Strong Hearts Cafe is a particularly delightful find. Vegan restaurants are not always my favorites as they tend to use a lot of highly processed meat substitutes, rather than focusing on healthy vegetarian fare. While there is plenty of this at Strong Hearts Cafe, it is largely a restaurant which focuses on healthy, delicious vegan food. The vegetables are locally sourced as well as their organic tofu. We brought Rich’s nephew John, his wife, Tina, and their two daughters, Maria and Angie as our guests to try out this restaurant. They are all carnivores and each commented how much they enjoyed the meal. Strong Hearts Cafe is the only all vegan restaurant in Syracuse. It is conveniently located right off Interstate 81.
The breakfast menu is extensive from French toast and waffles to “egg” muffins, tofu scrambles and freshly baked muffins.They offer several tofu scrambles ranging in price from $5.50 – $7.00 for the fully loaded scramble. Angie ordered the French toast which was decadently delicious at $5. You can order fruit on top for an another $1. Maria, order the blueberry muffin, $2. A different kind of muffin is baked fresh every morning. They only bake a dozen and when they are gone, they’re gone.
John had the grilled portobello salad, which was a hearty dish of fresh mixed lettuces topped with grilled portobello slices which have been marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh herbs. It is topped with grape tomatoes and bean sprouts with a balsamic vinaigrette. It is reasonably priced at $6.75 for a large salad and $4.25 for the smaller version. He also had a small serving of the soup of the day, $2.
Tina had bowl of the soup of the day ($5) which was a spicy black bean and butternut squash with celery, onions and bell peppers. It had a nice little kick but wasn’t overly hot. It seems the daily soup can be anything. What we had was certainly delicious.
Rich and I shared the grilled portobello salad and roasted veggie sandwich with hummus on toasted pumpernickel bread. It was filled with roasted red peppers, zucchini and squash with lettuce, onion, tomato and homemade hummus. The roasted veggies were flavorful and cooked to perfection and the toppings crisp and fresh. There is a wide array of salads and sandwiches. The salads range in price from $3.25 to $6.75. The sandwiches range from $3.00 to $8.25, most are around $6.75
There are numerous sweet treats and side dishes, coffees, teas and soy milk shakes. Overall, the prices are reasonable, the food is very good as witnessed by the steady stream of happy diners coming and going. I watched a bearded gentleman lick his fingers with an expression of ecstasy as he polished off their famous Reuben sandwich.
Pizzas are offered on Fridays only from the hours of 6pm – 2am. Their pizza prices range from $12 – $28.
Strong Hearts Cafe is open from 8am-12am Mon-Thurs and 8am – 1am Friday-Sunday. If you are searching for vegan food in Syracuse, your search is over. There is surely something to suit your palate at Strong Hearts Cafe.
Today, May 11th, Charlotte VegFest celebrates it’s second annual gathering of health and animal rights enthusiasts. It is held from 12pm to 5pm off Commonwealth Avenue in Plaza Midwood in Charlotte, NC. Rich and I made the rainy 3 hour trek to Charlotte with high hopes but low expectations. After all, it’s only Charlotte’s 2nd VegFest. We were delighted to discover at 12:30 the place was already packed with vegans, vegetarians and the veg-curious sampling the wares of venders offering raw cookies, juice bars and vegan salads and pastas. We visited organic spice purveyors, yoga instructors, macrobiotic chefs, raw and vegan chefs and numerous animal adoption and rescue agencies. There were also recycling and green energy agencies represented. The turnout was fantastic! Every hour or so there were speakers discussing issues concerning health, fitness, and what we as individuals can do to reduce global warming. Shabaka Amen (Fitness & Nutrition), Dr. Michael Smith (Naturopathy Physician), Leilani Munter, race car driver, and Gene Baur (co-founder and President of Farm Sanctuary) were on the program. We connected with numerous establishments which cater to the plant-based diner and have plans to return in the near future to do restaurant and chef reviews as well as cooking videos. Even the weather cooperated! Just as we tooled into Charlotte and found a good parking place, the skies cleared and we enjoyed a sunny day made perfect by a light breeze. On the way out we stopped and had a fantastic vegan lunch at Fern. Just the ticket after a long drive and a few hours perusing the tents at the Charlotte VegFest. We are already looking forward to next year’s festivities!
