Reviews written by EGN

I'm vegan
Registered on Jan 2 12
 

Ambrosia Indian Bistro in Monterey County, California
Jan 22 12

rating star

Ugh this place left so much to be desired. We came in at the tail-end of their lunch buffet and it was clear that as soon as we walked in the door they wanted us out of there so they could clean up, even though we still had at least 30 minutes before lunch service ended. Upon first glance, there were a number of vegetarian options, such as tofu masala, dal, aloo tiki, etc. Some of these options were also available on their vegan menu, so we were a bit shocked to discover, upon asking what all was vegan on their buffet, that the answer was nothing. Apparently they had put some kind of cream in all of the buffet items. It also took us asking three people to come to obtain this information. Strike one.

When we finally got our answers about the buffet, we asked to look at the menu. The waiter came back literally 90 seconds later to ask if we had made our selections. We actually needed a bit more time to look, not only "just because" but also because my date was missing the vegan options list from her menu. Strike two.

We made up our minds and decided we wanted a mixed vegan veggie sampler and yellow dal. The waiter asked us if we wanted bread or rice because it didn't come with. Strike three. So we ordered some additional roti.

Given that we were literally the only two people in the restaurant, we were a little surprised by how long it took us to get food. When it came out we were instantly let down. Now, I've been to like a million Indian places, some of them very low-budget and no frills to some fancier ones. But when I order a sampler platter, I am used to getting at least 10 delicious fried things. This came out with two stuffed half potatoes, two pokoras, and one tiny samosa. The stuffed potato things whose official name I can't remember were bland and the pokora was not good at all. I didn't even finish it, and I have made pokoras at home using the mix from the Indian specialty food store that were better than this.

The yellow dal was actually quite good, but I've had the exact same dal at other places for way cheaper (Ghandi Mahal in Minneapolis) and with way better service. It was also a super tiny amount - basically a little bit more than you would get if ordering a bowl of soup - at $10.

You got more than three strikes, Ambrosia Indian Bistro. You are out.

Millennium in San Francisco, California
Jan 22 12

rating star

I went to Millennium last night for the very first time. My date and I each ordered a small plate and an entree; she got the winners and I got the duds.

We were offered a starter of bread and some kind of hummus-type spread, both of which were really nothing special.

My date ordered Millys Wilted Spinach & Bitter Greens Salad (heirloom apples, smoked tofu, ume marinated red cabbage, red onions, ginger-red miso vinaigrette, sesame-chile Togarashi). This was seriously the best salad I have ever eaten in my life. The flavors went together so well and I have absolutely no idea how they were able to get the tofu to suck up all that marinade but it was delicious. It was a decently sized portion as well considering that it was "gourmet." It was so good and filling that I didn't even care that it was $11.25, and let me tell you that is something that I would never, ever say about a salad.

My starter was the Seared Potato Gnocchi (vanilla braised fennel & celery root, sherried pumpkin cashew cream, sweet pepperonata, fried sage). The gnocchi itself was quite delicious: I loved that it was super creamy and just slightly browned. The cashew cream left something to be desired and I am pretty sure I could replicate this in my own kitchen. I died a little inside when I got my plate of food and counted maybe 7 little bits on gnocchi dumplings on the plate. I was expecting a tiny portion but still thought this was just a tad ridiculous. Nevertheless, we were both pretty full after consuming our small plates.

On to the entrees. She ordered some sort of peanut and coconut glazed tempeh dish (not currently listed on their online menu so can't I say for sure) with a sauteed spinach and some raw daikon and pears for garnish. The first bite of tempeh was great, but it went downhill from there. At first it had a great coconut-y crust but it didn't hold up over time. The vegetables were very good but honestly just tasted like some really good thai food. This dish was $22.50.

Finally, I ordered the Pumpkin Tamale (pozole rojo with pinquito beans & corn hominy, braised greens & Jimmy Nardello peppers, spicy pumpkin seed-cilantro emulsion, avocado, radish & jicama salad). I am pretty sure my version was actually made with serrano peppers. This came with some lackluster sauteed spinach that totally lacked any flavor besides garlic. The tamale was ok but I'm guessing I cold get a better one at La Loma (Minneapolis). The mole sauce was made with some kind of wine, which in my opinion was overpowering. The avocado was just that and the radish and jícama salad was reminiscent of an organic co-op deli. It wasn't bad, but at $23.50 I was kind of expecting magic.

