Posted by: Grub | October 5, 2011

Top Ten Restaurant Meals of Summer 2011

Well, here we are, our first Top Ten Tuesday of the month. Today we will be reviewing our Top Ten Meals of Summer 2011. The further qualifications are that these are all restaurant-type meals and all from our travels this summer. They aren’t necessarily all the best, fanciest food, either – I have taken into account ambience, particular food items and creative menus, as well as that “it” factor. You know the one.

10. South Pine Cafe – Grass Valley, CA

This probably wouldn’t have made it into the Top Ten otherwise, but it was such a surprising find in such an old California gold mining town (Grass Valley was actually really amazing, and had lots of funky shops and bookstores, but I just didn’t have great luck with food).  There were a tonne of vegan options on the menu and the food was very good.  They had delicious house-made jam and good-size portions, and I was so, SO happy that I wasn’t eating a green salad hold the cheese, egg and bacon.

Sam at the South Pine Cafe, although you can't really tell. He enjoyed some blackberry peach jam with his cereal in that bowl.

9. Sage’s Cafe and the Vertical Diner – Salt Lake City, UT

So, I’m cheating here, but I am including both of these places in one, as from all we could tell, they are sister restaurants.  Vertical Diner was casual and had great food and even had vegan options on its kids’ menu – they were wonderful to Sam and he started to learn to use a fork eating their vegan banana pancakes!  Sage’s was fancier, and had two of my favourite food items of the trip – an appetizer with roasted shiitakes on bread with carrot butter (I have since recreated this at home to rave reviews) and… wait for it… tiramisu! This was my favourite dessert of the trip by far – it has been a long time since I have been able to eat  tiramisu, and this did not disappoint.

8. Magnolia – Burlington, VT

We ate at Magnolia several times while we were in Burlington, and it was a great choice for brunch/lunch.  Sometimes when we go for brunch in a new place, I really struggle to choose between sweet and savoury.  Well, luckily, I got to try both at Magnolia – sweet French toast and savoury chickpea salad sandwich on two different days.  Perfect! The service here was always friendly and the house-made jams were to die for.  It’s a bit hard to find, as it is tucked away below the level of the main street, but it is well worth seeking it out if you are in town.

7. Frida’s – Stowe, VT

Frida’s had lovely, fresh Mexican food and the most amazing, enormous bowl of guacamole. Sometimes fresh guacamole is all a girl needs.  (The rest of the food and drink was good, too.)

6. Aux Vivres – Montreal, QC

Holy moley, do I love Montreal.  We had about two hours in Montreal before we flew home (most of which was spent navigating through various construction detours), but we made it to Aux Vivres and had an amazing lunch.  I had a Choco-Classique smoothie and a Vegelox wrap (vegan “lox” with cream cheese and veggies all rolled up in a chapathi) and I was so full after, I could hardly get back in the car.  But, I got to order in French! And speak French to the waitress! And gaze at all of the French-ness of Montreal as we drove through on our way back to the airport!  Magnifique!!

5. Native Bowl – Portland, Oregon

In my previous post, I talked about the food cart scene in Portland and my bad food cart luck in Vancouver, but I didn’t mention that I have had equally bad (actually, worse) luck with actually eating at a food cart in Portland.  Our trip to Native Bowl this summer was our first successful trip to a food cart, and it was really amazing.  I ate the Mississippi Bowl (BBQ soy curls, rice, coleslaw and ranch sauce) and had a Chocolate Cup (warm chocolate cake and chocolate sauce in a little paper cup!) for dessert. I actually tried to recreate the Mississippi Bowl at home when we got back (using the recipes from the owner’s book, Vegan Diner, which I have mentioned here before). We were wildly successful in our attempts, but it wasn’t the same as eating the real thing at a little table in Portland with my boys.  Behold my photo series:

Sam and I in the seating area. Unfortunately Native Bowl is to my left in this photo, so you can't see it. But, we are cute, so hopefully that makes up for it.

Terrible photo, delicious food. Mississippi Bowl!

My Mississippi Bowl. A better picture, and although it wasn't as good as the real thing, still pretty delicious! Look at those tasty BBQ soy curls hiding under there.

