Category Archives: Traveling

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Home Grown Cafe

126 East Main Street, Newark, DE 19711
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When my parents first moved to Delaware one of the first things I did was scope out restaurants in the area that I could visit (and review). It turns out that downtown Newark has a lot of vegan friendly options, Chipotle, Bahn Mi Boy, Honeygrow, Brew Ha Ha (carried Dottie’s Donuts), and Home Grown Cafe. In fact after looking at the menu, I almost immediately wanted to eat at Home Grown Cafe.

They have a VERY vegan friendly menu, in fact you can almost get anything off of their menu. How? They have a bunch of different options and you have the choice of “protein.” They have different price points, most expensive beef, mid range are fish and shrimp, a little cheaper are options like chicken, pork, lamb, and burger. The cheapest? The vegan options my friends! *insert shocked face emoji* And you don’t get stuck with whimpy veggies, you get a choice of portobello mushrooms, falafels, veggie burger, seitan, or tofu. To make it even easier, there are *’s indicating vegetarian options and **’s indicating vegan or vegan modified options. 

When I went with my Mother is ordered their deep fried cauliflower with their Korean gochujang sauce. There were the two little stars so I mentioned I was vegan so to not include the sauce. The waiter made a note on our menu and assured that they could make the sauce vegan. I didn’t touch it since I like my food spicy but my Mother thought it was pretty tasty. As for the cauliflower? It was pretty amazing. I loved how they were too mushy and perfectly fried. I wish they did a better job coating the cauliflower with sauce. If I got it again I would ask that they make sure everything is well coated, and I probably would order the double order of both the Korean style AND buffalo wing style.

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The main dish? I got their bibimbap, which I totally regret. I should of known better to order something so distinctly Korean from a restaurant that serves so many different things. The seitan was amazing, and so was the sauce. But there wasn’t enough sauce for my taste, and the rice was long grain. I know that the restaurant probably makes only one kind-of rice for all their dishes, but something about getting that type of rice in a bibimbap seems wrong. 

I would love to come back and try one of their other meals to redeem them from the bibimbap. But it might be a long time till I go again. Overall I like this place as they try and serve bar food but have everything be fresh. My only complaint is the lack of sauce, that was being used. This is a place I probably would go with another vegan since there are so many options to choose from. Finger foods, appetizers, salads, sandwiches, main courses, the works. There are  lots drinks available, and there are occasionally live performances as well!


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Champs Diner

197 Meserole Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206
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These photos have been sitting on my computer for over a month? Oh gosh, maybe two months now. I have been crazily eyeing up Champs ever since I first heard of it. I went to Champs when visiting my sister in Brooklyn, and I got to meet her boyfriend, who actually comes to Champs often with his vegan and vegetarian friends. Although being vegan doesn’t mean you only have to eat healthy foods, when eating out it seems that the vegan option is almost always a salad. Sure restaurants are starting to give other vegan options, which pretty much means you can choose between a salad and a veggie burger. Sometimes all a vegan wants is some good old fashion greasy diner food. Well, this is the place to go.

I didn’t take any outdoor shots, the place isn’t glamourous, and it shouldn’t be. It’s a diner. It keeps the interior with traditional diner decor, note the mirrors and sparkly seats. If you aren’t familiar with diners here is a basic outline. If you are American, a diner means a specific style of restaurant that is mostly popular in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York area. Originally diners were similar to trailer homes, they were prebuilt models that could be purchased. They were long an narrow for transportation purposes, but it meant it was fairly cheap to build a completely new restaurant. Because they were prebuilt, there was a very specific style (think art deco, metallic, and kind-of looking like a trailer). As the diners became more popular they became bigger. Some places sold prebuilt models that could put together on premises in order to “expand” the restaurant. Now most surviving diners are massive monsters. If you want a comparison, here is an original styled diner compared to a later monster diner.

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So as the size of a diner has changed, the decor and food is what seems to define a diner. Stereotypically diners have checkered floors, vinyl booths, a bar area, and neon signs. But overall the decor must be humble, if it is too polished it clearly isn’t family owned. The food menus are traditionally huge, with portions to match. Depending on the location of the diner, you’ll get a different menu. If you are in the south you’ll probably get grits and biscuits, but in New Jersey you probably will find lots of Italian food. I know that is the appeal for most people is that you can go in a group and if one person wants Italian and the other wants a burger, you pretty much will please everyone… well except the vegan. Sadly most diners are not very vegan friendly unless you want french fries and a salad. Enter Champs.

Clearly Champs isn’t using a traditional diner cart, but they try and replicate the interior. They have the classic paneled mirrors, checkered floors, and funky lighting. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the decor is originally from some other diner. They have some macabre touches here and there, like I remember there being a skeleton near the cashier. Probably due to the fun interior and the great food, there was a huge wait. 

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Whenever I go to an all vegan restaurant I have such a hard time choosing. I am so use to only one to five options and then deciding if I want something light or not (ie do I want a salad or a veggie burger?) Even the non-vegans had a hard time deciding what to get. I figured I would go for food items I had never seen vegan before- the poutine fries ($9) and the cubano sandwich ($11). For anyone who isn’t familiar poutine are french fries that are covered in gravy and cheese curds. I never would of thought they would of been so addictive! I gave my sister a bite, and she deemed them authentic… or authentic enough (the cheese curds weren’t quite right, but I think we all suspected that.) The cubano is a vegan version of the cuban sandwich, which is a hot pressed sandwich with pork, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. This sandwich was yummy and the “ham” was bizarrely close to what I remembered of ham. Mostly it was the way the “meat” shredded. I was pretty full from the poutine so I took half of the sandwich home, which kind-of stunk up the train. Oops.

