Kolo is a completely vegan café in Kyiv which serves vegan food, like wraps, soups, salads and burgers. You can also come in for coffee, milkshakes, teas and sweets. The menu changes daily. You can order pies and I believe they do food delivery too.
The place itself is cute, a bit hipster, with brick walls and different types of art on the wall. We visited for coffee and a slice of cake. Unfortunately they were just out of cakes! But there were cupcakes, so we tried a carrot-cake cupcake. It was very tasty, and nicely moist. I had a blueberry milkshake (I love how many vegan places offer milkshakes in Kyiv!) which was good.
I have to say the service was a bit overzealous, they took my cup literally minutes after I finished my drink. Apart from that, it was a nice place to sit and relax a bit. I want to go back for a full meal! So there might be a part 2 to this review 🙂
Somehow I never really was exposed to Ethiopian and Eritrean food before coming to Switzerland. I am not sure how common Ethiopian restaurants are around the world, but it was somehow not on my radar. Which is very unfortunate since I have been missing out. Turns out Ethiopian food is delicious and great for vegans! I have discussed several Ethiopian restaurants on my blog and I actually go back to those quite often. So, if you still haven’t tried: you are missing out.
Once again, I want to iterate that with this article I will just provide a basic overview. The culture and cuisine of Ethiopia and Eritrea is, like all cultures, very extensive. Please check the sources below for more information. Especially the second link is full of information (it is a blog companion to a book)
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Notice in the title I mention Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia, it separated after a long fight for independence. The cuisines are quite similar, except in Eritrea, which has a coast, more seafood is consumed. Also, since this part was colonised by Italy longer, there are some specific pasta dishes found in Eritrea. I noticed several Ethiopian restaurants call themselves “Ethiopian and Eritrean” so I am sure they don’t mind I bunch them together here.
Ethiopia is a pretty special country with a history longer than most. Literally. Since some of the oldest modern human skeletons have been found in Ethiopia. It is also the region from where the first modern humans travelled to the Middle-East and beyond. And, little known fact maybe, but it was one of the first countries that adopted Christianity as a state religion. Christians still make up the greater part of the population, followed by Islam. While initially the Ethiopian Orthodox church was part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, it separated in 1959.
Which is a nice segue to get onto the food, because that is what we are here to talk about! Orthodox Christianity prescribes several fasting days and periods, called tsom in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, during which animal products are excluded from the menu (similar as Pist of Post in Ukraine). This means that Ethiopian cuisine has several specifically vegan dishes, which are commonly eaten during these fasting periods.
Most Ethiopian dishes are in the form of thick, spicy stews, called wat or wot. These stews are served on top of injera, a large, thin, circular pancake made of fermented teff flour. Teff is a type of grass, and one of the earliest cultivated plants. The injera has a very specific taste due to the fermentation, and an almost spongy texture. It serves as a plate, and also as utensils; pieces are torn of to scoop up the stews (with the right hand!). In most Ethiopian restaurants you don’t get utensils (unless you ask nicely:)) and I have to say learning to efficiently eat one-handedly was a bit of a struggle, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
During non-fasting days, different types of meat are used (apart from pork and shell-fish for religious reasons). Some dairy products are used, specifically clarified butter, niter kibbeh, for cooking (this is substituted by different types of oils during the fasting periods). Legumes such as lentils, chick peas, and split peas are used in stews as well. Common vegetables are potatoes, onions, garlic, chard, carrots, tomatoes. For spices, the ‘berbere’ spice mix, which contains chilli peppers is very common. Some less spicy stews rely more heavy on turmeric.
Desserts are not really part of the Ethiopian food culture. The desserts that are exist are mostly imported from other cultures, like from the Italian and Arabic cuisines. The Ethiopian restaurants I have been too mostly serve Western-style desserts, or baklava. Of course Ethiopian-style sweets and pastries do exist, they are just not commonly eaten as desserts.
Of course you can find a lot of global brands of drinks, like soft drinks, beer and wine in Ethiopia. But there are also some specific traditional drinks. However, in restaurants outside of Ethiopia, those drinks might be less common.
Let’s start with one of the most important beverages in Ethiopia: Coffee. Traditionally it is made in a clay pot (jebena), and the beans are roasted on the spot. There is a whole coffee ceremony surrounding the drinking of coffee, which can take hours. Coffee is consumed with salt or sugar, and in some regions niter kibbeh is added to it.
For alcoholic beverages, there is tej (honey wine), tella (beer made from barley) and areki, a strong liquor made of grain. In general beer is the most popular alcoholic drink, and in many Ethiopian restaurants several kinds of Ethiopian beer are served in addition to the local drinks. Kenetto is a drink similar to tella, but without alcohol.
Vegan dishes in Ethiopian restaurants
My exposure to Ethiopian food has purely been in restaurants outside of Ethiopia, so similar as for article on Indian food, there might be a Western cultural influence at play I am not aware of. What I have seen and eaten does line up with most of what I have read about the food, and most of the places I went to were also frequented by people from Ethiopia, so my guess is that it is relatively accurate. I do think the spiciness might be tuned down a bit 🙂
In all Ethiopian restaurants I have visited there is a clear distinction between the meat and vegetarian/vegan dishes on the menu card. In general the vegetarian dishes are okay for vegans to, just make sure there is no butter used. I found in most restaurants it is common to get several stews at once, which is similar to how the food is served in Ethiopia.