4. Mint – Waitsfield, VT

So, I just typed Mint’s name with a bit of a lump in my throat.  We had a lovely, peaceful lunch at Mint at the tail end of our trip to Vermont – the food was fantastic (I had a tempeh bowl that was better than anything I have ever had at home, and the tofu sauce on that bowl was one of the best sauces I have ever had), the hibiscus cooler was deliciously refreshing in the heat and the restaurant space was so calming and bright and soothing.  The restaurant was located in a multi-level little commercial space beside the river running through Waitsfield and after lunch, we stopped and watched a couple of kids jumping off of a covered bridge into a deep pool beside the bridge.  It was a pretty nice afternoon.  Well, sadly, if you click through to Mint’s website, you will see that when Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in August, the whole space was terribly flooded and they are now serving lunch out of a church basement while they try to rebuild their space (the pictures as you scroll down the page are really crazy). I really hope they are able to get back up and running, because this was such a beautiful space and amazing food.  Virtual hugs to them!!

3. A Single Pebble – Burlington, VT

This place wins for major underdog of the summer.  Although Chad and I like Chinese food, and there is almost always some kind of Chinese vegetarian option in most major (and not-so-major) North American cities, we NEVER go out for Chinese food. I think because when it is bad, it is so bad (oh, Chinese take-out restaurant in Park City, Utah, I am looking at you).  We had plans to go to a different restaurant, and it was closed for a private function, so we just kept walking around and when we walked by Single Pebble, I recognized it as being on a blog list I had read about good vegan eats in Vermont.  Well, I never.  The food was excellent – non-greasy, spicy in that gingery-garlicky-red pepper flakes way I love, and so so flavourful.  I still have dreams about their Salt and Pepper Tofu.  Dreams, people.  If you ever go to Burlington, you MUST go here.

2. Watercourse Foods – Denver, CO

The #2 spot was a pretty easy choice for me.  Watercourse was in a beautiful, bright, airy space in a lovely part of Denver, and it probably had my favourite menu of the summer.  A tonne of choices, including breakfast/brunch options at lunch, and all vegetarian, with lots of vegan substitution options.  I had a Po Boy sandwich on an amazing roll, with a polenta-encrusted portobello mushroom (WHAT), coleslaw and a chipotle mayo type dressing.  Ridiculous.  The menu here made me want to move to Denver so that I could try everything.  Including the VEGAN CHEESE PLATE.  Yes, that is for real. I am still kicking myself for opting for mediocre pub food on our first day in Denver when I could have been eating a cheese plate.

1. Millenium – San Francisco, CA

This was the easiest pick of the list.  I already wrote about our fabulous dinner here, but suffice it to say, the food was magnificent, the restaurant itself is beautiful and the service was impeccable.  Oh, and Vegan White Russians.  YES.

Black and White Russian.

There were so many honourable mentions (Zudaka in Boulder! VG Burgers in Boulder! Skinny Pancake in Burlington! Leaf in Boulder!), and I intentionally left off a few of our old standbys (Boundary Bay in Bellingham! Pepper Sisters in Bellingham! Vita in Portland!) in favour of new(er) places.

I also would feel remiss if I did not mention two of the very best meals of our whole trip that weren’t in a restaurant.  First, Ryan and Sonia Gallagher hosted us in their super cute house in Portland on our way back from California in June. We had lasagna and salad made with fresh veggies from their garden (so jealous!), we had an assortment of treats from Back to Eden bakery (LOVE this place) for dessert, and most importantly, we got to visit and catch up and show off Sam and see them before their lovely daughter, Naomie, was born in early August.

Sam all tucked in for supper at the Gallaghers. Bring on the food!

Then, on the way home from our travels through Vermont, we stopped in to see our friends, Gilles Barbeau and Lucinda Iglesias, in their beautiful new home in Sutton, Quebec.  We ate hearty bowls of grilled veggie pasta outside under the trees and finished off the evening with fresh, summer berries dripping with the lightest, clearest maple syrup you have ever seen (we even brought a few cans home with us and broke one out for Sam’s birthday).

We are so lucky to have such great friends, who will chef us up delicious and healthy food at a moment’s notice, and welcome us into their homes when we are weary from being on the road.

What an amazing summer of food! And, I haven’t even talked about all of the sweets yet.

(Phew, that was a long Top Ten.  I promise the rest will be shorter.  See you tomorrow!!!)



  1. We were fortunate to be able to share the great food at the South Pine Cafe in Grass Valley and at your #1 choice, Millenium! The pictures here brought back great memories of our trip.

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