Aldergrove Indian Bistro - Vegan Options

In keeping with my new found insistence on vegan menus or clearly marked vegan options, we revisited Aldergrove Indian Bistro. Even though AIB is only 5 years old, it seems to have become the OG of Indian joints in this little hamlet. Also, they are one of the few places, Indian or otherwise, that have specific vegan options marked clearly on their menu.

So we went for a late lunch on Saturday and had the place to ourselves. Not that parking is a problem here but there is street parking and a few spots at the back of the restaurant as well.
As is our custom, we ordered way too much but brought our own take out containers for leftovers. Each of the dishes came with Basmati rice so that added to the abundance. We started with one of our favourite lentil dishes, Daal Tadka. Warming and complex with spices and crispy onions etc., I could live on this (wait! I almost do live on lentils!).
Next up was Jeera Aloo, a favourite potato dish cooked with cumin and other spices. Comforting and rich. Loved it.
Another vegetable dish that we tried was the Eggplant Bhartha. This is a dish of roasted and mashed eggplant with lots of ginger, garlic, peas and tomatoes. It is sort of a step up from mashed potatoes for us.
Finally, we had Channa Masala, a chickpea dish with tomato and onion in a masala sauce. We ordered all the dishes with medium heat which provided some nice warming without any pain! We startled our server by ordering 4 dishes but we took literally half of it home for later. 
This is a comfortable, homey kind of place with seating for maybe 50 (?) but I'm really just guessing and didn't count. We were amused by the service button located at the table but it makes sense too. There are a few more vegan dishes but nothing outside of the main dish section. So there are no vegan appetizers or breads. We feel like they could try a little harder with that. Still, delicious vegan Indian food without having to ask a lot of questions! Very nice folks too. BTW, we paid $70 including tax and  tips and took half of it home so very good value!

Food                           4 out of 5
Vegan Options           3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                      4 out of 5
Service                       4 1/2 out of 5
Value                          4 1/2 out of 5

The Barley Merchant - Vegan Options

We will always choose the restaurant with the clearly marked vegan options or vegan menu instead of the eatery where we have to guess or negotiate or discuss menu items with someone who doesn't understand or care about vegans. The Barley Merchant has a specific vegan menu on its website dropdown menu. So off we went!

Located adjacent to the Cineplex Cinemas in Langley north of the freeway (on 200th), I know this used to be something else but I just don't recall. We arrived Sunday just after noon and had no problem getting a table.
We started with the Santa Fe Fritters. These were crispy and not at all falafel like (they kind of look the part) being made mainly from corn, cauliflower, rice and white beans. They were nicely presented and came with a nice ranch type sauce. Very tasty!
We also tried the Nightshade Bisque. This was a rich soup of tomato and red piquillo peppers with a nice note of fresh herbs. Some of the items on the vegan menu indicate minor adjustments such as no  butter or cheese on the toast on this one. I think they could have accompanied this with the unbuttered toast but for some reason, did not do so. 
I'm always drawn to a Veggie Burger that is not jus an Impossible or Beyond thing (although we like both these products) as it seems like a little more effort was made. The patty on this was made from rice and black beans etc. but we're pretty sure that it is not a house product. It was tasty enough. The vegan option here requires French bread instead of the hamburger bun but we had no problem with that. It came with Filthy Fries on the side (that was an upgrade) which were pretty great. Spicy with impressive toppings and a nice dip. One odd thing was a peculiar taste from the cast iron pan they came in (almost soapy) so my advice is don't lick it!
Finally we loved the Coriander Citrus Curry. I don't think we've had a curry with emphasis on the citrus but it worked very well! There was an nice selection of interesting mushrooms and veggies on rice in a wonderful sauce. We were very impressed with this!
Admittedly most people probably come for the beverages and not just the food. We saw many people enjoying flights of local beers but you may have noticed that we are more like water people. Still, we loved the atmosphere and surroundings. Our servers were very pleasant and were tuned in to our vegan preferences. Great place for before or after a movie or anytime! There are quite a few more vegan options to be tried.

