annie photo

I eat on the job.

i work with the menuism founders, so if you have any questions or comments, definitely send them my way.
i love reading vegan food blogs. i’ve also tested cheeseburger joints in dozens of states and a few countries.


Earwax Cafe

 1561 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL

Vegan Friendly, Eskimo Friendly

Pros: The decor is really fun, and the staff is casual but efficient. Our nice waitress let me order off the kid’s menu, despite the fact that I am not kid-sized.

I start with the good aspects of Earwax because I want to say something good about this place, but that good thing will not be about the food.

I ordered a mocha cappuccino, and it wasn’t as hot as I would’ve liked, but more importantly, it just wasn’t very good. Strange aftertaste. And the foam was more like a shield than anything.

Food-wise, I got a grilled cheese sandwich with soy cheese and fries. The sandwich just had a whole bunch of problems – again, it wasn’t warm enough, the rye (?!?) bread tasted too dry (not enough fat in the pan) and the soy cheese was just all wrong. Don’t get me wrong – I love soy cheese normally, but this sandwich needed some sprouts or tomato slices or avocado to spruce it up. Non-melted, lukewarm soy cheese on dry rye bread is just so tragic.

But the thing that got me was the boring fries. The serving was generous, but I got bored after my fifth lukewarm, dull fry. They tasted like the fries you buy frozen in the freezer section of a grocery store.

In conclusion, I’ll probably go back, because I want to support them and their plethora of vegan dishes, but next time, I won’t be shy about asking the server to stick everything – coffee included — in the microwave for 60 seconds.

Grilled Cheese

Not only is it boring, it just doesn’t taste good. No fat on the bread, room temperature cheese, and strangely, rye bread. On the plus side, they don’t charge extra for soy cheese.


Govinda's Gourmet To Go

 1505 South St
Philadelphia, PA

A Fun Veggie Experience

Determined to get a vegan sampling of Philadelphia before we left, my friend and I stopped in at Govinda’s Gourmet To Go. (Well, we actually got confused and went to the Govinda’s next door, which is a sit-down place that was absolutely deserted at 6 PM. It was creepily dark, and the entrees were really expensive. Soy duck? For $16?)
So we got things straightened out and ended up back to the more casual Govinda’s, and we ordered a soy philly cheesesteak with soy cheese.

First of all, it was good. The cheese they use is like a nacho cheese, very oily, and the seitan is oily, and the peppers on it were oily, so my friend and I were both a little stomach-achy when we finished, but that’s kind of the cheesesteak experience, right?
That being said.

A couple of problems: there weren’t really any side dishes (that I saw) beyond soup and salad. No fries or anything? Chips, even?
It’s a very, very casual place – honestly, a little too casual for me. Not a place to take someone you want to impress. We ate with plastic forks, we picked up napkins that were in a pile at the counter, and there were some flies in the place.

Service seemed friendly enough – when I dropped the first plastic fork that the guy behind the counter gave me, he saw it and handed over a new one without me even having to ask, which was sweet.

Philly Cheesesteak

Very oily, but definitely the experience you probably want from a cheesesteak. Not many peppers, toasted bread, tasty seitan. No sides. Bring a toothpick.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

A very solid vegan cheesecake (all the desserts are vegan) that tasted like apple and caramel. Nice crumble topping and crust. Go for it!


Taste of the Himalayas

 1700 Shattuck Ave, Ste A
Berkeley, CA

Curry That Won't Surprise

Taste of the Himalayas – as you can see from peeking in the windows facing Shattuck Ave – has a very old-fashioned look: big, heavy, wood-carved chairs, and oppressive decor. It’s intimidating.

Service was great (though we had a pretty early dinner and were sitting alone in the dining room, but still, attentive service) and the vegetables in my vegetable curry tasted fresh. But it wasn’t spectacular, or particularly memorable; I probably wouldn’t go again, especially considering the sheer number of restaurants in Berkeley.

ETA: Oops, forgot to add in the samosas in the dishes below, ‘cause duh, I didn’t actually forget to order them. Never forget the samosas. Sadly, they turned out to be pretty flavorless and I’ve had better.

(Like most Indian restaurants, and like many Berkeley restaurants, it’s very vegetarian and vegan-friendly; they denote the vegan items on their menu.)

Mismas Tarkari

“Seasonal” mixed vegetables cooked in an onion and tomato sauce. Tasted like your run-of-the-mill curry.

Lentil Soup

The flavors were all there, but it was more of a lentil broth than a soup – it was basically pureed beyond all recognition. I wish there had been more texture.


