Avocado (Athens, Greece)

Outside of Avocado

Avocado is a vegetarian restaurant in Athens that has been around for several years.  The founders actually started with having a yoga studio, and the food served at Avocado has a focus on health as well. A lot of the food is labelled organic, and they serve some specific macrobiotic dishes. Avocado uses local, organic and seasonal products for as far as possible. Apart from the macrobiotic food, they serve pastas, pizza, soup, noodles, wraps, burgers and more. For drinks there are smoothies, juices, wines, tea, coffee etc.

Interior at Avocado

There is some confusion on the internet whether or not Avocado is vegan or vegetarian. It is vegetarian, but they serve several vegan dishes and items that can be served vegan. On the menu card it is listed which items are vegan, gluten-free or wheat-free. I did notice some discrepancies between the online menu and the menu card in Avocado itself, so maybe there had been a recent update of dishes. For example, we tried the falafel plate which was listed as ‘can be made vegan’ in the restaurant, and as ‘vegan’ online.

Drinks at Avocado
Coconut smoothie hiding a beer!

I tried a coconut milk shake, made with coconut and almond milk. This smoothie was specifically mentioned as vegan. Some of the other drinks can be made vegan upon request (at a surcharge). I really enjoyed it, the taste was just purely coconut, which I happen to enjoy.

Spinach tart at Avocado
“Mother Earth” spinach tart topped with almonds

For starters we tried the ‘Mother Earth’, a spinach tart, and the falafel plate (made vegan).  The spinach tart is based on traditional Greek food. The spinach part and the dough were tasty, though the dough, which is made with oat, amaranth and flax seed, was quite hard and a bit chewy. The tart itself was topped with almond and some were burned. Unfortunately, the tart was clearly re-heated in the microwave since some parts were cold and others were very hot.

Falafel plate at Avocado
Falafel plate: these falafels are huge!

We were warned that the falafel plate was big, and that was no lie! We were told we could bag up what we couldn’t finish, but as we spend the whole day walking around, a doggy bag was not needed. The falafel plate in its vegan form is served with guacamole which I found a bit strange. It is served with nice thick pita and tabbouleh with capers. The falafel themselves were very good!

Black Bean Caponata at Avocado
Black Bean Caponata wrap with nachos and gauc

What was a bit surprising was that we got the starters one at the time. The mains we got both at the same time. We tried a Black Bean Caponata wrap and a Koula panini. Both are served with guacamole and nachos. (I read later on the menu for the Koula panini we could’ve chosen sweet potato flakes. Well, next time :))  The Black Bean wrap is Mexican-inspired, with grains, black beans, avocado and veggies. The Koula panini has a potato-mushroom patty, tomatoes and home-made Ceasar dressing.

Koula panini at Avocado
Koula panini, also served with guac and nachos

There are two vegan desserts, and we tried the ‘hug a tree’: a slice of apple pie topped with hazelnuts and almonds. Interestingly with a similar crust as the spinach pie. Very nice, but again reheated in such a way that parts of it were cold.  We had the dessert with a nice coffee. Avocado offers soy and almond milk, but again for a small surcharge (it is organic though).

Apple pie at Avocado
“Hug a tree” apple pie

The atmosphere at Avocado is quite relaxed, with music from the 50s-60s. Interestingly there were quite a lot of older people for lunch. The food is a bit more expensive than the norm in Athens, but overall the quality is good (except for where they failed to properly heat the food). I also liked the portion sizes; many “health”-oriented places serve smaller amounts of food in my experience.

Cappuccino at Avocado
(Organic) Soy cappuccino

The service was also good, which I found common in Athens. The servers came by several times to ask if we liked the food. Which is nice, except sometimes I just had one bite so I couldn’t really judge yet 😀 The food also came out quite fast. Minor nitpick was that the service was a bit too fast with taking the plates, which gave a bit of a rushed feeling. But overall eating at Avocado was a positive experience!

Type of place: Vegetarian/Health restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (English) : https://www.avocadoathens.com/

Zum Wohl (Vienna, Austria)

Inside Zum Wohl

A few weeks ago I wrote about Vegana Indiana, a fully vegan and gluten-free restaurant that serves delicious food. Today another gluten-free restaurant! While Zum Wohl is not veggie-exclusive, they have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, which are clearly marked on the menu card. The restaurant is also lactose-free, so many allergy-suffers can eat here without problems. Zum Wohl calls themselves “the restaurant that all can enjoy” and I have to agree with that statement!