While we love the Barter Theater and continue to support their fine actors and performances, we unfortunately have to remove them from our food blog. At an opening performance of The Blonde, The Brunette and The Angry Red Head, we stopped in to have dinner at the Barter Cafe. We were disappointed, to say the least, that the Barter no longer carries any Vegan or Vegetarian options. I can’t imagine what lead to this decision but until they see the light and add vegan options to their menu, we can no longer carry them on our site. C’mon Barter! Step up to the plate!
I am excited to share with you pictures of my new vegetable steamer created by Virginia potter, Debbie Grim Yates of Grim Pottery. It is both beautiful and functional. Just add a couple inches water to a medium stock pan. Set the steamer on top and fill it with your favorite steamed veggies and put on the lid! You may want to put in your longest cooking veggies first, such as carrots and potatoes and add the quick cookers a little later. Bring to a boil and in a few minutes you have wonderful steamed veggies. The steamer is so lovely, you can serve directly from it. What I like best about it is you don’t lose the wonderful nutrients which are released from the vegetables as they cook. Most steamers have holes in the bottom so these nutrients are lost into the water of the sauce pan. In this one, the steam is released in a hole in the lid and the juice from the vegetables is saved with the vegetables. This has become my favorite new cooking tool!
Tonight’s VegBoone pot-luck meet-up celebrating Earth Week was held at Watauga County Public Library in Boone, NC. It was a smashing success! Jasmine ShoShanna gave an inspiring talk on how we can heal our planet while healing ourselves. She talked about the importance of composting, conserving electricity and little things one can do routinely which will make a huge impact on preserving our planet. Around 40 people attended with lots of great food and lively conversation. We were pleased to see so many new young faces among the crowd. Jeanne and Larry Kaiser’s hard work in publicizing VegBoone is paying off in spades. Check out the photos!
There has been some interesting new research on the link between Alzheimer’s disease and diet. Dr. Neal Barnard, a nutritional researcher, talks about this on this video clip which is an excerpt from one of his lectures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJta5XRR_nc
The name of his new book on the subject is:
Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory by Neal Barnard (Feb 19, 2013)
En-route to visit Issei Noodle restaurant in Carlisle, PA, we ran across Appalachian Whole Foods Market, right across the side street from Issei Noodles. The market opens onto a corner and you are immediately greeted by its owner, Sandy Zell. The store is larger than it appears from the outside. It is quaint and rustic and a pleasure to peruse.
What is unique about Appalachian Whole Foods Market is that it is entirely vegetarian, though not necessarily vegan. We noted quite a selection of bulk bin items, Sandy says there are over 200 bins of organic dried beans, nuts, grains, flours and spices. There wasn’t a lot in the way of fresh produce, at least at this time of the year. When spring produce is ready to be harvested these items will no doubt appear in greater numbers. I noticed fresh eggs, a large supply of organic onions, some greens and herbs. There was also a wall of refrigerated items. We did note fresh breads, plenty of supplements, body products, essential oils, incense, candles and organic grocery items, including gluten free products. She also carries a selection of books on health, specialized diets and vegetarian cooking.
Sandy is an affable woman and will answer any questions or concerns you may have. She can also direct you to neighboring veg-friendly and vegetarian restaurants.
If you are traveling on Interstate 81 and need to stock up on supplies, chances are you can find what you need at Appalachian Whole Foods Market.
Indian-American Cafe is one of the loveliest surprises we’ve found in our search for good vegan cuisine. It is located on a corner at a red light on 91 N Main St. in Harrisonburg, VA, (off Interstate 81). From its pedestrian exterior one would never expect to find such good food and such a lovely couple creating it. John and Rameshori Shrestha are the genuine article. I observed John, his face radiant as he greeted each of his customers by their first names, a sturdy hand reaching out in a welcoming grasp. He knows them all and they know him. John’s wife, Rameshori, makes you feel as if you are a member of the family. “You’re welcome anytime,” she says warmly, making you feel as if this is where you belong.