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What did everyone else get? My sister, Lindsay, got the Buffalo Chik’n ($11), a faux chicken sandwich that has lots of hot sauce, ranch, and veggie toppings on a roll. I took a bite and thought it was pretty good, and was pretty close to an omni-style sandwich. I’ve eaten plenty of faux buffalo wing foods and vegan versions tend to only have hot sauce flavor, which I like, but not everyone’s cup of tea. Her boyfriend ended up getting the Blue Plate Special, which was only available that day. It was a mix of mac and cheese, a fried chicken drumstick, corn, and biscuits (maybe cornbread?). Lindsay seemed to like the mac and cheese, which is saying something since she is a BIG cheese fan (note: if Lindsay is reading this, I am sure she would want me to point out it didn’t taste JUST like cheese, but we all know that) The chicken drumstick was full of seitan goodness, and even had a wooden stick in it so you could eat it just like a normal drumstick.

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Jon and I were both eyeing up the same sandwich- the Country Fried Seitan ($13), but he “claimed” it before I did. The recipe features seitan made from Blackbird, breaded, fried, and served on texas toast with bacon, cheese, ranch dressing, tomato and greens. Funny thing is that I’ve never had texas toast before going vegan, and I am in love with it. More proof that going vegan only expands your options. 

Great thing about Champs? It is fairly cheap. We got an appetizer and an entree for everyone and meal was cheaper than our lunch… and there was 4 people for dinner and 3 for lunch! Yikes! It probably helps that there isn’t any booze being served at Champs, so that kept the bill small. Also the plates are pretty big, which makes it so you only need the main meal. Even still, these are great prices if you are dining out in New York City, so if you are visiting Manhattan island, it would probably be worth the trip out to Brooklyn.


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Cardinal Provisions

514 Bangs Ave Asbury Park, NJ 07712
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I remember when I first started the blog, Alexa usually came to me because I had more vegan options in my area. Flash forward to today, now it seems like Alexa is sitting in the suburban vegan mecca. There are so many places I want to visit near her, but they are usually closed on the day I come to visit- Mondays. So Alexa suggested Cardinal Provisions, a brunch and lunch based restaurant. She had went before and thought I would dig it.

asksalexaAlexa’s note: Visiting Cardinal with Jen wasn’t the first time I had been there. I had actually gone on Valentine’s day with Mr. Ian, and on that day I had one of THE BEST waffles I have ever had. It’s definitely on my list of Top 5…because apparently I have that sort of list now. I believe it was a special for that weekend, but hopefully it will pop up again. The waffle was covered in caramelized bananas and thin mint crumbs. 

That’s right…THIN MINT CRUMBS. 

I loved the dish because 1) it was vegan and 2) it’s not something that I have see anywhere else yet almost resembled something that I might make for myself (and think “Alexa, you are cray cray.”) I was slightly hesitant about the mixture of banana and mint flavor, but it was fantastic. I had also had the nitro infused coffee with my food that morning and it made everything even more delicious.

She was right, I loved the place. If you have ever been into New York City for brunch and enjoyed it, you will love this place. The store is very small but has a lot of personality. I am not sure how common this style of restaurant is, but you are seated, and waited on, but you pay at the end at the cashier. There are some baked goods and juices that you can grab and take with you, making it a spot to actually get a breakfast “on the go”. There are adorable vintage tiled floors, cute metal backed seats, and vintage salt and pepper shakers at all the tables. Yup, they pretty much nailed the setting.

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Just wanted to point out that Alexa wore the exact same shirt when we went to MOGO– GET YOUR BLOGGING SHIT TOGETHER!

So is the place vegan? Uh… no. But the menu is very vegan friendly. There are only about two dishes listed as vegan on their breakfast/lunch menu, and three from their brunch menu but they have little Vs next to items that can be made vegan. This is a dream come true for vegans who love breakfast foods. It even looks like about half of the kids menu is vegan as well (mostly nut butter or jam sandwich combos and some veggies) If you are looking to grab a quick breakfast, you can get their vegan croissants and some fresh juice up at the counter. Oh you heard me correctly. Vegan croissants at a non-vegan restaurant. Although this might not happen every day, when we went they actually have a daily special that was vegan. Let’s face it, how often does that happen?

A word of caution. If you want to do the traditional brunch thing and do some day drinking, you might have to bring your own booze. Cardinal Provisions does not have a liquor license, so call ahead of time to see if it is okay if you bring your own champagne for mimosas. They also have nitro infused coffee and I fucked up and missed by chance to try freshly tapped nitro coffee. Also on the menu that would quench your cocktail thirst? Kombucha, bitters and soda, green, grapefruit, and orange juices.

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So what did we get? Well, the day we went they have a special- a vegan burger on a either a roll or vegan croissant. It originally came with fries, but we were both in the mood for a side salad. The burger was topped with a pickled carrot slice, cauliflower, and artichoke. Let me tell you, it has been a long time since I’ve had a croissant, and this was much better than the ones I had in the past. The croissant was super flakey and buttery. The burger was also the best vegan burger I’ve gotten in a non-vegan restaurant. The burger was very solid, and didn’t smoosh out like most vegan burgers. The outside was charred beautifully giving a nice contrast to the flaky croissant.

asksalexaAlexa’s note: Since I love the place so much, I visited again without Jenny. The other dish that I’ve gotten here also involved waffles (I’m not sure if anyone else is picking up on a theme here or if it’s just me?), but it was the vegan version of Chicken and Waffles. In place of chicken they subbed in a mushroom that they were calling “Hen of the Woods”, which I believe is just a fried maitake mushroom. I loved the texture and taste of it, and as a vegetarian I can get pretty tired of mushroom consistency and flavor. It came with a jalapeño cashew remoulade layered on top and then syrup to go on top of all of that. Again, it was another dish where I could have been a mad scientist playing in my kitchen but it magically tasted fantastic once on the plate. This dish is (luckily) on the menu all of the time. I highly recommend it. 

