Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vegan Rhapsody: Welcome to the Coffeehouse

Give coffeehouses their due. While most of their fare is run-of-the-mill, some continue to turn out surprisingly worthwhile eats. Java has the labneh sandwich, an open-faced half-wich with creamy yogurt spread. At Canvas, there’s a veggie sausage, pepper, & egg breakfast pita. Chapterhouse, which makes a killer grilled cheese, took me out again with their Vegan Wrap. Expecting a bland veggie & hummus roll-up, I was more than pleased to detect marinated tofu, an assortment of veg, and a side of vegan tzatziki. The tzatziki ranked up there among vegan condiments. It was very similar to the aioli that comes with the Abbaye’s frites.

I was again confounded to discover waffles, spinach croissants, and croissant french toast at Cafe Ole in Old City. They do have the standard vegan wraps & salads, but the breakfasting is sincere. Somebody spent serious time constructing my waffle ($6 and change).

Spruce Street Espresso doesn't really have food, beyond some pastry. But they excel at what they do have--coffee is french-pressed, iced coffee is brewed double-strength, and the Brie Baguettes are simple and satisfying. After tasting almost every available brew in the city (it's my job), I will look you straight in your internet eyes and promise you, this is the Stanley Cup of coffee. I was once a believer in the $8 Jamaican Blue Mountain at Ray's, but that's just for experience. Spruce E is for real. Someone from the Coffeegeek messageboard (that's right...) says it better than I do:

"Are there any other coffee shops in Philly at this moment in time who only have 6 items on the menu, the largest size is 12 oz to-go, 10 oz ceramic, no single or triple, no small medium or large, no electric brewer but only pressed coffees, no house blend but only single origins, and no sandwich menu to fall back on?"

Here, another quote from the boards regarding Philly's espresso, which is simply for our amusement:

"So I gave the Philadelphia Java company another try today, as well as a place on 7th or 8th and South St.. Both were horrible. They were running the exact same equipment: San Marco 2 groups, and a grinder with a SUPER crappy built in tamper. I watched my shots being pulled at both places, and they were blond in about 5 seconds. The streams of espresso bowed inward almost immediately. A bad scene..."

Chapterhouse Cafe, 9th & Bainbridge
Cafe Ole, 147 N 3rd St
Spruce Street Espresso, 11th & Spruce

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