Ipanema Cafe Richmond, VAOn our road trip to Richmond, VA we couldn’t help but take in all the local scene. And of course this means satisfying our palate with some tasty vegan foods. We were trying to figure out which restaurant to try from the list of many  and came across a recommendation from the Richmond Vegetarian Society for the Ipanema Cafe.  I have to say this right now: I believe this to be one of the best vegetarian restaurants I have ever experienced, well at least in my Top 5. The food is American, yet healthy style with a little International flair! The cafe is located near the VCU campus in quaint little spot with an outdoor patio. We arrived pretty late in the evening for dinner, so the bar crowd had already moved in. The cafe is a perfect mix of bar life, vegetarian restaurant, and local meeting place. In fact the night we were there, it felt as if everyone knew each other with all the hugs being given.

At first glance the atmosphere of the place is this seedy, kitschy, thrift store decorated bar. But really the place is quite hip and vibrant upon further investigation. The decor is something worth mentioning as it literally looks like a flashback to the late 60’s; in fact the whole vibe of the place was very 60’s, including the patron’s style. The only thing that was a bit tough, if its your first time, is the menu. It is written on a chalkboard in the entrance. So you have to take turns getting up to read the menu before placing an order. This inconvenience is actually hardly one after you realize what is on their menu, which I believe changes day to day. It was a bit cluttered and a tad hard to read in the dimly lit bar, but the choices (not all vegan but easily could be)  seemed all around enticing.

Vegan Ceaser Salad

Vegan Ceaser Salad

We decided to start with a salad as an appetizer and my eyes were drawn instantaneously to the Vegan Cesaer Salad! I must say it has been years since I had the chance to indulge in a truly satisfying Ceasar. This one lived up to my expectations! In fact, I didn’t want it to end. Their Ceasar is topped with the typical croutons but also grilled marinated tofu that was simply delightful! I can only recommend this appetizer as I didn’t have the chance to try more. But they also offer such tasty treats as Zucchini Fritters, Polenta and Grilled Vegetables, and Foccaccia. I hope to try more of their selections on a return trip to Richmond.

Fried Green Plantains

Fried Green Plantains

Next up, the entrees! There wasn’t a whole huge list to choose from but we settled on two great dishes: Crispy Fried Green Plantains and the Cantonese Noodle Bowl. The Crispy had the perfect mix of Caribbean and Southern flair. It included fried plantains, tempeh, sautéed sweet potatoes and zucchini with Caribbean spices. This dish was a flavor explosion in my mouth, its too bad I accidentally left the leftovers on the table. We also tried the Cantonese Noodle Bowl which consisted of wok seared noodles, crispy tofu, and garlic soy covered vegetable.  This was beautifully arranged with a side of dipping sauce next to it. The tofu in this dish was perfectly cooked and we were impressed with their seasoning style.  They also offer sandwiches and plenty of other entree choices such as Grilled Tofu Hummus Sandwich, Black Bean Burrito, Honey Gingered Tofu, and Cajun Crusted Seiten. They all seem pretty tasty sounding if you ask me.

Cantonese Noodle Bowl

Cantonese Noodle Bowl

We did not have the chance to try any dessert on our visit, as we were stuffed from all their delicious and hearty food. But they do offer some vegan desserts. However, we did get a chance to try a local bottle of wine, which was surprisingly good and fruitful! They also have a pretty comprehensive and delicious sounding Brunch menu where they offer standards such as Tofu Scramble and French Toast but also some unique dishes like Vegan Blitzes, Tempeh Benedict (with a vegan citrus bearnaise sauce), and Spicy Soyrizo Wrap! If we had more time in Richmond, we would have stopped back by to partake in this breakfast. On top of this delightful brunch menu they also offer a pretty large Lunch Menu, which is similar to dinner but with more options including Vegan BBQ, Grilled Eggplant Panini, and Vegan Chicken Wrap.

This restaurant (and full bar) is worth checking out if you are ever in the Richmond area and no doubt I will be returning there the next time we come into to town. I mean, really, I have been salivating at the thought of their Vegan Ceasar Salad for a week now. Check out some of their other reviews and this quote from their home page sums it up perfectly: “A comfortable, funky spot where both the tragically hip and the hopelessly uncool can leave carnivorous temptations at the door and forage instead in the great green world of vegetables.”-Style Weekly

Ipanema Cafe
917 W. Grace St. Richmond VA 23219
PH: (804) 213-0190

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