I also love the atmosphere like Jen pointed out. Not only is the decor really adorable, but the employees are super nice and are always willing to help you find a way to make whatever you want into a vegan friendly version of itself if it isn’t already. I haven’t had a bad meal there yet and I don’t expect I ever will.

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If you check out their website you might notice that they have both the restaurant and catering services. If you are looking to do a wedding shower, work event, wedding, baby shower, etc, they will work with all your requirements. I’ve been following their instagram account and have seen some photos of some all vegan catering jobs. Thinking about when Jon and I were planning out wedding, this would of been a great options. At the time he wasn’t vegan and I was trying to be. Cardinal Provisions would of given us a nice 50/50 menu of vegan and non-vegan options.

asksalexaAlexa’s note: Last note! If you are in the market for a birthday (or any celebratory) cake, they do that as well! A friend of mine ordered a cake from Cardinal for her birthday and it was actually the best cake I’ve ever had. And it was vegan!! The cake was moist, the frosting was delicious and didn’t taste overly sugary…it was sublime. 

So we would both recommend this place if you want a fancy lunch out. It isn’t a 4 star restaurant, but not quite the place to go for a cheap meal either. If I was staying for vacation in Asbury Park I would recommend checking this place out at least once for lunch or brunch. That being said, for the price range for a lot of the nicer restaurants in this area it isn’t that much more. 


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Hummus Market

361 Graham Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
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I know what you are thinking- what a boring name for a restaurant. Hummus Market. You are probably picturing some falafel bar that is good for a quick sandwich for on the go- but you would be wrong. This restaurant is located in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and is one of my sister’s favorite places to grab food. The place is vegetarian and very vegan friendly, with only a few non-vegan products (yogurt, cheese, and eggs). The place offer authentic middle eastern foods, and doesn’t even have falafels on the menu. The food is oily (in the good way) and is very filling. It is most definitely not the type of hummus restaurants that you probably have in your area.

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The menu makes it very easy to share with other people. There are several kinds of hummus that you can pick from, the shakshuka and sabich are topped with eggs, but you can ask for them to be left out to make them vegan. They come with two pitas and a spicy sauce. You can then pair it with the mix and match menu. There are several different vegetable sides that you can share and pair with your pitas and hummus. My sister got the moroccan carrots, beets, and the labneh (a strained yogurt which isn’t vegan). Each side is $7 individually, but you save a little if you get 3 or 4 ($19/24 saving a total of $3 or $4)

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The carrots are served cold and are covered in a harissa, making them incredibly spicy, I personally really enjoyed the carrots, and would of tasted great in a pita with hummus. The beets are also served cold, and were flavored with some onion, parsley, coriander, and lemon. The spices and lemon helped brighten the earthiness of the beets. We also got served a side of Israeli Salad, which was very yummy. It was a crunchy salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and onion.

If you are interested in the mix and match sort of a approach all foods are vegan except the lebnah, roasted peppers, and red tomatoes. The peppers and tomatoes have feta, but they might not be able to make them vegan as it could be pre-mixed. Ask to make sure. I also didn’t ask but you may want to make sure the tahini sauce for the Eggplant tahini is vegan as well.

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Jon got the mushroom stuffed pita. It has cooked mushrooms, harissa, hummus, pickled onion and parsley. The pita was super spicy but you could still taste all the different flavors. The bonus is that you get a little side of the Israeli Salad, so the cucumbers had a nice cooling effect. The only other vegan pita is the cauliflower pita, though some of the other pitas could be modified to be made vegan. 

The salads on the menu aren’t vegan, but could be easily made so. There is cheese in two of the salads, and the brussels sprout salad has a honey dijon mustard, which might be easily subbed for one their other vinaigrettes. The menu becomes less and less vegan friendly, but if you talk to the staff it might be made vegan. For example the farm veg cakes might be vegan if you ask for no tzatziki, but you might want to make sure there is no egg binding the veggies together. Same issue with the sweet potato latkes, which are served with a yogurt-chive sauce.

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I personally wanted to try their stuffed onions since it isn’t something that is common. I first tried stuff onions when my Mother-in-Law made them for Thanksgiving. So I was a little interested in some authentic ones. Pretty much the layer of onion is peeled and wrapped around a rice stir-fry filled with pine nuts, kale, spinach, and date honey. If you are yelling at your screen that honey isn’t vegan, I know. Date honey is another name for date syrup. Overall I found the stuffed onions too sweet for my preference, but the onions were very delicate and easy to cut through. It is truly a dish you will want to try when you are here since I’ve never seen them on a menu anywhere else.

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If you are concerned about drinks, there are few alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to choose from. There are some drinks specific to the middle east such as the Turkish coffee and mint lemonaid. There is a small selection of beers (all listed seem vegan) and wine (Bonterra Chardonnay & Run Riot Pinot Noir) to choose from, which was interesting since the setting is so laid back. The place is a sit down restaurant, and someone will take you order and bring your food out. But the setting is a perfect mix of upscale and casual. There is even seating in the back in a little garden, but it wasn’t warm enough at the time.

I would recommend this place if you are up to trying out new cuisines. Authentic Middle Eastern restaurants aren’t always available throughout the USA. And I thought there was plenty of different options and variety for any vegan. What I really like is that all the food is vegetarian, and it might not seem so intimidating if you come here with an omnivore. There is lots of whole veggies and easily recognized foods that won’t be intimidating to anyone new to vegan foods.


