Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or just looking to try a new restaurant, NuVegan Cafe deserves a place on your Baltimore bucket list. Located on St. Paul Street, this newly opened spot makes for a convenient lunch between classes or a casual dinner option.
NuVegan boasts an entirely vegan menu specializing in soul food: Think barbecue tofu, mac and cheese and cornbread. Like many fast-casual locales, most of the dishes are on display, allowing you to order with your eyes. After scanning the myriad options, my indecisive self found it nearly impossible to decide on just one to try — all the food looked fresh and tasty. Thankfully, the menu permits mixing and matching, so I was able to sample multiple dishes. I ordered the vegan mac and cheese, collard greens and Southern-style sweet potatoes. Accompanied by friends from Real Food Hopkins, a student group devoted to furthering sustainable food practices, others tried the crab cake sandwich, “ribs,” lasagna and barbecue tofu, all free from any animal products.
In less than 10 minutes, the cashier announced that the food was ready. We picked it up from the counter and seated ourselves. Larger than it looks from the outside, the restaurant holds about 10 tables in its back room in addition to a cluster of couches in the front. On this particular Saturday night, only a few parties were dining in, making it easy to find seating right away even for our big group.
Excited to try everything, I quickly snapped a picture of the spread before we began to devour the heaps of food, pausing only momentarily between bites to praise its flavor. In my opinion, the vegan mac and cheese stood out as the highlight of the meal, an opinion seconded by many. It was simultaneously creamy and dense, as any quality mac should be, and the noodles were not overcooked. When I saw the generous serving, I anticipated having leftovers, but it was too delicious not to finish on the spot. The sweet potatoes were likewise to die for; they were tossed in cinnamon and nutmeg and soft enough to melt in your mouth. And finally, I loved the stewed collard greens, a comforting Southern staple that is hard to find in vegan form.
The crab cake sandwich and ribs received top-notch reviews from friends. The crab cake was reported to be crispy on the outside and mimicked the flavor of crab perfectly. A thick layer of vegan tartar sauce pulled the entire sandwich together, adding moisture and enhancing its authenticity. The “ribs,” likely veganized by using textured vegetable protein in place of meat, were lathered in a rich barbecue sauce that we couldn’t get enough of. While meat eaters might feel skeptical about tasting vegan ribs (I don’t blame you, given what Fresh Food Café serves on Meatless Mondays these days), take it from a non-vegan that came along: You won’t notice the difference. The ribs’ texture was perfect, fooling some into thinking they could have been legitimate. Though not the top favorites, the lasagna and barbecue tofu were nonetheless flavorful and filling.
After inhaling our meal, we couldn’t pass up on trying the vegan desserts available despite our full bellies. We decided to split a piece of the homemade strawberry cheesecake and an enormous cinnamon bun. Unsurprisingly, they were both delicious, especially the cheesecake. I implore you to try one of their desserts when you go, especially if vegan baking is new to you (don’t knock it till you try it!).
Overall, my friends and I enjoyed our dining experience at NuVegan and are already planning our next trip back to explore the rest of the menu. I’m already dreaming of the mac and cheese and we’re itching to try their weekend brunch, which features vegan waffles and breakfast burritos (my favorite!). In addition to food, the cafe hosts a smoothie and juice bar with customizable blends that range from a cleansing carrot-ginger juice to a decadent peanut butter cream shake, all dairy free.
Vegan or not, take it upon yourself to give this new local restaurant a shot. Beyond delicious, the food served is good for your body and good for the planet. Located right alongside Homewood Campus and reasonably priced, what do you have to lose? NuVegan Cafe presents a fresh and convenient addition to the Charles Village dining scene, deserving of a visit by all.
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