By Stacy Perry
Located about 3 miles off I-75 on Clark Road, Smell the Bread walks the talk! This cozy place is committed to environmental and ethical stewardship, from their GMO-free pledge to their locally-sourced coffee roaster; and yes, the coffee is fair-trade and organic. They offer several vegan sandwiches (served on bread made in-house), a daily vegan feature Monday through Friday, and vegan salads with house-made dressings. If you’re traveling with a meat eater, Smell the Bread also offers a handful of items in which certified humane-raised chicken is the focus; this can also be added to any salad for an additional cost.
When I was there last, I ordered the Harvest Roast Panini and my dining companion ordered the vegan feature of the day, the Meatball Sandwich with homemade ricotta and pesto. Their six regular plant-based sandwiches range from $7.95 to $8.95, their daily vegan specials are $8.50.
Last week I was hospitalized for a recurrent problem created years ago by an inept surgeon who cut the wrong body part. I was hooked up to IV antibiotics and given medication for pain. For me, the big question was, “What am I going to eat?” Hospitals vary in the quality of food offered. One of the most prestigious hospitals in the country where I once had the misfortune to become a resident has offered some of the worst food on the planet. I was not a vegan when I first had surgery but I was nevertheless shocked to see quality of the food served to me at each meal. Eggs and bacon, fatty sausage gravy and biscuits, red meat, fried chicken — foods which are more likely to send someone to the hospital rather than aid in recovery. We do not have to be stuck with these unhealthy food choices while our weakened immune systems are trying to recover.
Situated approximately 45 miles southwest of Boston just off the Mass Pike, Worcester, Massachusetts, is both a crossroads and destination city. It’s a convenient connecting point between Boston to the north and Hartford and New York City to the south. Students from around the country and the world attend its many colleges and universities, including Clark University and the College of the Holy Cross College. The Worcester Art Museum is a must-see and Mechanics Hall, one of the top four concert and arts venues in North America, hosts musical events year round. Worcester is also home to a number of fabulous restaurants, including EVO Dining, an award-winning eatery with an eclectic menu that features tasty vegan and vegetarian fare, as well as gluten-free and meat-based dishes.
Founded in 2008 by Albert Maykel III and his sister Celeste Maykel-Zack, EVO is adjacent to Living Earth, a grocery store, specializing in healthy, organic products, which was established by the parents of the Maykel siblings more than 35 years ago. Albert is well-known in the area as a master chef and was honored as Worcester’s Best Chef and Iron Chef Champion in 2013. The restaurant was voted the best overall restaurant in 2012 and 2013 and the best vegetarian and organic restaurant for five years straight.
EVO’s interior is spacious and the décor contemporary. Two large brightly lit, bubbling water panels behind the bar mesmerize patrons, and the open kitchen is full of hustle and bustle as the cooks serve up a wide variety of dishes. We were assured by our waitress that vegan and vegetarian offerings are prepared in a separate area from the meat dishes. Upon request, most menu items that contain meat can be prepared as vegan or vegetarian entrées. She also mentioned that the wait staff is specially trained so they can knowledgeably answer questions concerning EVO’s various vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options. Finally, she noted that much of the produce the restaurant serves comes from local farms, including one owned and operated by the Maykel family.
Because there were two of us for lunch, we sampled only a few dishes. We started our meal with the Golden Vegetable Egg Rolls ($9), which consisted of crispy fried wonton skins filled with carrots, cabbage, onions, celery, and spices, and accompanied by a citrus-infused ponzu dipping sauce. Each crunchy bite was worth the price.