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Heart Beet Kitchen

29 Haddon Ave Westmont, NJ 08108
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I think I am cursed. I lived in Philadelphia and went vegan. Although I had plenty to eat, it seemed that once I left so many all vegan restaurants opened up. Then I move out of the Haddonfield area and what happens? An all vegan restaurant opens up within walking distance of my house. I am very glad that veganism is speading, but I do wish these places would be available when I actually live in the area. And does that window reflection look familiar? Well, I reviewed that lime green store, Espressit, back in the day, as it has many yummy vegan options.

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But let’s talk about Heart Beet Kitchen because I really do love this place. It opened towards the end of 2015. They serve gluten-free and vegan meals that are locally sourced. The place is set up so you order at the counter, you get a numbered jar (with a napkin and utensils) and sit down, and your food is brought out to you. So it is a pretty casual setting that reminds me of P.S. & Co.

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The menu is mostly raw, and is very light. I got the peanut-free pad thai, and enjoyed it. The noodles were spiralized zucchini, edamame, marinated mushrooms, carrots, purple cabbage, peppers, sesame seeds, and tossed in a sauce. The meal was surprisingly filling and perfect for lunchtime. The price was a little bit on the higher end, but if price is a concern you can easily grab any of their salads which a little bit cheaper. Note- I am not saying that the price is particularly high for what you get, it is just a little bit more than what I am use to spending on such a casual styled setting.

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There is also a wide selection of drinks to choose from. This is the first place I’ve been to that has on tap kombucha. They use locally brewed kombucha from Inspired Brews in Philadelphia. If you check out their website you might see honey listed in the ingredients. I contacted the store owner and she said that they get specially made honey free kombucha. But I do give heads up that she said that sometimes they get requests from customers for other flavors that have honey. So if you are buying a bottle, check the ingredients to make sure there isn’t any honey. On tap kombucha should always be vegan.

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Not into kombucha? They have a list of different smoothies to order from and some fresh pressed juices that you can grab from the fridge. If you want something creamy they get almond milks made by origin almond milks, a South Jersey based company. I tried their dark cacao milk and it was very tasty and rich. If you want something hot they have coffee and espresso options using beans from Revolution Coffee Roasters in Collingswood and a variety of teas. Need a drink on the go? There’s maple water and boxed water (I think).

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What I really like about this shop is the atmosphere. The owner really spent some time and money to make the place look amazing. I could picture myself coming again and getting just a drink and sitting down with a book. They are very animal friendly, and I saw people bring their dogs in briefly to pick up some food. The whole place was a big departure as I’ve gotten use to the more “junk food” vegan culture with places like Blackbird, Papa Ganache, Glory Donuts, VLife, and Dottie’s Donuts. Everything is light and super vegetable heavy which is something that can be hard to find when eating out. 


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Papa Ganache

106 Main St, Matawan, NJ 07747
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It is weird that I get so excited about vegan bakeries but always get reminded that I don’t actually liked them much? I think it has to do with the fact I grew up with home baked goods. I never really got the prepackaged cupcakes or cookies, so maybe I lust after bakeries since it was something my friends always did. Or maybe it is because I grew up in a very heavy Italian area and just never liked those cookies? Or that I am super specific about what I want from a baked good? Who knows, but what I do know is that we need someone else to bake a cake for special occasions from time to time. When I had my wedding, I remember trying to find a place to bake our cake, I wanted to go with a vegan only bakery. There wasn’t anything nearby so we went with a regular bakery that was happy to make a vegan cake, and it was awesome. But if this place was open at the time, I would of been super happy to have the cake made by them.

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Papa Ganache is located in Matawan New Jersey near one of Alexa’s favorite bars, so you could always plan a dinner of cupcakes and grab some beers afterwards. The store participated in Cupcake Wars, and have won! It is the People’s Choice Awards episode, if you are wondering. The bakery does catered events, special orders, and sells wholesale baked goods as well. They also make some gluten free goods, though they are not an exclusively gluten-free kitchen. Not into baked goods? There is a small selection of savory foods you can pick up at the store. There are some soups that you grab and go, and their website lists other meal options. We personally didn’t see many options but we came later in the day, so you might have to get there closer to lunch time or special order them.

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They have a huge selection of different baked goods to choose from, including an apple pie pizza. But seeing how they won cupcake wars we figured we should stick to their classics. They have a massive amount of cupcakes to choose from but we narrowed it down to two- the creme brulee and s’mores. The frosting was super whipped and kept it’s structure. We were pretty excited and ate the cupcakes fast, but if you are eating there, I would recommend letting your cupcakes sit for a little bit so the frosting softens up. 

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I personally liked the creme brulee cupcake the best. I like the frosting to cake ratio. They also put a small layer of sugar on top and melted it, so you get a delicious burnt sugar topping. Alexa was a little bit bias with the s’mores cupcake since it is her favorite flavor for everything. We both thought there was a little too much frosting on top, but still super yummy. We also got a sandwich cookie for Alexa’s mother, which she seemed to enjoy a lot. 

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And if all these baked goods didn’t put you in a sugar coma, they offer lots of vegan candies. Getting a stomachache yet? I actually liked this idea because they carried Premium Chocolatiers, an all vegan candy shop based in New Jersey. They are very allergy friendly, having nut and gluten free factory. You might of seen some of their candy from Vegan Cuts but if you want to buy it person, this is a place to go. I personally find their chocolate too sweet, but are great for little kids. 

Overall, I don’t see myself going to this bakery often since I am not a sweets sort of girl. But they do know what they are doing and have classic all American baked goods. I always love the idea that bakeries give a person the option of just buying one cupcake instead of making a batch of 12. I also know where to go for my next cake for a special event.


