Sunday, June 08, 2008

why yes, their milkshakes DID bring me to the yard

Bazu and Vegetalion outside Strong Hearts Cafe

Greetings from Kansas City! I have had a serious internet and blogging withdrawal for the last week. As Daiku and I were visiting my family in northern Virginia and then his family in St. Louis, blogging and blog-hopping were not always doable. But now I'm in Kansas City, in a hotel with wi-fi, and loads of free time on my hands, so expect to hear a lot from me this week as I go back in time to catch you guys up! In this post, I have a restaurant review, a product review, and even a bloggy meet-up, so hopefully it will make up for my recent absence.

notice the cool vegan cookbooks on display!

First up, a review of Strong Hearts Cafe, the newest addition to Syracuse's vegan dining scene. We all anticipated its late May opening date, and Bridget, Trac, Daiku and I went there for lunch the day after it opened. We all understandably had high expectations- it's not every day that a 100% vegan restaurant opens in our back yard!

The food menu (you can click on the above photo to enlarge it) promised to be exciting, but I was there for one thing and one thing only - milkshakes! When is the last time you had a vegan milkshake? Too long for me! Strong Hearts has an extensive milkshake menu, each named after a particular hero.

After much hand-wringing and deliberation, I decided on the Malcolm X- a chocolate and cherry concoction. As you can see, it was huge! And very delicious.

Unfortunately, I was the only one in our group who was fully satisfied. A lot of menu items were not available. Here's Trac's chickpea salad sandwich. She thought it tasted ok, but better presentation (say some garnish, a pickle, or some chips to liven up the plate) would have improved it.

Service was also really slow. Bridget was on her lunch break, and did not expect to have to wait over 30 minutes for her order. When they arrived, she reported that her BLT and pasta salad could have used a lot more flavor.

Daiku agreed about his BLT- in fact, this entire sandwich only had one strip of bacon inside!

But, I didn't want to leave it at this. This cafe has so much promise, that we all agreed that the food and service must have had an off day, because some wrinkles needed to be ironed out so close to the grand opening. I promised myself I would go back to give Strong Hearts a second chance.

That second chance came a week later with a wonderful opportunity. The lovely Vegetalion was visiting Upstate NY and we got to plan a meet-up in Syracuse! Naturally, we decided to go to Strong Hearts. Here she is with her milkshake- a chocolate peanut butter concoction (I forgot which hero it was named after, though! John Brown?)

And here I am with my "Tiananmen Square Guy" (green tea) milkshake. We both loved our shakes.

The food was a vast improvement, too! Here is Vegetalion's chickpea salad sandwich- served on more substantial bread and with more filling this time.

And here's my chicken caesar salad. The vegan chicken strips were quite tasty, better than a lot of meat served at other vegetarian restaurants. And the dressing, a tangy Asian twist on caesar dressing, was heavenly. It was also such a blast to meet up with Vegetalion and get to know the person behind the blog!

Yay for happy endings! I love that Strong Hearts exists just a short bike ride from my home, and I can't wait to go back and try their breakfast menu. The owners are also extremely nice and responsive. I wrote them with an ingredient question and they wrote back quickly and answered my questions. This is the type of place that I am very happy to support. Their milkshakes drew me in, and I will not rest until I've tried all the flavors! (that could take a while- see for yourself by checking out their menu!)

Strong Hearts Cafe
719 E Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
Phone: (315) 478 - 0000
Fax: (315) 478-0001

Next, a product review. Like a lot of you in blogland, I recently received a shipment of ProBars to sample. Daiku and I were excited to see this beautiful assortment of whole food bars- no soy protein isolate in these! We got to taste 5 flavors: maple pecan, cocoa pistachio, kettle corn, cherry pretzel, and sesame goji.

Here is a close-up of the cherry pretzel flavor- notice the big chunks of pretzel, the cherries, and all the sesame and flax seeds! I love eating a power bar whose ingredients are so easily discernible. These all tasted good, but the kettle corn was our hands down favorite. My only concern with ProBars is that they pack in a hefty amount of calories- over 400 a bar. While they are substantial, I think that they would be ideal for high-level athletes or those looking for a meal replacement rather than a snack. Daiku and I split all of them. I should note however, that all those calories are nutrient-dense and healthy, so I really can't complain all that much!

Finally, an update. You may remember my previous post where I wrote about that large group of rescued rats who needed homes. Well, I'm thrilled to report that a fellow Syracuse blogger, Rachael, and her partner, adopted 3 of them! Click on her blog post to see photos of these adorable little guys! You rock, Rachael.

It's good to be back on-line- hope to post more and pay all of you visits very soon!



