Q: How do you know someone is a vegan?
A: It's all they talk about!
Okay, I'll admit: I can be wary of vegans, insecure that they are judging me—and my pro-cow diet.
But Salud!, a new addition to downtown lunches—a vegan and raw food café—has won me and the Source staff over with its flavorful and colorful dishes. No vegan strings attached; just really good, quality food and fresh juices. And, if we have to admit it, yes, Salud! serves healthy lunches without compromising any robust flavors, and provides a welcome break from the typical heavy-duty sandwiches, burritos and burgers so common among downtown eateries.
Salud! is tucked off of Franklin Avenue, somewhat ironically in the space that had housed the Pastrami Old World Deli. The owners have done a wonderful job remodeling the space: With a white tiled kitchen and bright yellow walls, the result is a lively café ambiance, a bustling and bright mood underscored by quick and cheery service.
James reported that he need not be skeptical of raw falafel. The flavorful nut-and seed-heavy little mounds came with a platter of veggies, three dipping sauces, a fresh and crunchy cucumber salad and sweet potato crisps ("I won't call them chips," he said, "because they were too light and free of oil to be dubbed with such a misleading moniker"). The "crisps" were excellent: dehydrated to thin crispy wafers and sprinkled with a topping of earthy nutritional yeast. The whole plate was impressive, fresh and fulfilling. The salty olive tapenade was tops—a mix of green and black olives with salty and tart flavors that played nicely off each other. The veggies dipped in vegan tzatziki sauce and zucchini hummus were icing on the dairy-free cake.
Bri predictably ordered the island-style collard wrap (anything with mango, Bri will be to drawn like a moth to a flame). The enchilada special was a close second choice for her (she is a sucker for Mexican food, too), but that was already sold out for the day, leaving Bri to remark that she plans to frequent Salud! for lunches throughout the winter.
The ingredients of the two egg roll-sized wraps were tucked neatly into a bright green collard leaf and skewered with bamboo to keep the crunchy tortilla substitute from loosing any of its filling. Inside the leafy greens were bell peppers, shredded carrots and red cabbage, which made up the "meat" of the wrap, accented with a pop of sweet mango slices, cilantro and mint. The almond-pineapple sauce added another layer of flavor with a nutty-sweetness and a ginger-cashew pesto added a spicy punch to the raw vegetables. The combination of flavors was delightful, substituting the heavy girth of a bready, meaty sandwich or other lunchtime favorites, with a bright, light crunch of veggies topped with big flavors provided by the unique sauces. The dish is offered with choice of either sweet potato chips (er, crisps) or, for $2 extra, a rainbow side salad. And, "rainbow" is not an understatement; a kaleidoscope of natural colors that popped off the plate with a battle cry of, "We're good for you!" Bri didn't leave a crumb on her plate.
I ordered a Thai salad, which was as flavorful as it was colorful. Arriving in a bowl about half the size of a bowling ball, the salad was a busy and clever mix of sharp flavors like red peppers, cilantro and mint, along with more mellow tastes from generous helpings of avocado and curried cashews. A spicy Thai sauce—a distinctive flavor with its heat turned on a low simmer—tied the salad together. Surprising for me, the salad alone was a complete and entirely satisfying lunch.
A fine addition to downtown, Salud! is destined to become a staff lunchtime favorite.