Reviews written by mark mathew braunstein
Registered on May 11 10
Am not a big fan of pizza, and I prefer to eat at veg restaurants rather than to eat veg food at meat restaurants, but I must admit I am glad VegGuide.org led me to this place, which I found to be a very worthy alternative to Bloodroot as a rest stop on my way to or from NYC. Two Boots is much easier to get on and off I-95 than is Bloodroot, and though located in the center of downtown the street parking here is easy to find. Downtown also is much more appetizing than is the urban decay of the rest of Bridgeport, which you pass through if you take the short route to Bloodroot, rather than the circuitous route Bloodroot advises in order to steer you away from the blight. And unlike Bloodroot, Two Boots is open throughout the entire day and late into the night.
As for the vegan cheese pizza at Two Boots, the "V for Vegan" pizza is featured prominently on the menu, or you can customize your own, and they offer whole wheat crust as an option at no extra charge. The whole wheat crust is soft, not crisp, so I don't recommend getting the largest size pie, else each slice droop and spill its toppings all over the place. My one time so far eating here was midday, during which the small interior was very comfortable, but I suspect they draw a large crowd at night when they offer live music, usually with a cover charge. In any case, certainly worth the stop off I-95 before the music begins.
This place began as a Mideast restaurant, but has since expanded its menu to include all sorts of international main courses of mammals, birds, fish, and exotic sea animals. Vegan fare? Nothing more than the four standard appetizers you expect of any Mideast restaurant, but here all dreadful and loaded with salt, and the pita is only white flour. Same as its atmosphere cluttered with antiques, its menu is a step backward in several ways. Stay away.
I offer them a dozen thank you’s for advertising the word VEGETARIAN in their name's subtitle and VEGAN on its billboards, and for having done so for as more than 25 years. And I offer them a hundred thank you’s for an entire column on the menu labeled vegan, not merely vegetarian. So far, so good, until you find that the menu offers many (but not solely) conventional white and greasy American diner fare. But some new as of 2014 and wholesome vegan dishes which I recommend are the spaghetti squash with “meatballs” (they would do well to rename those balls) and the vegan frittata (though its size and quality are beholden to the cook on duty).
The previous owner was a vegetarian, but the present owner is not, so you must be VERY vigilant. That whole wheat pita on one occasion in 2008 was warmed on a grill that cooked meat and so absorbed its smell, if not its grease. The waitress defensively denied the possibility, impugning my olfactory nerves, until she smelled the pita too. Beware also the whole grain vegan pancakes served with packs of calf milk butter on the side, which makes me wonder with what the pancakes were grilled. While I do not go out of my way to eat here, I do stop here late night (open every night until 11pm) after a long haul from NYC or even only New Haven on i-95, as it is just off the easy off/on exit.
Entering 21 Oak is like stepping back into the past, namely 25 years ago into It’s Only Natural. I mean this as a very good thing. Think back to 1990, when Ken Bergeron was still the head chef and owner of ION 1.0 at its original location on Main St, a block north of where ION 3.0 recently relocated. The décor was simple and yet comfortable, the vegan food wholesome and appealing (Ken, along with most of his faithful customers, had transitioned out of macrobiotics), the portions generous, and the prices just right. Likewise now for 21 Oak. Eerily, Shawn the head chef and owner of 21 Oak even bears a very striking resemblance to Ken both in looks and in peaceful demeanor.
While Manchester may be out of the way, once within Manchester 21 Oak is easy to find, a half a block off Main St in the center of downtown. The restaurant is small (seats 20), hence the menu is brief, but covers the breadth of American vegan eclectic cuisine. No mock meats here, which only make a mockery of vegetarianism. Instead vegetables and grains take the center stage that they deserve. My only complaint is something served but not made here, the flatbread made of white flour, but that can be substituted with whole grain and oil-free Mary’s Gone Crackers, so do ask instead for the crackers. Among the appetizers I highly recommend the Brussels sprouts and the beet chutney, among the sides the sweet potato mash (only $3!), and among the entrees the barley cakes.
