Hotel Malibran (Venice, Italy)

Venice is full of cute little spots and terraces where you can sit and soak up the sun (when available) with a nice drink or some food. While looking for a nice place to grab lunch we found a small square with three restaurants. We decided on the Hotel Malibran, as a glance on the menu card revealed several vegan options: a starter, 2 pasta variations and a pizza Marinara (tomato sauce with oregano and garlic).

The view from the terrace at Hotel Malibran
The view from the terrace

While Italian cuisine might not look like it in the form we mostly see it outside of Italy (cheese!), it is generally quite vegan friendly. Almost every Italian restaurant will offer at least one dish which is vegan or can be made vegan by leaving out the Parmesan. That dish is either pasta with tomato sauce, or pasta with garlic-oil sauce. As I had mentioned in my post on the Pizza Leggera , if the pizza is made from scratch it can often easily be made vegan. Unless the pizza is heavily cheese-based this is generally a good option.

Starter at Hotel Malibran consisting of several grilled vegetables
Grilled vegetables: eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes, carrots, courgette and potato.

After we sat down at Malibran, we got some breads and a drink. Since it was lunch time and we needed to keep some stomach space for all the other delicious food available, we shared the vegan starter, which was grilled vegetables. Interestingly there was a potato among the vegetables. Haven’t seen that before!

Pasta with tomato sauce at Hotel Malibran
Pasta with tomato sauce

For our main course we wanted to try a pasta and a pizza. You know, to get a well-rounded review. For the pasta we choose the spaghetti with tomato sauce. For the pizza we decided to get adventurous. Sure, there is a vegan pizza, but let’s up the ante a bit. The vegetarian pizza Vegetariana has grilled veggies and mozzarella, so we asked for that one without mozzarella. Interestingly, the grilled veggies were the same as those of the starter (yes, also the carrot and the potato). Well, you cannot blame them for being efficient. It was very tasty. Now I do not know if they put some additional veggies to make up for the lack of mozzarella, but overall it was just good stuff.

Vegan pizza with grilled vegetables at hotel Malibran
Vegan pizza with grilled vegetables

Dessert-wise we were less lucky. There was lemon ice on the menu, but after verifying our waiter told us it did have milk. Fortunately they did have soy milk so I got a nice soy cappuccino to finish off.

Soy cappuccino at hotel Malibran
The older couple sitting next to us was very confused by me trying to make the perfect image of the cappuccino 🙂

Type of place: Restaurant, Hotel
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: no
Website (Italian, French, English, German) : http://www.hotelmalibran.com/restaurant.html

Burrito Brothers (Geneva, Switzerland)

The Burrito Brothers is a Swiss chain founded by Mexican-born and California-raised brothers. The dishes on offer reflect this heritage; a mix of Mexican recipes mixed with Californian street food style. Most of their dishes are meat-based but there are several vegetarian options which can be easily be prepared fully vegan. They do take–out as well.

In general, the Mexican cuisine is said to be easily ‘veganisable’. I haven’t eaten a lot of proper Mexican food, so I cannot really vouch for that, but that is something to keep in mind !

Table at Burrito Brothers in Geneva showing hot spicy sauces
Hot sauces at Burrito Brothers, Geneva

I have visited the Geneva and EPFL campus locations. The Burrito Brothers at the EPFL campus is in a food-court type space, so the sitting area is shared with several other restaurants. The Geneva location offers a more relaxed eating experience. You order downstairs, where the food is prepared, and there is a small area upstairs with tables. The food is then brought up to your table. The idea of the Burrito Brothers is very much street-style, so the food comes wrapped, in small baskets and you have to get your own utensils. The preparation is also very fast, in line with that philosophy.

The staff at the Geneva location were very pleasant and accommodating both times I visited. They are also quite knowledgeable; when I asked for the vegetarian burrito without sour cream and cheese they correctly deduced I was vegan 🙂  I have tried both vegetarian burritos (the Berkeley and the Presidio) in a vegan version (sour cream &  cheese replaced by guacamole) and the nachos with guacamole.