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Indeblue

619 Collings Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08107
205 South 13th Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
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I’ve been a long fan of Indeblue. I remember visiting it with Jon and his father when it was starting out in it’s first small location, which is just across the street from their current location in Collingswood. I went with my husband and my Father-in-Law, my Father-in-Law just went nuts with ordering. I’d be looking at the menu and say I was thinking about ordering the soup, and BAM he would just order the soup for us to try without me deciding if I really wanted it or not. I don’t think I actually had a vegan dinner, as it was years ago before I was fully vegan. Since then they’ve moved to a much bigger building and had expanded their menu. They also have a location in Center City Philadelphia, but I haven’t visited it. Why would I? It is much easier to go to the one in Collingswood. So how vegan is it now?

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Very vegan friendly. They might not have a massive selection of vegan options, but there is enough that if you go in you will have some choices. We went during a Sunday for their brunch and we were pleasantly surprised. If you want to drink for brunch, prepare before hand. Collingswood is a dry town, so you need to bring your own booze. This can save you some big bucks on the overall menu. Most places in the town are prepared to make cocktails for you if you bring your own drinks. They have a bloody mary that was to die for. I loved it so much that I had to make my own at home. The only downside is that there is a lot spices in there and the drink is really thick. I didn’t know at the time that worcestershire sauce is used in bloody marys, so if you are interested, make sure you ask. You can buy it by the glass or pitcher. If the bloody marys do use worcestershire sauce, you can get orange and mango juice that you can mix with some vegan champagne.

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What I really like about IndeBlue is that all their vegan options are labeled easily along with gluten free options. Some of them overlap. They even list things that are easily made vegan so you can just state “make it vegan” when ordering, you know instead of saying “instead of no cheese and mayo can I….” Once you look at the menu you then realise you have tons of options to pick from. I know Jon and I had a hard time picking what we wanted when we got there.

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I got the chole bhature made vegan, pictured above. I was so hungry that I didn’t ask what made it non-vegan. The end results was super yummy, but very spicy. There is a big puffy piece of bread that I spooned the chickpeas onto. The chickpeas were in a curry sauce made from tomatoes and a pomegranate juice, balancing the spicy, sweet, and sour flavors into a delicious brunch. This was super filling, and I actually took some home to eat later.

My husband got the uttapam, pictured below. Uttapam is a lentil pancake, that comes with two different chutneys to dip into. My husband loved the savory pancakes, and appreciated having some protein in a normally carb heavy breakfast food. in fact he was a little too stuffed by the end of the brunch.

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One thing I can say is that the menu can vary greatly between the Philadelphia location and the Collingswood location. A lot of restaurants do this because the cities have different markets, and it also keeps things a little interesting between the two places. It does also appear that the Philadelphia location does have a liquor license so they have a few cocktails to choose from. If you go during dinner time there is an entire section of vegetarian dishes, make it easier to select your main dish. But if you go during lunch your vegans options are very limited unfortunately.

Personally I love the idea of an indian brunch. I am not a big brunch fan, and usually favor more lunch like options. So coming here is a great compromise. And as mentioned, the vegan options make it easy to pick because nothing is more annoying than having to ask the waiter a bucket full of questions.


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Blackbird Pizzeria

507 s 6th St. Philadelphia, PA, 19147
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Blackbird Pizzeria opened up my last year of college. I vaguely remember spending my last few months of my senior year hearing about an all vegan pizza place. As many vegans may know, people get things confused, maybe they meant all vegetarian or organic. I was in disbelief that there would be a vegan pizza place, especially considering that at the time vegan cheeses were pretty pathetic (and that wasn’t that long ago!) We heard a bunch of people say things like “I THINK it is on 6th between South and Pine….” and I would walk right by the place.

So fast forward to the future, I get my shit together and go full vegan. I heard all my friends who live in New Jersey talk about all the great vegan places in Philly. Clearly I missed my opportunity to try lots of fun new restaurants. But one place that got mentioned often was Blackbird. Then it hit me- it was the pizza place that refused to believe in! In my defense, people were right in which store it was, I was just scared. When I went the first time it all seemed so familiar, walking down 6th street staring at the store front, was it even open? Apparently. And it still is.

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Today Blackbird Pizzeria is an important part of Philadelphia’s vegan scene. The place is always busy, and has no frills. The place really punk, and my husband and I joked that it was filled with some stereotypical punks, vegans, and hipsters. But their customer base is really diverse with a large range of people coming in. Our most recent visit included a woman who came in with her 12 month (or less) baby, several single guys, a young couple, and large group of two families. The owner encouraged some of his workers to make vegan donuts, and started a business named Dottie’s Donuts who started by distributing donuts throughout Philly. They are now going to open a shop in West Philly, which I will be sure to review when it opens up. But for now I wrote what I thought of the donuts in my review of Grindcore House.

So what should you expect when you come? Well there is take out and tables to sit at. There isn’t anything glamorous about their set up. There is one bathroom, the sink is outside of it (which is brilliant!), you can even see how they set up their soda machine. The goal of the restaurant is just to provide awesome food, not create a specific atmosphere. It is an order and sit sort of place. They will bring your food out once you order, and usually as the food is ready so don’t be surprised if you get your single pizza slices before your wings.

pizzas

So what is available? They basically have pizzas, calzones, a few pan pizzas, hot sandwiches, a few cold wraps, salads, and seitan wings. They do have some sweet sold in the store and are kind-of done at random and on a first come, first served basis. You can pre-order desserts online. One of their popular desserts is the compost cup, where it looks like a plant is growing a cup full of dirt. I assume it is made with ground up oreos. I regrettably should of gotten on for the review. The soda selection is from Maine Root Sodas, they are all pure cane sugar based, fair trade, and made in the USA.

