BY MARTHA JEONG
Having grown up in granola-crunching, Birkenstock-wearing Boulder, Colorado, where my aging yellow lab ate unprocessed organic dog chow, I am not new to the scene of eco-friendly vegetarian fare. To add to my veggie resume, I lived with the most wonderful tree-hugging, aluminum foil-washing, Tupperware-carrying vegan roommate for three years. Even though I spent all of my time in college with five vegetarians, I have to admit I remained loyally devoted to meat-eating (except for my semester long sabbatical 1L year after watching an Alec Baldwin-narrated PETA video), but after four years of college, I came out a little more educated, appreciative and sensitive to the various ways in which people enjoy food.
Veggie Planet is not for everyone, just like Brazilian steakhouses with endless meat on sticks are not universal crowd pleasers (restaurant review for one of these coming next week!). But meat devotees probably won’t wander into Veggie Planet unaware. Also doubling as live music venue Club Passim in Harvard Square, Veggie Planet was started by Adam Penn and vegetarian cookbook writer Didi Emmons. Open seven days a week, the restaurant’s specialty is serving meat-free pizzas (which can also be made over rice) with organic pizza dough made by a local non-profit bakery. Two percent of all food profits are donated to Food for Free, a non-profit organization that provides food to the hungry in Cambridge, so be doubly pleased that not only are you doing good for your own body, you’re giving a little back to the local community. You’re thinking, this is all really nice, but how’s the food?
I’ve been to Veggie Planet now for the last few years on multiple visits, for dinner, lunch and Sunday brunch and it’s always been a crowd pleaser. My recommendations on pizzas (around $6 for lunch/brunch portions and $10 for dinner portions) are Blonde on Blonde made with fresh mozzarella, tofu ricotta, asiago cheese, spinach and fried garlic and Lunch for Henry topped with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, sage and creamy goat cheese. If you’re feeling more untraditional, give Vegan Peanut Curry, Mexican Bean, or even a Caesar Salad on pizza dough a spin.
Even as a meat lover who needs an unhealthy greasy or fried food fix every now and then, I still recommend Veggie Planet as a tasty and fun experience, especially for Sunday brunch. The Home fry tofu scramble ($8.95) was hearty, healthy and delicious. Crispy potatoes were pan-fried in olive oil and generous portions of garlic and cheddar with seasonal butternut squash which was creamy and sweet, as well as broccoli and tofu squares topped with a heap of very fresh salsa. I washed this all down with organic fair-trade Peruvian coffee and soy milk, which was self-serve and bottomless in colorful plastic cups. Now, I am not a fan of the waffles topped with fruit ($7.95) offered either as vegan or non-vegan, since I like my waffles thick, fluffy and unhealthy. Although the waffles caught my eye, touting their virtues as both crispy and soft, I’ll take my satisfaction for waffle decadence elsewhere. But if you’re in the mood for sweet, I would recommend the vegan coffee cake of the day ($2.95) which was suspiciously too good to not have any dairy products. I can attest the difficulties of vegan baking, as I was guinea pig to many failed baked good experiments under the cooking hand of my best-intentioned vegan roommate.
Sunday brunch is usually accompanied by live music; check on Club Passim’s site for other events. Didi prepares a monthly multi-course Vegan feast on special Monday nights; stay tuned for December’s date at www.veggieplanet.net. Veggie Planet is located at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street, at the corner of Church.