Morning Due Cafe

 3698 17th St
San Francisco, CA

A Cafe With Large Plates

The Morning Due is a cafe-ish setting that sends large coffees flying out from the busy counter. You can go there for caffeine, Wi-Fi, or the used books they sell; as a tourist, I was there for the food. It makes for fun people-watching – it had a relaxed feel, as people leaned over their laptops to chat with each other and eat big muffins.


I want to give this dish five stars, as it was a great dish – the burger came with a fresh wheat bun, lots of cheese and a red pepper aioli, a small green salad with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette, and oily oven-browned potatoes. But I hate, hate ordering Gardenburgers (as in, the ones you pick up from the freezer section of the Jewel) in a restaurant, and paying more for that one sandwich than I would for 2 boxes of Gardenburgers. Even though it’s just a cafe, if they can make an actual burger fresh (hopefully!) they should be able to throw together a homemade veggie burger.
I think veggie burgers are quickly becoming the bane of my existence. Still, I would recommend this one, especially in a pinch.


Cheeseboard Pizza

 1512 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA


I just wanted to chime in and say, yes, absolutely, so true, Cheeseboard is delicious. I would’ve waited in a line that stretched to Nevada for this pizza. Thanks for the recommendation, guys!

Pizza of the Day

I got the pizza with potato, onion, mozzarella, feta, cilantro, and lime. If you’re lucky enough to get this pizza? Consider yourself blessed.



 2451 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA

Vegetarian Cuisine, Upscale Diner

Herbivore doesn’t offer many surprises for the vegetarian foodie: they push the run-of-the-meal dishes that most vegetarian eaters have come to know and love (lentil loaf, anyone?) and they do it pretty well.

Some interesting exceptions:
They serve some veganize-d cocktails, like a mojito with agave nectar instead of sugar, and a irish coffee with soy milk and whipped cream (that I review below.) Their beer selection is also fun – think pear ciders, raspberry beers, and yes, they have pitchers of fat tire & blue moon.

Their desserts (because everyone always wants to know about the desserts) include vegan ice cream in flavors like mudslide and lemon poppy seeds. Also, they’ve got vegan donuts.

Their decor has kind of a diner-with-pretensions look to it.

Large Green Salad

Mixed greens, grilled tofu, cucumbers, carrots, avocado, red cabbage, onions, bean sprouts, tomatoes, red beets and mint. I chose vegenaise thyme dressing, which was absolutely wonderful, and a big round of applause, ’cause the kitchen was very generous with the avocado. Salad was large and filing; I could barely finish it, let alone touch the bread they brought with it.

pad thai

They don’t skimp on the peanut sauce – the noodles come in a giant pool of it. Smaller than most servings you see, but really, how many quarts of peanut sauce can you consume in one sitting?

herbivore irish coffee

The disappointment of the evening. I was excited to try it with soy milk and soy whipped cream, but it didn’t much matter what was in it, because all I could taste was whiskey. It was so strong that it was gross, and each sip felt like doing a shot. I was hoping for more of a mix of creamy/coffee/boozy, but it wasn’t to be. Not helping? The fact that the soy milk broke into little unattractive beads in the clear glass. Ew.


Sugar Shack

 181 River Dr
Hadley, MA

Country Mouse, City Mouse

The Sugar Shack is this quaint little restaurant that got yanked out of obscurity when people started noticing how adorable it was, and came running in to eat pancakes and buy the jugs of maple syrup they make in-house.

You sit at wood tables, next to wood walls, in what looks like the home of a woman who really likes wood decorating, and eat obscenely cheap food. A cooked egg costs eighty-five cents. So does a donut. And it’s delicious. As you eat the home fries (with local potatoes, on a plastic plate) It really feels as though someone very nice is doing you a favor.

If the prices aren’t a good enough reason to come, and the very solid food isn’t enough reason to come, then stop in for a visit just because they support local farmers, and not in that sort of yuppie way where they call it local and jack up the price.
Take a look at their website and you’ll see that they tell you where they’re getting their milk, and their potatoes, and blueberries and eggs. I really respect that.

But respect doesn’t make a restaurant – good food does – so I recommend the home fries and an apple pancake.
And if anyone goes and tries some of their more sugar-y concoctions, like a maple milkshake or a donut with maple cream, let us know how it is, will you? I was tempted, but it was just a little too early for me.

(They’re open at odd hours and close some seasons, so check their website or call before making the trip.)

Home Fries

Butter, potatoes, paprika, and salt. Greasy. Yum!

Apple Pancake

They’ll ask you if you want the apples on or in the pancake. No matter what, it’ll be soft and a perfectly balance of, er, batter and fruit.


