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eden – a vegan cafe

While in Scranton we stopped at two totally different cafes. The first, Fig, might be hinted at as a bit pretentious, newly nestled in the safety of its spa related home. Eden is just the opposite.

I cannot think of anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, who wouldn’t, shouldn’t or couldn’t like Eden. The well established café stands out at 344 Adams Ave. in Scranton as the areas only vegan restaurant. Holy tofu! At 150 miles away and just under 3 hours from our front door, Eden is the closest 100% vegan restaurant to us! It’s about the same as distance going to Pittsburgh but faster. Ok, it’s a real road trip but with the reviews had I read on Yelp and Happy Cow, I knew we were going to just love it. I dearly wish we had a place like Eden close to us.

There are many parking garages in the general area to choose from and I suggest that because much of the on street parking is for very limited time. From where we parked, we were able to walk past the court-house, lawn and take in a lot of the Occupy Scranton activities. I am thinking there is more to Scranton than meets the eye.

Typical of the whole Eden experience, the clean design of the exterior doesn’t scream for your attention and it’s whats inside that really counts. You can start to get an idea that this place is impressive when you read the specials menu just outside the front entrance.

Upon entering, the wood colored tables, window counter, benches and chairs in the small dining are as well as the offset counter for placing orders seem pretty typical for a cafe. What starts to really grab your attention, if the menu hasn’t yet, is the warm and friendly staff.

We were cheerfully greeted by Lindsay the Counter Girl who understood that we were overwhelmed just looking at the specials. We scanned them and decided to take regular menus to sit down and look over. I think it took us over 10 minutes to calm our excitement and reassure ourselves that everything on the menu was vegan.

Although the specials were singing their siren’s song, trying to lure us into ordering a taco or one of the warm potato bowls, we opted to order from the regular menu.
We returned to the counter and placed our orders with the enthusiastic Lindsay whom we had overheard saying it was her last day. We wished her well and she walked us through the ordering process and gave us a number to place on our table.

Along with the number, we took back our drinks. I got an Oogave Root Beer to go with my Chili Cheeseburger and Jim got a kind of Tazo tea. As we chatted and sipped our drinks, I was able to access the WiFi with the pass code I had been given (just ask when ordering). We enjoyed looking around at the 11×14 chalk drawings of different animals and the copper ceiling panels. The latter gives away the age of the building Eden has made its home but everything about the restaurant is clean and welcoming.

There were always at least a couple of other tables occupied out of the 7 double seaters inside. The food orders kept coming out regularly (some were take-out) and I never saw anyone having a problem with what they ordered. It is definitely a family friendly restaurant with a separate kids menu but I am thinking kids would like a lot of the other menu items too.

Jim’s cup of Chipotle Corn Chowder came out first and we were both thrilled with the warmth, texture and taste. Served with a little bag of our favorite Westminster Crackers, Jim liked the good corn sweetness and it reminded me of the good old Aunt Kittie’s brand soups except it had a nice chipotle afterglow.

Eden get its vegan buns fresh daily from Scranton’s own National Bakery. I could really tell that with my Chili Cheeseburger and after the sub-par ciabatta earlier in the day, this was a welcome sandwich. The chili was mellow and reminded me a lot of the very first vegetarian chili I used to make with kidney beans and TVP – it really made me smile. The burger itself was a thinner chewy patty with veggies like corn, peppers and carrots in it. Although I never really got the cheese aspect of this sandwich, I got some sweet pickle relish for an additional charge and the whole burger was a warm delightful feast.

Along with a spear of 1/4 of a nice gherkin, I also chose a side of Homemade Coleslaw with my burger. The cabbage (green and red) was coarsely shaved and so crispy fresh and was mixed with some shredded carrot. The dressing, dense with tasty celery seed, was sweet and complex but just a little oily. The odd thing was the orange color of the dressing which we assume might have something to do with their vegan mayonnaise choice because we noted a similar hue in Jim’s sandwich.

I hindsight it’s pretty clear that Jim was trying make up for the sandwich that fell a little short earlier in the day at Fig. He ordered a Tuna Melt on with a vegan American Cheese and wheat bread. He too had a pickle and got a side of the Homemade Smashed Potatoes.

The Tuna Melt shared that orange color that the Coleslaw had and the soy protein was blended well with it along with a little pickle relish. It’s not the way we typically make our sandwich fillers, we like big old hunks of stuff, but the pimento spread like flavor was pretty nice. With the healthy serving of warm and melty cheese and toasted bread, it too fell into the category of vegan comfort food.

If I considered all of the above comfort food, I have yet to share the most soul soothing of all that we ate – Eden’s Smashed Potatoes! Topped with just a little bit of vegan butter, the pile of warm and savory sage seasoned softness was like a big hug for our tummies. They weren’t overly salted, were chunky but soft and had just the right amount of pepper. I want them just like that for Thanksgiving this year.

This goes to show you that you don’t have to go to New York City to eat in a 5 star vegan restaurant – just find your way to Scranton! You won’t be served any avant-garde balsamic reduction flourishes over micro greens, you will be served great food and plenty of it. To counter some of the criticism written on Happy Cow, Eden has plenty of healthy choices. If you don’t want to order a meal with meat substitutes in it there are wraps, salads, soups and rice dishes. The pleasing environment (Coldplay-esque music), dedication to plant based meals and care given to making sure customers are properly served make this a top notch dining experience. I am reaching out my hand to the most north-easterly corner of our good Pennslytucky region and hanging on to Eden, they serve up great meals in the best vegan way. Follow them on FaceBook and Twitter too.
Eden-a Vegan Cafe on Urbanspoon



Affiliated and sharing space with the Alexander’s Salon & Spa on
431 Lackawanna Ave. in Scranton, PA, Fig restaurant has a mod but elegant atmosphere designed with accents of green and purple.

