Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Difference in Taste - Foodswings vs. Bliss

During a recent trip to Brooklyn, I was fortunate enough to be able to sample not one--but two--well known vegetarian restaurants, both located in the heart of Williamsburg. (Being a Bronx resident, I don't get out to Brooklyn too often...so you gotta scarf it down when the opportunity presents itself.)

The result? An interesting contrast in culinary philosophies - ranging from austere to the ultimate in fast food indulgence...with proof that vegan/vegetarian fare need not be bland, one-note...or even healthy.

Bliss - 191 Bedford Avenue (between 6th and 7th street)
Specializing in organic vegetarian, Bliss Cafe has a healthy, hipster vibe. Known for its brunches, the cafe serves up a number of veggie staples such as fresh squeezed juice, tofu scramble and homemade granola with yogurt (available in both soy and regular non-vegan varieties.) When I arrived, I'd actually hoped to score a breakfast burrito with a side of cornbread (said by some to be quite addictive.) But breakfast was over - resulting in an order for the titular Bliss Bowl...a mix of brown rice, tofu, salad dressing and steamed vegetables. The result? A lot of food, but very little flavor. Even with the ginger dressing, the bowl proved bland...and no tastier than straight steamed vegetables from Shop Rite (something that even I--with my limited culinary skills--could have topped.) To be fair, it was only one dish--which did admittedly leave my stomach with a nice, light airy feeling. And the breakfast food might have been better. The service was great, and the atmosphere pleasant. So perhaps Bliss deserves another chance. But given the long trip to Brooklyn, that's unlikely to happen.

Foodswings - 295 Grand Street (between Roebling and Havemeyer)
Then there's Foodswings - conceptualized by its owners as a punk, unapologetic ode to fast food (done all-vegan style)

There ain't a thing about Foodswings that's stylish. Decorated with all the flair of a school cafeteria, FS features loud music, no bathrooms, and disposable plates. Though not unpleasant, the counter staff's hardly attentive, and has a tendency to socialize on the job. (At least they did when I was there. Hey, who wants to pay attention to customers, anyway?)

You know what? I really like this place.

In stark contrast to vegan fare's reputation as healthy and bland, Foodswings serves up classic comfort food. The menu at FS reads like a Junk Food Hall of Fame, with items such as hotdogs, hamburgers, mac n' cheese, tuna salad sandwiches, pu-pu platters, chicken nuggets and even milkshakes (which are said to be awesome - with or without alcohol added.) Sure, the quesadillas have drippy vegan cheese - but they're warm and satisfying nonetheless! There's tofu jerky available at the counter, and various dessert options, depending on the day. (Though the cheesecake I had proved less than amazing...kind o' dry and heavy, and just not quite right.) The only drawback - certain items are only available late nights...so don't expect to satisfy your grilled ham and cheese craving during daylight hours. Okay, and the prices could be somewhat cheaper. Still - Foodswings is fun. Call me a proletariat, but given a choice between a Bliss Bowl and Vegan Fish n' Chips...? Well, there's just no contest.

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