It's Only Natural

Middletown Area, Connecticut


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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.

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One of the best vegetarian restaurants in southern New England and the menu is mostly vegan.

I've been coming here off and on for several years.
The food quality and presentation is excellent.

Service is usually very good. I will say that sometimes it seems to be slow, even when the place is not particularly busy. The waiters and waitresses are more than willing to explain items on the menu to you with exquisite detail.

As far as the food goes, I know this is a higher-end place, but I feel like the portions are small, especially given the menu prices. I will say that my friend ordered the Shepard's Pie this past weekend and the plate was full of food.

The only other "complaint" I would have is the desserts.
Most of them are good. The red velvet cake was fantastic.
I was highly disappointed with the Peanut Butter Cup. I was joking to my friends that it would actually come in a peanut butter cup. It did, but the chocolate/peanut butter mixture was very dry and the portion size was tiny for such a price!
Another friend ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and I was expecting something totally different...again, kind of dry and bland.

All in all, this is a great place to go. It's especially good if you're going out on a date or want to bring some friends to a classy place. The food is really good and it's clear that they put a lot of time and effort into every dish.
Do keep in mind that it's probably going to cost you $50+ for a modest dinner for two...


P.S. The Southern Fried Tofu appetizer is simply amazing! And so are the sweet potato fries!

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The food is fantastic. The service is horrible. Im considering ordereing only 'to go' to avoid them. But as far as food goes- its jaw droppingly amazing. Fresh beautiful and becomes a matter of how long youre willing to wait for a glass of water, there's only so much time you can spend writing on your table with chalk. I had one really wonderful waitress in my many visits but the majority of the time has been really disgraceful.
So i wil rate them 'fair' but in fact its Excellent food and Terrible service.

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It's Only Natural is a quaint, friendly cafe in downtown Middletown. It attracts a crowd (even at lunch hours on a Wednesday it had a good number of tables occupied) and offers an all-vegan menu (though they do offer dairy cheese on some dishes if you want it).

My friend and I shared a few dishes. We skipped the appetizers as none of them seemed too interesting (think "nachos" and "hummus") and they were all pretty expensive (in the $9-10 range).

We had a cajun tempeh sandwich ($12) and a pierogi ($13) to start. I really liked the sandwich as it had some nice spices and felt fresh and filling. Both of us really loved the sweet potato fries that came with the dish as well. The pierogi dish was good, but not as good as the sandwich, in my opinion; for one thing, all you get is four pierogis, filled with tofu, along with a bed of spinach, an apple marinade, caramelized onions, brown rice, and some tofu sour cream. For $13 it felt like a small portion size and was just really basic.

For dessert we shared a slice of "teasecake" (vegan cheesecake; $7) and a slice of chocolate-hazelnut cake ($7). The chocolate cake was good, but not great. I wish it had been just slightly sweeter, and the hazelnut flavor had been more evident, but the texture was good. The cheesecake was excellent, however; it was smooth, creamy and had a wonderful interplay of vanilla, cinnamon and a little hint of fruit (maybe pear? apple?).

It's Only Natural also offers a pretty good selection of unusual beers and wines. The service was friendly and prompt.

On a whole, I was impressed with some of the food here and I look forward to trying other dishes in the future.

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Located about 20 minutes outside Hartford, CT, It's Only Natural, or ION, is well worth leaving the city. ION really is located on Main Street USA, a condensed strip of stores, restaurants, entertainment, and slanted parking on the street. The restaurant itself is located inside a small mall of cultured stores and eateries. The entire menu is vegan, except for the cheddar cheese, which the kind and welcoming Hostess made sure I was aware.
I ordered my food to go, so I can not speak on the waiter service, but the seated area looked very comfortable. Broadly appropriate for a first date or family outing. And it appeared to be clean and sanitary, I even went to the bathroom. Always check the bathroom. If the bathroom is not clean, you don't even want to see the kitchen. Not only did I get dessert here, but I also tried the Vegetable Pizza Rustica. Talk about delicious. I would return here any day, rather I was vegan or not, good food is good food.

Ion's wheat-free, nut-free, dairy-free version of cheesecake. Before I start, I must say that the crust makes this pie. It was so good. On first bite, the Teasecake had a caramel undertone, but as I went on, I got a tofu taste and texture. It also came with a sauce. It looked like a thin caramel, and with the caramel undertone in the Teasecake, that is what I expected. But it was some orange-ness that I only had to taste once to know that I did not want to taste it again.
I got through about half of it before I was tired of it. I also allowed my non-vegan boyfriend to try it. He hated it and that totally ruined my motivation to imagine that is was "cheesecake". Even though this dessert did not turn out to be a ten in my book, I would have no reservation about returning to try any of the other desserts at Ion. Great restaurant.

