The Rutherford Pancake House

Ah, vegan brunch…one of my favorite things! Breakfasts at restaurants tend to be heavy on eggs, cheese, sausage, and bacon, but I’m seeing more and more places offer vegan brunch options. One of my favorites is the Rutherford Pancake House.

It’s not a diner, but has that casual vibe. It’s not totally vegan, so they do have the usual breakfast fare, but there are lots of vegan options as well. My favorites so far are the vegan pancakes and the Vegan Roman Tofu Scramble.

Each week they also offer a special flavor of vegan pancake such as Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, Apple, Lemon Chiffon, Cranberry Orange, Oreo, Tiramisu, or Chocolate Avalanche. They have vegan pizza, quesadillas, nachos, sliders, among other tasty options. You can get soy milk for your coffee and vegan butter if you ask, and they have gluten free options as well.

Right now they are only open for brunch until 3pm, but they will soon be expanding their menu and staying open for dinner as well. They have a count down going on their Facebook page and in their front window. 17 days! I for one can’t wait. New York has a lot of vegan options, but on this side of the river the choices are a bit scarce.

Rutherford Pancake House is the perfect place to go with a  group of vegans and non-vegans because everyone will find something they’ll enjoy. The owners and staff are very friendly, and the food has been good every time I’ve eaten there.

Francia – Korean Vegan Cafe

We went into NYC today to see Wicked. For some reason I hadn’t seen a play on Broadway yet, so it seemed about time to go see a show.

Afterwards we decided to try out a restaurant we haven’t been to before called Franchia. It’s a vegan cafe that has “Korean inspired Asian fusion vegan cuisine” according to their website. The atmosphere was really nice, peaceful and relaxed, but still had a fancy feel to it. There are three tiers of dining levels, draped fabrics, and simple Asian design, which I love.

We ordered two “small plates/quick bites” as they call them, the crispy scallion pancakes and the soy ‘chicken satay’ sticks with barbeque sauce. We were almost brought down by the metal chopsticks. I’ve gotten much better at using chopsticks after a long lesson at a restaurant with one of my friends a few years ago, but I’d never encountered metal chopsticks before. They’re so slippery! I really liked the scallion pancakes and would get them again. They came with a tasty soy and scallion dipping sauce. The ‘chicken satay’ sticks were decent, but they didn’t stand out as something special to me. Also, the sauce didn’t taste like barbeque sauce to me, more of a peanut sauce maybe.

As an entree I ordered the Soy ‘Beef Cutlet’ Stone Bowl. In the menu they claim the stone bowl comes “out sizzling hot to create a layer of delicious crispy rice all around the bowl”. They’re not lying when they say it comes out sizzling, you can literally hear the sizzle…and I have a burn on my wrist to prove it! Injuries aside, the presentation of the appetizers and the entrees was really nice. My entree was also decent, but not special. I haven’t had much Korean food before, so I wonder if Korean food just isn’t my thing, or if I just need to try other things on the menu. The food was made well, but just wasn’t really my taste.

The atmosphere was really nice though, and there are other menu items that look intriguing to me like their dumplings, their wide tea selection, some of their noodle dishes, and banana fritters on the dessert menu. I would definitely go back for another try.

Blackbird Pizzeria

One thing that can be hard to find is really good vegan pizza. Most vegan cheese is just not that good. Daiya cheese is the best I’ve had, but it’s only good in small quantities and has to be melted enough.

If you’re craving pizza and you’re in Philadelphia, you have to go to Blackbird Pizzeria. Even though I live near New York now, I still go back when I can. I just went last weekend while I was in town. They have by far the best vegan pizza I’ve tried. Everything on the menu is vegan, so it’s nice to be able to order whatever you want without thinking. It’s a casual place where you can order at the counter by the slice or order a whole pie. They also have sandwiches, salads and desserts from Vegan Treats.

This time I tried a new slice I haven’t had before. It’s called the Haymaker, and it has garlic butter, seitan sausage, onions, tomato sauce, and fresh oregano. The garlic butter adds an extra layer of flavor that’s really good. I would definitely get it again.

I have a few favorite menu items I get often. The pepperoni pizza is awesome. It’s simple, but so tasty. I’m not sure what kind of vegan pepperoni they use since I haven’t found something comparable anywhere else. I wish I could track it down to use at home. If you’re more in the mood for a sandwich, I would recommend the chickpea salad hoagie. It has artichoke and fresh dill in it, which is a really good combination. I’ve recreated this at home and will share that recipe with you sometime. I would also recommend their hand cut fries which are made fresh to order. Again, simple but so good!

I’ve brought vegans and non-vegans here, and it’s always gotten great reviews. Another upside is that it’s not too expensive, especially since eating at vegan restaurants tends to be a little pricey. It’s definitely worth a stop, or two, or three, if you’re in Philly.

A Vegan in Germany

I love to travel, but traveling as a vegan, especially in a foreign country, can be a challenge. A trip I took through Southern Germany in March was a lot of fun, but vegan options were at times hard to come by. Germany is a meat heavy country, with wurst (sausages) pervasive in many meals.

Hunger inspired a few desperate moments of creativity. At a hotel in Munich, I used the hot water kettle in the hotel room to boil some broccoli and ramen noodles, which I then drenched in soy sauce. It wasn’t the best meal I’ve made by far, but when you’re hungry after a long day of few food options, it tastes pretty good.

Luckily, I did find one vegan restaurant in Munich that was a haven. It’s called Max Pett. The menu is all in German and the waitstaff spoke little English. I was able to muddle through with the German I learned in high school to figure out roughly what the menu items were. Since everything was vegan, it didn’t matter. Whatever I ended up with would be a hot meal and a far cry from my boiled broccoli and ramen noodles. What I got was called “Spinatcurry mit Tofu, Pilzen, Kirschtomaten und Basmatireis”, roughly translated to Spinach Curry with Tofu, Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basmati Rice. It was very tasty and a welcome relief from scrounging for meals in grocery stores. I ended up going back to Max Pett again even though I only stayed in Munich for two days.

Since I went during the spring, I was able to visit the Viktualienmarkt in Munich. This was one of my favorite destinations on the trip. They had beautiful displays of fruits and veggies, flowers, and cute little straw animals.

What helped me through the trip was planning ahead and doing research. Peanut butter and jelly and protein packed granola bars were a staple. Look up vegan or vegetarian restaurants before you go and bring addresses and phone numbers so you can get there easily. Find out the words for vegan, vegetarian, meat, eggs, and dairy in the language of the country you’re visiting so you can decipher menus. Check to see if your hotel has a microwave and refrigerator, which makes buying food and saving leftovers easier.

Though international travel as a vegan can be tricky, it’s doable if you plan ahead. I made it through, albeit slightly hungry some days, but happy and well-fed others.