The first time I visited I believe I didn’t have to pay extra for subbing sour cream/cheese for guacamole, but the few times I visited after I had to pay 2.50Chf for the “added” guacamole, which is a bit unfortunate.

Nachos with guacamole at Burrito Brothers
Nachos with guacamole

Both the Presidio and the Berkeley have a base filling of rice, black beans, corn and pico de gallo. The Presidio has mushrooms in epazote (a type of Mexican herb) and the Berkeley has peppers and onions in addition to the base. While only the Berkeley is mentioned on the menu in the small “baby burrito” version, the staff were fine with making the Presidio as a small version too. The first time we went I was very hungry, but having half the nachos+guacamole plate and a normal-sized burrito was quite a lot of food! The next time we opted for the nachos+guac with two baby burritos (for two people) instead. So just a heads-up, you won’t leave this place hungry.

 

Wrapped burrito Berkely at Burrito Brothers
Baby burrito Berkely

I have not yet tried the soft taco plate or the salad, which might be made vegan. The quasadillas are always made with cheese, which is not so surprising:)

In addition they also offer some interesting drinks from the German soft-drink brand Fritz Kola with e.g. sparkly melon flavour. They also offer their burrito in bowl-form, so without the wrap, as a gluten-free option.

Type of place: Burrito Restaurant/Take out
Completely vegan: no

Website (English, French, German) : http://www.burritobrothers.ch/

Pizza Leggera (Geneva, Switzerland)

Sometimes you just want pizza. Or at least I do. I can’t speak for everyone! My dad makes great pizza, a large square one with a thick crust. He excels in interesting combinations, like tofu and rice (on the pizza yes, don’t knock it till you tried it!)

Due to a lack of nearby dads we ventured out to Pizza Leggera, a restaurant which is known to have vegan pizzas and pastas. They also have gluten-free options. Pizza Leggera is an international chain, with restaurants in Italy, Mexico and Switzerland.

There’s no menu on their web site. I expected they’d offer some traditional Italian pizzas, sans cheese, but I was curious if they’d use “fake cheese” as I had heard some places do. When we arrived we found that the restaurants seems to be a pretty traditional, so no “fake cheese”. They do however have some interesting and non-traditional toppings, such as tofu.

Vegan pizza with grilled veggies and tofu at Pizza Leggera
Pizza with grilled veggies and tofu
To be very honest, I think most pizza places will be able to provide a vegan pizza, since pizza dough is traditionally vegan (might not be true for “fast-food” pizza places like Domino’s by the way) and tomato sauce too. Then just add veggies or mushrooms and leave out the cheese.
Vegan pizza funghi at Pizza Leggera in Geneva
Pizza Funghi

Pizza Leggera has large stickers on the windows noting “Gluten-free” and “Vegan” options. Nice!  There is a terrace with roofing outside and a large seating area inside. We were pretty early, so service was quick. There were several dishes on the menu specifically marked as vegan. We had a pizza funghi and a pizza with grilled veggies and tofu. The pizza was surprisingly light, with a thin crust. I would recommend to try it, not just for the vegan pizza (I am sure the topping of the funghi pizza can be made similarly at other pizzarias) but for the special crust.

The big downside of this place? No vegan desserts 😦 And with the pizza being so much lighter than at most places, we definitively had some room for them!

There is of course tea and coffee available, but unfortunately no soy creamers.

Type of place: Italian restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: no

Website (Italian, English, French, Mexican* ): http://www.pizzaleggera.com/

* they have restaurants in Mexico, but I guess that the language used for the Mexican version of the site is Spanish

Vegan Junkfood Bar (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

After hearing many good stories I finally made the pilgrimage to the Vegan JunkFood Bar (VJFB). There are people that are vegan for health reasons, so this might not be for them. Though, I’d still wager this vegan junkfood might be more healthy than standard junk food. I’ll admit I am biased though!

