However, I don’t mind trying something different. A good majority of my friends are vegetarians/vegans or don’t eat gluten/red meat. As a result, I end up at vegetarian places more often than not. Or I end up ordering tofu or tempeh or un-chicken just so everyone at the table can try whatever I ordered (and in exchange I can try whatever they got.) This trend landed me at Peacefood, a vegan café, last weekend. I was meeting a high school friend for dinner and she was eager to show me the place after eating there the previous week. I agreed and caught the 1 Uptown.
The restaurant itself was easy enough to find. It was a quaint green corner shop that fit the vegan image to a T. However, it wasn’t as cute once we got inside. As soon as we got in the door, we were practically on top of someone’s table. There was no room to move. I know it’s New York and space is hard to come by, but wow this place was cramped. After awkwardly excusing our way around several tables, I managed to find standing room by the register and take-away counter. Surveying the restaurant, I watched the patrons and waiters, feeling a bit like that scene in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
No one seemed to notice that we were standing there. We stood for a few minutes watching people eat and reading spare menus, before one waitress asked if we had ordered take-away. We shook our heads and said we were waiting for a table. She nodded and went back to the register. After a similar conversation with another waiter resulted in us still not getting a table, it was clear no one was going to seat us so we grabbed a table ourselves.
One waiter noticed we had taken the vacant table and came over to take our order. Half way to our table, he noticed we didn’t have menus and grabbed two for us. The menu had sandwiches, paninis, vegetables, side dishes, salads, soups and a raw sections. At first glance, I felt safe and confident that I was going to find something to eat. As I read, my friend told me about Peacefood’s butternut squash soup and chickpea fries, which she had ordered before. Some of the menu items included ingredients that neither of us recognized and required a quick google search, but we managed to navigate the menu and pick a few items out. We agreed on chickpea fries, a pizza from the raw section, tamales and a vegan chili. I was most intrigued by the pizza, which was listed as “buckwheat, sweet potato, flaxseed crust, topped with red bell peppers, olives, onions, basil and choice of marinara sauce or pesto.” It was either going to be really good or really bad.
We managed to flag down our waiter and order. As he was writing everything down, he asked if we had any questions about the menu. It was a nice gesture, but about ten minutes too late. I noticed a large bowl of what looked like curry pass behind him, and pointing asked what it was. He said, “Oh that’s from our special’s menu. You didn’t get one?” I shook my head. He gave us our menus, shouldn’t he know that? Not wanting to wait any longer for my meal, I gave up on the mystery curry and ordered a gingerade instead.
The wait for our food wasn’t bad. Probably because only some of what we ordered required to be cooked. The chickpea fries arrived first. They were scalding hot, but really good. They left me optimistic for the rest of the meal. That feeling faded when the pizza arrived. I looked down at what looked like birdseed spread with tapenade and topped with an entire raw onion. Yum? I ended up picking off the olives, while my friend picked off the onions and we both left the “crust” alone. The soup came next. It was another bright point in the meal. My friend and I ended up fighting for it, after noticing neither of us liked the pizza. It was a genuinely good chili, but then again how can you mess up tomatoes and beans? The cornbread that accompanied the soup was dry, but went nicely with the chili. The tamales were passable, but mostly because they were one of the only cook items we had ordered and we were both dying for something warm in our stomachs.
Overall, I think we would’ve done better if we had seen the specials menu. A menu should be able to stand on its own, without specials, but maybe I just don’t have the palate for standard vegan food. In my mind I keep trying to redeem the restaurant somehow, but for me the food wasn’t good enough to make up for the hipper-than-thou vibe or the inattentive waiters. However since my visit, I’ve heard good things about the baked goods. Maybe I should go back and just order dessert?
I’m just glad my experience at Peacefood didn’t alter my life dramatically. I didn’t leave with a deeper understanding of vegetarianism or renewed guilt about the meat industry. If anything my meal made me feel like more of a carnivore than ever before. I left fully convinced that I always want my food completely cooked and preferably made of animal. I’m sorry I’m not sorry. I’m just not sure I want to “eat differently” again anytime soon.