While desserts vary daily, I recommend the raw vegan cheesecake, which in January 2016 cost only $6. For the same quality and same quantity, compare that with $15 charged at G-Zen. As G-Zen costs an arm and an leg, 21 Oak costs only a finger and a toe. Consequently I dare say that 21 Oak is my favorite veg restaurant in all of CT and RI.
Dining at a restaurant only once provides an incomplete conception of its virtues and shortfalls, so with my admonition that I ate here only once, you should read this review “with a grain of salt.” My friend and I arrived 7pm on a Saturday night, restaurant primetime, yet we were the only diners there, not an encouraging indicator of the restaurant’s popularity, nor a favorable portent of its fate. During our 90 minutes there only one other couple came to eat, one person came for takeout, and four of the chef's or waitress's friends came by only to chat with them, not to eat. By her own admission, this was the waitress’s first day there, and judging from her service I would venture to say this was her first day ever working as a waitress anywhere. Still, her enthusiasm compensated for her inexperience. So now on to the food. A slick website (via a template for more conventional restaurants) boasts an extensive menu, yet this Saturday night only four of the entrees were available. Zero appetizers, zero soups, zero pizzas, zero from the raw menu, and only one flavor of smoothie, which was better not to have been served, as it consisted almost entirely of unripe banana. Zero, zero, zero … "because it was busy today and we ran out of everything." So the menu is merely a façade of wishes and figments of the chef’s imagination. In reality, what is actually offered is similar to that of a homey restaurant in Kingston, Jamaica. I speak from experience. When I ate in Kingston where the Rastas of Kingston eat, there were only three dishes from which to choose. Such authentic cuisine of Kingston I suspect will gain scant acceptance in Hartford. But anyhow back in Hartford, we ordered all four dishes, all which were fine examples of Jamaican cooking, in generous portions, and inexpensive at that. So the food is good, but just don’t expect to have much variety from which to choose. While I may eat here again, I will be sure to call ahead to verify what’s available. All in all a lamentable state of affairs in Connecticut for restaurants espousing veganism and inserting the word VEGAN right into their name . (PS - As of 2011, its online menu better reflects reality, as it has reduced its listings by half.)
Good and inexpensive basic Jamaican cooking BUT despite its name and signage this is NOT a vegetarian restaurant. Fish, not mock fish, but rather real fish, is served here. Look at its menu at:
While the fish is prepared in separate cookware, the dinnerware and silverware are the same for everyone, so no different here than when eating at a regular carnivore restaurant. Hey Rasta Man, change your name.
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.
The words VEGAN and VEGETARIAN are blazoned across its signage (nice!), which risks alienating carnivore customers, but Kate says she wishes to “tell it like it is.” Though a small café open only until 4pm (kitchen closes 3:30, after which some prepared foods are available for take-out), the menu still offers much variety, especially for breakfast from 7 to 11am. The breakfast menu is more diverse than that for lunch, which is mostly salads and sandwiches and soup. I ate here once for lunch (good) and once for breakfast (even better), both times soon after the cafe’s debut in early August 2012. (As of December 2012, Saturday dinners are planned, for which reservations are required.) The grains and breads are whole grain, and whole food tempeh largely displaces junk food tofu, hurray!
Seating is cramped, six comfortably, eight squeezed, so don’t plan to engage in meaningful discourse or intimate conversation here with your meal mate. When the weather and season smile upon us, you can sit outside at two shaded tables and upon several lounge chairs, though only steps from busy street traffic. Due to its cramped seating indoors and bustling traffic outdoors, Kate’s clientele likely will be mostly take-out, for which ample parking is provided next door in the pharmacy lot. To drive here you fortunately can bypass the traffic congestion of downtown Mystic by taking Exit 90 for the Seaport and Aquarium. While I am not likely to make a special trip just to dine here and thereby add to Mystic’s traffic congestion, I do look forward to eating here the next time I am in Mystic before 3:30pm. Let’s hope local Mystic folks keep this cafe humming with business, so that the next time we out-of-towner vegheads are in Mystic we can patronize Ms Kate’s Cafe
Contrary to its name, its dining room is much larger than a tiny spot. Traditional American-Middle Eastern food, with all the expected vegan dishes such as hummus, baba ganouch, stuffed grape leaves, and falafel. The baba ganouch and stuffed grape leaves (albeit with white rice) are especially good, indeed as good as such simple fare can be and the baba ganouch is the best I ever have eaten, anywhere. In fact I rate this restaurant as the best Mid Eastern cuisine, anywhere. Another excellent dish that is surprisingly vegan is the collards greens, though heavy on the garlic. Other very worthy very vegan dishes are the mousakaa (which you might know by the French name ratatouille) and the potatoes. Note that the prices are moderate and therefore quite uncharacteristic of Mystic. Also uncharacteristic of Mystic, it offers ample parking. The always adorable waitresses boast some vegetarians among them. While the menu clearly identifies the vegetarian dishes, you must query about what is vegan, which is easy as the owners and wait staff speak "fluent vegan" here.