Animal-Friendly said...

Chocolate cherry, chocolate banana, and green tea milkshakes- I WANT ONE! The rest of the food looks great, too, but milkshakes make everything good!

Anonymous said...

Those milkshakes looks SO creamy! Yum.

I am so glad you found a home for 3 of the cats...

Anonymous said...

whoops. rats not cats ;)

Jean said...

I love your outfit, Bazu!! And the milshake looks delish. Aww, your posts always make me happy. :)

Happy summer. Yay!

Celine said...

as long as the milkshakes wear seitan pasties...

Emmie said...

Vegan milkshakes? oh my god I hate my stupid country. I'd be so much happier and fatter if I had access to all the lovely food you people in America get. Bleh. It looks GOOOOOD!

I think I might kill for that chicken ceasar salad so it's probably good we don't have that here.

Anonymous said...

I love the names of the drinks! Excellent! And the food looks great. It's so fun to try new things & places on the road!

springsandwells said...

Hi Bazu!
I'm so happy to see a new post from you! I was missing you!

How rad to have a new vegan spot open up near your house... and with milkshakes!!! Our local veg spot, Dharma's, has vegan milkshakes, but I'll admit I don't order them often. I just almost never burn enough calories to justify eating on of those!

I can't believe one piece of bacon. That is very sad. But, all restaurants need a little while to get it right. I'm glad you didn't write them off entirely.

I think I have some ProBars on the way. I look forward to trying them out. It's true about all the calories. That's why they're great for travelling - they really are substantive.

glad to hear some rats found a home!!

xo Amey

Anonymous said...

Is Strong Hearts located where "Lucky Moon Cafe" was? It looks like it. I'll have to give it a try, thanks for providing a second opinion.
Also, thought you might be interested in knowing that Lao Village will be at the Art on the Porches festival again (June 14 on Ruskin Ave in Syracuse's Strathmore neighborhood).

VeggieGirl said...

Haha!! The title of your post is too fun :0D

Oh my, that Malcolm X shake looks AMAZING!!! And how nice that you got to meet Vegetalion when she came to Syracuse :0) Sorry that the service was slow at the Cafe though - that's always a minus.

Sooo glad to read that 3 of the rats have been adopted - hooray!! :0)

mikaela said...

I think the cherry chocolate Malcolm X shake was a great decision :)

Vegan_Noodle said...

Good to hear from you bazu! And let me say your title cracked me up and now I need to hear that song. And yes, milkshakes... it has been awhile. Strong Hearts sounds like a fantastic place! How cool that you an vegetalion got to meet up :-)

Oh and I love your feet peeking into the probar picture!

bazu said...


Yes, Strong Hearts is where Lucky Moon used to be. It's sad, because Lucky Moon was a wonderful little place, and it did have a handful of vegan selections, but I think this is an improvement!

Mihl said...

So cool that you gave Strong Hearts a second chance.
Congrats on finding a home for the rats. My sister hat to do that a while ago too. She had two rats and always supposed that they were of the same sex. So she was very surprised when she found out that one of them was pregnant with ten baby rats. She was able to find homes for 8 and kept the additional two.

aTxVegn said...

How exciting to have a new vegan dining spot - with milkshakes! Do you know what they use for milk and ice cream to make their shakes? Aren't you glad you gave them a second chance?!

bazu said...

atxvegn, they use Organic Valley soy milks and Temptation ice creams for their milkshake bases, and then a variety of stir-ins (fruit, cookies, nuts, etc.) depending on what flavor you get. They're good!

Hannah said...

It's a shame that service was slow, but the food sure looks like it was worth the wait!

Kati said...

This is so exciting! I had no idea so many vegan milkshakes were right down the road! I need to get to Syracuse...quickly.

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Ah, the growing pains of a new cafe! I'm glad they have killer milkshakes though- YUM!

vegetalion said...

someday I will return for the cookies and cream milkshake... (I have already forgotten its name! tragic)

Erin said...

I want to try a ProBar from everyone's reviews, but I can't bring myself to buy one or eat that many calories in one little package. If I do though I think I'll go for the cherry pretzel, it looks great. And how cool that there's a totally vegan place near you! And even better that they're open to suggestions for improvement.

Anonymous said...

The Malcom X milkshake sounds delicious. How cool that you have a little veg place just down the road. I hope they continue to get better with time.

Rachael said...

aw, thanks for the link. the boys are doing well and apparently all of the rest of them have been adopted too. I'll have to check out Strong Hearts...exciting to have more vegan options around here!

vko said...

Always great to have a new yummy place close to home- glad it fared better second time around!

And yay for the rescued rats!!!!