The Loving Cafe is located at 318 Delaware Ave. in Delmar, NY, at the former site of Java Jazz Cafe. Since the disgusting heat finally seems to have broken around here, I ventured out today for lunch with my mom.
Like Java Jazz, the cafe serves coffee, tea, and a variety of specialty coffee drinks. Unlike Java Jazz, they also offer a completely vegan menu comprised of foods like burgers and BLTs; wraps, sandwiches, and bagel sandwiches; soups and salads; and a variety of noodle and rice dishes. Vegan “meats” include ham, steak, fish fillet, shrimp, and seafood salad. There are also a few things featuring vegan cheese, like a grilled cheese sandwich, ham and cheese, and mac & cheese. Currently there are no dessert options aside from a few muffins, but the available space in the bakery case makes me hopeful that some will appear in the future.
I wasn’t feeling too adventurous, so I ordered a hummus sandwich on a multigrain bagel, which came with chips and coleslaw. My mom ordered sesame noodles with fish and a side of veggies. Looking around while we waited was a little weird for me, since I remember the place from when it was Java Jazz. The layout was pretty much the same, but I missed the locally-created art that used to hang on the walls. However, it was nice to see the muffins, once a staple of Java Jazz (and now vegan!), for sale up front. They apparently also sell pints of Rice Dream ice cream, but it was currently out of stock.
Our food arrived in a decent amount of time. My sandwich was well stacked with veggies of all kinds-carrots, peppers, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and onion. The bagel was hearty and had a good texture to it, which the hummus accented well.
The hummus itself was pretty awesome. Thinner than the kind I make, but very garlicky with a nice hint of lemon. I didn’t know if I was going to want the whole sandwich in one sitting, but it was so good that I wound up polishing it off. The chips seemed to be your garden-variety thin potato chip, but tasted like they may have been kettle-cooked. The coleslaw was also pretty typical, with shredded cabbage and carrots, but the dressing was yellow and had an enjoyable hint of dijon or similar type of mustard.
The noodle dish my mom ordered came, rather oddly, with everything separated on the plate. When I order noodle dishes out somewhere, I usually think of noodles topped with their accompaniment.
My mom found the initial mix of vegetables to be too salty and was able to get a new batch without a problem. She really enjoyed the fish fillet, which she assured me was authentic enough to fool even my dad, who used to be rather fond of a certain fast food fish sandwich. The sesame noodles were tossed lightly with oil and black sesame seeds; again, my mom appreciated that they went light on the oil instead of drowning the noodles in it like some restaurants do.
When you take portion size into account, prices at The Loving Cafe vary from reasonable to high. I considered what I paid for my sandwich to be decent and comparable to other places that offer sandwich shop fare. My mom’s dish, however, was less than half the size of what we’ve come to expect when we eat out. We’re used to being able to save half our lunch to eat for dinner or have the next day, and at Loving Cafe we weren’t able to do that. So in that regard, we were both a little disappointed. I’m also not sure how I felt about the presentation of food on paper plates with plastic utensils. I wouldn’t count this against The Loving Cafe, since I’ve eaten at other perfectly good establishments that do the same thing, but personally I prefer traditional restaurant place settings. That’s probably my hangup!
All in all, I wanted to love the Loving Cafe. The prospect of having a 100% vegan eatery at least somewhat close by was exciting, but my experience there was unfortunately anticlimactic. Other vegan restaurants I’ve eaten at have personality that Loving Cafe seems to lack. Granted, right now they’re operating under a “soft opening,” meaning that they’re still getting the feel for the way they want to operate when they officially open. I’m hoping by then, they get their prices and portion sizes sorted out so that local vegans can really enjoy themselves there.
If you’re in the Delmar, NY area and want to check the place out, I recommend the sandwiches. But as of yet, The Loving Cafe isn’t a vegan eatery worth making a special trip to check out.