The name Indian American is a bit confusing. What is served is actually the cuisine of Nepal. The food is similar to Indian cuisine with numerous vegan offerings. They do carry a few American lunch items but none of it is vegan. What you will find is some of the most flavorful Indian fare at the best prices we’ve found anywhere. The owners have been at this location for 21 years now and have a loyal clientele. While we were waiting for our food, we asked several customers how they enjoyed their meal and how often they come to eat at Indian American Cafe. To a man, they love this food and have eaten here at least twice a week for years.
American Indian Cafe has a thriving carry-out business as well. One gentleman was introduced to the place by a nearby hairstylist eight years ago. I believe the hairstylist has moved on but this gentleman has not. He has been coming to Indian American Cafe twice a week ever since and has introduced many of his co-workers to the restaurant. Often, he and his co-workers will order from the restaurant en mass for carry-out.
John and Rameshori Shrestha, are from Kathmandu, Nepal, which is bordered in the north by China and by India in the south, east and west. Much of the Nepalese cuisine attests to its Indian influence in the similarity of spices and vegetable combinations though there are some differences. One obvious difference is the spiciness of the cuisine which is kicked up a couple of notches in Nepalese cooking. If you order level two in spiciness, prepare to drink a lot of water. Order mild and that is what you’ll get. Even if you like it spicy, I would still stay on the lower level of the menu’s heat indicator until you know what level you can handle. The Nepalese take their spices seriously.
Another difference is the reduced amount of oil in their dishes. I really appreciate this fact as many, if not most, restaurants seem to equate fat with flavor. The dishes have a clean fresh taste which sits lightly on the stomach while continuing to please the palate. Nor are they inundated with salt, another ubiquitous restaurant habit.
So, what did we eat there? Nearly everything! It was all so yummy! We arrived in time for a late lunch ordering from the lunch menu. I had Alu Saag, ($6.50), a potato and spinach curry which was divine and Rich had the Vegetable Brianni ($7.50) a curried rice with raisins, almonds and cashews. We tried most of the vegan dishes, taking stacks of boxes home with us. All but the rice dishes were served with a generous portion of rice as a side. They were all spectacular!
We had the mixed vegetables with herbs and spices ($6.50), The Dall Saag ($6.50), which are yellow lentils and spinach in a curry with herbs and spices. OMG!! This was wonderful!! The Shmi Alu (6.50) are potatoes and green peas with Indian herbs and spices and Alu Miatar, ($6.50) are potatoes, green beans and green peppers in a curry blend. There is also a vegetable fried rice ($6.50). The Cobi Alu ($6.95) is made of cauliflower cooked down into a almost creamy texture with chunks of potato, peas, onions, and tomatoes with Indian spices. Each dish was better than the last and nothing fell short of just plain good eating!
We tried a couple of the breads, many of which are vegan. I had the Naan ($1.75), which is addictive, while Rich ordered the Chappati ($1.75). Try the tomato chutney. It is a new experience and was recommended to me by one of the customers. We loved it. Also good is the mango chutney. Coffee was served in individual carafes, enough for two cups.
The dinner menu ranges from $8.95 to $10.95. The dinner portions are much larger portions, though the lunch entrees were very substantial. I can’t imagine finishing a dinner meal.
One thing to note about Indian American Café is they do not accept credit cards. Cash and check only helps them to keep their prices low and keep them operational. It is definitely worth this small inconvenience. This is a restaurant we hope to visit often when our travels take us up and down I-81.
Issei Noodle restaurant is a unique merging of cultures, authentic Japanese udon and ramen noodles side by side with Vietnamese Pho. The restaurant comes by it honestly as owners Robert Pham, is Vietnamese and his spouse and partner, Naomi Pham, is Japanese. Their two daughters, Chané and Tash create a perfect fusion of the two. This is a first generation family owned business.