Before I talk about the specific foods, keep in mind restaurants change their menus all the time- at least good ones. “Really?” you might think, but it is true. It is a sign that owners are willing to improve recipes, and adapt to any changes in the public tastes. So if I post saying there is a certain type of pizza and it isn’t there when you go a year from now, don’t be too surprised. I know from reading old reviews of Blackbird there was a portobello mushroom melt, and it is nowhere to be found on their current menu.

cheesesteak

Since I knew I would be making a review of Blackbird I figured it was time to try something other than the pizza. I see that Blackbird always tries to win best veggie cheesesteak in Philly, in fact they won in 2014. Apparently they changed their recipe since that victory, but it still rocks. I never gotten a “real” cheesesteak before since I was never an all meat sandwich type of girl, but this is one you shouldn’t miss. The sandwich features seitan that was made on location and thinly sliced just like a traditional cheesesteak. There is a yummy cheesey sauce with some grilled veggies in a crispy grilled roll. It is heaven. I think next time we go my husband might want to get this sandwich instead.

Other hot sandwiches? There is a chicken parm, a fried chicken sandwich, and a cubano made with tofu. They have two cold wraps if that is more your style, but truthfully you can a vegan wrap almost anywhere. Can you get a hot crunchy vegan sandwich anywhere else? Not as common.

wings

If you are the sides type of person you have a few options. You have some non-traditional healthier vegan ones like a side of sauted kale, side salad, and chickpea salad. But you if you want traditional pizza food you can get some french fries, cheese fries, or seitan wings. The wings are super noteworthy because they are just amazing. There three different sauces to choose from- smoked habanero, root beer BBQ, or spicy sweet. I assume the smoked habanero is closest to a buffalo styled wing, but I like how they have other options to pick for people who are a little more heat sensitive.

Now I’ve had vegan wings from Good Karma, and yes they were tasty, but nothing compared to these. If you don’t believe me, they were ranked as top 10 wings in the United States by PETA. They were even trying wings from non-vegan restaurants. Blackbird takes their homemade seitan and makes them have enough surface area to get a nice crispy outside. When eating them you get the same crispy and meaty variety that you would get with real wings. We were feeling a little crazy and tried their root beer BBQ and it was fantastic. I’ve always wanted to try that southern sort of BBQ that uses soda to sweeten the sauce, and I wouldn’t surprised if they got really close to that.

pizza

So now let’s talk pizza! This is what Jon and I normally get after walking 5+ miles to the art museum and back. These are honestly my favorite pizzas in Philadelphia, vegan or otherwise. I remember really missing pizza during my college days and part of the problem was that I didn’t order out often and I had high standards to live up to. The dough at Blackbird is crisp on the bottom and chewy in all the right ways. Not too much daiya (which I find most pizza places sprinkle WAY too much on) and excellent toppings. These are the various pizza’s I’ve tried, and I have yet to be disappointed.

  • Balboa PizzaRoasted cherry tomato, seitan sausage, baby arugula, pumpkin seed pesto, tofu ricotta, chili flakes, olive oil
    This one is my personal favorite. It is more like an artisan pizza with the arugula, ricotta, and cherry tomatoes. It all works perfectly with each other.
  • Brunchbird PizzaTofu scramble, crispy coconut bacon, sauteed spinach, garlic butter, daiya cheese
    This is the pizza that gave me the idea to put tofurky deli slices on pizza. This is a joy to eat, and you can order this any time of the week or day (I’ve heard some places make them weekend exclusive)
  • Haymaker PizzaSeitan sausage, red onions, garlic butter, tomato sauce, daiya cheese, fresh oregano
    This is the pizza pictured above. My husband loves the seitan sausages. This is a great pizza for anyone who use to love a typical meat lovers pizza.
  • Funghi PizzaAssorted exotic mushrooms, fresh thyme, truffle oil, garlic butter, mozzarella style daiya cheese
    I love mushrooms, so I really like this pizza. So creamy and the mushrooms were tender. I particularly like how they switch up the mushroom selection and don’t use canned mushroom. Yuck.
  • Marinara Pan PizzaTomato sauce, roasted cherry tomato, fresh oregano, sliced garlic, olive oil
    I still have a soft spot for a tomato pie. Apparently it is a New Jersey speciality, and I’ve grown to like it since I can’t do the whole cheese thing. This definitely will fit that bill if you are craving some good old tomato sauce.
  • Nacho PizzaAvocado, caramelized onions, Jalapeño peppers, tomato sauce, cheddar style daiya cheese
    I am still unsure how I feel about hot avocados. This was really awesome but truthfully I think I would just ask for no avocado, or have it subbed with something else

I think many vegans already know this, but Disney is a pretty rad place to be a vegan. No it isn’t 100% perfect, but when you go to restaurants they are incredibly helpful to work with restricted diets. I hear stories about people making reservations ahead of time, just so a specific vegan meal can be made for their visit. So when I went to Florida to visit family this year, we stopped by Disney Springs before heading home. Here is a summery of some of the vegan options I encountered. Please note Disney is known to change things around often, so some of these options could change by the time you visit.

