At first, Tin Drum Asia Café's rapid service and bright decor evoke the aromatic street stands of Hong Kong, where founder Steven Chan ate throughout his childhood. The traditional ambiance is no accident—the franchise's name also harks back to a bygone era, when a tin drummer would awaken citizens and regale them with current events as they ate the day’s first meal. The electronic kiosks dotting the café, however, plunk this traditional scene in the middle of a cyberpunk setting. They allow patrons to customize their orders based on taste preferences and nutritional content, accommodating dietary endeavors such as vegetarianism and weight-loss goals.
This merger of technology and urban convention reflects a penchant for edgy ideas that also affects the menu. Items inspired by the culinary techniques of Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand share space in the savory catalog, taking the form of street tacos, soups, and mango chicken, a take on the general tso's staple that's sweeter than a syrup-soaked army helmet. Music is the final ingredient that charges the atmosphere. Nation's Restaurant News reports that it typically plays at an energizing 120 beats per minute and was a factor in attracting the café's initial college crowds.
At Soul Vegetarian, gravy cascades over the burgers and country-fried steaks and creamy cucumber sauce nestles into a gyro pocket. This picture of decadence aside, even as the chefs eschew animal products, they also avoid heavy fats or preservatives. The result is a surprisingly healthy take on classic Southern cuisine, including macaroni and cheese and cornbread. Savory protein comes in the form of tofu, lentils, and a flexible vegetable-protein roast they've dubbed "kalebone."
Even dessert has a healthy side at Soul Vegetarian. Blenders whir with fruit smoothies and soy shakes, many of which incorporate nutrient-dense foods such as coconut milk and almond butter, and even energy or protein supplements. To make perfectly creamy shakes, the restaurant's food inventors created the soy-based Dream Kream?also available by the scoop.
Humanitarian and spiritual leader Supreme Master Ching Hai is the mastermind responsible for Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant chain awarded VegNews' Favorite Restaurant Worldwide in 2010. Each Loving Hut location's menu and philosophy is rooted in the idea that a plant-based diet is healthier and more sustainable for the planet. The restaurants span 13 countries including Taiwan and New Zealand, and each offers a 100% plant-based menu of gourmet vegan cuisine. Traditional meat dishes are replicated with tofu, soy proteins, and fresh vegetables. The menus are customized to reflect local cuisine and include chef’s specials that recreate regional dishes, which diners eat as the staff plays the country’s anthem enthusiastically on the tambourine.
A non-profit destination for fresh-brewed coffee and gourmet sandwiches, SkyTop Cafe is powered by Elevate Church, with all profits going toward community outreach programs. Each morning, the staff brews fresh batches of One Village Coffee served alongside a variety of breakfast options, including egg sandwiches and bagels. For the remainder of the day, they construct sandwiches lined with fresh ingredients such as zesty pesto, turkey, and sun-dried tomatoes. On Friday evenings, SkyTop stays open late to host open mic, karaoke, and live jazz.
At Doc Green's Salads and Grill, many salads are named after doctors: the Dr. Greek has crisp romaine and zesty feta, and the Dr. Detroit has baby spinach and bleu cheese dressing, for example. It exemplifies how they aim to unite good health with good tastes. You don't have to put all your faith in the doctors, either?feel free to construct your own salad with any conglomeration of vegetables and toppings, including candied walnuts, portobello mushrooms, greens, and poached salmon. It doesn't stop with salad, either?they also serve freshly carved turkey, barbecue chicken, soups, and savory steaks.
Although it seems hard to imagine now, less than a third of the population had ever tasted a bagel in 1983. Back then, it was pegged as an ethnic food and unpopular outside of New York City. Thankfully, two Vermont residents by the names of Nord Brue and Mike Dressel realized that the rest of the nation needed, nay, deserved to experience the deliciousness of boiled and baked yeast with it's crusty exteriors and doughy innards. They knew it was finally time for America to put cream cheese on something other than cats.
So, after two and a half years of diligent baking research, they honed their formula to create Bruegger's Bagels, starting the craze that has become a breakfast staple for millions. Now with more than 300 Bruegger's across 26 states, the franchise beckons bagel fans to come enjoy the bevy of breakfast and lunch options at their casual cafes. In addition to baking up a parade of bagel varities that range from classic poppy to cheddar pesto, they make a slew of their own Vermont-churned cream cheeses, including bacon scallion and smoked salmon. A wealth of sandwiches, soups, and salads round out the menu, and Rainforest Alliance Certified hot and iced coffee drinks pack a caffeinated punch and a social conscience.