The much abridged version of this review is: the food is pretty good, and some of it downright delicious, but don't come hungry, on a budget, or expecting magic.

Samasati Nature Retreat in Limon, Costa Rica
Feb 1

rating star

I had the pleasure of staying at Samasati recently during a too-short stay in Limón, CR. The food here is all vegetarian, though they will cook fish by request for an extra charge, so it is not a totally vegetarian kitchen if that bothers you. Everything is served buffet style (unless there are too few people staying there to justify preparing a buffet line).

In general, being vegan in Costa Rica is pretty easy, but Samasati made it even more so. Every breakfast guaranteed the freshest fruit you could imagine and black beans and rice. They occasionally served sweet plantains as well. They also always had coffee and fresh juices.

Lunches and dinners offered many vegan options. Vegetarian casado, a sort of veggie fried rice with beans, was frequently served. Samasati also frequently served sauteed vegetable dishes like sweet potatoes, eggplant, and squash. Nearly every meal during my stay offered a variety of soup, though not all were vegan. Fresh green salad was also almost always present at lunch and dinner.

There were a number of things that Samasati did well, particularly traditional dishes (and/or accompanying vegetarian modifications). A couple of soups and sauteed vegetable dishes surprised me by how good they were. Some of their tries at other cuisines was not as impressive, like the Asian noodles that were pretty much soy sauce, soy crumbles, and pasta.

My only complaint about the meals here is that they didn't indicate which dishes were vegan or otherwise contained allergens. I found this just a tad surprising as given the general aura set by the center. Of course, it never hurts to ask, but if you are vacationing and have limited command of Spanish, you may encounter a language barrier with some of the cooks.

And, of course, all of this is irrelevant unless you are a guest at the Retreat Center; I'll save most of that for another review, but will say that I had a pleasant, relaxing time at Samasati.

Veronica's Place in Limon, Costa Rica
Feb 1

rating star

I had the pleasure of dining at Veronica's Place two times during my trip to Puerto Viejo, Limón, CR last week. Overall, the food was great and very affordable, at about 5.000-5.800 colones or about $10-12 or less per entree. Veronica's offers a number of vegan entrees, and come to think of it, I don't remember there being anything on the menu that wasn't vegan, though I probably didn't notice as I wasn't looking for any.

A note for tourists: Veronica's offers an on-site hostel, with a vegan/vegetarian breakfast option for an additional $6. Currently the rates begin at $25/night for a private room or $10 for a bed. This includes showers, wi-fi and kitchen access; a sounds great for a veg-friendly accommodation! Based on my service and experience, I would not hesitate to try it out in the future.

Moving on to the cuisine, our first lunch started with batidos or fruit smoothies/shakes. I was really craving some pineapple and coconut milk, and our server had no problem accommodating this request, even though there was no such shake listed on the menu. He noted that he tried some and it would be his new "go to."

Our server mentioned several available items that were not listed on the menu, and so we got two of those. One was an eggplant wrap with tahini dressing, the other a black bean & vegetable burger served on bread with non-dairy cheese. Both came served with plátanos with different sauces. The burger had more of a mustard-type sauce for the plantains and the wraps came with a delicious basil pesto. Both dishes were pretty good café food. The presentation was a little lackluster, but, personally, I prefer food that tastes good over that which looks good.

Our second lunch a few days later also started with batidos. This time we ordered off the menu, and we were very happy with our decisions. Both plates were HUGE (we had plenty of leftovers) and this time the presentation was also lovely. My date ordered the black bean patacones with mock steak. The young plantains were fried crisp to perfection with no grease. How did they do that?!? The patacones plate offered three different meat substitutes, and unfortunately, the mock steak was the wrong one. The mock steak was pretty good, but nothing special. Go for the carrot meat; it will not disappoint you (more on this below)!

Recalling the delicious pesto from our previous visit, I went with the basil pasta, which came with a side salad and also a side black beans. Our server asked if I wanted "meat" balls, which were obviously not meat and so obviously I ordered them. They were, in fact, made of carrots and the most delicious thing on the plate; savory and fried to perfection.

Besides the food, Veronica's has a light and airy atmosphere (though a lot of places in CR do...). My favorite decor was a banana flower hanging from the balcony--doesn't get much fresher than that. However, a note of advice: on our first trip we sat in the corner in the back, opposite the stairs. While we were sitting there, the downstairs neighbors were dealing with something that we couldn't see, but smelled nothing short of an outhouse, so if you want to actually enjoy your delicious food, it's probably be best to pick a different seat!

