Writers say “this place is a hidden gem!” so often, I immediately make my hipster face and often move on to read something else… But you guys! Vintage Garden Kitchen is actually a gem of a café and it’s actually hidden!
I found VGK* online last December, searching for a salad near my new apartment on the first day I moved in (i.e., no food in the house yet and who knows where the plates are, anyway?). I told Ben, the café guy, that I was new in the neighborhood but not to the city, and he has been very neighborly ever since. So is the owner/chef and the one café girl (Melanin! Beautiful, delicious melanin, yay!) whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting twice. I don’t usually stay for hours on end because there’s only one electrical outlet for my baby* to feed on, but I’m glad I stayed today. Even the music is good; chill-but-not-sleepy with very few words, if any.
I’ve been here about 7 or 8 times this year and I really like the menu; imagine the “World Music” CD they sell at the botanical gardens, only the songs are in salad, wrap, and sandwich form. I’m trying to say it’s diverse, people! Lots of fresh veggies on everything with boucoup homemade sauces and dressings. There are meaty options, but the concept is plant-based without being in-your-face about it. Vintage Garden also features a good smoothie menu (watch out for yogurt if your diet is dairy-free) and great soups you can have to stay, or to-go with a ‘complimentary’ (as in, ‘included with the price of soup’) mason jar!
Vintage also does daily lunch specials, which is great for the folks who work or stay long-term at Touro who want some variety that’s still relatively health-conscious. If you visit on Friday you should skip the menu get the Thai curry special. Trust me, just do it. Unless you’re afraid of gentle coconut-milky spiciness… or maybe you don’t want to eat something hot when it’s in the 90os outside, that’s fair. Luckily, everything I’ve had is good, so just pick what feels right. So far my faves from the regular menu are the Soup + Bread + Build-your-own-side-salad Combo, with ginger miso dressing; After ‘Shroom Delight Sandwich; & Chocolate Malta (chocolate, peanut butter, banana, yogurt) Smoothie.**
One would expect there to be healthy breakfast and lunch places close to a hospital, but… you know…
#thisISamerica AND the #deepsouth where #deepfried is considered “healthy enough” by many… yeah I’ll go ahead and say “most.” Healthy eating isn’t as stigmatized as it was 5 or 10 years ago, but it’s still considered an “alternative lifestyle” if you eat more veggies than meat and starches. In that regard, I appreciate Vintage Garden Kitchen for giving people a choice that isn’t a SAD (Standard American Diet) one, especially being so close to a hospital.
If you prefer your food more conventional and less medicinal, there is a corner store next door (technically, it’s in the middle of the block, so does that make it a bodega instead? Please comment below!) and a pub/grill on the corner, and a not-sit-down-coffee shop, all on the same block. Interestingly, these establishments pop up on google maps much sooner than VGK if you’re just zooming in, so search for Vintage Garden Kitchen at 1514 Delachaise near Prytania.
Even with all the competition (I didn’t even mention the hospital food they have to compete with!), Vintage Garden Kitchen does good business. The first lunch rush was largely take-out for hospital workers, followed by a full house of diners during the second and third pops of activity after noon. It’s worth noting that the people working never seemed flustered or rushed; they worked quickly and quietly together, which is how a kitchen should work. They probably get a good rush for breakfast too, but that ends at 10 and I got here at 11, when it was just another couple and me.
Since then I’ve been fed and relaxed and productive, with endless refills of tea. I’ll definitely do this again. Thanks for joining me. Let’s chat about corner stores, bodegas and eating habits in the comments, why not? Namaste, y’all.
*By “baby” I of course mean my healthy, handsome new laptop, Nikodemus II. Fortunately for us, he only eats electricity.
**I’m not sure if anybody really calls it VGK, so let’s assume only people cool enough to let you know that “only the cool people call it that” call it that. Damn. I might be actually be a hipster! Can we start making “you might be a hipster” jokes the way Jeff Foxworthy makes redneck jokes, yet? Please?? Give it your best shot in the comments, the target is bigger than my own inflated sense of entitlement ; )
*** I might even get that smoothie for the road because I’m secretly a hedonist ~ I mean.. I because want to reward myself for posting something today… yeah, we’ll go with that.