So in the Netherlands there is this concept of the snackbar or cafetaria. This is a food counter where you can buy fries, ice cream and a variety of (mostly meat-based) snacks. The most interesting thing is that almost all snackbars have a very similar decor and setup, even among different franchises. Note that these cafetarias are very different from chains like KFC and McDonalds in the visitors, people working there and the food on offer. Anyway, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for vegans, but from a cultural anthropological view point I’d say visit one. Btw, the oil used is almost always plant-based, so if the fries and meat are not from the same fryer, try some raspatat. It’s good stuff.   (I believe these types of snackbars are a specific Dutch thing, feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)

A wikipedia commons image of a dutch snackbar
Image from Wikipedia showing a typical cafetaria. Note the small green “trees” between the frozen snacks on offer.

Now to say that the VJFB is “just” a vegan snackbar won’t do justice to the concept. I mean, sure they have typical snack bar foods like the “kapsalon” and “bitterballen”. And they have the typical plastic boxes in which those foods are served in standard snackbars. But the food is, apart from being completely vegan, fancier than what you would expect in a snackbar. Like a sprinkling of sesame seeds over the fries. The burgers are not plasticy but huge and fully loaded with goodness.

We had: the original VJFB burger, the Sumo burger, sweet potato fries, Pakistani bitterballen and fried onion rings. And yes, we ate that all, it was a lot of food, and all very delicious. Don’t come here with a small appetite!

Vegan bitterballen and sweet potato fries at VFJB.
Pakistani bitterballen and sauce in typical plastic box, sweet potato fries and burger in the background.

The burgers are loaded and took some dexterity to eat properly.. no sad patty on a flat bun here! I also really enjoyed their take on bitterballen. I have no memory of eating “actual” bitterballen, but I doubt they are as good as these. In the end I’d say all the dishes, while “junky” are not a substitute but rather an improvement of their original versions.

A huge burger and other snack foods at Amsterdam VFJB
Loaded vegan burger with onion rings and Pakistani bitterballen in the background!

There is also vegan ice cream for dessert, several different flavours.

There are now two VJFB locations, fortunately, because the first one was getting so popular it was almost impossible to find a seat!

Type of place: Junkfood, takeout
Completely vegan: yes
Vegan desserts: yes !
Website (English) :  https://www.veganjunkfoodbar.com/

Awash (Geneva, Switzerland)

The Paquis region near Geneva Cornavin station is an interesting and lively neighbourhood. There are several great restaurants and one of those is the Ethiopian restaurant Awash (which is technically just outside of Paquis). It is tucked away near the train tracks, off the main street. From the outside it seems small and quiet, but once inside you find a busy colourful restaurant. When we visited it was quite busy and there was a lady selling jewellery on a small stand.

I had never been at an Ethiopian restaurant so I was very curious to try. There are several Ethiopian restaurants in Geneva, and the Ethiopian cuisine is known to be vegan-friendly. Awash states clearly on their site that they cater to vegetarians, so it would be a good introduction to Ethiopian food.

The restaurant serves both meat and vegetarian dishes. The vegetarian dishes turned out to be vegan! All food is served with injera, a type of pancake/spongy bread. The injera is used as cutlery to scoop up the food (I have to admit we asked for a spoon as we were not so good handling the injera!) The taste and structure of injera is quite special.

In total there are four vegan dishes, we chose the sharing plate which has a bit of each. The dishes were: red lentils (misir), salad, yellow beans and green vegetables with sauce. The food was served on a large round platter, and the various dishes were put on top of several injera, which soaked up the flavours nicely. There was a second plate with additional injera to use for eating.

The menu on the site is a condensed version, I couldn’t locate a full menu. There are in fact starters and dessert.  I haven’t tried the starters when I was there, so I am not sure if there was a vegan option. I did notice other people order something like samosa’s, which tend to be vegan. The only dessert available when I visited is baklava, which was unfortunately not vegan.

Overall it is a place with a great atmosphere, and delicious food!
Ethiopian sharing platter at Awash
The sharing platter on top of the injera.
Type of place: Ethiopian restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: no

Website (French, English): http://www.awash.ch/