Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Thyme, Newark, NJ

Upon landing at the Newark Airport in Newark, NJ, I did a quick Google search for vegan in the airport. Lo and behold, I found that there was a vegetarian restaurant in this airport. Despite all the horrible reviews, I wanted to try something there. And it was conveniently located at the gate at which I was departing. It couldn't have been any easier.

Thyme is a small cafe in the airport. Apparently, the owner of Dirt Candy, a vegetarian restaurant in New York, partnered with United Airlines and OTG to create a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in this airport. The only problem is that nothing is labeled as vegan or not.

Upon entering the restaurant, which is really self-service, I asked the hostess what was vegan. She had no clue and didn't seem to care. I asked if she could check with the chef. The chef came out and was incredibly helpful. She basically said almost all of the salads, sandwiches, and entrees could be made vegan.

I ordered the Mushroom Tacos made with oyster mushrooms and topped with thinly sliced red onions, microgreens, and tomatoes in a flour tortilla. They were good, but didn't taste that fresh. The mushrooms were somewhat lukewarm and the tortillas tasted like they'd been reheated on a plane. I liked them, but they definitely need something else. I did order them without the creme fraiche as that is not vegan. And for $13.50, I expected a little more.

The bad reviews tend to focus on the lack of service and I'll agree. Newark does the iPad ordering thing. There is an iPad at the table and that's how you order. There really isn't any service other than the chef dropping off the food. That kind of sucks.

Other options include the veggie burger, green falafel sandwich, smoked beet club, spaghetti pomodoro, roasted maitake mushrooms, and other various salads and soups. I truly hope this restaurant survives, but adding an element of service and fresher food will definitely help this.

Near Gate C75
Newark Liberty International Airport

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pret A Manger, DC

The international cafe chain, Pret a Manger, has gone vegan-friendly! This is exciting for two reasons--they make really good food and they are located all over the place!

I headed to my local Pret a Manger to check out the many new vegan selections. This cafe operates like a to-go place even though you can take your to-go items and eat them at the cafe. Everything is prepared in advance and available in the hot or cold areas. There is no custom ordering.

The first thing I tried was the Mediterranean Mezze Salad. I loved this salad and I didn't even realize that I could have chosen a dressing as well. Loaded with falafel, butternut squash, beet hummus, beets, mesclun, harissa, chickpeas, mint, and pomegranate seeds, it was delicious. The beet hummus had enough flavor to carry the dish without additional dressing.

Excited about this dish, I went back to try another. The Miso Sweet Potato Bahn Mi was even better than the salad. On a fresh French baguette was miso-marinated sweet potato, cucumber, carrots, pickled cabbage and carrot, sesame seeds, cilnatro and mint with vegan mayonaisse and chipotle sauce. So much flavor, so little time.

Other vegan items include Miso soup, Moroccan Lentil soup, Spicy Black Bean and Mango Wrap, and the Turmeric Tofu and Sweet Potato Balance Box.

My favorite part? Everything is labeled as vegan or not in the store and online. They make it so easy to choose vegan and eat delicious food. With a drink, meals range from $8 to $12. And I love that they offer some natural drinks like Ginger Beer as well.

Nice work--Pret. You are winning at the fast casual vegan-friendly game! Recommended!

Pret A Manger
(many locations)
1825 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Pret A Manger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Honeygrow, DC

Recently, I started receiving updates of a new vegan-friendly fast casual concept in DC called Honeygrow. I received so many that I decided to go there and check it out.

Honeygrow is a concept that was founded in Philadelphia in 2012. Since then, they've expanded up and down the east coast and as far midwest as Chicago so they must be doing well. Upon entering Honeygrow, it immediately felt very stale to me. There is little seating despite a fairly large space. And you order using iPads--no talking to anyone.

That said, the walls are covered with some cool artwork and a plaque states that the artwork is DC-inspired. I failed to see the connection, but enjoyed the bright colors anyway.

There are two items that are clearly listed as vegan, which are the Vegan Kale salad and the Red Coconut Curry. I decided to try both on different occasions.

On my first visit, I ordered the Red Coconut Curry. I tried to customize it by subbing the rice noodles for udon noodles and changing a few ingredients, but I inadvertently omitted the tofu. Sigh. Despite that, I loved it. The coconut curry sauce on the udon noodles with broccoli, jalapenos, mushrooms, beans sprouts, scallions, and cilantro was delicious! The only thing I didn't love was the old-school-style Chinese carry-out container despite the fact that I was eating in. I would have much preferred a bowl.

