George and Julia's Vegan Underground

Harmony is Heaven, That’s No Bologna

What better way to celebrate World Vegan Day (October 1st) than to re-watch one of this year’s best documentaries, Vegucated while sampling grub from New York City’s newest vegan cafe/restaurant, Harmony Kitchen?  Maybe it is actually World Vegetarian Day. That’s for the lawyers to sort out. Me, I’m laying on you another insane scoop-related chapter to make your own personal underground, a little less so.  Here’s the skinny, Cousin Vinnie/Laura Linney. The vegan mafia, aka. NYC Vegan EatUP sets this World Vegan Day party, event-style and, you know me, I’ve got to be one of the first when it comes to vegan dining. I figure, that’s what I’m here for. World Vegan Day, Vegucation, Grand Opening of the Harmony Kitchen, that’s so me! 

The setting of the night’s festivities(I believe)is still called “9 Bleeker” The Harmony Kitchen is the kitchen inside the 9 Bleeker that makes and serves the food to the customers of the 9 Bleeker.  In addition, the space houses the “Yippie” Museum which appears to be some sort of leftover inside joke about the 1960’s-70’s YIP movement, somehow connected to the right to a 50 cent cup of coffee.  Confused?  Just think one place, three signs.  Afterall, it’s in the east village, a neighborhood hip, affluent, and full of A-list celebrities?  I thought I spotted Jonathan Richman having a lemonade with Alec Baldwin. Yes, there’s lemonade.

So here’s a tip that I’m going to regret because I don’t want to have to wait in line to get a table (maybe I exaggerate our influence, a little). I’m telling you not to walk but run to the 9 Bleeker/Yippie Museum/Harmony Kitchen.  Make these guys rich.  The place is classic quaint café’ You’ll feel like a NYC cliché or on a Woody Allen movie set or both. 

Being that the Harmony Kitchen is new, I wasn’t’ expecting much.  I realized it would be extra crazy, being a special event and all.  Besides, I know it takes awhile for a restaurant to get its stride so I was going to go easy on them.  There was no need, Harmony exceeded my expectations in every way.  These folks were pros. I felt like every meal before this sucked.*  

What’s that you say?… Gourmet vegan hoagie, melty or Panini-styled sandwiches?  Did I hear you correctly, the best chocolate chip cookie on earth? There was “chorizo” empanadas, barbecue seitan sandwich, “chicken” chickpea melt, chipotle-infused tofu Panini, potato salad, quinoa salad, cupcakes and the aforementioned best chocolate chip cookies on earth.

This food was not good, it was as if heaven had cooked for me and it was all vegan!  Everything was beyond fantastic.  The empanadas were bursting with bold mexican spice. The barbecue seitan was textured to perfection. The quinoa salad so sweet, so citrus, so tangy, I could have eaten a trough-full.  I’m trying to think of something negative to say, like the staff was a bunch of jerks but that was NOT the case. They were gracious, cool, composed and 100 percent efficient.  How do you do that? 

For the final test, I brought a chickpea Panini back for my hardworking honey. Julia loved it. She housed it. She usually mentions, “I could make this better.” Instead she said, “when are we going there?” Soon but not soon enough. I told her about the cookies and her face turned to disappointment when she realized I hadn’t brought any home.  

I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Harmony Kitchen, David Hall. He was humble as I drenched him with compliments.  I asked if everything was vegan, “yes, except as a condition to accommodate the regulars, I had to offer milk for the coffee.”  His sign reads “be vegan, save money (milk for coffee is an additional 25 cents).”  Stick it to ’em David.  The vibe is relaxed but the food is so damn delicious you’d think it was hell’s kitchen back there.  I want some right now! Don’t be a fool people. You should go there now!

While we have already reviewed Vegucated, I will reiterate my love for this film.  It’s the perfect movie to introduce your carnivore friends to the pure logic of veganism. If you haven’t seen Vegucated, you can view it on Netflix or order it from their site. While purchasing a DVD seems a little 2002, I think Vegucated is an exception. That way can lend it to a friend or keep it in your backpack for your group’s “what-should-we-do” moments.

Harmony Kitchen is at 9 Bleecker Street, between Elizabeth and Bowery

*except for anything Julia has cooked for me

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