Mercat a La Planxa at The Blackstone Hotel

 638 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL

Old Person, New Restaurant

As we all keep slogging through life, we should occasionally stop and celebrate that journey with food and perhaps a cocktail. I came to Mercat for my birthday dinner and while the reservationist seemed stressed – when I called to reserve my 6:15 reservation for two, there was a moment of silence and she said, very anxiously, “I’m sorry, I’m just not seeing it. You have a reservation for 16 people?” – she also said, “And this is for a birthday celebration?” and I said, “Yes,” in such a way that really meant, “Hell, yes!”

The decorations are very modern – lots of orange, and small lights hanging down from the ceiling, and presumably you’re meant to feel as if you’re attending a very chic picnic where the hostess hands out very small portions of food.

We started out with a white sangria (which was said to be good here, and it was) and a complimentary Spanish-style bruschetta absolutely loaded with garlic.
Our server – who was wonderful, as was the whole team – sweetly brought out a mini-dessert for my birthday, complete with a mini-candle, and thus solved the dessert dilemma of “I don’t know, should we go for it?”

Tip: the servers recommend getting three or four dishes per person; my dining companion and I each got three and that was more than enough.

Mixto Cheeses

Three cheese served with thin slices of bread and apple alongside an olive vinaigrette, a strawberry vinaigrette, and a marmalade-type spread.


Greens with perfectly cooked asparagus, wonderfully light avocado spread – almost a foam – and seasoned tomatoes, along with slivers of cheese. Light with big flavors.

Espinacasa La Catalana

Spinach sauteed with raisins and pinenuts, covered with seasoned slivers of apple. Spinach was perfectly cooked and formed an interesting foundation to a complex side dish that still worked well as a taste in and of itself.

Gambas Con Garbanzos

Shrimp and chorizo with a garbanzo bean spread. The one misstep of the meal – the crust was bland and the cheese was too overpowering.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cake

The cake came with a chocolate-rosemary foam, and the rosemary perfectly accentuated the chocolate. There was also a tiny ice cream cookie with a chocolate cookie and almond-milk ice cream. Lastly, there was a tiny mug of what tasted like rice milk with a dab of whipped cream. It was absolutely wonderful.

Patatas Bravas

Oh, almost forgot the potatoes! One of the high points of the evening – spicy potato bits with a paprika aioli. This is the one dish to try – my dining companion and I agreed.


Fresh Side

 39 S Pleasant St
Amherst, MA

Mint & Pesto

Fresh Side calls itself “a little eatery and tea place” – blushingly self-aware, as you’re not going to find crumpets and scones here.

The outside of the place, on Amherst’s main drag, is black-and-white nondescript, but the interior is polished and modern.

We got mint tea, which was elegantly served in a clear pot swimming with leaves with shot glasses on the side. Small sprigs of mint were in the glasses, which were aesthetically awesome and made the tea’s flavor even richer.

They’re known for their tea rolls – sort of small Asian burritos, I guess? You can mix and match different tea rolls in one order, so I ordered the Vietnamese tea rolls & the pesto seaweed rice tea rolls. Both were fantastic, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order them again, but I’ll probably branch out and try something new next time.

The people I were with ordered bowls of rice, veggies, and chicken, and everything looked perfectly fresh and well-cooked.

Two things you absolutely gotta know: this place is cheap – you can get four tea rolls (about 2 small ‘burritos’, just so you can imagine the size)) for a little over $4. They know their audience in a college town.
Also, it’s very vegetarian/vegan friendly.

Vietnamese Tea Roll

Fresh Spinach, Cellophane Noodle, Crushed Peanuts, Marinated Carrots, And Fresh Cilantros. Delicate flavors.

Pesto Seaweed Rice Tea Roll

Warm white Rice, Vegan Pesto Sauce, Roasted Seaweed, Sesame Seed. Oil seeped through the wrap, but hey, it’s pesto.


Black Sheep Deli

 79 Main St
Amherst, MA

Fantastic Sandwiches!

When I visited Black Sheep on a Sunday afternoon around 3, it was packed – there was almost nowhere to sit, and me and four friends had to steal plastic chairs from other tables and cram around a table meant for two.

Yes, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up at a plastic table, and there’s a good chance you will have absolutely nowhere to sit at all.

But the food is superb. I got the East-meets-West sandwich with tofu, garlic and peanut sauces, carrots, onions, and lettuce, and this sandwich was both huge (I mean big enough for two people) and delicious (delicious enough for one person). They also serve lots of pastries – including lots of vegan ones! Thanks, Black Sheep!

I’ve heard good things about their hot chocolate, but have yet to try it.


A baguette oozing with garlicky and peanutty sauces, layers of tofu, onion for a sharp taste and carrot for texture. Almost impossible to fit your mouth around. Somehow I managed!

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