If you are wondering, what is Disney Springs? It use to be called Downtown Disney, which is self explanatory. It is a fake little “downtown” market where there is no admission, free parking, but is filled with tons of stores and restaurants. There are a few other activities like live performers, a movie theater, amphicars, and world’s saddest little train. It is a pretty cool place to stop at if you get into Florida too late to warrant paying for a ticket to one of the parks. In our case we needed to wash away all the wholesome family togetherness with some pure flashy commercialism. If you are visiting Disney World I think this post by Vegan Cowgirl gives a pretty wide range of vegan options that are available throughout the park.

image credit Disney World official website

image credit Disney World official website

Earl of Sandwich

Marketplace, Disney Springs, FL
website

We needed a dinner pretty fast so we ate at Earl of Sandwich. It is a chain of restaurants, so if you are familiar with it, you probably already know what your options are. The place is pretty busy, but there is a great assembly line so everything runs super fast. I was also a little surprised that my food turned out the way I asked even with the super long lines and super busy workers. So if you are looking for a cheaper option, you are doing pretty good with this location. 

I ended up getting the Hot Veggie sandwich, sans feta and Mediterranean dressing (I assumed wasn’t vegan). They have mustard at their little prep stations you can add some on your own or ask them to sub the Mediterranean dressing for something else, which I did. I found the sandwich really satisfy and yummy. They have other options that you could make vegan, such as Berry Chicken Almond Salad, Thai Chicken Salad, Thai Wrap, and Greek Salad, all sans chicken and cheese. I would double triple check with the staff if there is honey in those salad dressings to be 100% sure.

image credit to Huffington Post

image credit to Huffington Post

Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC

The Landing, Disney Springs, FL
website

Okay this was the place I was most excited about visiting at Disney Springs. If the name sounds familiar, it is probably because Erin McKenna is known for her New York City vegan gluten-free bakery Babycakes. Somehow I have never been to her New York City bakery, but have heard a lot of hype. So I was super excited to give the place a try, especially during a weekend where I had to ask so many questions about what was in my food.

We went towards the end of the night, so I had slim pickins. I ended up getting a coconut soft serve ice cream, half chocolate and half vanilla. The ice cream isn’t listed on their website’s menu, but it is totally real and super yummy. I found that the mix of chocolate and vanilla took away from the chocolate flavor, so if I had to do it over again, I would pick one or the other flavor. I also got their cookies and creme donut (which I don’t see listed…) And I have to say, the donut lived to the hype. It was so yummy, perfectly sweet, and I had no clue it was gluten-free. I really wish I could of tried one of the cupcakes, but they only have vanilla left at the end of day *yawn* Not for sweets? They have vegan savory options, but probably are only available early in the day, such as veggie biscuits and bagels with vegan options. I love these type of shops where there are friendly to vegans and other food restrictions so I can come in and just choose something.

as you can see, totally slim pickins

as you can see, totally slim pickins

What is even more rad is that the baked goods are found at other spots in Disney. I won’t list them on the blog incase they change, but the different locations are listed on Erin McKenna’s website. The main options are chocolate chip cookies and mini brownie cupcakes and seem to be mostly available at the resort locations.

juyjuy396664Jock Lindsey Hangar Bar

The Landing, Disney Springs, FL
website

I love cocktails. So does my family. This is a great place to get a vegan cocktail. The place is suppose to be a bar opened by the fictional Indian Jones character Jock Lindsey. It had been awhile since I’ve watched the movies, but my older sister recognized some of the movie references. First let’s start with food. I personally didn’t get any, so I didn’t verify. But you probably have some options. Snack of Ra is a mix of African and Indian cuisine with a salad, and naan and injera crisps. Ask the waiter, you probably would have to ask for all injera crisps and no naan. Tanis Tacos are falafel tacos, one site showed it with a yogurt sauce drizzled on top, so ask the waiter if there is any and if it could be omitted. The place is set up to be like a bar, so food isn’t what you should be focusing on- it is the drinks.

I know a lot of vegans don’t drink because of health reasons or personal preference. Which why I kind-of like this place. There are non-alcoholic options for drinks, 4 in total, all looking pretty vegan. So which drinks are vegan? Well note that I am making this list by checking barnivore. If the liquor in a cocktail is not listed on the site I am assuming it to be vegan. I put a * next to the drinks that didn’t come up on the barnivore search, feel free to take another look incase they updated their database. If the beer or wine didn’t come up in the search I didn’t list it. Descriptions of cocktails are from their official menu

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COCKTAILS

    • AIR PIRATE’S MULE – Knob Creek Disney Select Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon and fresh Lime Juice topped with Fever-Tree Ginger Beer
    • BAM’S BARNSTORMER – Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, Fever-Tree Ginger Beer, and fresh Lime Juice
    • GERMAN MECHANIC – Bavarian Radler a.k.a. “Shandy” with Paulaner Hefe-Weizen and Simply Lemonade®
    • HAIL MARTY – Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey* bottled in Bond served with an Ice Sphere
    • HOVITO MOJITO – Barson Quebranta Pisco*, fresh Lime Juice, Mint, and Simple Syrup topped with Soda Water
    • PANCHO’S MARGARITA – Don Julio Reposado Tequila, Grand Marnier, and fresh Sweet-and-Sour
    • FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH – St. Augustine Florida Cane Vodka*, Bols Blue Curaçao, White Cranberry Juice, and Sweet-and-Sour
    • REGGIE’S REVENGE – Florida Cane ‘Orlando Orange’ Vodka*, Midori Melon Liqueur, White Cranberry Juice, and fresh Lime Juice
    • THE SCOTTISH PROFESSOR – Monkey Shoulder Blended malt Scotch Whiskey, Hendrick’s Gin, Pear Nectar, Simple Syrup, and fresh Lemon Juice
    • WRONG ISLAND! – Siesta Key Silver Rum*, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Tamiami Gin, Tippler’s Orange Liqueur, and Sweet-and-Sour with a splash of Coca-Cola®

BEERS

    • Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
    • Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale
    • Kingfisher Premium Lager
    • Lagunitas IPA
    • Orlando Brewing I-4 IPA
    • Paulaner Brewery Hefe-weizen
    • St. Bernardus Abt 12
    • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
    • SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale
    • Xingu Black Beer