The outdoor seating had been taken down for Fall but the specials listed on a chalk board bragged a seasonal Hot Butternut Squash Soup! That’s what I love about Autumn, great soups! It and a 1/2 Sandwich was advertised for $7.50, Jim and I both agreed that sounded perfect.

We sat down in a couple of the wicker chairs at one of the 6 interior tables but admired the cool stainless steel juice bar decorated with dried flower arrangements and gourds. The walls were decorated with Fabric Art by Kristin Martelli and photography by Russell Lucas

Fig just opened this year, in June from what I can tell. The manager, Toby Landon, greeted us with bad news when she overheard our excitement over the Butternut Squash Soup. She told us they were out of all soups since Wednesday and offered the pasta salad as an option. We remained affable in recognizing that the chilly weather was bound to bring on increased soup consumption. We agreed to take a while and look over the menu which happily had a “V” by every Vegan choice.

Jim quietly pointed out to me that if they had been out of soup since Wednesday, four days later on Saturday it was not good to still advertising it on their wipe off board. Poor business practice and it should have been obvious where we got the soup information.

The menu did have plenty of other choices. All were moderately expensive, the special reflected the same prices as some other vegan meals. I chose a Mini Greens Salad with fresh mixed greens, 4 toppings and a dressing. I decided on that with beets, black beans, red pepper and avocado (up charge of 1.00). I ordered the house signature Fig Chutney as my dressing.

Jim chose the special with pasta salad. His half sandwich of choice was an Eggless Egg Salad on the Kalamata Olive Ciabatta. The sandwich filling is described as a foundation of cashews with turmeric, lemon juice, scallions, red pepper and spices. The sandwich was to be garnished with mixed greens and tomato.

Their menu offer 5 vegan bread choices from 2 local bakers and vegan baked goods as well as gluten-free options of bread and wraps. They focus on using organic fruits, veggies, greens, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices as local as available to create our vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes. There are 6 homemade salad dressings, pesto and hummus to enhance salads and sandwiches.

Antioxidant Strength Smoothie Shot

Much like The Enchanted Kitchen, our local vegetarian spot that is affiliated with a yoga center, Toby was handling the food prep and service by herself. Other similarities include the fresh juices and smoothies that are offered and easy to access WiFi.

That is pretty much where the similarities ended. The interior was clean modern and spotless. The music was at a nice volume and varied from Motown to Moby. Toby ended up juggling 3 or 4 tables and out meals were served with lightning speed.

I am not sure if it was because it was close to the end of the day or end of the week, Jim seemed to get a little short-changed on what he ordered. First he (and I for that matter) had the soup option taken away. The self-serve coffees were running out and his ciabatta was old. It’s not that we don’t know what ciabatta is like, it is thick and has a bit of a tougher texture to it but this was like the bread bag had been accidentally left open.

The Eggless Egg Salad was fine, just not like we would make it ourselves. A lot of people like their sandwich salads to be a smoother consistency. We like ours with chunks of stuff in it; celery, peppers, apple, pickles (sweet or sour) and even the base we like to have texture. This was very smooth and the flavor was a lot like a pimento spread. I could tell Jim was really disappointed in his sandwich and he said the pasta salad was ok. It had chopped yellow and red peppers, garbanzo beans, a tangy balsamic dressing, soft pasta and a smoked gouda cheese in it. It was odd that with all of the vegan questions we had been asking and vegan menu items we ordered that she didn’t emphasize that the pasta salad had cheese in it.

All components of my salad were good and fresh; the shredded beets were raw and not processed the way many places serve red beets. The signature Fig Chutney dressing really just struck me as a sweet and sour dressing with a coarse mustard and white wine vinegar. I couldn’t detect anything specifically “fig” about it but I also couldn’t really discern the garlic in it that Toby mentioned there was.

Toby was a real dear and shared with us samples of a couple of the smoothies since it was the end of the day. Both were banana based and the shot of cocoa flavored Spirit Lifter was very dense with the almond butter in it. Our second sample shot was the Antioxidant Strength with 3 different berries and was my favorite.

Our table was near the counter and we could chat a bit with the good manager about similar interests in NYC vegetarian restaurants. As we finished off our meal we were served once again what Toby referred to as, “a little treat.” Good golly, even though it was at the end of the meal we were served a perfect little Amuse-bouche! If we had been served this at the beginning of the meal, the slice of fig on a balsamic reduction topped with goat cheese and a simple nut would have been the perfect representation of Fig restaurant. It was impressive even at the end.

We also got some a couple of little desserts which Fig regularly calls “Vegan Treats.” Coincidence that the most amazing baked good on the east coast are made by Bethlehem, PA’s Vegan Treats? It does make me wonder a little. We got a tiny wedge of Chocolate Chip Baklava (awesome dark chocolate chips and cinnamon in a caramelized sugar) Jim swears was probably the last piece because it too tasted old. I got a Breast Cancer awareness Sugar Cookie (simple and perfect vanilla cookie).

Fig dances back and forth between a stellar cafe and a few to many mediocre moments to ignore. The best I could ever award it is a 4.5/5 stars BiNaH rating since it does serve meat products but I have a sneaking suspicious that it might deserve at least 4 and hope to return to have it prove me right. Until then, based on this experience alone, I have to rate it 3.5 (Jim voted only 3) but will look forward to trying some of the juices, maybe a pasta meal and having my dessert served on a pretty lotus shaped dish.
Since Fig does not yet have their menu posted, even on their FaceBook page, I scanned and am posting their take out menu (prices about $.50 highers per item).

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