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NuVegan Cafe, 100% Vegan Franchise with Raw-Food Options on Georgia Avenue NW in Park View, and Baltimore Avenue in College Park


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When I was a student at UMCP, we would sometimes walk a little up Rt 1 to Jerry's pizza, which as I recall was next to a tire shop. Now that section of Rt 1 in College Park alternates between seedy old liquor stores and shiny new high-rise buildings with retail on street level. NuVegan is located in one of these newer buildings, immediately adjacent to campus, and entertainingly direct neighbor to a burger joint.  This is the second store in a mini-chain, with sister location Woodlands Vegan Bistro on Georgia Ave in Columbia Heights.

The menu has a short list of entrees (always available), a long list of cold sides (always available), and a short list of hot sides (rotating availability), plus a few sandwiches. There are also smoothies with four different bases (almond, soy, hemp, or rice milk). Many of the entrees are vegan versions of non-vegan dishes, such as mac 'n cheese, lasagne, burgers, fish sandwish, and fried chicken.

I am neither vegan nor vegetarian, and I am not inclined to eat fake cheese items, at least not where cheese is a central ingredient (lasagne, mac n cheese, grilled cheese). However I do sometimes enjoy fake meats, so I chose the "chick'n" tenders and a side of "mushroom medley". The chick'n was actually pretty well done, not completely identical to real chicken, but the texture was pretty close and the flavor was even closer. It would have been nice if the chick'n tenders were served with a side of some kind of sauce, but oh well. I think this would be a good choice for a non-meat-eater who might be jonesing for some fried chicken.

The mushroom medley however was really subpar. It was described as a cold dish of "buttons and portobellos infused with a light oil dressing". Instead, it was at least 60% bell peppers swimming in an oily lake of what seemed like some kind of salad dressing (Italian maybe?). Any flavors were completely overpowered by the dressing, it was way too oily, and ugh, bell peppers.

My vegetarian companion ordered bbq tofu with a side of broccoli. This was giant pieces of tofu again swimming in a thick lake of bbq sauce (I didn't try it, but it looked similar to Kraft bbq sauce) and large florets of plain steamed broccoli.

NuVegan has counter service with odd seating. The tables in the center of the restaurant are high, round, and on the small side. Each table is surrounded by built-in tiny stools. Perhaps the uncomfortable seating is meant to deter college students from loitering for hours.

Anyway, I think the main strength is in some of the meat replacement items. Non-dairy shakes/smoothies (did not try) can also be good for those with dairy issues. However, this place isn't going to end up in my regular semi-local rotation, unless eating with others who have serious dietary restrictions. Their website says: "Our Mission..... Become the motivating force that sparks a movement towards global awareness by redefining the perception of vegan cuisine.", but I'd rather they focused on good tasting food.

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