The Hairy Vegetarian at Sprig and Vine in New Hope
I get a special thrill when I visit or hear about a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. I get a similar charge when I eat at any restaurant that serves a great vegetarian meal, or even tries to. When I first started blogging about vegetarian dining in restaurants, I promised myself that I wouldn’t be negative. If I visited an establishment that wasn’t good, I just wouldn’t write about it. I will stick with that promise.
Last night my husband and another couple took me out to celebrate my recent appointment as director of the Garden State Philharmonic Chorus. They let me choose the restaurant. I hadn’t been to New Hope, PA in a long time, so I decided that we should revisit Sprig and Vine, self-labeled “Pure Vegetarian.” I remember the four of us being thrilled with the food when we had first eaten there. I just want to say that I really, really like this restaurant. Everything I say here is an encouragement out of love to keep me (and hopefully many others) thrilled by going there.
It was a Saturday night. We expected the town, on an October weekend with 80-degree weather, to be crowded. It was. But that’s half the fun of going there. We had reservations for 7 PM. We arrived at the restaurant at 6:58 and walked in the door. It was busy, but not completely full. There was no one at the receptionist desk, so we stood at the doorway. There was a staff member, perhaps a waiter, about 5 feet away behind a counter doing something. We stood at the doorway for 5-7 minutes. He never looked up. The woman I assume was the door receptionist was walking through the small restaurant tending to things at various tables. She passed by us several times and didn’t acknowledge us. Several other staff members passed by us, but no one said anything. The receptionist came to the stand by the door and stood silently looking down at the stand. We stood facing her for about a minute when she looked up and said, “Hi.” I mention this because the whole scenario set an odd tone to the evening. The four of us agreed that the overall experience felt aloof. In such a small restaurant I think it’s important to interact with people coming in the door in a rather immediate fashion. It creates an uplifting welcome, and colors the whole dining experience.
We were seated at a booth. Two or three minutes later weAQ got menus. The server came to the table. She never said her name. I don’t need to know her name, but it contributed to the nonchalance of the evening. We ordered four appetizers for the table, and each of us ordered the soup. After about ten minutes, we each got a bowl of Roasted Root Vegetable Puree soup. It looked fantastic, and tasted out of this world good. But it wasn’t hot. I found it odd that the soup came first, but I don’t know of any rules of order for pre-entrée dining. The apps were Garlic-Cashew Chips (tasty), Pickled Local Vegetables (good), Grilled Shishito Peppers (bland), and Edamame Falafel (delicious). Two of us had Paella, which was “saffron bomba rice, roasted corn, zucchini, fennel, sweet pepper, and cauliflower, grilled shishito pepper and cherry tomato, and green olive.” Those two plates came to the table while those two diners waited about five minutes before the other plates came, which were Kakiage Udon -- “tempura vegetables, udon noodles, nori-miso butter, spinach, corn, ginger aioli, togarashi” and my dish, which was Egglant and Black Lentil Curry -- "tomato-coconut curry sauce, lemon-curry leaf basmati rice, coconut-cucumber salad, pickled red onion, and cilantro." The two paella eaters said that their dish was bland. The udon eater enjoyed his dish very much. Mine was excellent, but I would have preferred much more spice. It was delicate. I’m not what I would think of as a delicate eater. But I imagine that many are.
We decided to walk into town for ice cream, so we skipped the desserts. They did sound good on the dessert menu, though. Would I go back? Perhaps. I wouldn’t go all the way (an hour and a half) to New Hope just to go to this restaurant. But I hope they stick around. The food is thoughtful and well-prepared. For a special occasion I like to be wowed. When I take meat eaters to a vegetarian restaurant, I want them to rave. And we need more vegan and vegetarian restaurants!
Sprig and Vine is at 450 Union Square Drive, New Hope PA