11 Bean Soup (vegan)
Just after Penn State’s Spring Break in 2012 a fresh new restaurant opened downtown 134 W. College Ave., State College. After some hands on researching of similar dining establishments like Sweetgreen
, owners Marya, David, and Jack Schoenholtz opened Fiddlehead
With a focus on fresh ingredients, large serving sizes, and overall sustainability, Fiddlehead has filled a niche in the jungle of pubs, pizza and burgers on College Avenue. The focus is soups, made from scratch daily using fresh stocks and preparing their salads made to order using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. All foods are served in environmentally friendly packaging and they are happy to fill your own to-go container.
Literally their first paying customer, I have enjoyed Fiddlehead from day 1. The interior is clean and set up in an efficient way to minimize waiting time for those on the go. There is limited counter seating and a few token tables by the window for those who need to take a break and enjoy the healthy offerings of this restaurant. The interior isn’t just nice to look at, the materials from which it was constructed were carefully chosen with the health of the environment in mind. Read all about their green philosophy here.
Care has been given to the flavors that come together in each of their 6 suggested salad combos but us veggie folks want to focus on the Own It! option. I can just imagine a lot of you thinking, “Salad? I can get that anywhere.” I will try to make it clear through my descriptions and photos that the ingredients are all crispy fresh, no slimy nasty greens to be found, the choices are varied enough that you can put together myriad salad combinations and the portions are immense.
The Own It! allows for a choice of leafy greens (romaine iceberg mix, baby spinach or spring mix) a choice of 4 toppings plus a dressing. Toppings for vegans include: Artichoke Hearts, Banana Peppers, Beets (raw!), Black Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Chick Peas, Cucumber, Dried Cranberries, Edamame, Frizzled Onions, Grapes, Kalamata Olives, Mandarin Oranges, Mushrooms, Pears, Radishes, Red Bell Pepper, Red Onion, Roasted Corn, Roasted Potatoes and Sundried Tomatoes. Lacto-ovo vegetarians also have the choices of: Bleu Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, Hard-boiled Eggs, Feta Cheese or Asiago Cheese. If 4 toppings isn’t enough for your hungry belly, for an up charge you can get extra toppings for an additional $.50 each, Avocado ($1.25) or Seasoned Tofu ($1.75).
Tomato Basil soup and Own It salad.
Initially, it was unclear which of the more than a dozen of the house made salad dressing was vegan. Upon discussing the options with Marya on the opening day, she was surprised to learn that vegans typically don’t eat honey thus eliminating the Honey Mustard and Grapefruit Honey dressings as vegan safe. It was on my second visit of many over this spring that the owners had clearly marked which of the dressings were vegan, eliminating all confusion. The dressings containing honey were not included. This is a business that clearly cares about getting things right.
I have enjoyed the Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette , Lemon Tahini and Fresh Lemon Squeeze as dressings. When the time comes to choose your dressing, they also allow you to choose how much dressing you like on your salad; light, medium or heavy. I have found light to be plenty even when I get as many as 4 extra toppings but they will be kind and ask you if it is enough before they move the salad to the cashier station.
Sweet Potato soup and Own It salad.
The reasonably priced cups and bowls of soup have been so various. Each we have tried have been delicious. Top vegan choices for me have been the 11 Bean, Hearty Bean, Carrot Curry, Tomato Basil and Sweet Potato. Other vegetarian options over the past weeks have included (v = vegan): Cream of Mushroom, Mushroom Bisque, Carmelized Onion & White Bean, Roasted Vegetable (v), Roasted Red Pepper with Cilantro Lime Cream as well as Spinach & Rice with Lemon (v). For a full list check out their Twitter Feed. I think it is obvious that Fiddlehead is strongly in the running for the Pennsyltucky Veggie Best Soup of 2012 award.
The owners are no newcomers to the game of successful restaurateuring. In 1993 they successfully launched and eventually relocated Irving’s to E. College Ave. It is known for its bagels and baked goods. They also took the same care in researching both east and west coasts before bringing the beloved Green Bowl to downtown State College before selling it. Their fresh ideas have added so many veggie dining options to downtown State College and I salute them for their care and good business practices.
Grab it to go or sit, listen to the mellow music while taking advantage of the free Wifi. Fiddlehead is set up for a streamlined, green and healthy dining experience via counter service leading to a clear self-service station for utensils and drinks. I haven’t explored the options that their Gelato offers, vegetarians may want to check this out too. The menu is limited to soup and salad but you can make it as delicious as you can only imagine. The staff is friendly, well-trained and have no problem in asking management for clarification if they cannot directly answer any questions about the menu. Parking is not free, either metered on street or nearby garages but it is worth it to experience this bright new place.