Food                          4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options          4 out of 5
Comfort                     4 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5


Vege Garden Pizza and Coffee Shop - Vegan Options

So I saw a couple of posts on Instagram about Vege Garden Pizza and Coffee Shop. The posts sorted some cheese confusion and served to reassure us that they do indeed serve some vegan pizza options here. So we set off to 128th Street and 84th to check them out.

Located in one of the many tilt-up concrete strip malls in Surrey, there is at least decent parking to be had. Unlike the strip malls in Richmond, the many businesses here don't seem to be squabbling over individual parking spaces. 
VGP uses some kind of vegan cheese and sauce and they are specific about it on their menu. Their on-line menu is somewhat confusing as they have a vegan pizza section but there are paneer pizzas within that menu section. I didn't even ask if they were using vegan paneer as I'm pretty sure that is just not a thing. So you still have to steer carefully.
We ordered 2 medium pizzas and I will say this, they make damn good pizza! The first is their Cashew Pizza and I was sort of assuming cashew cheese but this is a cheese and vegetable pizza with cashews! They are generous with the cashews also and they are not crunchy and roasted but nicely cooked so that the texture is pleasant. The crust is pretty good also with a nice chew and just a hint of yeast!
The other was their Sweet and Spicy which we ordered medium spicy and it came with a nice kick. My wife likes her Hawaiian pizza and this one came with pineapple which was as close as we could get. An assortment of chilis gave it the spicy so there was no surprise there. Again, decent crust and they are generous with the toppings. The vegan cheese was OK. It was not the best we have ever had but it was fairly melty, and again, they were not cheap with it.
There is nothing else on the menu that is vegan even though they have a nice selection of South Asian dishes. Ghee everywhere, I guess. There is a small dining section with some booths and a table. The only gripe I have is that the web site is obviously behind the reality. If you have a web site, you need to keep it current. We paid $5 more at the cash register than I expected based on web site pricing for 2 pizzas. Not a big deal but it turns out that all vegan pizzas are $19.05 regardless of size. I ordered 2 mediums on the phone and someone could have said, "Hey. It costs the same if you order 2 larges!" I don't feel ripped off because we got very good vegan pizza but they are clearly not customer service forward and I am still feeling a little annoyed a few days later.

Food                          4 out of 5
Vegan Options          3 out of 5
Comfort                     3 out of 5
Service                      2 1/2 out of 5
Value                         3 out of 5

Hangry Health Bar -Amazing Hidden Gem with Vegan Options

I know, I know, a health bar. A place where you can get bowls and salads and wraps and probably a smoothie. But read to the end and you will think differently about my calling this a hidden gem!

