I first became aware of Zanadu when a friend linked me to their Facebook page a few weeks before they opened, because they were asking if people would prefer to buy a vegan or a gluten-free grilled cheese at their cafe. Uh, duh! :D (They were able to satisfy both requirements by procuring vegan and gluten-free bread from Strawberry Blonde Bakery.)
As they opened, I saw the word vegan hashtagged a lot, but the menu I was seeing online didn’t match the hype. I’m always a bit leery when it seems “vegan” is being used more as a buzz word than as a description of a place’s food. It’s not that I am not pleased when a restaurant goes to the effort; it’s more that vegan is a misunderstood word already, and it doesn’t help with the public’s understanding if it’s used inaccurately. I decided to check it out for myself, and invited a new Maven, Kyle Den Bak, to join me.
A warning: While Zanadu fronts Richmond Road, it isn’t immediately easy to find. However once I did find it, the first thing I was struck by was the sleek, somewhat retro interior. It’s all black ad lime green, with disco balls and shiny dark walls. It’s spacious and airy, and trendy without being at all pretentious. The menu is hand written on one of the glossy walls, which I couldn’t photograph properly due to the sun and the wall’s shininess. Health and fitness related magazines are on each of the tables, and a flat screen TV shows nutritional information about different kinds of fruits and veggies.
We were greeted by the owner, Barb, who comes from the hospital and fitness fields. She’s mostly vegetarian, and is passionate about learning more about the vegan lifestyle. She told us that the menu has changed a lot even since Zanadu opened a week ago, all based on customer feedback. (For example, people wanted more smoothie options with protein. Zanuda uses Vega, FYI). I was impressed by her openness, and willingness to learn.
The promised vegan grilled cheese was on the wall menu, as is a grilled cheese/veggie pate hybrid sandwich, also vegan. They are not on the website yet as Barb is transitioning service providers and can’t update it. In addition to a selection of smoothies, there are also fresh pressed juices, salads, and some pastries (all, I believe, from Strawberry Blonde.) Small Zandu branded packages of various snacks (such as nuts) are available for convenience, as are coffee and tea.
I had the Totally Vegan grilled cheese, which has two types of the Daiya wedge cheeses, guacamole, and mango chutney. You have the option of adding a generous side of kale/chia tortilla chips with either hummus or guacamole (with finely shredded kale mixed in!) for just $2.50. The sandwiches themselves are not inexpensive – I have lost my receipt by I believe it was about $9.25. Sensitive to vegan concerns about cross-contamination, Barb tells me that one of the grills has been reserved exclusively for making the vegan grilled cheeses.
The sandwich was tasty and filling, but I knew immediately what would make it even better – Mad Faux-Cheese. I made the recommendation to Barb, and I know she’s already been in touch with Madison so stay tuned! (I also mentioned to her that a growing number of vegans are concerned about palm oil, and that using Mad Faux-Cheese would alleviate that barrier.)
Overall Zanadu has a great space and a lot of potential to be a great hang out and place to stop for a quick lunch. Barb is actively seeking feedback from customers so I recommend checking it out, and providing your constructive input. It’s open daily, until 6 PM.Zanadu 101 Richmond Road (just west of Island Park) www.zanadu.ca https://www.facebook.com/Zanadu.ca @zanaduca