Adopting a plant-based vegan diet is becoming more and more popular lately, due to both ethical reasons and its proclaimed health and environmental benefits. While I have not chosen to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet, promises of improved skin and heightened energy levels have been on my radar and recently encouraged me to choose more plant-based options in my daily life. So when I heard about a vegan café in Ithaca, I was eager to pay a visit and see what lay beyond the vegan options typically offered in the dining halls.
On a Saturday afternoon, I ventured out to to Ten Forward Café, Ithaca’s first vegan eatery. Nestled above Autumn Leaves Used Books on the Commons, the café wasn’t hard to find. Upon climbing up the steps and entering the café, I found the atmosphere very easygoing and relaxed, with shelves full of books lining the walls — the perfect companions for anyone eating alone. The space was suitable for many types of customers, ranging from the lone diner (me) to larger groups meeting with a purpose, such as a book club.
I perused their menu as I walked up to order; it showed a sizable selection of sandwiches and salads, as well as shakes and smoothies, among other drinks. I decided on a pumpkin pie shake ($4.95) from a special fall selection and a BLT sandwich with a side of greens ($7.95). There appeared to be only one staff member working at the time I ordered, but the wait wasn’t too long. The pumpkin pie shake arrived first in a large glass, followed by the BLT a few minutes later.
As someone who appreciates the flavor of bacon and has mixed feelings about the taste of meat substitutes in general, I admit I didn’t have particularly high expectations for the sandwich. Still, I was pleasantly surprised upon taking my first bite.
The bread was toasted to a nice degree, achieving a slightly crispy texture without being too crumbly. The “bacon,” while easily discernable from real bacon, held its own savory umami flavor, which was quite different from the simplistic, bland tofu-meat I have tasted before on several occasions. The savory flavor was complemented well by the rich and creamy mayonnaise, which was indistinguishable from traditional dairy-based mayo to me.
Between bites, I sipped the pumpkin pie shake, which was very natural and fresh, though it actually tasted overwhelmingly more of its banana base than pumpkin, bearing little resemblance to pumpkin pie except for a hint of a pumpkin aftertaste. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it, though someone looking for a distinctly pumpkin-flavored shake may have been disappointed. The thickness of the shake was just right and the taste not too sweet, which made up for the lack of pumpkin flavor, making it a tasty banana shake. Before leaving, a glance at their desserts and sweets convinced me to get a cinnamon cake ball ($1.50). Once again, I fell in love with its perfect level of sweetness and moisture, which prevented it from crumbling and falling apart in my hands, as I thought it would.
Ten Forward Café definitely showed that vegan food can achieve a wide variety of flavors and doesn’t have to be bland or boring, as it’s sometimes perceived to be. Overall, I was very pleased with my experience and plan on visiting again to try more of their menu items.
Serves: coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, smoothies, light vegan fare
Vibe: a casual, hip café