Interior at Zum Wohl

 

Zum Wohl has a relaxed atmosphere and a cozy interior, a bit like an older style bistro. It reminded me a of  Spinoza , another great bistro. We visited quite late for dinner, and it was not very busy anymore. There is a large room, and a smaller room in the back where a football (soccer) game was on. We didn’t watch though 🙂 There’s also a nice terrace outside. I believe they also do delivery via Foodora. There is a special, smaller lunch menu and a more extensive menu for dinner.

Ready for food!

Zum Wohl focuses on fresh, regional ingredients, and the menu card actually mentions several of these local suppliers. The food that is served is a mix of more typical Austrian fare, like “knödel” and pancakes, Italian dishes like risottos and pasta, and more exotic foods like a quinoa salad and a chickpea curry. As with all Austrian places I have seen so far, for every dish (common) allergens which might be present are noted.

Beet carpaccio at Zum Wohl
Beet carpaccio

We started with the fermented red beet carpaccio, with balsamic cream and nuts. The sour sauce goes very well with the sweet beets! It is served with a small slice coarse bread, which I like. There was a little bit of salad on the beets but it could’ve been left off because it was looking pretty sad.

Spinatknödel at Zum Wohl
Spinatknödel in tomato sauce with nut pesto

After we tried the “spinatknödel” (spinach dumplings) in tomato sauce, served with nut pesto, and zucchini/carrot noodles in sauce, with herb pesto. I really liked the spinach dumplings, the dough is actually mixed with the spinach, rather than the spinach being packaged in the dough. This creates a very interesting spongy texture, which sounds strange but it was very good! The noodles were served in a sauce with beans and potatoes, which is slightly spicy. I also really enjoyed the pesto which is made of nuts. Both dishes are nice and light.

Zoodles and sauce at Zum Wohl
Zucchini and carrot noodles in sauce

There are also vegan desserts at Zum Wohl! Well there is exactly one, but that is sufficient. The dessert is a vegan ‘panna cotta’, topped with coconut shavings and sour berries. It is not very sweet, but like the mains very fresh and light.

Vegan panna cotta at Zum Wohl
Vegan panna cotta!

I really enjoyed the meal and the ambiance at Zum Wohl. The service was also good! What was also nice is that most vegan dishes are actually cheaper than the non-vegan ones.

 

Type of place:  Gluten-free and Lactose-free bistro
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes!

Website (German, English) : https://www.zumwohl-gastro.com/

On Tipping

 

“Tipping is not included…” How often have I heard this when going out for dinner?

 

Not that often, actually (surprise!). I’d say about one in 10 times I go out for dinner or lunch, maybe less. Because it is so rare it kinda stands out. So, when recently I again was confronted with this phrase, in a restaurant which was really not that great, it kinda inspired me to write a little post on the subject. Get ready for some random thoughts!

 

The places that I have been told about the “service is not included” are mostly tourist-y places and restaurants in the US. Now I know that in the US tipping is a big deal, because often restaurant employees are underpaid and the tips are part of their livelihood. In Northern Europe, not so much. I am not saying servers are rich, but restaurant workers make a living wage, so all tipping is extra. When going abroad I usually make sure to read up on the local tipping culture to avoid making some social faux pas. For example, in some Asian countries giving a tip is apparently considered rude!

But I do feel that if you are in a very touristic area/appear to be a tourist restaurants are more likely to pull the “Tipping not included :)”-card, even in countries where tipping is not mandatory. (Which is what happened in the restaurant of the second paragraph…)

So when is the tip included? Sometimes you see ‘service compris’ or ‘service included’ on the menu card or the bill, which means that the gratuity *is* in fact included in the price. I noticed this in some restaurants in e.g France and Italy.

Where does the idea of giving extra money on top of a bill come from when it comes to eating out? It is kinda weird if you think about it. If I buy a new phone I won’t tell the salesperson to ‘keep the change’. Or leave some coins in the air plane seat after flying. It seems that gratuity is due to historical reasons; service personnel used to be paid badly and the tips were (a large part of) their income. Additionally there was a power difference, where the wealthy eater would offer some coins to the less affluent service staff.

In many countries this has been changed later and service personnel actually get at least minimum wage. But the habit remained.

