In NYC, there’s a push to be social. Of the five days of work, there’s a good three days (at least) of semi-obligatory, drinks/dinner time, where we sit, wistfully staring out the window of a trendy, mediocre, exposed-brick spot, dreaming about a date with Netflix and that still-unfinished spiritual book about living a fulfilling life. And yet – there’s a compromise: peacefood cafe, aka A Little Ray of Healthfulness and Sunshine Right By Union Square.
After the phenomenal success of its Upper West Side location, the vegan café and bakery – started by an antiques dealer and interior designer – expanded six weeks ago to a downtown location, amid yoga shops, vitamin stores, and $1 greasy pizza joints. But unlike most expansions to downtown, this expansion was also in actual size: the Union Square peacefood is a good 3x bigger than its UWS counterpart – all three floors-worth – which is basically unheard of unless you’re opening on a shrub-lined, side street in Topeka, Kansas.
But why is peacefood such a success? Why are people gobbling up quinoa, pumpkin, mushrooms, and walnut pate like they’re cherry pie? It’s all in the ingredients of such hit, unusual dishes like chickpea fries (trick: dip them in agave nectar), fluffy quinoa salad, a submarine-sized roasted squash dish with mushroom gravy, and a rich and raw cocao mousse pie saddled in a walnut-date-coconut crust.
I’m not even vegan, but when I finished this meal last night (after downing a frothy banana-coconut-date-cardamon shake), I felt like I had finally found my weekday, kindred spirit. A place to dine out with friends that doesn’t leave me waking up in the morning bloated, my conscience shaking her head, and the better part of me wondering, “Man, what did I eat last night?”
I know what I ate. Clean, invigorating, healthy food that doesn’t have that generic healthy taste, loved by carnivores and pescatarians, and has a soothing, ocean-inspired, blue and cream interior that makes me think of seashells and sand castles. Peace is exactly what you get here – peace from food-guilt, fried temptations, and your Netflix dreams.