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I ate at ION tonight and had a pretty enjoyable experience. The waitress reassured me that the entire menu is vegan except that in some of the dishes you have a choice of adding dairy cheese or (vegan) raw nut cheese. I also noticed that the chai description lists honey and milk as ingredients (I'm not sure if you can leave out the honey and substitute soy milk - all of the coffee drinks advertised that they could be made with soy or dairy milk). All of the desserts were vegan, and there was quite an impressive selection. I didn't see any tuna on the menu, so I suspect that ION might have done away with non-vegetarian items (or perhaps they only appear on the lunch menu).

As for my own meal, I decided to try the chocolate peanut butter smoothie and the spinach potato pierogies (both vegan). The chocolate peanut butter smoothie was thick and creamy. The only downside was that the peanut butter flavor dominated over the chocolate (I would have preferred more of a 50-50 split).

The pierogies were outstanding. Each dumpling was filled with spinach and potato and served with tofu sour cream and apple butter. The pierogies were served with a side of brown rice mixed with bell peppers and sauteed garlic greens. I normally don't like greens but these were delicious!

For dessert, I decided to try the velvet cake - chocolate layer cake with vegan cream cheese icing. I wasn't quite as happy with my cake as I was with my entree, mostly because the icing had a bit of a soy aftertaste. However, I was really happy to see such a large variety of vegan desserts (I counted about 5 different types of cake, plus some fruit tarts and chocolate mousse). I think I might have just made a bad decision when faced with so many dessert choices.

Lastly, I have to say, the service at ION was probably the best that I've ever seen at a sit-down vegetarian restaurant. I arrived at 9 PM on a Saturday night and by 9:35 I had my credit card receipt in one hand and a small bag containing a slice of vegan cake in the other. My waitress was very helpful - she gave me good recommendations on what to choose from the menu and she even found an electrical outlet to charge my cell phone (I ate at ION en route to New Hampshire after a long drive up the East Coast and my phone had died). I'm sorry to hear that some of the other reviewers below didn't have equally wonderful experiences with their servers.

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My husband, our 5-year-old son, who we are raising vegetarian, and I had just put in our dinner order when my husband excused himself to go the rest room. My son expressed that he was hungry and so I took out a small baggie of, as it happens, organic snack to tide him over until the meal arrived. A woman, who may have been the manager, came over and stared at the bag as if I had put a pile of dung onto the table. When I asked her if there was a problem, she stated that they never, ever permit outside food into the restaurant. My son looked like he was about to cry and I asked her to explain this to him. She stated that I was the adult and then continued to say that they were a full service restaurant with a children’s menu. I explained to her that we were aware of that and had in fact ordered a meal for him from that menu but my son was hungry now and the snack was to tide him over until the meal arrived. At that point she abruptly walked off. My husband returned and then the women who had seated us approached our table, telling us that she had been instructed to continue to take up the issue. At this point my son was in tears and we decided to leave. Our family is from NYC and we dine out quite frequently and in finer establishments than this one. No one has ever objected to an outside snack given to a small child while waiting to be served. I also need to add that throughout the exchange, the staff at ION never offered to bring a piece of bread or something else to the table to ease the situation. We really felt that they did not want us there. We did have a lovely dinner that night at another establishment a few blocks away on Main Street. However, it has taken several days to convince my sensitive child that he didn't do anything wrong. (5/23/08)

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I love ION!!! Foods great, the waitresses are friendly, and many vegan options abound.

On the checks...not trying to start a flame war, but perhaps the policy has changed. I have split checks there on multiple occasions, but we have always mentioned it up front. (I DO seem to remember someone saying they are not supposed to, BUT... and then doing it anyway)

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ION is simply the best vegan restaurant I know in all of southern New England and the metropolitan NYC area outside of the city itself. (I confess I have not yet eaten at Ahimsa in New Haven.) But wait, the restaurant serves one fish dish for dinner, and some scant dairy, so how can I describe it as vegan? That's because the majority of the rest of the menu is vegan, so lighten up, vegheads! "Vegan" is understood and spoken here. You should know that the restaurant would have gone out of business had it not added one fish dish to the dinner menu as a last resort. (Note that the fish is cooked with separate kitchenware in a separate corner of the kitchen, and the head chef never has tasted the fish he prepares, as he is vegetarian.) That 20 percent additional customer patronage because of the fish enabled them to stay solvent, so I'm glad they made the choice, because the alternative is no ION at all. I do advise against their pasta dishes, as they all are white flour pasta, otherwise everything else is dependably excellent quality, taste, and nutrition. When vegan luminaries and friends from distant cities visit me, this is where i take them. And they all agree that the cuisine is unique and excellent. So don't deprive yourself just because it is not totally vegan.

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Inventive, artfully prepared and original vegetarian and vegan cuisine. A place I love taking friends and family. They also have a great beer and wine selection, with a good handful of them being organic!

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After a recent dinner at ION I was unpleasantly informed they will not split checks to go onto multiple credit cards. Not even for $130+ checks. I still recommend ION and otherwise the service that night was excellent. So if you're bringing a crowd, bring cash.

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