Being a vegan is a much easier task when in NYC than somewhere else. Street corners bustling with upcoming hipsters, PETA supporters, and health food junkies have called for more and more vegan options lining New York City’s busy sidewalks. James and I are not vegans, but a close friend of mine is and often it is hard for us to choose a restaurant where the food tastes great without tasting like grass. We stumbled across Peacefood Cafe on the Upper West Side and I recall my nervousness entering through the hunter green paneled glass doors, staring at a large selection of vegan sweets ranging from vegan carrot cake to oatmeal cranberry cookies, and wondering if the food would be worth my time and money. To put it shortly: yes, totally worth it…after a few tries.
The dimly lit atmosphere and mirage of garden-esque features, such as plants, spiraled vine-like shelves, and mirrors, fosters a casual yet romantic atmosphere and emphasizes Peacefood’s very green menu. After being seated and waiting near 20 minutes for a waiter to order, I finally opted for the tahini sprouts sandwich amongst the other tempting options of vegan lasagna, pizza, and variety of paninis. Perhaps that was not the best choice for a meager newbie vegan consumer. The plate looked appealing, with toasted spelt rye bread surrounding mixed sprouts, avocado, cucumber, and shredded carrots. However, as I took a bite of this vegetable stuffed sandwich, I could not help the feeling of the cold sprouts hitting the palate of my mouth, which inevitably left me with the feeling that I was eating, essentially, grass. Although the tahini sauce made the sandwich edible, it was still hard, conceptually, to grasp what I was eating. As if the food was not giving me a hard time, it took another 20 minutes to get the attention of the waiter for a refill on my glass of water.
Fortunately, I ordered the chocolate ganache cake, which was an absolute vegan heaven. Every chocolate morsel melted in my mouth; I couldn’t even tell that the cake was vegan. My friend ordered the strawberry shortcake, with its tart icing and crumbly pound cake bottom it pales in comparison with the chocolate ganache, but still has a sweet and tangy taste that would go great with a cup of soy milk.
My first impression of Peacefood Cafe was not completely a pleasant one as I was ready to strike this restaurant off as another vegan restaurant whose food does not provide enough savor and flavor to satisfy a meat lover. However, due to laziness to find another restaurant, my vegan friend and I landed back to Peacefood several times after that where I experimented and tried the Mediterranean oven-dried seasonal vegetable panini, pan-seared shanghai style dumplings, and the mushroom duxelle pizza, all much better options than the tahini sprouts sandwich. Each of these dishes were hot, cooked properly, and had consistencies that resembled that of meat (excluding the pizza of course, which just tasted like a normal slice of pizza) and could satisfy any meat lover, at least momentarily before downing a slice of chocolate ganache cake.
All in all, I am glad that I went back to try more options. With each visit, the food progressively tasted better, or it could be the fact that I was getting more and more accustomed to their style of preparing vegan food. While the service was never any better than my first experience, at least the time I spent waiting to either be seated or for the waiter to take my order gave me more time to think about what I wanted to order. If you are a vegan, this restaurant is perfect because its selection cannot be beat, especially for their sweet treats. However, for a meat eater, be more cautious when looking over the menu. For anyone not feeling completely adventurous, you can never go wrong with a salad; after all a salad is practically all greens anyways (I recommend the other caesar salad at Peacefood). I doubt that I would drag James, my carnivorous better half, to Peacefood. If you have a vegan friend in town and you are a meat eater, Peacefood Cafe is a great option for treating your friend, but there is a possibility that, depending on your choice, your entree may dissatisfy your taste buds.
As with all restaurants, some options taste wonderful while others…taste like grass.
Overall Rating: 11/15
460 Amsterdam Avenue New York, NY