Bill at American Dream Diner

Personally, I give some extra money if the service has been good-to-great. If the service is okay it depends on how much coins I have (hey that is a factor too!). Normally I would round the bill up to a nice number to give about 5-10 %** depending on the price of the food.

 

Since I became vegan I have noticed that my tipping behaviour has changed. The availability of vegan options, and the reactions of the staff definitively plays a role here. I tend to tip more at fully vegan restaurants, and restaurants that have good & clearly marked vegan options. Also restaurants that have no vegan options that are willing to make me something special, or are accommodating in another way, will get more money from me.

Because if I go somewhere and people are thoughtful and caring, I want to throw money at them to stimulate them to do that more. I think overall, as a vegan I give larger tips compared to when I was still vegetarian. I do also feel a bit that I am representing a larger group so I want to leave a positive impression 🙂

 

 

What are your thoughts on gratuity & service charges? Do you think tipping is silly and you refuse it or are you always very generous? Did you start tipping more when going vegan too? Let me know! I am always interested to hear others opinions on this, because no matter how rational we approach gratuity, it remains a tricky topic I think.

 

 

**Now, if you are used to tipping 10-20%, that seems super stingy, but remember these people make a normal living wage.

Sources:

Vegana Indiana (Vienna, Austria)

VeganaIndiana_interior

Vegana Indiana is a vegan, gluten-free and dog-friendly bar/restaurant in Vienna, so you can go for coffee and cakes, and also for a full meal. The decorations are natural with a rough edge, with wooden accents and a lot of plants. They play pop music, which makes for an interesting contrast. There is also a terrace, and they do take-away.

Cupcakes at Vegana Indiana
Vegan cupcakes

We initially went in for a coffee and a small snack, but after seeing the menu card we really wanted to try a full-size dish because the food looked very interesting!  The dishes are original, and they use a lot of local ingredients. The menu also states common allergens that might be present in a dish, something I have noticed in other Viennese restaurants as well.

VeganaIndiana_interior3

We shared a dish of Gary (vegan cheese**) and potatoes which was served with cranberries and vegan mayonnaise. The potatoes are nice and crispy and the vegan cheese is very tasty.  We also got a small (gluten-free!) piece of bread with it, which was tasty.

Gary with potatoes at Vegana Indiana
“Gary” or vegan cheese, with baked potatoes, cranberries and vegan mayonnaise

I also tried ice coffee with almond milk, which has actual ice cream!

Ice coffee at Vegana Indiana
Ice coffee

For dessert we tried a pancake with jam (tasty, not very special), and a ‘marillenknödel’, a dumpling with apricot. These dumplings are quite specific to the Austrian and Czech cuisine. They are formed from dough, a whole apricot is put inside, then they are boiled in salted water and covered with bread crumbs and powdered sugar.  I never had one before so I didn’t know what to expect. They are not very sweet, the dough was a bit soft and crumbly. Not sure if it is my new favourite pastry, but I am glad to have been able to try this traditional Viennese dish!

Marillenknodel at Vegana Indiana
Marillenknödel, apricot dumpling

So yes, great place, can recommend! One downside: Only cash accepted! (Though this is something that seems a bit more common in Vienna)

Pancake dessert at Vegana Indiana
Pancake with jam; a classic
Type of place: vegan and gluten-free restaurant, take-away
Completely vegan: yes
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (German) : http://www.vegana-indiana.at

American Dream Diner (Geneva, Switzerland)

Bar at American Dream Diner
Step into a time machine

Stepping into the American Dream Diner in Geneva is like being transported to the USA in the 50ties. The chrome, the benches, the jukeboxes! Personally, it reminds me of the game Fallout. The American Dream Diner is inspired by old American Diners, and provides, as they call it, an escape from today’s complex world. While I don’t think life was more easy at that time, stepping into the Dream Diner is like stepping in a time capsule. But with vegan options! The interior is the real deal, imported from the US.

Interior at American Dream Diner

American Dream Diner can be found in Geneva, and soon they will open a second location in Geneva, and open in Nyon and Lausanne as well! There is also a small shop attached which sells American foodstuffs like Pop-tarts, non-food like magazines, but there is also a selection of for example Canadian items (also online: http://www.americanmarket.ch/)

Table at American Dream Diner
Paper straws in the background

The Diner serves ‘typical’ American food, like burgers, fries and hot dogs and they have vegan options for all the burgers! They can substitute both the patty and the cheese with a plant-based alternative. The patties are made in-house and are composed of among others wheat and soy. Also the hot dogs and Mexican Chili can be made vegan.  Interestingly they also serve salads, and those are not vegan. (Though I am sure you can ask for them to be made vegan)

Snacks at American Dream Diner
Fries, Onion rings with vegan dip, and chili fries with vegan cheese

So yes, there was a lot to try! We started with the onion rings, served with a vegan sauce and two types of fries, the American and chili “cheese” fries. The fries are nice and thick, the portions reasonable. We tried both the BBQ burger and the classic cheese burger in vegan form. The burgers are pretty big, and taste good, a bit mushroom-y I would say.