Duluth Grill in Duluth, Minnesota
Mar 3

rating star

First off, I want to thank VegGuide.org for directing me to the Duluth Grill!!

When we arrived, we were convinced we had the wrong place; in fact we almost left the parking lot (it didn't help that googlemaps was telling us it was a bit more up the road). My girlfriend said "are you sure? this place looks like a Shoney's," but after double checking, we were eager to go inside. Looking back, the unassuming atmosphere is part of its charm and helps to expose many new faces to sustainable/organic/veg eating. It's also RIGHT off the freeway, making it a convenient place to stop if you are just passing though.

We ordered the garbanzo omelet that has been raved about on this site. It was pretty good, with heaping plops of guacamole and salsa on top. It also came with a delicious bed of sauteed kale. Our server asked if we wanted the omelet with fruit, mentioning that it usually came with fruit, so we said ok. Then we discovered we were charged for the fruit (but that was actually included with the menu price. So if you only want an omelet and want to save a dollar, reject the fruit). That said, the fruit was fresh and delicious. We also got the lettuce wrap appetizer, made with bibb lettuce, roasted red peppers, avocado, and curried polenta cubes, served with cilantro lime vinaigrette. They were fantastic, but far from wrapped, so basically be prepared to eat a bibb leaf salad. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe both entrees were also gluten-free if you care about that. We were asked by at least 5 different people, including the cook, how we were enjoying our meal, so they obviously care about your experience. We got all that for about $20 and had plenty left over for our breakfast, so it was a pretty good deal.

We went back the next day and tried the huevos rancheros prepared vegan. I was a little disappointed to see that the vegan version didn't have any substitute for the cheese or eggs (I was expecting more given the fact that they make a vegan omelet). So the "huevos" was just beans, veggies and tortilla chips atop a bed of hash browns; a classic and unfortunate case of what I call the "vegan tax," but we did seem to get a lot of extra salsa and guacamole, so perhaps that is how they made up for it.

Overall, we obviously were happy enough to go back, and still have every intention of going back next time we are up that way to try the vegan sorbet which both times we were too stuffed to sample.

14 Carrots in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

Curly's is ok--basically just what it sounds like which is a veg-friendly burger joint type place. As such, stick to the burger and sandwich-type things. My favorite thing to get here is the mock cuban sandwich. One time I ordered it and got something completely different--they substituted fake chicken for the fake pork and used a different type of soy cheeze--and was a little annoyed that they didn't mention being out of the core ingredients in this dish. The fries and in particular sweet potato fries are pretty yummy here. I once went on a date for Valentine's here and they added two tiny heart-shaped pancakes dusted with confectioner's sugar for dessert at no charge, which was a nice touch. Though I was too stuffed to eat all of them, the few bites I had were tasty.

A fun thing about this place is that each table setting includes a paper place mat with crayons for you to doodle on while you wait (which can be lengthy--this place is tiny but 85% of NYC eateries are...). There is some amazing crayon art on the wall that is pretty entertaining to look at.

Atlas Cafe in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

First let me start by saying that this place gets the 5 star rating based solely on the dessert selection, which is provided by Vegan Treats out of Bethlehem, PA. Delivery day is Tuesday, so that is the best day to go and get cake, brownies, doughnuts, etc. I have not been disappointed by any of the baked goods. Vegan Treats delivers to a bunch of other places in the city but this has the best selection hands down. If you have a sweet tooth you should definitely visit.

As far as the rest of the menu, I've had a few different things here. I got a strawberry and peach smoothie which was ok, but nothing special. I've had a slew of bad milkshakes here, so avoid those. My default menu item for this place is a fake chicken sandwich with cream cheeze, red roasted pepper and avocado, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is called, which is pretty good and a decent price at $6.50 or so.

This place is cash only but there is a fee ATM at the bodega few doors south on 2nd Ave. The service I've received there is usually less than stellar.

Ess-a-Bagel in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

Oh man, this is the BEST place for authentic bagels. You won't find fruit-filled or mealy midwest bagels at this place. Don't ask for them to toast it either.

This place is almost always packed but the bagels are worth the wait! I've had both the scallion tofu and my personal favorite, tofu sun dried tomato cream cheeze and it is so good! I almost always get an everything bagel. A simple bagel/cheeze sandwich is easily a meal and a steal of a deal at something like $2.00.

