Veggies Gone Gourmet: Pura Vida – Cleveland
Switching dining plans at the last possible moment is usually a recipe for disaster, regret, and if you take food-related decisions as seriously as I do, perhaps some self-loathing. But when it’s not? It’s blissful. Yay for spontaneity!
That’s what happened during Cleveland Restaurant Week when my lunch pals and I, feeling super indecisive, changed our plans (on a street corner in downtown Cleveland – mind you), from an E. 4th St. mecca to Pura Vida, close by on Euclid Avenue.
No time for scouring reviews or obsessing over the menu. YIKES. One of my lunch companions and fellow food lovers, Lilia, though, highly recommended it, and that was good enough for me.
Pura Vida turned out to be a lunch-time gem and vegetarian’s dream (for the 4th year, I went 100% veggie for Lent, so I’ve had veggies on the brain), with a separate menu of Vegetarian and Vegan dishes. It’s definitely not cookie-cutter Cleveland either: yes, the city’s favorite crispy chicken wings are on the menu, but so are unique dishes like butternut squash fondue and Chinese black rice “risotto.”
If you’re a Vegan, be sure to check out their monthly Vegan club gathering. Sounds pretty cool.
Let’s Talk Food: We all started with soup (it was freezing out!) – African peanut stew for two of us, and shrimp and corn chowder for the other. Aside from being lukewarm, the stew was peanut-y, rich, and loaded with kale and sweet potatoes. Perfect for the peanut butter-obsessed like me.
I really should have stopped there, but hey, an expensed lunch calls for more than a cup of soup, right? I simply had to try their Vegan version of the Bahn Mi. It had little resemblance flavor-wise to say, the Bahn Mi from Superior Pho, but was damn good regardless. Crispy tempeh, pickled veggies, fresh cilantro, and srichaca “mayo” on soft French baguette – eating Vegan has never felt so indulgent…and fattening. I totally gained a pound in veganaise.
I managed to sneak a bite of my friend’s very fresh and delicious Ohio beet salad, dressed with greens, feta, shaved fennel, and carrot-ginger dressing. Slightly lighter than my choice. (Sidenote: I was happy to see lots of locally-sourced ingredients on the menu.)
Menu: LOVE. Perfect for veg-heads, but plenty for meat eaters, too. The “lunch box,” served in a metal lunch box with a sandwich, fries, and cookie, was too cute…and the fries smelled AMAZING. In fact, I briefly considered scavenging some from the table next to us.
Lilia recently went back without me (how dare she?!) and ordered the most fabulous “chickpea jar”: layers of ricotta, hummus, pesto, tapenade, and blistered tomatoes. MUST GO BACK FOR THAT.
Drinks: No cocktails this time. I was working!
Décor: Modern, fresh, white, and casual – in no way pretentious. Loved the bright space, concrete floors, and details like metal curtains and illuminated fabric panels on the ceiling (I imagine those look dreamy at night).
Price: Our lunches were each in the mid-teens. More than I normally spend, for sure, but worth it.
Service: Not great; we had to wait for our waitress to appear and were left with empty drink glasses on a couple of occasions.
Overall: I really hope Pura Vida does well. For someone like me who lives in the Northeast Ohio hinterlands, it’s easy to stick to those few faves when visiting the CLE. Super glad we ventured there, though, and I can’t wait to go back. I think that butternut squash fondue is calling my name….