I also had one of their fresh-pressed green juices called, "Green is Good," made with apple, spinach, cucumber, lemon, and basil, which was great.

On the next visit, I took the Vegan Kale salad to go. When I got home, I must say I was disappointed. I have two comparison points--Chop't and Sweetgreen. Sweetgreen is amazing and Chop't is not. But, the point here is that this salad did not compare to anything Sweetgreen offers. It was smaller, there wasn't enough dressing, the dressing didn't coat the kale well, and the dressing wasn't spectacular.  There also wasn't enough in the small bowl. There was kale, organic roasted spicy tofu (which wasn't that spicy and way too fried), apples, carrots, roasted beets (tasted like canned beets), red onions, and radishes. It was pretty boring, actually.

And they charged me 49-cents for bread, which is petty on a $11+ salad.

The prices, overall, were pretty high. So, while I enjoyed the coconut curry stir-fry, I think they have a lot of room for improvement. If Sweetgreen didn't exist, I might have rated this salad higher, but you need to keep up with your competition. So step it up or step it out. And please get rid of the Chinese containers. It sucks to eat stir-fry out of them. We put up with them from a dive Chinese place with $5 meals, but if you are charging over $10 for a stir-fry, we expect a nice bowl instead.

716 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 804-4282

Honeygrow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thai X-ing, DC

Thai X-ing has consistently been rated as one of the best Thai restaurants in DC. It has been touted by critics all across the city as exceptional. And, yet, I had never been. They serve a vegetarian prix fixe menu on Sundays and Tuesdays, which aren't typical nights that I eat out in DC. So, when my good friend told me she was moving to Amsterdam and we had only Sunday to get together, I suggested we go to Thai X-ing!

At this time, their Florida Avenue location, which I believe was the original location, was closed. So, we made a reservation for 6 p.m. at the 9th Street location.  When I arrived, they had just opened and they let me know right as I walked in that there was no meat tonight. Yes, I know.

They seated me at a table on the top floor by the window. I was surprised at how little English the servers spoke. I let them know I was vegan and they assured me it was all vegetarian. Right, but I want to be sure it is vegan. Sigh. I just had to trust that someone understood me.

We both ordered glasses of wine and immediately food showed up. They brought out several dishes at a time. This continued throughout the prix fixe meal.

It started with a spicy soup, which was quite tasty. 

Along with the soup were two salads--a noodle salad and a rice salad with black bean sauce. Both salads were good, but not mindblowingly so. I was already disappointed. Not only was I disappointed with the dishes, but also at the lack of good service. Bringing four dishes out to people at a time and waiting for us to finish, only to bring the next round of dishes is not exquisite service by any means. I felt like they couldn't wait for us to eat and get out.

Next, came a dry tofu salad that was meh.

There was a pumpkin curry wrapped in some sort of leaves that was outstanding.

There was a pineapple and taro root dish that was fine.

And a Pad Thai that was, well, boring.

Finally, the sticky rice and mango came out and that was good, but it's always like every Thai restaurant.

Honestly, I find it hard to even write this review because they brought things out so quickly and said what everything was very quickly, then walked away--it was hard to catch the names of the dishes we were eating.

I guess I should have known as I was initially put off by the email confirmation of my reservation that stated that they expected me out of there by 7:20 p.m. for a 6 p.m. reservation. That's insane.

For $30 per person plus tax and tip, you get a crapload of food. Some of it is good, some of it isn't, and one thing (the pumpkin curry) is outstanding. None of it warrants a high tip for service though. And I enjoy my dinners at other Thai restaurants where you aren't served way too much food, the servers speak English, and where I feel welcome to take my time and enjoy my dinner company. Not recommended.

Thai Xing
2020 9th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-43222

Thai X-ing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Arches Thai, Moab, UT

In search of new places to try, we decided to check out Arches Thai in Moab for a quick lunch. We arrived just as they were opening and had our choice of seats.

Outside, the design makes you feel like you have arrived at a hut built out of the red rock that Moab is known for, but, inside, it's more of a log cabin feel with a big, brick fireplace and simple wooden tables.

A Singha beer was the nice crisp beverage I needed on this 100-degree day.

I ordered the Spicy Basil that was loaded with green beans, onions, bamboo shoots, greens, tofu and peppers. It was excellent -- as spicy as I like it and with a lot of flavor.

This was a quick meal as I was heading to the airport, but it was great and the service was great too. I look forward to coming back here again soon.

Arches Thai
60 N 100 W
Moab, UT 84532
(435) 355-0533