I used to work across the street at the VA and came here all the time; every time I go back for a visit I am sure to stop by. It is that good.

(There is also another location on 23rd and 3rd, I believe, but they don't have the sun dried tomato spread.)

Kate's Joint in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

I went here one time and what I remember about it was my date found hair in her food (mashed potatoes). Despite the hair, the food was ok but nothing special.

LifeThyme Natural Market in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

I don't like the hot food so much here but the salads in the deli are pretty good. I like to get a mix of things and go on an urban picnic nearby.

The best thing at this place is the tollbooth cookie (vegan). I don't recall what is all in it, but if definitely has pecans, chocolate chips and caramel.

Little Lad's Basket in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

Wow, this place is crazy and totally unsuspecting. It was in the basement of the HSBC on Broadway and Cedar. I'm not sure if the location in LES replaced this one or not, but there is no way in hell you would find it otherwise, so just letting you know.

Yeah, this place is little weird. I'm vegan and all about that, but they definitely have some vegan propaganda videos playing in the front retail area and have some kids who I am pretty sure should have been in school working in the kitchen.

That said, you can load up as much food as you can on one plate and one bowl for $4.75, which is totally nuts. You see people of all types in here and I would wager that most of them are not vegan, so that tells you a little something about the value for the food!

I'd have to agree that most of the food here is not special and is the kind of thing a beginning vegan would make at home. But the macaroni and cheeze is fantastic! They also have a Jamaican black bean pot soup that is pretty good. The salad bar is always pretty good with lots of marinated tofus, dressings, and veggies. The hot food is hit or miss, but I believe they have the daily buffet options listed on their website.

I've pretty much only visited this place with other non-vegans and they all love it. Even if the food isn't great, it's not horrible and you'll definitely get your money's worth here.

Red Bamboo in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

This is another place I visit every time I'm in New York. The "buffalo wings" are amazing and a pretty good deal. I'm also a fan of the mufaletta sandwich and the "chicken" parmesan sandwich. The butterfly soy chops are their signature dish and worth ordering, but not my favorite dish. One time my friend got the "half chicken" and it wasn't worth the money at all. The mashed potatoes are kind of bland, but the fries are amazing! I've also ordered the "calamari" dish several times and the teriyaki chicken salad a few as well. Everything has been good except for one time I got a mock lobster salad (a new addition to the menu) and it was so bad I couldn't even finish it, which is rare for me.

This place also carries Vegan Treats desserts, particularly the cheezecakes. They almost always carry an "oreo" cheezecake and a few other varieties. They also have amazing milkshakes, the thought of which is making me want one right now.

Definitely worth a visit--it will probably end up being one of your favorites.

Uptown Juice Bar in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

oh man this place is great. It's a smorgasboard of vegan soul food, and a great place to go to if you don't really know what you want and want to try just a little bit of a bunch of things that look great.

Pretty much everything I've had here is good, which is good since I can't remember the names of anything I've eaten from the deli and couldn't tell you what's what. They have lots of savory noodle dishes here, jerk dishes, "chicken" wings, even soy-cheeze pizza.

The only thing that kind of sucks about this place are the hours--I think they close at 9 every night, which is pretty weak for New York.

Viva Herbal Pizzeria in Manhattan, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

This place is pretty good but there are, in my opinion, better vegan pizza options in NYC. The first time I came to this place was in 2002 and their vegan offerings have increased 10-fold since then. The spicy marinara is still there and I am pretty sure still at the 2001 price of $2.00 for a thick, square slice of delicious, spicy, saucy, doughy crust.

There are many other vegan options but they skimp on the veeg cheese and can get to be pretty expensive. I think theirs are definitely healthier pizza options compared to other places, so that is a plus if that's what you are going for.

This place also carries desserts from Vegan Treats at prices that are a bit cheaper than other places in town. They usually carry the peanut-butter bomb and a few other cakes.

Fresh Start Health Food Market and Organic Eatery in Queens, New York City
Jan 2 12

rating star

Fresh Start lies amidst a sea of Greek diners in Astoria, Queens. The store is tiny and there is no dine-in space for the café except for the patio out back, which is obviously seasonal. This is the kind of place you go to when you want something healthy, summery and light. The menu is pretty limited due to the small size and staff so it's mostly sandwiches, salads and smoothies. I believe I had the neatball sub and tofu sandwich the few times I went here (despite living just a few blocks away for three years) and they were good, but not memorable.