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 right...no 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

Hard Bean Brunch Company - Vegan Options

Willoughby in Langley has popped up as a huge residential area seemingly overnight. The neighborhood is complete with a whole retail business section to serve the residents including a plethora of eateries some of which even feature vegan options!

The Hard Bean Brunch Company is one of those eateries and is located at the corner of 208th and 78B. Parking is not brilliant in the area but your legs aren't broken so expect to walk a bit, unless you get lucky. We arrived at "brunch time" on Saturday, not because we are gluttons for punishment but because that's just the way it worked out. Fortunately, a couple of seats where available at the bar and the lighting is better for photos there anyway. The online menu lists all the vegan dishes available but in the restaurant, the vegan items are on a separate menu that you need to ask for.
We started with a Watermelon Salad. Tell me that doesn't sound amazing! When it arrived, it was served with a hardboiled eggs cut into 4 wedges! I was amazed and exclaimed that they had this vegan egg work of art. However, one of the servers said," Oh, wait! That's not vegan." and he whisked the egg away! Thank you for being on the ball random server who just happened to be helping deliver plates. Anyway, that is why the salad looks a little sparse. There was supposed to be some scrambled just egg in the vegan version of the salad. It was refreshing anyway. BTW, vegan cheese.
The Farm Field Omelette was up next and this was quite impressive. Served with a nice side of fruit, this was indistinguishable from a regular egg omelette as far as flavour and texture (and anything else).
Busted open, is was creamy and full of cheese and veggies. It was only $1.50 more than the regular concoction, without the sausages but with the fruit, so we can justify the price and it was quite tasty.
Given a choice of two burgers on the plant-based menu, we chose the Cauliflower burger with the chick pea and cauliflower patty. They score points here for creativity (anyone can serve an impossible burger, mind you, anyone can serve a beef patty) and taste. We loved the pretzel bun which is far superior to the gluten free nightmare thing they will serve you at White Spot. The hash browns were great also and not of the frozen variety.
Finally, we had the Strawberry French Toast and pretended it was desert. They came with fresh strawberries which was a treat, aquafaba custard and coconut whip (tell me that is not dessert!). Also, it is made with rye bread which is brilliant and I would never have thought of it.
So we had great food and a couple of very good coffees (one was decaf). This is a high ceilinged and quite beautiful place. It is boisterous and busy. The servers are great even though one almost served us an egg but the other one saved us. The one thing that confused me was out actually spending $100 for brunch. Admittedly, we always order too much (can't write a decent blog post without doing so) but we never order alcohol and we are usually just water drinking people (so add $10 for coffees). The food is definitely above average when it comes to quality and presentation so I expect to pay a little more and there is the vegan tax which is actually quite low here. Once you add tax and tip, I see how we got there. So, I guess it is just not that surprising but (and I know this is not apples to apples) we did pay $65 at Feast and Fallow for brunch a month ago (including coffees). I'm just saying.
Food                              4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options               4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                         4 out of 5
Service                          4 out of 5
Value                             3 1/2 out of 5

Machete Ancestral Mexican Food - Vegan Options

So I had assumed that a machete was a long blade suitable for cutting sugar cane and the like or a film series featuring Danny Trejo that Rotten Tomatoes describes as messy, violent, shallow and tasteless (but I'm a huge fan of Danny Trejo) but it turns out to be food also! 

Located across the street from and almost midway between The American and The Ivanhoe on Main Street, Machete Ancestral Mexican Food is not in a prime real estate location but with the new hospital also going up across the road, it probably will be soon. It is a short walk from Main Street Station.
We felt ourselves surrounded by authenticity from the moment we entered (of course, we wouldn't know) including everything from the water glasses to the art on the walls. The fact that our hostess and owner hails from Jalisco and was dressed in her culturally appropriate attire also contributed. 
Naturally, they have tacos here. How could they not? What set them apart from the tacos that we are used to was the blue corn tortillas made in-house from masa ground with stones and lime! We ordered these two tacos with nopales in one and cremini mushrooms and cilantro in the other. Wonderful!
A trio of salsas accompanied our lunch one was of the fresh variety, one with dried smokey chillies and the third was tomatillo leaning. All were delicious and added some spice and complexity.
A Huarache is not something you see on every Mexican restaurant menu but they are not unheard of either. We ordered this one with Rojas Poblanos (trying to work our way through as many of the vegan fillings as possible) which was pleasantly spicy and smokey. Again the tortilla which in this case is a little more oval and longer than the taco, and served flat, was definitely a highlight. The vegan cheese was quite good also.
And finally, we tried the restaurant's namesake, the Machete. Notice that it is similar in shape to the weapon/tool of the same name! Now you know! With the tortillas here being more than spectacular, there is nothing wrong with more!
We ordered one half with pumpkin blossoms (above is the best photo I have of that).
The other half was with huitlacoche. If you are not familiar with it, Google it! Also known as Mexican truffle, it is a fungus that grows with corn and is a bit of a delicacy. Oh, and it tastes nothing like a truffle.  Along with more of the decent melty vegan cheese and some greenery, this was quite a treat.
Everything about this place is warm, welcoming and authentic feeling. Apparently, they started in a commercial kitchen during the pandemic doing take-out and some of their customers insisted that they needed to open a restaurant. And so here they are. Doing miss this place whether you are vegan or other!
Food                          5 out of 5
Vegan Options          4 out of 5
Comfort                     4 1/2 out of 5
Service                      5 out of 5
Value                         5 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...