Pizzetta offers vegan cheese, specifically Daiya brand, along with unsubstantiated claims about being environmentally and nutritionally conscious, the latter manifested by their not adding sugar to their sauce. Pizzetta’s heart is in the right place, as they hosted a free vegan pizza party, which I attended, so can attest that its thin and crunchy white flour crust is not the usual glop that passes for pizza, and being thin and therefore scant it did not as much paste up my digestion, as does all white flour. I do not understand others’ praise for Daiya cheese, though, as I shun salt, and its overwhelming taste is only of salt.
It is a fun place to eat, and provides easy parking, a big plus for the downtown Mystic. I would not recommend going out of your way to dine here, but if you're in Mystic anyway, this is the place to eat, that is, if you eat white flour. When you place your order, please plant the seed that you would much prefer a crust comprised at least one-half of whole grain.
News about Claire's! Recently in 2014, Claire's dipped its toes into the 21st Century and increased its proportion of vegan entrées, as well as began offering vegan cheese as an option to all its cow cheese dishes. (Until now, you could substitute cow cheese with blah tofu). Took a while for Claire's to get here, as until around 1999, Ms. Claire used to offer tuna, but removed it from the menu, maybe upon opening her upscale meat restaurant next door. While a chef need not be veghead to creatively cook veggies, still it's unsettling that Ms. Claire is a carnivore at heart.
Most other vegan reviewers berate this place, which I can understand, but I would rate it "fair" rather than "terrible." You simply must pick and choose wisely from among its extensive menu. On the plus side, you can view some of the standard entrees and most of the specials in a display case near the registers, and doing so is more edifying than the inscriptions on the wall boards. The noise level inside compares to a college dining hall, and the seating is cramped and uncomfortable, so don’t bring your date here. But if you sit by a window you can enjoy the view of the Yale University and New Haven community parading by, and thereby take your mind off the bland, industrial-quality food, in which case you can actually enjoy sitting here.
A health food store that carries meat only in the dog and cat food (same as the wonderful Willimantic Food Coop), Edge offers a good bakery and an even better hot buffet with everything clearly labeled either vegan or dairy. Seating is available upstairs, but it’s setup more for take-out. With Ahimsa closed permanently, you’ll do better to eat here than at any restaurant in New Haven.
After 22 years at It’s Only Natural (ION) Restaurant, its masterful head chef sought new challenges, so he and his wife opened G-Zen, initially a sort of Neo-ION, as half its menu was the same, but with new and more imaginative though sometimes pretentious names. What could have been better than ION? Two ION’s!
Yet who can refrain from making comparisons? (Obviously not I). Many new dishes do distinguish it from ION, especially in recent years. For instance one entree here is all raw, with many side dishes raw too. Decor and dinnerware are more elegant and opulent than at hippie artsy ION. (You decide which better suits your personality.) I do prefer the “vibes” (yeah man, am a hippie) of ethnically-diverse and middle-class Middletown to that of predominantly Caucasian and affluent New-Haven-bedroom-community Branford, and prefer the trip to Middletown on scenic and lightly traveled Route 9 rather than on industrialized and truck-choked and traffic-jammed Interstate 95.
The food at G-Zen is outstanding, and it is primarily for the food that one chooses any restaurant. Every entrée is flavorful and often unique, if not invented by the masterful chef then surely perfected by him. The portions sometimes are small, but the nutritional standards always are high. So are the prices, especially of the desserts. In 2015, it cost $15 for a sliver. Add tax and tip, and that was $20, and remember, for a mere sliver. Clearly its intended clientele is the affluent bourgeoisie, a social class from which I am excluded.
