Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

More than a month after soft opening, Vge Cafe continues to delight taste buds

Fernando Peralta's Vgë Cafe continues to attract vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers who simply want a healthy "fast food" selection.

More than a month after soft opening, Vge Cafe continues to delight taste buds

On their lunch break, Jennifer Leach and M.P. Tomai walk along Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr until the come across the recently opened Vge Cafe. The two enter the vegan eatery to try something new for their midday meal and split the Vgë burger, Vgësteak and falafel wrap.

"I love vegan food and I would go again," Leach said as she Tomai walked out of the cafe.

Originally set to open in late March, Vgë (pronounced "vee gee") has been in the works since February. Owner Fernando Peralta, 41, said a few construction hurdles pushed back the cafe's debut to April 26, when it had its soft opening.

"We made our little noise in terms of opening," Peralta said. "It was great, better than expected."

While researching a place to open the business in 2010, the Vgë Cafe owner explored the Main Line because of its centrality to numerous colleges, such as Villanova University, Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College. When the vegan cafe opened its doors to customers for the first time, the targeted college demographic made in dent in Vgë's clientele, but not as big a dent as expected because of forthcoming finals and graduation.

Peralta said that although many college students have eaten at Vgë, the green and vegan restaurant has been a quick favorite among local residents, vegan and non-vegan alike. 

"About half of the clients that come through here aren't vegan, which wasn't what I expected," the Vgë owner said. "I think they're just looking for this kind of [healthy] food option."

Peralta said the sustainable vegan cafe, which houses about a dozen wooden tables and chairs, a booth with stools, pumpkin orange walls and fluorescent light bulbs, went through more operational changes as opposed to menu changes. The eatery owner adjusted what and how much was cooked, made sure everything was baked and decided to hold off on adding smoothies and additional salads to the menu for now (he didn't want the smoothies and additional salads to disrupt the work flow of the kitchen).

Peralta said the falafel wrap and salad, Vgësteak and New Hope Natural carbonated juices are just a few of the big hits among customers. 

"Those familiar with seitan will go right to the BBQ seitan or [Vgë]steak," he added. "On warmer days, customers tend to get cold sandwiches like the Sea Salad."

In considering future menu additions or change ups, the Vgë owner is considering a cold soup, such as Gazpacho. 

Although customers have given plenty of positive feedback, some have made suggestions that Peralta wrestles with.

"One of things customers are expecting is white bread," Peralta said. "I've been debating it. It goes a little bit against the concept of us wanting to be on the healthy side."

The Bryn Mawr business owner added that Vgë is also considering adding fries, but because he would rather bake them as opposed to fry them, he's holding off on that. Peralta doesn't want the time it would take to bake fries to slow down the kitchen. 

Customers Leach and Tomai enjoyed the food very much, but both women thought one addition Vgë should consider is a little more flavor.

"Adding a bit more flavor to sandwiches would make them even more robust," Tomai, who isn't vegan or vegetarian, said. "We're cheering for it because we want more of these healthy fast food places...just don't be afraid to get more flavorful."

Minor suggestions aside, residents can't get enough of Vgë Cafe, a point illustrated by a customer on Monday, June 11.

Before the end of the 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. lunch rush, an older resident disposed of his trash and placed the Vgë's bamboo plate where his Vgësteak once sat onto the counter. The man looked at Peralta as he walked out and commended him for the new vegan business.

"That was incredible," the man said of his sandwich as he opened the door. "I can't wait to bring my friends here. I still can't believe that was meat-free."

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About this blog
Josh Fernandez is a 2011 graduate of Temple University where he studied journalism and gender studies. He was a writer and editor for The Temple News, and has interned at Philadelphia City Paper and the Philadelphia Daily News. Josh lived in Aston, Pa. in Delaware County before moving to University City in Philadelphia.

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