Opened in 1987, ION is an enduring classic, a true survivor, and a beacon of vegan cuisine during most of its three decades long legacy. As a faithful patron since 1988, I have observed ION undergo many transformations.
It evolved into ION 8.0 in September 2013 when it relocated a few blocks north up Main Street, eerily close to its original location from which it had moved 15 years earlier. ION downsized both its menu and its space. I’m thankful that ION adapted, but lament the loss of most of my favorite dishes. The new space is cozy and sunny. The new plush seats are really comfy, almost like living room sofas, a welcomed upgrade from the narrow rickety wooden chairs of that of many other veg restaurants.
One very heartening change which I hail is its decision soon after its move to dump cow cheese as one of its three cheese options, which it had offered for ten years. So now ION 8.5 has reclaimed its legacy as a truly vegan restaurant.
Early in 2014, it incarnated into ION 9.0 when the menu changed to fit the specialties of its new chef, rather than the new chef adapting to the specialties of the restaurant. ION rewrote a new and slimmer menu, yet again. Some savory entrées and apps added just a year earlier were edged out. Only the wine and beer list had lengthened, of no interest to me. The newly truncated menu tended toward spicy Tex-Mex, unfortunately for me not among my favorite ethnic cuisines. Its once high nutritional standards had descended a few notches. Many of the dishes were pan-fried or deep-fried, highly refined tofu and overly processed seitan had edged out more wholesome tempeh. There was not much choice outside of fried foods and Tex-Mex and tofu and seitan.
In 2016, ION changed yet again and ascended into a divine ION 10.0, this latest incarnation now full-circle upon the part-time return of masterful head chef Ken Bergeron. Oldsters such as myself will remember Ken as the founder of ION when it debuted in 1987. Ken has migrated the menu out of Texas and Mexico and into Europe and Asia and back into New England.
If you were disappointed with ION in the recent past, do give it another try, because ION has reclaimed its legacy as a stellar vegan restaurant.