Still, the lavish desserts and all the other prohibitively priced foods deserve the accolades bestowed upon it by others: it is delicious, nutritious, nearly wholly wholesome, mostly organic, much of it raw, beautifully presented, graciously hosted, and totally vegan. This very well may be vegan heaven!
Just ignore all the self-ingratiating hype on its website and DeFacebook page and menu, which should be taken with a grain of Himalayan pink salt. This is not the best veg restaurant in the entire Milky Way, which its tiresome hyperbole tries to bludgeon you into believing. This is the best veg restaurant in Connecticut, but CT is the third smallest state and its entire population is one-third that of just NYC’s. And NYC hosts several comparable restaurants. Fortunately NYC is far away, and even more fortunately G-Zen is close at hand.
G-Zen, no one loves your food because of all your hype. Rather, we love your food despite your hype.
Red Lentil is a vegetarian restaurant long needed in and overdue for New Haven. Its menu is more eclectic than ethnic, but with a leaning toward Asian Indian, and with a small helping of dishes lifted from the menu of It’s Only Natural (ION). Portions are generous, cost is moderate, and food mostly is good. Exotic dishes are excellent, and the more extraordinary the dish the better it is likely to be. But more conventional dishes do tend to fall short of expectations, as Conde Kedar astutely observes in his review a month ago. For instance, in the category of fried food (true confessions! though i hardly hunger for it, in my feeble old age i have relinquished abidance to my usually high nutritional standards, and i have been eating fried foods, but only at vegetarian restaurants, because you never know what else has been fried in that oil), their Gobi Manchurian (fried cauliflower) is outstanding, but their Sweet Potato Fries are disappointing, especially when compared to those served at nearby ION or G Zen. In Red Lentil’s favor, theirs are half the price. On account of a multiplex movie theater directly across the street, even at night the street parking, in a word, sucks. As you usually must resort to the cavernous parking garage directly overhead (really!), parking also is expensive, but compensated by the cost of the meal, which is moderate. Seating is spacious and comfortable, especially if you are seated at a booth, and the wait staff does not rush you out of the place, not even when nearing closing, so you leisurely can sit and enjoy your company and the food, except for that dang parking meter.
2 Wives offers a vegan cheese option, because one of the wives is a lapsed vegan. Her cooks initially were even trained to wipe clean the cutter before slicing vegan cheese pizzas! Plus, and this indeed is a big plus, 2 Wives offers the option of whole wheat crust, though with a surcharge. After the restaurant had been open more than a year, I finally succumbed to curiosity (not temptation!) and in the interest of donating my body to science, I tried their pizza with vegan cheese and whole wheat crust. It evoked distinct memories of the pizza shop pie I ate as a reckless teenager before I became vegan in 1970. You can decide if such standard fare is good (or bad). But wait! It gets better (or worse). With the advent of a new co-owner, they switched brands of vegan cheese from Daiya to Follow Your Heart. The improvement is substantial, as FYH has a subtle but agreeable flavor, whereas Daiya tastes only of salt. Regrettably, however, 2 Wives runs out of stock of either their vegan cheese or their whole wheat crust fully half the times I have attempted to eat there. What makes this not merely disappointing but also annoying is the waiters or waitresses would just stand around literally “doing nothing” when one of them could have walked one block away to Fiddleheads natural foods coop, which stocks both brands of vegan cheese. When both the vegan cheese and the whole wheat crust are in stock, they really do get their pizza right, else why would I eat here nearly once a month, or rather, try? Because now I know to ask if both are available before I even sit down, and if one is unavailable, I simply turn around and leave, though I sometimes have a hard time convincing my dining companions to do the same.
Now that CT has legalized same sex unions, and because New London has garnered notoriety for welcoming gay culture, one might think that 2 Wives Pizza is owned by a lesbian couple, but nope, they just happened to have blundered upon a very poor choice for a name of a restaurant, same as did Amazonian-sounding ManGetOut two blocks away. In fact, in 2011, one of the wives sold her share of the partnership to a male, so someday in tune with the times the remaining wife just might rename the place 1 Wife or 2 Divorcees or Ménage à Trois.