The stews are served on a (couple of) injera, and often accompanied by a salad made of greens, onions and tomatoes. Also, commonly the food is served in a sort of ‘sharing style’, where there is one main platter for several people. This platter is often presented in a mesob, a woven wicker basket. Traditionally these come on a foot, and all diners will sit around it to eat. Smaller versions that can fit on a dinner table exist as well.
Sambusa/samosa: dough triangles filled with lentils (vegan version). Served as a starter
Injera: the sour-dough pancake made of teff
Shiro wat : mild chick pea stew, made from powdered chick peas. When I first had it I thought it was made from peanuts! It is very soft and creamy. (Careful, it occasionally contains niter kebbeh!)
Misir wat: red lentil stew with berbere spices
Kik alecha: yellow split peas, the alecha is a milder type of stew made with turmeric
Gomen wat: Collard greens stew. I have mostly seen this dish made with spinach.
There are many more variations on these stews but these are the ones I have seen the most! Wow, writing this post made me crave some Ethiopian food! I am going to have to plan my next stop at an Ethiopian restaurant…I recently discovered some new ones 😀
Mama Tierra, or “Mother Earth” in Spanish, is a fully vegan restaurant in Athens. It was the first meal we had in Athens, so it set the standard!
The atmosphere inside is relaxed, with jazzy music. It is not a very big place, and it was rather empty when we were there.
Mama Tierra is open for lunch and dinner, providing “healthy and delicious food for all” (their words). Where possible they use local and organic products. In fact on the menu it is mentioned they buy all veggies fresh each day and they mention which ingredients may be frozen. Apart from dining-in, there is the option for take-out, delivery, and Mama Tierra also does catering.
There is enough choice on the menu without being overwhelming. Several dishes are also gluten-free. Mama Tierra serves soups, starters, salads, burgers and “ethnic” options (Greek/ Middle-Eastern, Indian and Mexican options). Of course there are desserts and drinks as well!
We started with the sweet potato hummus which is served with caramelised onions and pita bread. The hummus is very tasty, with a nice acidity.
After we had the mushroom burger: made with different types of mushrooms and served with vegan cheese, caramelised onions and home-made mayonnaise. The burger is served with patatas bravas and BBQ sauce. The patty itself very tasty, with nice wholegrain bread, and the vegan cheese has a proper melt going on. The BBQ sauce was good too, very smokey and a bit spicey. The patatas themselves were a bit disappointing, maybe they had been reheated, but they weren’t very crunchy.
We also tried the mousakas, a traditional Greek oven dish which is normally made with layers of meat, aubergine and tomato, topped with bechamel sauce. This vegan version was made with beans and veggies in the ‘meat’ layer, and potato at the bottom. The bechamel sauce, based on coconut milk, was perfection; nice, thick, soft and creamy. Almost a bit sweet. It was also piping hot, so don’t dig in too fast 🙂
Mama Tierra of course also serves desserts, but too be honest we were full-up after the food and pretty tired after the travel. I guess I’ll have to get back one day to check out the desserts!
During my holidays in Athens we were staying conveniently close to an all-vegan place! I swear I didn’t plan it, but nevertheless it was a nice coincidence. Might as well use the opportunity to check it out, right?
Veganaki serves classic Greek street food – in vegan form. They are open the whole day, so you can pop in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between. Veganaki serves coffee, tea, juices, beer and wine, pita wraps, sandwiches, salads, traditional savoury pies in several flavours and sweets. There are several gluten-free options available as well.
The café itself is quite small, there are some spaces inside and a nice terrace. However, the terrace is close to a busy street, so for seasoned big-city dwellers, or in the early morning when there’s less traffic. Inside the atmosphere is calm and cosy. The menu is available both in Greek and in English. They use fair trade coffee, and disposable and biodegradable packaging.
I visited Veganaki twice, first to just check out the place and get some coffee and a piece of cake. We tried a “freddo cappuccino”, a variation of Greek cold coffee. Freddo cappuccino is cold, foamed (plant) milk over espresso and ice. The freddo espresso is just the espresso over ice. Both of these are different from frappé, which is normally made of instant coffee. With the coffee we had a piece of home made cake with raisins. I really enjoyed the cake, the texture was very nice and fluffy.
We returned another day to Veganaki to try the breakfast options. We had a toast with vegan cheese and tomato, a piece of courgette pie and a “lachanoulis” pita. The pita wraps and traditional pies can also be served as plates, including additional salad for a small surcharge. For drinks we had an orange juice and a mixed fruit juice, gottta work on those vitamins after all 🙂
The toast was basic and a bit dry, but that is also just the nature of toast. The other toasts available are more common in vegan cafes; with hummus or avocado. I wanted to try the tomato-cheez version, since I used to eat those myself quite often, and they are a bit more special. I mean, vegan sandwich without hummus are pretty rare! (No hate for hummus, I love that stuff! But it is a bit of a vegan default option)
The courgette traditional pie was very nice, it was not too dry and not too soggy, good consistency. The lachanoulis pita; a pita wrap with home-made vegetable burgers, tomato, lettuce, mustard and home made vegan tzatziki, was good too. The sauce inside was just slightly spicy, which went well with the vegetable filling.
