The server at Thoreau was right to expect that we'd be packing up the remaining 2/3 of our meal. All parties who left before us waddled out with doggie bags and signs of an oncoming food coma.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland from the start, slipping around the bulky dining furniture in a too-small theater. Plates the size of rounded chair bottoms came floating out, asserting themselves onto tables that were just large enough to accommodate.
The bread is the first impression you get of a new restaurant. I inquired about the flavorless focaccia, which the server said was not vegan. However, the pumpernickel was dairy-free. It was airy and fresh, a nice dark basic for the orange chili butter.
Be careful with the bread. You'll need all of the stomach real estate you can get at Philadelphia's newest vegetarian restaurant.
Where does one start with a Thoreau entree? I must say that both of us have very intact memories and were exceptionally sober. Yet moments after consulting the bewildering maze of descriptions on the menu, we had forgotten the exact contents of our order. The ingredient list reads like a prepackaged snack label.
I knew that I had ordered plantain empanadas with some kind of avocado business. He knew that he was getting a Blue Plate with blue sweet potatoes and "stuff". Please banish the 8-inch rosemary sprigs.
I was liking my plate for a few bites in, but there was so much going on with it that I needed directions to eat forward. If the tomato avocado stack was its own thing, with a bit of mango relish, it would have been my Caribbean fling. If the plantain empanadas were an appetizer, served with the pumpkinseed-chipotle pesto, that would have been bonafide, too.
The falafel plate borders on Pita Pit casual. It comes with three sandwiches for one person. Supersized me. My suggestion? The $15 dish could slink down to $10 and slim down to a single sandwich, with the side of greens. Nobody is going to complain that you're starving them. They'll just order dessert. Trust me.
Now, hear this. Everything we tasted was cooked well and inspired. I would love very much to go back, but I hate the idea of wasting so much food and I don't like to bring extra home with me. I would also like Thoreau to stay in business and I worry about their food costs thus far. They're giving away too much expensive food. I have no doubt that their ingredients are much more costly than most fast food places who can dole out giant portions. Most of the customers aren't coming here for that.
No vegetarian or meat-eater looking for a light, refreshing meal is going to continue to eat here, without splitting a plate amongst three. It's exhausting.
Even dessert, which was excellent, became a chore to consume after a few bites. La Colombe appeared in venti mugs. They must have been kidding. The butterscotch blondie parfait is a must, if you can find a way. It made me break one of my long-standing positions: I don't eat pudding.
Thoreau is currently BYOB.
Thoreau Restaurant, 1033 Spring Garden Street