If Senator Cory Booker can be a vegan despite shuttling between New Jersey and Washington DC, anyone can. Whether you’re incorporating “Meatless Mondays” into your routine or you choose not to use any animal products whatsoever, there are plenty of eateries around Baristaville that provide a variety of delicious options for you and whomever you bring along for a vegan meal.
Upper Montclair has Veggie Heaven, and there are, of course, the ever-popular pop-up dinners with Sally Owens that offer vegetarians and vegans reliable options for lunch and dinner around town. But we are also lucky to have many more creative chefs cooking for us. We recently sampled a few of the offerings, and chose some of our favorite items to share.
Mundo Vegan, at 20 Church Street in Montclair, seems like the obvious choice for vegan fare considering its name. What remains a delicious experience for both first-time and repeat visitors is the variety of dishes Chef Fanny Fuentes-Phalon has on the menu. A favorite starter is the homemade Cashew Cheez with homemade bread. The cheez can also be ordered as part of a platter with dried fruit and olives. The creamy cheez is fantastic and the fresh bread is light and tasty. Local documentary editor Carla Gutierrez recently tried the Picadillo, an original entree with a diverse collection of flavors. “I loved the combination of flavors; it was hearty and delicious.” The Picadillo combines onions, tomatoes, potatoes, green olives, herbs and spices with pea protein crumbles. With a choice of beans, a side of rice, and a serving of avocado, it’s the definition of a well-rounded entree. The homemade drinks are a full-fledged part of the Mundo Vegan menu. The homemade limeade is summery and tangy, and the cold-pressed juices are refreshing, healthy and tasty. Sweet tooth? We highly recommend both the rich brownie and the organic lemon quesadilla, which is a Salvadoran-style sweet bread.
Vital Dining, at 387 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, proved to be a most welcome surprise for vegan fare. Its tagline: Fresh. Creative. Jamaican. hints at a healthful menu, but diners will be happily satisfied with modern, vegan twists on Jamaican comfort food. Chef Kwame Williams is a longtime vegan, and his wide experience and experimentation with multiple versions of dishes shows in a delicate, wonderful balance of flavor. Every meal begins with a complimentary serving of plantain chips and Vital Hummus made with black-eyed peas. And for those wanting more appetizers, all the soups are vegan, as is the the creamy, spicy Callaloo Dip, and the satisfying Stuffed Avocado (which is filed under salads, but can almost be an entree!). Several delicious vegan entrees grace the menu, but the standout dish is the Cassava Dumplings, available on the dinner menu. The sun-dried tomato sauce resists being overly sweet, and the dumplings are perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. The spinach and stewed peppers and onions finish off the dish with a perfect addition of savory texture. Special mention goes to a side dish: the vegan Macaroni & Cheese. Jennifer Gannett, Montclair resident and long-time connoisseur of vegan food, couldn’t stop eating it. The creaminess that comes from cashews barely hints at a nutty, curried flavor that you’ll crave until your next visit to Vital Dining. The homemade Sorrell is a must-try, but don’t miss Chef Williams’ vegan take on Jamaican Carrot Juice. By switching out condensed milk for almond milk, he has created a healthy, delicious version of a nostalgic treat.
For a more casual vegan meal, Verona’s Positivitea, at 550 Bloomfield Avenue, is a tasty spot focused on burgers, wraps, and teas. The Big Bean Burger is the most popular menu item for its delicious combination of ahi sauce, mustard, vegan cheese, miso spread, and fresh lettuce and tomato. But it’s the Da Schnitzel, made with the popular black bean patty that creates the biggest impression. Served on a pretzel bun, with lettuce and tomato, spicy mustard, and sauerkraut, as well as a homemade relish of pickle, onion, and cucumber, this dish is a satisfying and exciting meal. The large menu of blends, smoothies, and teas guarantee there’s something for everyone. True to the Positivitea name, the drinks are named after positive affirmations. We were tempted by I Am Awesome with its apple, cucumber, and lemon combo, but we especially liked I Am Grateful, which combines cucumber, honeydew, and mint in a refreshing, cold drink.
It’s a boon to our area to have a wide variety of vegan cuisines and flavors to enjoy. Add to this list! What are some of your favorite vegan dishes around Baristaville?