Candle CafeA vegetarian delight
Contributing Writer Walk a few blocks north from Hunter College to Candle Café: an alternative vegetarian dining option located on 75th Street and 3rd Avenue that will take you on a feel good adventure.
Candle Café is the offshoot of the respected and praised Candle 79 located on 79th and Lexington. Café offers similiar ambiance and space to 79 but in a small store front location, with a coffee and smoothie bar.
The decor of Cafe proves that a small place can make a large impression. On the front window, the stickered logo of the cafe is peeling. There are awkwardly placed candles in the window sill. Inside and to the left is the wine/smoothie/coffee bar where there is always someone making a coffee this or a smoothie that. The cappuccino machine sputters or a blender is whirring. But somehow, through the entire buzz, the staff makes it work and makes it look easy. The seemingly gritty appeal creates an iconic view of what hard work looks like, and the quality of the products served embody this vision.
The tables in the dining area are jutted up right next to each other, but when you eat here, the space is cozy. In the small area around you, there is a mix-and-match of odd statues and mixed lighting. Even in the tight maze of tables, the servers constantly finagled their way through the labyrinth and made sure the patrons were happy.
What could easily be overwhelming in the small space and large menu is forgotten when you get your food. I started with the “Green Life” smoothie. It is a very green drink thanks to the kale involved, but the orange juice, pineapple, and banana make the smoothie a real fruit drink. Next I had the cauliflower potato soup, which was simple—refreshing and light. My main course was what I was really excited about: “pumpkin crusted tempeh” on a bed of couscous. Not only was there a bed of couscous involved, but there was also a layer of sweet potato mash along with more kale that all sat on top of tomato puree. A dollop of avocado was spread on top. It’s hard to know what to expect when you order something called “pumpkin crusted tempeh,” The tempeh itself, has a chicken flavor as well as a chicken texture, while the sweet potatoes were the right flavor of sweet and heartiness for the cool weather outside. All the food had the right amount of flavor versus freshness.
For some, Candle Café is a daily stop. People come in and the staff greets patrons by name, and their order is ready when they sit down. For those experiencing there first time the staff on hand is accommodating. Any questions are appreciated and the staff are more than willing to make you feel comfortable. When it comes to service, an order goes in and within ten to fifteen minutes is at the table. The presentation, for the moderate price you pay, is ambitious.
And that is the ethos of Candle Café: it is a place that can give first timers the experience of eating vegetarian, but it is also a comfortable place for those who frequent it. The staff is on hand to answer any questions or clear up any misnomers about this style of eating. There is also literature on hand as well as the Candle Café vegetarian cookbook that is for sale. It’s comforting to know that the establishment is not trying to convert you. The staff is not here to force vegetarianism down your throat. If you are in the mood for fresh food, whether for a meal or snack (or even just a smoothie) then you will be impressed with what Candle Café has to offer.