Vegan Cheese burger at American Dream Diner
‘Cheese’ burger

To be honest, while the burgers tasted slightly different from each other (because different sauces were used) it was not really outspoken. I think this is because the vegan patties are the same and the difference between these two burgers is rather due to the type of cheese and the addition of bacon in the BBQ burger. Maybe the non-vegan counterparts also taste similar, I cannot really judge that 🙂

Food at American Dream Diner

There are also special drinks served like floats and milkshakes. Unfortunately these are not vegan.  There are also no vegan desserts.

The service was very good, the staff was very kind and helpful when it came to explaining the available vegan options. Also, they actually mentioned that they had no vegan desserts, which was quite thoughtful. Usually when I go somewhere, even if it is clear that I am vegan, I will be offered the dessert card even if there is nothing vegan on there. So extra points from me for this.

Interior at American Dream Diner
Even the bill is brought in style! Dunno if the candy is vegan though…

I really want to go back to the Diner ! The food was good, the atmosphere great, and I want to test out the vegan hot dogs as well!

Type of place:  American diner
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: no

Website (French, English) : http://www.americandreamdiner.com/

Akakiko (Vienna, Austria)

Akakiko entrance

 

Akakiko is a chain restaurant in Austria which serves ‘easy Japanese fusion’. The interior has a Japanese and modern feel, with modern music. The location we happened to visit had the interesting feature that the bathroom was situated outside of the restaurant (which was located in a residential building) Of course not relevant to the food, but it stood out.

Haramuki at Akakiko
Haramuki; japanese ‘spring rolls’

The place was pretty busy when we were there, with a pretty diverse crowd. We happened to be near the Stephansdom, which is in the touristy centre of Vienna. There were several tourists (like us!) but I think there were also actual Viennese lunchers. It is definitely more of a bistro than a fancy restaurant, which is also reflected in the prices. They also do take-out and delivery.

Gyoza at Akakiko
Vegetable gyoza ! Btw those are not shrimps on the table, that is just the table mat…it is a bit unfortunate

Akakiko serves several vegan dishes, which are clearly marked on the menu card. At the back of the menu card there is even a small section where all vegan dishes are grouped together. Most of the vegan options are the starters and smaller dishes, like sushi, but there is also a vegan main. The menu is quite large and it was a bit unclear how much a portion is especially for the starters and side dishes.

Kabechu at Akakiko
Loved this cabbage salad!

Good thing we were hungry, so we decided to just try a bunch of dishes. For starters we had a kabechu salad (cabbage salad), fried rice mix, vegetable gyoza and harumaki (Japanese spring rolls). The kabechu salad was really nice and refreshing, a bit spicey. The gyoza were very nice, crispy and delicate, filled with rice and vegetables. It was served with a spicy sauce. The menu says you get 6 but we got 7, which is also okay! The harumaki had a similar filling and were also very nice, not too oily. The fried rice mix is really almost a complete dish, not really a side or a starter.

Fried rice at Akakiko
Fried rice with some sushi in the background

For mains we wanted to try the yasai sushi and spicey veg (complete dish) And we got them while we were still eating the starters, which was a bit annoying as the table space was quite limited.

Yasai sushi at Akakiko
Yasai: a mix of maki and sushi. Interesting choice of vegetables!

The yasai sushi is a combination of vegetable sushi and maki. The vegetables used, like broccoli, made it quite interesting. The taste was okay, but a bit dry. The spicy veg dish consists of rice with vegetables and mushrooms in a spicy Chilli-Soy sauce. I didn’t think it was very special but it hit the spot.