In any case and by whatever name, 2 Wives is a fine and fun place to eat.
I'm a member of both Fiddleheads Foods Coop in New London, and of Willimantic Food Coop. With its all-volunteer work force during its first three years, Fiddleheads is a testament to community cooperation and to each individual’s idealism. After three years, it became financially stable and could hire its long overdue first of several paid employees. After seven years since opening, it now is a firmly established institution, and New Londoners probably wonder how they ever survived without it. Its meteoric rise is both amazing and heartwarming! I love and respect and am grateful to all the people who work here, and especially its managers and board of directors who do most of the work, and to the farmers who sell their produce here.
Fiddleheads serves two hot soups available until 6pm for eat-in or takeout as of mid-2014 made by Mangetout, the café nearby on State Street, of which one is always vegan. Previous to mid-2014, their soups were made by the hot dog eatery next door, and the vegan soups were horrible, not to mention of nefarious origin. Now the vegan soups are good, because the chef of Mangetout “speaks vegan” and “speaks organic.” And the fridge unit near the soups offers takeout sandwiches and desserts also made by Mangetout, most of them vegan. So consider Fiddleheads a suitable place to indulge in a quick vegan lunch.
BUT, and here comes the big BUT, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you might consider patronizing instead Willimantic Food Coop. Fiddleheads actively promotes the consumption of dead animals. There are as many dead animals in Fiddleheads freezers and fridges as in any butcher shop, and their bodies in the fridges are interspersed with the vegetarian mock meats (meats which make a mockery of vegetarianism) and hummus and tempeh. Its poor separation of the wheat from the calves could easily be remedied, and such change welcomed by its vegetarian community.
Either in addition to or instead of Fiddleheads, Willimantic Food Coop is worth your patronage because until late 2010 its foods were all vegetarian. I now patronize Fiddleheads far more than Willi because Fiddleheads is closer to me, but until recently I still found Willi worth my 26 mile and 35 minute trip. If Willi could remain vegetarian for 30 years, Fiddleheads could have too, but Fiddleheads never even tried. Among the farmers who sell directly to Fiddleheads, many also sell dead animals. If there's one farmer at a farmers' market and he sells live produce and also dead animals, I will buy his produce. But if there's two farmers selling live produce, one who sells also dead animals and one who sells only produce, when given the choice I will patronize solely the one who sells only produce. Thank goodness when we on behalf of better unborn farm animals are given the choice. So given the choice between shopping at Fiddleheads Food Coop and Willimantic Food Coop, my preference is clear, though due to prohibitive car mileage, I shop at both.
Organic Mangetout is spelled ManGetOut. Even more ill-conceived than its French name is its illegible logo, both which hardly foster commercial success, yet thankfully it indeed has succeeded commercially. Open only to 4pm Tuesdays to Sundays (and recently also 6pm to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays), it is the only restaurant in the New London area that places the word vegan very clearly on its menu. It also is the only restaurant in hick town New London that serves brown rice, rather than white. One-quarter of its entrees are vegan, and its one soup usually is vegan, so it deserves an A+ for effort, garners A for results, but gets C for Cramped quarters, especially when it has a well deserved crowd at 7pm on Friday or Saturday evenings. Parking is always a problem on State Street, but you can count on finding parking just around the corner on Eugene O’Neill Drive. Still, no matter how far you park your car, it’s well worth your trek, and well worth your patronage.
It is with sadness that I must report that the vegan or made-to-be-vegan dishes here are terrible. I first ate here years ago, when it first opened, and the several dishes I ordered all were inedible. After several years during which it expanded to twice its size, I assumed it surely must have improved, else how could it have remained in business, so I gave it another try, but with the same dismal results. The several dishes I ordered all were inedible. Baffled, I later queried non-vegan friends who ate here regularly, and they confirmed that its veg dishes disappointed them too, but that its meat dishes were superb, hence their repeated patronage. So go there only if you are a meat eater, but in which case you would not be reading reviews here.