Located on 102a Ave. just west of 154th, parking is a bit hit and miss. You can pay almost $4 an hour to park downstairs but the ap is shit and I couldn't get it to take my credit card. Better to just walk unless you have had knee replacement surgery less than a week ago but that is for another post.
On our first visit, we got a bowl, a wrap and a smoothie to go. The Bangkok Bowl came with a little bit of heat, peanuts and peanut sauce. You choose your base (brown rice) and your protein (tofu) so most of the dishes can be made vegan unless the sauces contain dairy. The menu is quite flexible that way. Also, most dishes can be prepared as bowls or wraps.
We ordered the Hawaiian Bowl as a wrap. Again, choosing tofu and rice, the Hawaiian comes with Teriyaki and pineapple for a little sweeter concoction. Nicely pressed, we enjoyed both of these items and there is quite a bit more we could have tired. 
Finally, we ordered a smoothie for the drive home. We think this was the Tropical Thunder because of the greenish colour but I honestly can't remember. I do remember being enthusiastic about it as we gulped it down on the ride home.
So if this was it, we would have been perfectly happy with a place where you can get a healthy vegan meal, at a reasonable price that is open all the time, b.t.w. (10 to 10, 7 days) and no need to pull into Guildford's nightmare of parking traffic but there were clues that led me to believe that there was more.
On the wall was a map of Eritrea and some basketry and art that was definitely not local. The big give away was a flyer offering free Injera Bites when you signed up for their newsletter. Injera Bites? This and Tshga's (our hostess) delightful accent led us to believe that Eritrean food might be available here too! And so with some confirmation, we returned!
There is no printed menu yet so we just asked Tshga if she could prepare us a Vegan Platter for Two. It came on Injera, the wonderful fermented bread or pancake from Eritrea, made from teff flour which serves as your utensil as well!
At the centre of the platter were stewed lentils flavoured with Berbere spice a flavour unique to the region. Berbere is full of dried chilis but also ginger, fenugreek etc. It is the principle spice mix of the area just as you may expect a garam masala to be used commonly in other areas. In addition to the lentils, there were other lentils, beets, carrots and kale. We were served another injera rolled up on the side as well and we ate everything! Wonderful . The platter was just over $20 but I hope that is just an informal, try it out price. I don't usually encourage restaurants to raise their prices but I hope that if they issue a formal menu, the price will be a little higher and it will still be worth it. 
Just as we were leaving, Tshga asked if we would like to try a coffee and what I expected was a paper cup to go. Instead, what we were presented with was an introduction to Eritrean coffee culture and a coffee ceremony! She explained to us that the women of a village would gather, to solve an issue together and the coffee would be central (an example of how the ceremony is used). With a little help from Copilot, I was able to sus out a few more details. It all starts with wonderful strong coffee redolent with ginger to which a little sugar is added. Incense is typically burned and don't worry, there was no side benefit other than a lovely calming smoke. Popcorn or some other small snack is typically served on the side. The multiple cups (in this case there were only 3 of us partaking) is symbolic of the host's generosity and hospitality. It is a way for the host to make everyone feel welcome. Later I read that each round of coffee has further meaning. Typically 3 rounds represent first, life, then next love or friendship and finally, blessings and good fortune. I did not know that at the time and being a boorish Caucasian, assumed we were done after the first cup. By partaking in the 3 rounds, you honor these symbolic aspects. I am barely scratching the surface here of this unique ceremony.
I get the impression that there is a significant Eritrean community in the area. Tshga told us that we are the first outside that community to pry (my word) into the whole Eritrean food thing and I hope we will not be the last. She assured us that it is here intention to add Eritrean cuisine to the menu but I expect that will be a lot of work and take some time. In the meantime, we were honored to be given a small look into this special culture and cuisine and I hope others will follow in our footsteps and at least enquire. This is a woman who seems to be working very hard and she deserves success! 

Food                              5 out of 5
Vegan Options              4 out of 5
Comfort                         4 out of 5
Service                          5 out of 5
Value                             5 out of 5


Archr Coffee - Vegan Options

We didn't come across Archr Coffee (that's e) in the usual way. I didn't find it on Google or read about its upcoming opening on some food blog. My wife needed to see her physiotherapist about some back discomfort and he was working out of a new location a couple of days a week. The location is a wellness clinic in the Xchange at 20161 86 Avenue in Langley. I came with her a couple of times and decided to grab a coffee at Archr in the same complex. In addition to pretty good coffee, they turned out to have a few vegan treats.

After my first visit, I went back a couple of more times as they were always out of the goal to which I was aspiring, their breakfast sandwich. Admittedly, I was usually showing up in the afternoon.
Their baked goods all come from Too Live For Bakery so we have been saved a trip to Vancouver at the very least. This Chocolate Cookie is a work of art and delicious.
Also from To Live For, the Lemon Loaf is definitely worth your time. It has those little crystalized sugar bits which separates it from your run-of-the-mill lemon loaf. This is not meant to be a review of TLF but it is nice to know you can get something sweet to go with your very good coffee.
Not sure who actually makes the breakfast sandwich at Archr but it is damn good. Not cheap at $12 but with vegan egg, sausage, cheese, tomato, mayo and hot sauce on a toasted English Muffin, it was substantial. In addition to the breakfast sandwich, they offer a vegan lunch sub which looked pretty good but I didn't actually try it. 
So while Starbucks doesn't seem that interested in vegans, there are local places (local if you live in Langley) that have something to offer. Archr has been busy each of the times I have been by but it's a comfortable and pleasant room.
Plant-based milk doesn't seem to be a problem either. I drink my coffee black but on one occasion, I enjoyed an oat milk flat white. Very nice! I just wanted you to know about this option for the hungry vegan in Langley.

