Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Imagine Vegan Cafe

Memphis finally has an all-vegan restaurant! Imagine Vegan Cafe opened on the last Saturday in April, but I'm just now getting around to a post because I've been collecting images of the food served there. I wanted to show y'all the variety of vegan comfort foods on the menu at this no-frills, diner-style eatery.

Imagine is run by the awesome Adam and Kristie (read my interview with Kristie here), a couple of young parents who wanted to open a place that served kid-friendly vegan comfort fare. Think corn dogs, country fried steak, cheesesticks, veggie dogs with the works, pizza. I'm a big fan of faux meat, and there's plenty of that served at Imagine. They use different brands, but several dishes are made with Gardein, my favorite plant protein brand.

Since the place opened, Adam said they have had a huge number of omnis wandering in to try vegan food for the first time. I love that Imagine has omni-friendly menu items, like fried vegan chicken sandwiches and vegan flank steak. It's not all super-healthy food. It's comfort food, and that's what vegans need when we dine out. I can do healthy at home, but when I eat out, I want something a little naughty.

Despite the fact that Imagine serves lots of faux fare, the prices are very reasonable. Sandwiches with a side item cost about $6, and most entrees are under $10.

But enough with all this talk. Let's get to the photos.

The most important thing about Imagine: They have VEGAN CHEESESTICKS!!!! OMG, y'all. These are so, so good. I believe these are the Chicago Soy Dairy brand, which are Teese-filled. Even my cheese-eating vegetarian friend thought these were better than ones made with dairy mozzarella:

Also on the appetizer menu is this very creamy Spinach Dip, which my newly-vegan friend Hannah said was very much like its dairy-laden counterpart:

You can't have a comfort food cafe without Dogs 'n' Blankets! These are wrapped in flaky crescent rolls:

Even salads can be a little sinful when they're topped with fried goodness and plenty of dressing, like this Fried Chicken Salad:

Imagine offers a couple of entrees in a bowl, like three-bean chili (not pictured) and this Gumbo with vegan chicken and sausage:

There's an extensive sandwich menu, and all sandwiches come with your choice of one side item. Here's my friend Stephanie's Philly Cheesesteak with Mashed Sweet Potatoes:

And my Fried Chicken Sandwich (yep, that's Gardein) with some of the world's best vegan Macaroni & Cheese:

My friend Leslie had the Eggless Egg Salad with Sauteed Spinach:

I can't remember who ordered this Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, but I'm sure it was delicious:

And several friends tried the Vegan Memphis, a shredded BBQ sandwich with slaw, beans, and fries. I haven't tried it yet, but I've only heard fabulous things:

Entree plates come with a choice of two sides, making for a heartier meal. I fell in love with this Chicken Drumstick Meal with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy and Corn Casserole. They use Veggie Brothers Drumstix, but this was the first I'd heard of that brand. The "chicken" was really, really fibrous, and when you bit into it, it pulled apart just like eating actual chicken. Some people might be weirded out by realistic fake meat, but that just makes it better to me:

My pal Michael ordered the Beef Tips & Rice, Mac & Cheese, and Broccoli & Cheese. They use the Gardein Beefless Tips for this:

And Amy ordered the Spinach Florentine Raviolis with Garlic Toast:

But wait! That's not all! Imagine has a great selection of vegan desserts! There's brownie sundaes, banana splits, and several flavors of VEGAN MILKSHAKES! The Peanut Butter Milkshake is, hands down, the best thing I've ever put in my mouth:

A local lady named Karina Khun bakes cupcakes, layer cakes, brownies, and cookies daily to sell at Imagine. I couldn't resist this Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcake:

Imagine even sells the Go Max Go candy bars!! Now I'll never have to order my Mahalo's online again!

I might be biased, but I think Imagine Vegan Cafe may be the best thing to happen to Memphis ... like ever. Now that we have a vegan restaurant, the city's cool points just inched way, way higher. Look out, Portland. Here we come!

Imagine Vegan Cafe is located at 2156 Young Ave. Check out their website here.


foodfeud said...

We have a lot of vegan dining out options in NYC but I love that this place is independent and family owned. The food looks badass too.

Heather said...

awesome! I would visit Memphis just to eat there, honestly.

Chocolate-Covered Katie said...

Holy cow, Bianca! If I hadn't known whose blog I was reading, I would've sworn a non-veggie food blog had spammed my google reader.

The mac and cheese looks particularly incredible! :)

The Preppy Vegan said...

So. Jealous. You had me at those cheesesticks!

The Health Sensei said...

the food looks really good for a splurge; not something i could eat often personally. great pictures bianca! i just wish vegan restaurants weren't so obsessed with faux meat. is that because most vegans still secretly crave meat?

Alan Roettinger said...

@Rick: You may have something there. I wrote a post related to this in April ( Far be it from me to deny anyone their choice of foods, but I do think menu offerings at vegan restaurants would serve the vegan community better if it helped pull them away from a meat-centric mindset. This gives me an idea...

@Bianca: Do you know how much you inspire me? Vegan Crunk is always at the top of my blogroll, because you post like a newspaper--every day, reliably, like the sun and the seasons. Keep it up, baby!

Ted Strange said...

I wish I was still living in Memphis to be able to go to this restaurant. Lived in Memphis for almost 7 years and a few weeks after I move they open an all vegan restaurant. Go Figure. Very awesome! said...

Woah there, this post's full of ridiculousness! Cheese sticks! Creamy Spinach Dip! Mac n Cheese!Chicken Drumsticks! I want it all!

Sheridan said...

WOW!!!! I'm so very excited to check it out!!! The cheesesticks look super awesome!

Erin said...

This looks like a fantastic restaurant! I would have a seriously hard time deciding what to order.

Millie said...

wow all that food is making me hungry...what a great place to eat.

Lara said...

It all looks awesome! I'm almost tempted to drive 8 hours to eat there.

Mike said...

I live in Memphis. My family ate here once. Their food may actually taste good with time, but the 3 meals we ate were cold, lukewarm, or undercooked. I don't remember what my wife had. The ravioli I had was undercooked and hard. The Garlic toast was bread with butter and garlic powder. And my sons mac n cheese was not good at all...and cold.

Like I said, it may get better but it's not better yet.

Mike said...

I forgot to say that it seemed like they were so excited about their vegan restaurant concept that they never thought about how to make the actual food.

morganbb said...

I've been dying to go to this place and try the food. Those cheese sticks look really good! But I am a little disappointed that they are using faux meat I could buy in the store- seems like stuff I could make at home. When I go out I want something I CAN'T duplicate at home. Maybe I'll just go for the cheese sticks- don't think I can make those at home :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike! It has gotten better! On the first day in business, service was behind and a few dishes were cold. But I've been there many times since (ha, they've only been open a few weeks, and I think I've been in 5 or 6 times!) and service has been quick and the food was hot and delicious.

Yes, Morgan. There is lots of faux meat, but the prices are so cheap that it's really sorta better than buying the stuff and making a similar dish at home. Plus, they're not afraid to fry stuff...and at home, I always bake things...even though I'd rather have someone else fry something for me in a restaurant. It seems like I feel less guilty about fried food when someone else does the frying!

melissa said...

It was fun to eat here but it will be a rare treat b/c the food is so junky. I do want to support it though since memphis has nothing else like this.

My hope is that people will get use to the idea of eating at a vegan restaurant through Imagine's comfort food. Then in the future when the healthy, gourmet, and dare I say it, 'foodie' vegan restaurant of my dreams opens in Memphis, eating at a vegan restaurant won't be such a big deal.

Claire said...

Oh my god! So much yum in one post!!!
Vegan cheese sticks?!!!