Rich and I ate at Issei Noodle about a year ago when passing through Carlisle, Pennsylvania and have not forgotten the experience. It was reminiscent of our years in Japan where we often took a train to Tokyo just to slurp down a hot bowl of ramen noodles or udon with fresh vegetables. Imagine our delight to find an authentic Asian noodle restaurant right in the heart of Carlisle! This year as we made our annual trip to Central NY to visit family we made it a point to revisit Carlisle and to visit Issei Noodle. It did not disappoint. We even witnessed a young Asian man holding his bowl to his mouth and drinking the broth directly from the bowl in true Japanese fashion and other Asian customers sucking down noodles from heavily laden chopsticks making slurping noises which would have made our parents grimace. It was truly an authentically Asian experience though the restaurant was filled to capacity with western diners as well. Not all dishes are vegan, there are plenty of options for your carnivorous friends as well.
There are three vegan appetizer options. The first is a spring roll of lettuce, rice noodles, daikon and basil leaves wrapped in a rice wrapper and served with a plum sauce with peanuts for $4.00. The second is a vegetable gyoza, a fried crescent shaped pasta filled with tofu and vegetables served with soy sauce. You may also order boiled edamame.
For the entree, there are five vegan options.
I had the vegetarian Don-Buri ($9.00) which consisted of seasonal vegetables and tofu with a sweet house sauce over rice. I asked for extra vegetables and no tofu, which was no problem. You can add a side of miso soup for an extra $2.00.
Rich ordered the Yasai Udon Yaki ($9.00) which are pan fried noodles tossed with fresh seasonal vegetables in a creamy miso sauce. This had a curious flavor of cream and cheese, though there were no animal products involved. It was really quite delicious.
Rich and I usually share our meals. I couldn’t decide which I liked best, they were both so good.
The next day we decided to visit Issei’s for lunch. I wanted very much to try their vegetarian Pho ($8.00) as I am a great fan of Pho. We splurged and ordered three entrees including the Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho in a veggie broth with Asian mushrooms and an assortment of fresh vegetables, bamboo shoots, cilantro and green onions.
We also had a cold Vermicelli Noodle Salad for $8.00 which features rice noodles with sliced onions, lettuce, fried shallots, roasted peanuts, spearmint, cilantro, cucumber and bean sprouts topped with fried vegetarian gyoza served with ginger and a sweet soy sauce. I did not expect to like this as much as I did. I couldn’t imagine cold noodles as something so appetizing. It was great and one of my favorite dishes there.
The Veggie Tofu Ramen, at $9.00, was very good as well. These are Ramen noodles cooked with fresh seasonal vegetables, tofu and wakame seaweed. Needless to say, we practically waddled out of the Issei Noodles but we were a couple of happy vegans.
Issei Noodles is a must if you are traveling anywhere in the vicinity of Carslile, PA off Interstate 81. We plan to return as Robert and Naomi have agreed to do a cooking video for us in the near future.
For the vegan and veg-curious, there is no better way to sample a variety of great vegan dishes than by joining a local meet-up group. The best way to find one in your area is to simply google vegan meetups (your city). For example, vegan meetup Butler, TN. This brought up meetup groups in Boone, NC, Asheville, NC and Johnson City, TN, all of which we have become members. Participation in these potluck events are usually free or very inexpensive, depending on whether the group has to pay a fee for a venue in which to meet. I’ve never seen one charge more than $3. You are expected to bring a pot-luck dish which has no animal products in it whatsoever and will feed eight people. Usually, you also bring your recipe as well as your own place setting. This is a great way to experience vegan cuisine, gather new recipes of the dishes you enjoyed and become a part of a supportive group of like minded people. Occasionally, a group will get together to sample the vegan cuisines offered by local restaurants.
Yesterday, we were able to visit for the first time (due to the long drive) The Asheville Vegan Society’s luncheon at Suwana’s Thai Orchid. Suwana’s was one of the first restaurants we reviewed when we began our journey with Veggin’ Out & About. We learned yesterday she is in the process in opening up an Asian Noodle shop very near Suwana’s Thai Orchid. We are excited about reviewing this new find in the coming weeks.
The Asheville Vegan Society is a robust, laid-back group of vegans of all ages. We had such a great time and were welcomed like old friends. The food at Suwana’s was even better than we remembered. It was all so delicious and the service was fantastic. Thank you, Joe W. VeganMan for organizing this great event and this dynamic group!! And thank you, Suwana and her amazing staff for pulling it off so seamlessly!!