With all its white flour and white sugar and white rice and hot spice, Asian Indian food as typically served in American restaurants is my least favorite ethnic cuisine. Nevertheless, on account of my need to meet a friend for dinner somewhere in Norwalk, I chose we meet here. So far, so bad. As with most Asian Indian restaurants, a portion of Coromandel's menu is duly partitioned under the subheading Vegetarian Entrees. Among a dozen vegetarian dishes, usually 3 or 4 are non-dairy. But not here. Milk products lurk everywhere, even in the white rice. Vegans, enter here at your own risk!
Darn! THIS RESTAURANT CLOSED DOWN LATE AUGUST 2011, lasted just 9 months, a great loss to the (obviously small) vegetarian community of SE CT.
WARNING: I have not eaten here, but a vegan friend has eaten at its other restaurant in Storrs/Mansfield with the same menu as here. He informs me that their so-called vegan mock meats contain EGGS, yes eggs, which he pointed out to the management, but which blunder he says the management as of January 2013 has yet to address by changing its claims of vegan on its menu or website.
Named either for its address, 6 Main St, or for its onomatopoeia sounding Sex Man, like its name the restaurant is a paradox. Its menu is mostly vegan, the remainder vegetarian, and much of it raw. My kind of food. Yet the décor of the restaurant is not my kind of place. It was remodeled from the nearly windowless lobby of a former old bank, and still hanging from the ceiling are the bank’s creepy chandeliers, yellowed with age. Its interior evokes my childhood memories of my grandmother’s stuffy old home where windows never were opened. Or my teenage memories of the lobby of an old bank which had no windows. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to retain the décor of a stuffy bank. I would much prefer to tear it down. Or to hold it up. Six Main’s white tablecloths offer a marked contrast to nearby ION’s stark tree trunk tabletops. Similarly, Chester’s prim and proper Main Street contrasts with working class Main Street in middleclass Middletown. Seated here nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my several meals. Every entrée is flavorful and unique (Unique with a capital U), if not invented by the masterful chef then surely perfected by her. The portions are small, but the nutritional standards are high. So are the prices. Six Main’s prices reflect its domicile in ritzy Chester, a Vermont-like rural town beleaguered with Manhattan-like urban traffic congestion. (Parking is not a problem, however, thanks to its own parking lot behind its building. And be sure to check out the brook that abuts the lot.) While one can be affluent without being decadent, Six Main’s wine and beer menu indicates its intentions to cater to the bloated decadent. A mixed demographic group indeed dines here. Young and sexy couples sitting at the bar enjoy their meals as much as each others’ company. Formally attired elderly couples, obvious members of the targeted audience of those white tablecloths, seem comfortable and satiated. Or perhaps all merely glow from the effects of the wine they are drinking. As I prefer to drink my grape juice straight, I hope the wine list subsidizes the food prices, which nevertheless exceed my budget, and probably yours too. But because every dish is so Unique, I heartily recommend you make a special trip to dine here, even if your dining experience must remain equally unique and you dine here just once. Because my decrying its bourgeois decadence is more a comment about me than it is a review about this restaurant.
Addendum summer 2014: No doubt its business was ailing, so to expand its customer base Six Main began serving also sea animals.
Please indulge my digression and forgive my possible xenophobia, but I have learned that Chinese and Thai restaurants are far from the “vegan safe houses” that many deluded vegans mistake them to be. Both a cultural chasm and a language divide separate American vegans from Chinese and Thai wait staff. Identifying yourself as a vegetarian is literally meaningless as so many waiters seem not to understand that clams and oysters and lobsters and shrimp and squid and octopus and fish all are animals. You often can find these animals listed right on their menus in their so-called vegetarian sections. I shudder to guess at the ingredients that are not listed. Especially beware insidious fish in Thai curry sauces and clandestine clam in Chinese garlic sauces.
That said, I am happy to report that Chang’s is indeed a vegan safe house, in part because the co-owner is a lapsed vegetarian. I have eaten here numerous times, and can attest that all the wait staff speak fluent and often native English, so fully understand the meanings of the words “vegan” and “vegetarian.” And even better, there are many vegan dishes from which to choose, some of them quite unique. For instance, simple but outstanding is the bok choy dish, which consists of whole baby bok choys halved lengthwise, dressed in a savory sauce. The mushroom dishes also are excellent. And though not listed on the menu, brown rice is served at no extra charge, so be sure to ask for brown rice. I dare say that this is the only Chinese restaurant in the whole of eastern Connecticut at which I dine. Enough said!
