Sunday, 05 June 2011 05:45

Vegan Dining in Somerville, MA at The Pulse Café & True Bistro

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I became a vegan in Boston in 2003, but at the time there were limited options. There was Buddha's Delight (now called My Thai), a delicious Asian vegan restaurant that has a mind blowing selection of faux meats that was unbelievable to me as a new vegan. There was/is also Grasshopper, another yummy Asian place right outside of Boston in Allston. Allston is also home to one of the only vegan pizza joints in the whole country - once called TJ Scallywaggles (seriously) and is now called Peace O Pie. After I moved away a raw vegan restaurant opened in the North End called Grezzo, but they recently closed. Over the years all sorts of vegan options started springing up in and around Boston, so it's always a pleasure to visit.

When I landed at Logan Airport a few days ago I was ready to experience a new vegan restaurant, and I was happily overwhelmed with choices. Something told me I should check out one of two places in Somerville, a cozy residential neighborhood across the river from Boston and next to Cambridge (home of Harvard University). Turns out that was an excellent decision.

My vegetarian sister and I chose to have dinner at The Pulse Café, a cute and casual spot that almost appeared to be closed from the outside - good thing they have an open sign in their window! This place seemed like a good choice because they had gluten-free options for me and exciting vegan versions of America's favorite dishes for my sister like cheesesteak, gyro, and reuben. This was the first big meal off my 2 month candida cleanse - while I wanted to take it easy I was really excited to have some foods I missed. I was a little disappointed with the minimal gluten-free options, but was satisfied with what I got.

  • We started with the Loaded Fries topped with Melty Cashew Cheese, Tempeh Bacon, and Sour Creme. Holy Cow, these were amazing! The cashew cheese was incredible. The french fries could have been crispier, but the sauces made up for it.
  • I ordered the Grilled Cheese with Pepperjack Daiya, tomato, and millet bread - it arrived alone on a plate looking pretty pathetic in size, but after the fries I didn't need much. The bread was crispy and the Daiya was great as always.
  • My sister ordered the Barbecue Burger, a homemade Veggie Burger Patty with melted Cheddar and Garlic Aioli, topped with Onion Rings and Smoky Barbecue Sauce on a Whole Wheat bun. She was quite satisfied and when I tried a bite I agreed - the burger was really impressive for homemade, very flavorful with a great texture.
  • We washed down our meal with a can of Zevia root beer, which is a fantastic natural soda sweetened with stevia (anti-candida friendly!). My sister was blown away by the taste and is now hooked on it.

The Pulse Café
Taste: 8/10
Unique menu & flavors:
diverse menu and semi-unique
yes, mainly
Local: depends on season, whenever possible but not usually
Healthy: somewhat, depends on what you get
Eco-Friendly: "utilizing the local services of Save that Stuff, based in Cambridge, to meet composting and recycling needs and supporting Wind Energy through NSTAR Green to meet electrical needs."
Customer service: very good, attentive and nice
Atmosphere: bright, casual - nice meeting place for friends
Location: near Cambridge, accessible via subway
Parking: a few spots in lot and street parking is easy
Price: a little pricey but average vegan prices
Portion Sizes: small/medium

(617) 625-1730

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After we finished our satisfying meal, my sister and I considered ordering dessert but weren't that excited about the daily options (especially since none were gluten-free). Luckily I had heard rave reviews about True Bistro (from PETA for example), which was right down the street, and I saw that they had GF desserts on their menu. Like Pulse, when we pulled up to True Bistro it looked like it was closed aside from it's open sign - what's up with that Somerville vegan restaurants? We walked in at around 6pm and there were a few other people in the beautiful, upscale restaurant - luckily the dress code was pretty casual because we weren't prepared from that atmosphere.

The waitress was quite enthusiastic and passionate about the restaurant and excitedly told me that her favorite dessert happened to be gluten-free, so that was an easy decision.

  • I ordered the ‘Death-by-chocolate’ cake, with creme anglaise, crunchy shattered caramel. It tasted like most tofu creme pies I've had, except the high quality of the chocolate was very apparent. I wish there had been more creme and caramel, as they were each really good. I was happy to see that when our check arrived the waitress had marked me down as having a gluten-allergy, so I knew they were being extra careful.
  • My sister ordered the dessert special, which was a strawberry Napoleon with layers of puff pastry, custard and whipped creme. It was very light - the few bites I had were certainly not enough, but I have a feeling I would have felt that way even if I had the whole dessert to myself.
  • My sister also ordered a small French press coffee, which she said was very rich and high quality.

We left True Bistro with a great impression and immediately called our parents to tell them that we must have dinner there as a family. It certainly has the potential to be as great as Candle 79, Madeleine Bistro, and Pure Food and Wine, especially since the chef worked at Millennium.

True Bistro
Taste: 9/10
Unique menu & flavors: yes
 not sure
Local and fair-trade: not sure
Healthy: yes
Eco-Friendly: they "endeavor to tread lightly on the planet and be conscious of our environmental responsibilities"
Customer service: excellent, extremely attentive, knowledgeable, and friendly
Atmosphere: upscale, romantic (but dressing up not required)
Location: near Cambridge, accessible via subway
Parking: street
Price: pretty affordable for fine dining
Portion Sizes: medium/large

(617) 627-9000

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I would absolutely return to both of these restaurants and can't wait for the opportunity. If you're in Massachusetts they're each worth a visit, but dining at True Bistro is a must.

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