The scene: I thought I’d avoid the lunch crowd by arriving at New World Cafe around 2 p.m. on a Saturday. But, it was the first weekend, and the cozy spot, which fits 33, was nearly full. Still, I managed to snag a counter seat by the window.
The new vegan (animal product-free) order-at-the-counter restaurant is located in a gray building in the East Village. A large purple turnip logo sign caught my eye as I walked into the sunny space punctuated by yellow accent walls and vintage-style vegetable prints. A pleasant buzz of excited customers filled the restaurant. The staff was helpful and friendly, and the service was very prompt.
The menu: I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I appreciate the cuisine. As I looked at the opening weekend menu, I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to try, since everything looked so appetizing. (Selections from that menu will be integrated into the regular offerings.) Smoothies caught my eye, however, the restaurant could not keep up with the demands of making them that day, I was told.
The cashier recommended the Mexican bowl with green herb salsa rice and quinoa ($8.50), the red burger made with a sweet and spicy bean and beet patty ($8.50), and the roasted root vegetable and apple sandwich ($8.50). Sandwiches are served on whole wheat buns or bread, with the choice of gluten-free bread (for a $2 charge). Nut-free and gluten-free options are noted on the menu.
What I ate: I ordered the ginger lemonade ($4) and watched as an employee made it with fresh ingredients (lemon juice, ginger juice and fresh agave). It was deliciously tart and very refreshing. I tried the green burger ($8.50), crafted from vegetables and green lentils, then topped with a creamy avocado spread, spinach, raw pickles and sprouts. It had a nice, spicy kick and a meaty texture with a good crunch.
I was especially impressed by my side, a kale salad. The greens were topped with dried fruit and smothered in a maple vinaigrette — a delicious dressing with a flavor I had never tasted on a salad before.
Who I met: I couldn’t help but notice how much the woman next to me was enjoying the new mac and cheese ($6 for a small, $8 for a large), with macaroni coated in a cashew-based “cheese” sauce. She made several “mmmm” sounds as she savored her final bites. A couple next to me shared the hummus plate ($6) and raved about its flavor. I ran into a friend who said, “I wish I had four stomachs to eat all of this great food.”
The wrap-up: Although this is a vegan spot, non-vegans will enjoy the creative flavors New World Cafe plates up. I left feeling satisfied and happy knowing I had a tasty and healthy meal.
Find it: 223 E. Walnut St.
Hours: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Saturday
Info: 244-0029, newworldcafedsm.com