Some former colleagues from West Virginia were in Louisville recently to attend a conference at a downtown hotel. I was more than happy to meet them for drinks one evening and for lunch the following day. Not only did I get to see some old friends, but it was a great excuse to go out to eat! There was one little wrinkle, though….these friends are vegetarian. Typically I choose a restaurant with no concern for meatless options so I had to do a little research and give my recommendations some serious thought.
These particular friends and I have done a lot of socializing in our past, usually revolving around wine club, WVU athletics, or my annual St. Patrick’s Day soiree. I am always careful to include vegetarian options on my home entertaining menus. One time, this friend accidentally ate seafood which was in a creamy marinara style dip before I could warn her of the ingredients. Even though she was not upset about the mishap, I began giving her verbal rundowns of the “safe” dishes at future events.
The gang wanted to stay close to downtown and possibly include some browsing in local shops. I’m sure you’re thinking what I was thinking: Nulu. I began googling like crazy to check out the menus at some of the restaurants on Market Street. I also checked the Urbanspoon app on my phone because I wanted to see what kind of “like” percentage these places had if I had not been there myself yet to form my own opinion. Earth Friends Café had a whopping 97% with 85 voters. The menu had many vegetarian options and some real meat for me. I threw it out as an option, along with Ghyslain which is one of my favorite lunch places. My guests chose Earth Friends Café after only slight campaigning from me for the other option.
We met at Joe Ley’s. I figured that was a landmark out-of-towners couldn’t miss. We had fun browsing around the massive antiques store before sauntering down the street in the blistering heat and stifling humidity toward the Café.
The restaurant sits off Market Street at the back of a large parking area near the outer reaches of the shopping district. The interior is bright and open with a glass case displaying desserts and a coffee bar. The Café features daily specials including a different grilled cheese sandwich and a rotating turkey sandwich each day. Several options looked good to me including the gourmet grilled cheese (tomatoes, spinach, pesto, provolone, and goat cheese on brioche), the chicken provolone Panini, and the vegan bowls. Another customer walked by us, extolling the deliciousness of said bowls so they were moving upward on my mental list.
My friends ordered the grilled cheese-of-the-day and the black bean vegan bowl with a side of kale chips. I ordered the Asian chickpea bowl, mainly because I was really in the mood for Asian flavors.
The kale chips were wonderfully crispy and a deep, dark green. I really like kale chips even though my husband claims nobody truly likes them, we just want to pretend they’re good because they’re trendy right now. The only thing wrong with these chips is too much salt. Every third chip would result in a salt bomb. That made me yearn for my favorite beer that doesn’t taste like beer, Michelob Ultra, to quench my thirst. There are no “regular” beers at the Café…only the “fancy” beer as I call it. You know, microbrews or higher ABV beers. No wine here, either so I was relegated to a sparkling water. Which reminds me that they serve waters in mason jars. That’s ok but it didn’t seem to fit in with the hipster mood of the place.
My friend’s sweet grilled cheese was rich, creamy, and decadent. Melted cheese with candied nuts and raspberry spread. I don’t know if I could have eaten the whole sandwich though due to the overwhelming sweetness. It was more like a dessert.
My other friend’s black bean bowl was reported to be spicy indeed and he liked it. It contained rice, black beans, cilantro, avocado, corn, and a creamy jalapeno dressing.
My Asian bowl was just okay. I asked for the dressing on the side because I prefer less dressing than most people. I tasted the dressing with my fork and noted it was very mild so I poured about a third on and tossed the ingredients. I could barely taste it. I added another third, tasted again, and ended up dumping on the remaining dressing. I still got very little flavor out of it, and certainly not the Asian flavors I was expecting when I placed my order. It was a bit odd to have the starchy rice topped with a lot of starchy chickpeas. There were scarce veggies – I saw a few tiny broccoli florets, some bits of carrots, and a sprinkling of green onions. Peanuts added nice crunch, but the dish overall was bland and boring and mostly light brown.
If I were making this dish I would chose rice OR chickpeas, not both. Then I would add a lot more veggies – broccoli, celery, carrots, maybe a snow pea or two, and red bell pepper. This is a vegan dish, not a carboholic dish. The veggies would add much needed color and flavor, not to mention nutritional value. And that dressing needs to be majorly amped up.
Needless to say I was disappointed in the food at Earth Friends Café. I’d like to know what those other 82.45 diners ordered that was so good. Each of our lunches cost around $10 plus drinks, a reasonable amount in my opinion. Service was friendly and efficient and the restaurant was clean. I was anxious to get back out on the street for more shopping.
Earth Friends Café gets two out of five from me. I have no desire to go back.
Earth Friends Café
829 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206