I really liked Veganaki, the atmosphere is nice, the food is good and very reasonably priced (especially for people travelling from Switzerland :D) and the staff is very friendly!
We found Cookoomela via Happy Cow; most vegans know about this great website, and if you don’t go check it! It is very useful to find vegan eateries in many different cities all over the world. For my blog, I prefer to write about places that are not ‘known’ to be vegan-friendly or listed on HappyCow … everyone likes to be the first to discover and report on a cool place! Honestly, it is difficult to find really “uncharted” new places since HappyCow is pretty extensive…. #firstworldveganproblems 😀 So I don’t mind to give a longer review on a “known” vegan place once in a while **
Cookoomela Grill is a completely vegan street food-style eatery. They make gyros, a traditional Greek meat dish, from mushrooms and they serve kebab made of lentils. The place itself is very small. There are a few places outside to sit, and it was very busy. I believe they do mostly take-away. Fortunately, this type of food is made to be eaten on the go!
Cookoomela Grill offers a few variants of stuffed pita, fries and a salad. We tried two of the pita, the “Cookoomela Kebab”; the lentil kebab with potato, homemade tomato sauce, salad and almond cream cheese, served wrapped in a pita, and the “Cookoomela Red”, a pita with mushroom gyros, avocado, home made tomato sauce, vegan mayonnaise, salad and potatoes (I only got a blurry picture of this one, it was already pretty dark!)
I really like the street-food style and the vegan interpretation of classic dishes of the Cookoomela Grill. It was great to see this small place so busy as well. The only downside is that there’s not so much space to sit, but the food can be eaten while walking pretty easily.
All vegan pizza today! Screamers Pizzeria is a cool place in Brooklyn with a nice punk-rocky vibe and is all about the vegan pizza! Screamers is very small, but there are some places to sit (just be aware, there is no bathroom). They mostly do take-away and delivery.
You can order either slices orwhole pies. You can pick a pie from the menu, which includes veganised classics such as the Margherita (tomato sauce, ‘mozzarella’ and basil) and the Hawaiian (vegan ham, pineapple, vegan cheese), and interesting creations such as the Vampire (onions, garlic, ‘pepperoni’ and almond ricotta). Or you can get creative and think up your own version. They also offer a calzone and garlic knots (and I am not sad I didn’t try those!). Of course they sell some soft drinks and root beer.
When we visited there were several options available, we tried the mushroom and tomato/”cheez” slices, and in the second round a “cheeze”/cauliflower and seitan pepperoni pizza slice. Overall the pizza crust was a bit less crispy than those from Two Boots but the amount of choice at Screamers is much more overwhelming!
There are even vegan desserts: cannoli; which are ‘tubes’ of pastry dough filled with creamy chocolate filling. The non-vegan version contains ricotta. I am not sure what was in these but they were good! The dough and cream were not too sweet, I really liked it.
This cute café in Geneva has opened only a few weeks ago! I had read about the opening of Be Kind Cafe, and since the initial opening coincided with a day I was off of work, I was excited to visit! Unfortunately, the opening was postponed due to water issues. It took a while before I could visit, since they are only open during the week and I have a full-time job in another city. So when I finally had the chance to be in Geneva around lunchtime, of course I directly wanted to visit the Be Kind Cafe!
Be Kind Cafe offers breakfast foods, coffee and pastries, and lunch. There is a daily lunch menu, with some standard items but the exact ingredients are different per day, and change depending on the season and availability, since they use almost exclusively biological and local products. There are some larger dishes, like a burger and a savoury pie, and smaller foods like sandwiches and soups. For drinks there are juices, hot drinks like coffee and tea, but also wine and beer. You can eat in the café itself, but they also do take-away. The atmosphere of the café is very relaxed, it was quite spacious, hip and still cosy. A place to sit with a nice cup of coffee and a delicious vegan meal.
When I visited I tried the daily bagel with a side of roasted potato wedges. The bagel was on the smaller side, and contained salad, roasted pumpkin, vegan ‘ricotta’ and almonds. The tastes went very well together! The bagel bread is very tasty and toasted rather than soft. The potatoes were well-seasoned, large, nice and crunchy.
For a drink I tried the kefir with figs. I know kefir as a yogurt-product, but this was rather a fermented fruit juice.
There are several desserts available, there are some standard on the menu but there are also some daily variations. I tried the apple crumble with oats, with vanilla ice cream on top. With it, a coffee of course 🙂 The crumble was great!
I really like the Be Kind Cafe, the food is good and service great! The only downside is that they are only open on weekdays. I really do have to get back one day for their breakfast menu though; vegan croissants! Also I’d love to try the vegan burger they offer. And the other cookies I didn’t try yet…so yes, I will be back 🙂