Spicy veg at Akakiko
Spicy veg; one of the mains

Akakiko serves vegan desserts! I find that many traditional Japanese sweets are actually vegan, but many Japanese restaurants tend to serve “western-style” desserts. Which is a shame, because I love Japanese desserts. At Akakiko we tried the mochi dessert: a rice cake with filling which was served with melon. The mochi was nice and soft, the taste of the filling was not very strong, in a pleasant way.  They also serve “apple gyoza”, which was a similar dough as the vegetable gyoza but filled with apple.  The combination of apple with the crispy gyoza was very good! It reminded me a bit of apple pie (unsurprisingly)

Mochi dessert at Akakiko
Mochi and melon

 

The food was okay, I especially loved the kabechu salad and the gyoza.  The service was unfortunately quite sloppy. We somehow got all our food at once, both the starters and the mains. One of our dishes was forgotten (we got it quickly after reminding the server). And then the desserts were served one after the other, with enough time to finish one dessert and wait around for the next one, which was very strange.

Gyoza at Akakiko
Apple-stuffed gyoza
Type of place: Japanese Fusion restaurants
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes!

Website (German) :  https://akakiko.at/

 

Sajna (Geneva, Switzerland)

From this blog it might seem I go out for food a lot. While that is not entirely true (as  I have mentioned before 🙂 ) I don’t often revisit the same restaurants because I keep seeing new, interesting places I want to try.  But one of the few restaurants I have visited several times was not even on my blog! Until today, that is.

Interior at Sajna

The first time I went to Sajna, I had recently moved to Geneva, and I was supposed to meet some former colleagues for dinner. They asked me to pick a place because they were a bit unsure what places serve vegan food ! (If only my blog had existed at that time :D) Since I hadn’t visited any restaurants in Geneva yet, I decided to randomly pick an Indian restaurant (because I like Indian food) that was conveniently located. That is how I found Sajna! Of course I checked the menu online, which seemed promising. When I called to make a reservation, I asked about their vegan options, and I was assured that there was plenty of vegan food available. I was not disappointed!

Interior at Sajna

Sajna serves Bengali (eastern India/Bangladesh) dishes, and the more typical Indian restaurant dishes. What is kind of interesting is they have another branch of this restaurant in Bangladesh, which existed there before the Geneva location.

Appetizer at Sajna
Appetizer of papadums with 3 sauces (2 of which are vegan)

The interior is kind of typical Indian restaurant style. There are two rooms and a small terrace outside. However, the terrace is on a very noisy street, so that is not ideal. As often in Indian restaurants we got a papadum with 3 sauces for appetizer. Two of the sauces are vegan (the tamarind and the spicy chutney), and the other is with yogurt.

As mentioned there are plenty of vegetarian dishes, and some of those are vegan. In most cases, in the description on the menu it will say clearly whether the dish will have cream or paneer (cheese) but it won’t hurt to ask. The staff will happily sub non-vegan items like cream if requested. Another nice thing is that Sajna has vegan chapati (flat bread) !

Starters at Sajna
Mixed pakora (left) and samosa

We started with samosa and mixed pakora. The samosa have a nice shape, a sturdy dough exterior and are filled with slightly spicy potato mash. There are several types of pakora on the menu; you can also order just a set of one type but choosing is hard:), so we went for the mixed pakora and you get one of each type.  (In the menu description it says that it is a mixture of the potato, aubergine, cauliflower and onion pakora, but since there is also a paneer pakora, it won’t hurt to explicitly mention that you don’t want that one)

Mains at Sajna
Baighan bartha (left) and mixed vegetable korma with coconut milk. On the side safran rice and basmati rice. Not pictured: chapati

One of my favourite Indian dishes is the baigan bharta: grilled aubergine with tomatoes. This version is a little bit spicey, but so so good. We also got this time the mixed vegetable korma, which is normally not vegan (made with cream) but was made with coconut milk and cashews upon request. The coconut milk was pretty present in the taste and creaminess of the dish. It was naturally a bit sweet, and went well with the vegetables in the sauce. We also got chapati and rice with it.

Baighan Bartha at Sajna
Baighan bartha ❤

The service at Sajna is very good. They actually mention on their website that they are very willing to accommodate specific needs. It is always better to mention this upon reserving. But this time we didn’t reserve and they still made us the special korma sauce (it was not very busy when we were there, else we would probably not have asked it) Another time, when I did make a reservation beforehand,  I asked about dessert options and they actually prepared a dessert for me (kheer; a rice pudding with coconut milk)

So in summary, good food, great service, will visit again 🙂

Type of place: Indian Restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: upon request 🙂
Website (French, English) :http://www.sajna-restaurant.com/