WINES

    • Bodega Charcra Barda Pinot Noir
    • Flowers Chardonnay
    • Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawney Port
    • Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz
    • Jarvis Estate Estate Chardonnay
    • Meiomi Pinot Noir
    • Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne
    • Northstar Merlot
    • Santa Maria Reserve Merlot
    • Weingut Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett

My sister got the Cool-Headed Monkey which came in a cool glass. Sadly the Van Der Hum Tangerine Liqueur used in the drink was listed as not vegan on barnivore though I think that is because the wine made by the parent company isn’t vegan. So you could try it out. It was pretty sweet and fruity. I got The Scottish Professor (pictured above) and it was a classic cocktail. It is a really strong drink, just the way I like it. The drink reminded me of a whiskey sour, using the pear nectar to sweeten the drink. My other sister got the Singapore Sling (not vegan, Bénédictine Cointreau contains honey) which was pretty solid. My Mother got the Fountain of Youth which reminded me of the brightly color drinks from the 90s.

image credit Disney official website

image credit Disney official website

Paradiso 37

The Landing, Disney Springs, FL
website

Sadly when we went to Disney Springs it was the weekend of the Disney Marathon so the place was pretty packed. There was a weird waiting system to be seated, so ultimately we didn’t go here. But I found out that the go to vegan option in this place was a vegan burrito, which isn’t formally listed on the menu. The staff said that if need be the chef would come out and help find something that they could make for me to eat, which I assume will happen at any Disney location.

Even though I didn’t dine here, I figured this gives any vegan readers the option to eat at a sit down restaurant and not eat a salad. Other options: chips and salsa, guacamole (apps), house salad minus the queso, and seasonal fruit sorbet. There are also a bunch of seemingly vegan sides that you could get, though you would have to ask the staff. And I do know the veggie burger has cheese in it. For more options you can check out this post at Vegan Disney World, looks like Morimoto’s is the best sit down restaurant to dine at for vegans.


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VLife

348 7th Ave (29th&30th) New York City, NY 10001
website | facebook | twitter

New York City is known for it’s large selection of vegan restaurants. Even if you aren’t eating at an exclusively vegan place, many tend to have a vegan option. The only downside is that New York City, particularly Manhattan, can be very expensive. Sure you could go to Chipotle, but that wouldn’t be an exclusively New York or vegan experience. When Jon and I went into New York to celebrate Alexa’s birthday we wanted a cheap place to eat since we know we would be spending more than normal on drinks and karaoke. VLife filled that gap.

Oh boy are you guys ready for some great photos?! Well too bad. These were taken with my cellphone because I didn’t want to lug around an expensive camera while at a bar (we went to Ginger Man, which has a killer vegan black bean soup) I already get nervous with my wallet and cellphone! Sadly, it was night time so you aren’t getting the greatest shot of the entrance, and we were a little intoxicated by the time we stopped in so I didn’t have the will power to stop and take a good photo before eating.  That being said, enjoy the review.

wall

Just like my review of Beyond Sushi, this is another hole in the wall sort of place (if you notice I do these a lot, as we tend to eat out mostly when out and about). There were a decent amount of seating, but the lighting and environment wasn’t the greatest. You can at least give them some points for trying. The walls are white with bright green circles, so it isn’t the worst. It seemed that there were a lot of take out orders with people picking up, and delivery people picking up orders (which BTW, looks like they use a third party service, not sure which one though.)

If you aren’t aware of the location of the place, it is on Manhattan island close to Penn Station. So if you are going to Madison Square Garden or just getting off/to the train this is a quick place to go. Other areas you will be walking distance of (like 10-15 min walk) would be K-town, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Garment District, Empire State Building, and Times Square. If I was instructing a vegan who is heading into New York via bus or train arrive in Penn Station, I might suggest heading here first to grab a bite, then heading up north on the island to Central Park, Saint Patricks Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and all that fancy shit- but then again I don’t know what tourists do in NYC.

burger

We were pretty hungry when we headed in, so we ordered fast. Jon got the Bodacious Burger, which is a soy based burger. The patty was pretty good, and super juicy which I don’t get often in a vegan burger. The burger came with a side dressing/sauce to spread on the bun. But the burger was juicy enough on it’s own that we saved the sauce for the fries, which is ordered separately from the burger. We picked their cajun french fries (which doesn’t seem to be on their online menu) with their mild chipotle chili sauce. The fries were very yummy, and my husband LOVED the sauce. Personally I found it a bit too sweet, but still a fun way to switch it up from ketchup.

poboy

I just came back from my trip from Florida (and had so many salads) where my Aunt made everyone authentic po’ boys. Naturally I couldn’t eat the shrimp, so when I saw it on the menu, I figured I had to get it. It was a little disappointing. This is my first time having fake shrimp, and they were actually close to the real thing. Sadly there were some problems with the authenticity of a po’ boy. The shrimp was simply too big (they probably should of just chopped the faux shrimp) and the batter seemed to have a hard time sticking on the shrimp. I guess I shouldn’t of expected so much from a regional food. But if you look past that, the sandwich was pretty good.

What I like about this place is the price point and location. This is a great lunch stop for most NYC tourists. The prices are cheap for the city, leaving Jon with a $7 burger, and me with a $9 sandwich, and fries that were an undetermined amount (it could of been $2 to add to my sandwich, or around $4 as a side, I don’t have the bill with me right now.) The Happy Cow got a lot of mixed reviews on their site and I can see why. I would probably give the place a 3 out of 5 stars, but might come back for more. Most everything is mock meats on the menu which can rub people the wrong way, but I rarely cook with them so they are usually a treat for me.