Wednesday, 30 June 2010 14:58

Candle Cafe: outstanding food in a friendly New York setting

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This past winter I had one of the best vegan meals of my life, and I have been raving about it ever since. I dine at a lot of restaurants, but I can honestly say Candle 79 is my favorite place on the East Coast (at least so far). However, before that establishment opened, Candle Cafe was created, and this smaller, more casual spot is wonderful as well.

What made my experiences memorable at both Candles is the people. Bart & Joy, the co-owners, are some of the most welcoming and warm individuals I've met in the vegan business. They take extreme care to create wonderful dining experiences because they want to spread the message of how amazing plant-based food can be, and boy is it working. When I arrived at Candle Cafe it was extremely busy with no open tables; Bart turned to me and said, "we can't even get a table at our own restaurant!". We finally grabbed some stools at the counter, which turned out to be a great place to sit.

I will remember Candle Cafe for the incredible sense of community I felt while dining. To some it may have felt cramped or too loud inside, but unlike it's quiet and relaxed sister Candle 79, this restaurant is meant for people who want to mingle. Though there was no communal table, it sure felt like there was; people were leaning over onto eachother's tables and starting conversations with strangers.  While some were waiting for seats or take-out, they chatted and laughed with those standing around them. Not surprisingly, many married couples have met at the restaurant. I talked to Bart, Joy, and my friend Lindsay (of Happy Herbivore) for three and a half hours!

Oh, and the food. It was outstanding and very similar to what I had at Candle 79; in fact, they even serve some of the same dishes. I enjoyed:
  • Strawberry Limonade
  • Lemon Ginseng Iced Tea
  • Seitan Chimichurri
  • Crystal Roll
  • Salad (name?) with basil dressing, almond cheese, and baked Daiya
  • Paradise Casserole (gluten free)
  • Cajun Seitan Sandwich
  • Cajun Temoeh
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with soy ice cream
  • Chocolate Mousse Pie (wheat free)
I chose to eat whatever was suggested by Bart & Joy, which was all worth "cheating" for; it's hard to resist menu items with gluten, soy, refined sugar, and oil when reviewing such a nice restaurant! However, they do have a gluten-free menu and I'm sure they would cater to any allergies or dietary needs.

Taste: 10/10
Unique menu & flavors: absolutely
Organic: mostly
Local & Fairtrade: whenever available
Healthy: healthier for sure, though some items would be considered vegan indulgence.
Gluten-Free Options: yes
Eco-Friendly: yes - Certified Green Restaurantâ„¢ by the Green Restaurant Association in New York City
Customer service: fantastic
Atmosphere: cozy, but cramped and loud on busy hours
Location: Upper East Side
Price: about average, perhaps slightly higher than usual (about $10-$15 per item)
Portion Sizes: large
Favorite dishCajun Seitan Sandwich

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