Food                     3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options      3 out of 5
Comfort                 4 1/2 out of 5
Service                  4 out of 5
Value                     3 1/2 out of 5

Afghan Kitchen - Vegan Options

When I tried to search for our AK blog post from our previous visit, I couldn't find it. This means that we have not been to Afghan Kitchen in more than 6 years and posted our review on Zomato which is now completely blown up. This is far too long but as I often say, "So many restaurants, so little time". It also means that we visited during my PV (pre-vegan) era so this visit looks at their vegan options.

AK has not moved and is still at 24th and 160th. Lots of parking in the mall that it is part of.
We were there as part of a birthday party for my sister-in-law although I won't say how many years. Is that still a thing? When I was young you never talked about a lady's age! The Bolani was delicious stuffed with potato and I'm not sure what else. Bread is almost always at the heart of a culture's cuising and this is no exception.
The Plant-Base Platter for Two is only $50 which is a smoking deal. It starts with Aushuk, I think  (the online menu is confusing AF and this is another restaurant where they are ambiguous as to what is vegan and what is not vegan - Our server was our savior as she knew the difference). These are plant based dumplings stuffed with cabbage, onions and carrots and topped with split peas in a tomato sauce, that are savoury and wonderful.
My photos are the victims of profoundly harsh lighting (big high window at approaching sunset) for which I apologize. All the corrective stuff on Google Photos, could not save me. Even though it could look prettier, it still was delicious. Rice is the cornerstone here and Afghan Rice is served with raisons, carrots and almonds. Elsewhere on the platter is eggplant, spinach, chick peas and potato.
Turkish Coffee is always a treat. I'm not 100% clear on how it differs from say, expresso (they are bot typically quite strong) bit I do enjoy it and it is always served with flourish.
We actually sat on the floor with the birthday party of about 20 at one end of the restaurant made for that. Low tables and comfortable cushions accommodate this more traditional dining arrangement. The rest of the dining room has tables and chairs for those whose knees and backs are feeling their age. AK now has a sister restaurant in Vancouver called, Zarak. I notice that they have a few vegan options as well.
Food                       4 out of 5
Vegan Options       3 out of 5
Comfort                  3 1/2 out of 5
Service                   4 1/2 out of 5
Value                      4 out of 5

Virtous Pie - Vegan Pizza and more

VP might have been our first vegan restaurant review ever. It was before I was all in but was participating in World Vegan Month in November of 2018 at the time. We don't often go back to a place that I have reviewed (not because I fear repercussions) because I am convinced that getting the word out on every other place with plant-based options is important. Anyway, our pre Canucks game brunch idea fell through and there did not seem to be any other viable options within walking distance of Rogers that were open on Sunday morning. Lo and behold, Virtuous Pie has started serving weekend brunch and is now open at 10:30 am. (this valuable info is missing from their Google Maps listing).

So somehow we ended up on Main near Keefer for our second visit only 4 1/2 years after our first visit. There are now locations in Victoria and Portland so the formula is proving successful. We have lost some vegan eateries in the last year but we have lost a lot of non vegan eateries as well due to the economy (just in case you heard someone say that veganism is a fad that is passing away).
We shared one of the best Mac n Cheese Skillets that we have had in forever. This was creamy and cheesy and makes me absolutely not regret my decision to stop eating the dairy based version. This was not off the brunch menu so you can enjoy it any time.
Next up was, The Sandwich! This was delivered on a vegan brioche bun which is a site better than the gluten-free buns that we are occasionally subjected to. This sandwich came with a slightly spicy sausage patty and a very good tofu scramble. I think what really made this such good eats were the multiple creamy elements, melty cheese, cashew Hollandaise and garlic aioli. Nice tots on the side too!
This is a nice room with communal tables. The brunch menu offers a lot of interesting items including a breakfast pizza and really, pizza is the key to their success here. It's a small detail but I loved that when you grab your own water, you have a choice of still or sparkling! The folks here are very friendly also...maybe we find everyone friendly because we are friendly. Someone let me know if when you walk into one of the places we review and act all grouchy, that makes a difference. In the meantime, iIt won't be 4 1/2 years before we get back here.
Food                         4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options          5 out of 5
Comfort                     4 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...