WARNING: I have not eaten here, but a vegan friend has eaten here. He informs me that their so-called vegan mock meats contain EGGS, yes eggs, which he pointed out to the management, but which blunder he says the management as of January 2013 has yet to address by changing its claims of vegan on its menu or website.
Willimantic Foods Coop is a blessing. It offers the best OG produce in CT, and every day, not just on delivery days. Plus, it is open on weekdays until 8pm. And for 30 years, the store had remained vegetarian, meaning that it carried dead animals only in some of the dog and cat food, while most of the rest of the dog and cat food is made with eggs or milk instead of meat or fish. But it's the food intended for human consumption that should bring you here, and will keep you returning here. In 2005, the membership voted on a carnivore initiative to allow the coop to sell meat, and meat was overwhelmingly defeated. Yet in June 2010, a cabal of carnivores won another vote. This second time, meat was voted into office by way of a pre-order buying club that slipped in through the coop’s backdoor by perpetuating the myth of so-called “humane meat.” Their premise was that its suppliers will treat their deadstock better than does industrial agribusiness. Maybe better, but how much better, and by whose standards? The vote was ushered in with no mechanisms for oversight except by the farmers’ own avowals. Hogwash and bull. The “meat locker” supposedly will be sequestered in the back of the store, where gentle vegetarians won’t see it, and so won’t be affronted by its presence, and thereby won’t be reminded of Willi Food Coop’s tragic fall from innocence.
This cafe was quite new when I ate here, and I ate here only once, so your experience surely will differ from mine. My experience was very pleasant, and quite surprising, as I consider Winsted a hick town hinterland, despite it being the hometown of Ralph Nader. Same as Nader, the owner is a vegetarian, though she for ethical reasons, not for health, hence her serving white flour breads and several dishes of overly processed mock meats, which make a mockery of vegetarianism. Still, it's great that this cafe has opened, and I've heard that it already has significantly improved since I ate there, so I look forward to eating here again.
The review written two years earlier than mine is correct. This place is "hopelessly trapped in the 1970's." It's only barely vegetarian insofar as it serves fish, but I've eaten at many dead meat restaurants that offered more vegan options than here. Look at the menu: 1 page of entrees, 1 page of salads and sandwiches and sides, and 5 pages of booze! Among the sides, top of the list is Bread and Butter. The word BUTTER is given as much prominence as the word BREAD! No alternatives to butter, not oil, not avocado, not tahini, only butter. Of the two vegan entrees of the day, neither was no more imaginative nor better tasting than what you probably prepare at home. Unless you intend to get plastered, spare yourself the disappointment and stay home. Or walk around the block from Moosewoods to Greenstar Natural Foods Coop. You don't even need to walk around the block, as both Greenstar and Moosewoods are accessible from and connected to the same indoor mini-mall.
This takeout restaurant defies all the odds against its remaining in business. While only next door in bordering Westerly, RI, a scant 20 miles from the New London area where I reside, I never heard of it until it was open for more than a year, and such lack of publicity is one odd against it. Its hardly memorable name is somewhat odd and difficult to spell out in your search engine. Its location in the center of labyrinthine downtown Westerly where driving is challenging and parking is scarce is another odd, especially for takeout, because you may spend more time finding parking and walking to and from your parked car than actually placing your order and walking out with your meal. Its limited menu of only two soups, two salads, two entrees, and two muffins is yet another strike against its survival. The heaviest blow of all is that its menu is all vegan. Repeat, totally vegan! (And gluten-free.) All vegan in of all places Westerly, who would have thought? Yet what assures its continued success is what counts: the FOOD. It all is wholesome, delicious, and colorful. Considering the modest prices, the portions are generous. And the menu changes daily, therefore variety abounds, just not on the same day. So check its DeFacebook page for its menu listing, call in your order, have your passenger jump out of the car to pick up the order while you drive around the block, which will be a very long and circuitous block, and then head for a picnic in nearby Wilcox Park. Oh and don’t forget to pickup your passenger, who after all has the picnic basket.
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