First, I have exciting news. My mom reads my blog posts! Apparently, Rusty’s Salmon is not a Rusty original. It comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Now to vegan soul food….
A couple months ago, a vegetarian friend of mine recommended a vegan soul food restaurant to me. I had no idea that was possible! My experience with soul food has generally involved fried chicken drizzled in honey, collard greens cooked with pork, buttery mashed potatoes and gravy, and mac & cheese. None of these things are meat and dairy-free. I just HAD to check out a place that does a vegan interpretation of soul food.
I dragged K-Hon with me on Sunday to Everlasting Life Café, located at 2928 Georgia Avenue NW, near Columbia Road. The outside of the restaurant looks a little dicey, but as soon as you walk through the door, the experience is a delight.
At the back of the dining room, there is a juice bar where you can order unique and delicious sounding shakes and smoothies like the Almond Joy (freshly ground almonds with soy and coconut milk), Carrot Nog (freshly juiced carrots, creamy soy and coconut milk), and Tropical Paradise (strawberries, bananas, mangos, and pineapple juice)—to name a few (small $3.85; large $6.60). We did not order any smoothies or juice on this visit, but based on the quality of the other food we tried, I imagine they are quite good.
Just past the bar, you step into a back room with a hot and cold bar and a grill for ordering sandwiches. You order your food there, pay for it at the register, and then seat yourself in the dining room.
One of my favorite things about this restaurant is that they give first-time customers a sample of most of the foods in the hot and cold bars (I must confess—this was actually my second time eating here, but it was K-Hon’s first, so I didn’t feel bad about sharing the samples with her). Our server loaded up a container with mac & cheese, collard greens, ginger stir-fried tofu, broccoli, zucchini, mock chicken salad, carrot salad, marinated kale, spicy tofu, seaweed and live stir fry (a combination of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and peppers in spicy vinaigrette). K-Hon and I each liked different items in this smorgasbord of samples. I loved the ginger tofu, carrot salad (very sweet), and collard greens. K-Hon liked the marinated kale, mock chicken salad, and spicy tofu. We both really enjoyed the mac & cheese and seaweed. Everything was fresh and delicious.
I was tempted to order a full meal from the hot bar (an entrée with 2 sides is just $9.80), but I was really intrigued by the fake meat sandwiches (I have an admittedly weird obsession with fake meat). Our sandwiches took some time to prepare, but one of the staff generously offered to bring them to our table when they were ready.
I ordered the Steak & Cheese Sub for $6.50. The grilled vegan steak is topped with peppers, onions, mushrooms, soy cheese and mustard, and served on a homemade sub roll. I liked the flavors of the veggies and mustard, and the bread was very good (soft and a little sweet), but the vegan steak was unfortunately overcooked and very crunchy.
K-Hon ordered the Garvey Burger for $5.50. The menu’s description reads “Seasoned with an array of herbs and spices, the tantalizing taste and texture of this handmade patty topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and our savory sauce is sure to satisfy.” It was definitely one of the best soy protein burgers I’ve had in a restaurant. The patty was thick and the texture was fairly close to that of a real burger. It also had a really nice flavor (I wouldn’t describe it as beef, but it tasted good). And, the bun was really delicious. I was impressed by the bread on both sandwiches.
After we had already placed our order for sandwiches, a couple came into the restaurant and ordered 4 Fried Chick’n sandwiches ($5.50) to go. They explained to K-Hon that these were the best sandwiches they’d ever eaten, and they had driven over 60 miles to come to the restaurant today. I definitely have to return for one of those!
The restaurant also has an ice cream machine by the cash register, where they make homemade, soy-based ice cream, with a different flavor every day. (The cashier is awesome and doubles as the homemade ice cream guru. She makes up the flavors in her head. Last time, I sampled a Mint Chocolate flavor and a Carrot Spice flavor. Both were very tasty.) When we paid for our food, the ice cream was not yet ready. However, one of the servers unexpectedly brought over a sample for us while we were eating our meals. The flavor of the day was Strawberry Colada, and it was delicious! I could tell they used fresh strawberries in the preparation. So, K-Hon and I decided to order dessert. The small serving size proved to be HUGE, and enough for both of us to share.
I’m so happy I took this adventure into vegan dining. The front of the menu claims “Green Never Tasted So Good!” and I agree. The food is satisfying, fresh, and very affordable. The staff is among the friendliest and most helpful I’ve encountered at a restaurant. There is so much more on the menu I want to try, including their assortment of baked goods and desserts, and their rotating daily specials at the hot bar. I have every intention of returning—definitely more than once, probably on a regular basis.