lime juice that I wouldn’t miss a chance to get some.

The desserts are unusual, and by that I mean really good. There is a hemp-chocolate mousse-like cake not on the menu but that I frequently see in the dessert cooler. It’s lovely. The dark raw chocolate fudge, the Gorilla Biscuit, and the truffles (also not on the menu) are pretty yummy.

If you haven’t tried raw food before, this is a good place to introduce yourself to it. If you feel inclined to give it a go at home, Gorilla Food sells a small selection of staple items, such as cocoa butter, bulk nori and cashews, a spiralizer, and even raw-food cookbooks, to take home with you.

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.