A few months ago, I was walking back from Lula’s late at night and I stumbled across a place called Whole Earth Bakery on Saint Mark’s Place (8th street between Avenue A and 1st). I looked down at the double scoop cone in my hand and as a result, almost walked by but an older man with dreadlocks sitting near the door said, “come on in, everything’s vegan.” He had such kind eyes that I couldn’t say no so I told myself I would just grab a menu for now and continue on my way with my peanut butter fudge ice cream cone. However, I didn’t have a choice. The owner immediately grabbed my ear and started telling me about his healthy vegan creations (although it’s called a bakery, they also have non-sweet vegan foods like tempeh wraps, lasagna, and soups). He told me that he and his mother opened the place in 1978 and that it was the oldest vegan restaurant in Manhattan. I haven’t fact checked this but the place is 12 years older than I am so I’m simply going to trust the man.
Honestly, when I walk into Whole Earth, I feel as though I’ve been transported to a time before I knew. From the friendly hippy at the door to the menu devoid of any faux meat or even seitan, this is veganism back when. As a result, this is not a place to bring your non-vegan friends in order to show them how good vegan food can be, leave that to Lula’s around the block! Instead, Whole Earth is a place for people who want a vegan snack but also want to keep it healthy. It’s not the better-than-non-vegan-food that you might find from Vegan Treats. Nothing is slathered in Earth Balance Butter or Daiya cheese and while I do love indulging in things that are, I find Whole Earth’s concept to be refreshing.
That night, I tried to stick to my only-take-a-menu-plan but the owner forced a sample on me after talking to me for the entire duration of my ice cream cone. He had me try a ginger snap cookie which was all ginger and no snap. Still, I decided to go back the next day because I couldn’t stop thinking about the chocolate chip cookies in the glass case that looked fluffy and moist. The cookie was good but didn’t quite resemble a chocolate chip cookie but rather, a cookie shaped corn bread with chocolate chips in it. I enjoyed it but again, not something I would bring to a party in hopes of converting my friends. I refused to give up and the next time I was in the neighborhood, I grabbed a slice of pizza (I hadn’t had a slice in about 2 years). While I may have just debunked my pizza credibility, I can honestly say, this is the best slice I’ve ever had. There is no soy cheese and the crust is whole wheat (there is also a gluten free option) but I would take the perfectly mixed garlic and herbs flavor over gummy fake cheese any day. The sauce tasted like grandma had made it herself and atop that layer was a daily serving of fresh grilled vegetables. After that Italian treat, I will most certainly be back to try the lasagna and the eggplant parmesan.
Because I had such a good experience with the pizza, I went back another time to try a tempeh spring roll and a blueberry scone that was only 3 dollars and about the size of my face (most prices fall between 4-6 dollars). The spring roll left something to be desired and the tempeh was strangely sour. However, the peanut sauce that came with it was creamy and delicious. The scone is one of the desserts sweetened only with fruit but none of the desserts have refined sugar. It was filling while a bit tasteless but probably had less fat and sugar than a Starbucks scone that is about a quarter of the size. All in all, I like this place but I have always been a fan of healthy, wholesome foods. I like that this is an alternative to the abundance of places that make food that tastes better than non-veg food but probably isn’t much better for you. If, when you indulge in dessert, you REALLY want to indulge, the cookies and sugar-free pies here probably aren’t for you but I’d still stop by and try the more savory foods because those are all healthy and in my opinion better than the “real” stuff.
Optimisms: Healthy and always filling. Feels like a real family joint, there is always good service. Not too much dough; we’re speaking money and the kind with flour.
Pessimisms: Almost no seating. Some of the food is a little lacking in taste… and texture. They only take cash.