Self-Love One Lunch Special at a Time
Vital Foods serves up gratifying vegan fare
With its bright, ever-variable menu of plant-based dishes, the offerings at Vital Foods, near Downtown on the Raynolds-Barelas dividing line, are clearly not for those performing self-flagellation. On a simple chalkboard menu over a small countertop, the shop lists its pared down fare—there are standard dishes of veggies and rice, soup and salads that can be order à la carte and a lunch selection that changes daily. I wandered in on a gray Thursday afternoon immediately after a rush and got the last of the lunch specials available, which speaks to the growing popularity of the place and the exclusive nature of some of its menu items. On this day that special was a garlic soy curl wrap with grilled red pepper, avocado and spring mix served on a thick, wheat tortilla. In addition to the wrap, I ordered the soup of the day, a curried potato and daikon medley, as well as the veggie and rice bowl which, on this day, was a blend of cauliflower, red onion, black beans and rice.
The hearty soup came out promptly with the main course and although served a little cool for my tastes, was delightfully spicy. To my surprise, I enjoyed the veggie and rice bowl more than the soup of the day. The rice was cooked to almost a glutinous texture and heaped atop it was lots of cauliflower and red onion. With condiments like salty Bragg's Liquid Aminos and parmesan-like, amino acid rich nutritional yeast (I'm swooning), simple dishes like this are what I'd cook for myself in a scenario in which I had a little bit more time to spend preparing my meals. I finished off my meal with a cup of Cinnamon 5 tea, one of the nine loose teas available at Vital Foods.
With its bright, ever-variable menu of plant-based dishes, the offerings at Vital Foods, near Downtown on the Raynolds-Barelas dividing line, are clearly not for those performing self-flagellation.
I'm not much of a sandwich person, but the filling of the grilled eggplant sandwich was rich and the wheat bread made the meal satisfying. I couldn't tell where the creamy garlic sauce ended and the eggplant began, and that is certainly not a criticism. Accompanying these elements was a tangy tomato jam that brought sweetness and complexity to the savory quality of the rest of the sandwich. The baked tortilla chips served on the side were equally satisfying, the kind of thick, unsalted, homemade chips that retain their strong corn flavor. The pico de gallo, served in a small porcelain dish with the chips was light and fresh, each bite conjuring sunlit tomatoes ripening on a green vine.
The foods showcased at Vital Foods are simple, smart and fresh, the kind of foods that I want to—and believe I could, even with my limited skills—prepare for myself. That might not necessarily be what everyone wants from a dining experience, but these healthy, robust dishes are elevated by the staff of Vital Foods, and are, at their core, what my diet aspires to. Simply put, it feels really good to eat there. Every meandering walk through my neighborhood to the plant-lined windows of Vital Foods feels like an act of self-love.
926 Coal Ave SW
Hours: 7am to 7pm, Monday through Friday 10am-1pm Saturday and Sunday