I recently found a pearl in the midst of the Medellin urban jungle. Recommended by a total stranger while munching on the very few vegan options available at Govinda's (which unfortunately for me almost always contain gluten, so not my favourite), I decided to give it a try... and was pleasantly surprised.
The name of the restaurant is Vegarden. They chose that name even though they are located in a Spanish-speaking country, but that doesn't surprise me in the least: other stores and restaurants have either chosen this route or come from English-speaking countries, and most Colombians know at least a bit of English (the urban crowd, anyways) since it is required in high school and often in university as well. And, it is located in one of the posh neighborhoods of this Colombian city, making the name choice much less strange.
When I stepped in, it was clear that the owner(s) have at least somewhat of an activist background. They promote animal welfare and healthy eating; names and quotes from vegetarian and vegan celebrities are posted on the far wall; and the tables and other walls are decorated with the less-is-best philopshy: one wall has the picture of a tree and its roots, plain in view, painted directly on it; the napkins are held by reused bottles with a reused twisted straw, and the tables are small, simple wooden ones. The employees look like hippies, too, and they offer cooking classes - which is nothing new for South-American vegetarian restaurants - but this one explains how to bake your own bread and sprout your own seeds, on top of teaching how to make an incredible pomodoro sauce and vegan sesame seed cheese for your lasagna.
If you're not tempted by this place yet, let me tell you how they make a burger. Start with a homemade sauerkraut of purple cabbage with its own bittersweet sauce, add a couple of slices of grilled zucchini, saute a few mushrooms and onion bits, then cover them with the house's handmade sweet mustard. Then, shred lettuce, slice tomates and homemade pickles, marinate tofu, fry a lentil patty, and place every single item on one whole-grain hamburger bun. Can you imagine the size of this dream meal? Try five inches high!
And if this wasn't enough, their 'almuerzos' (almuerzos are a typical South-American lunch menu that resembles lunch specials in some North-American restaurants: soup, main course, dessert and a drink - usually juice, soy milk or homemade oatmeal milk) are incredible. Their oatmeal milk has a touch of banana and cinnamon; their soups are the portion of almost an entire meal by itself; and the main dish is usually accompanied by a rainbow salad, fresh, in-house italian-style baked bread, and a delicious sweet treat afterwards. For those with a light appetite, they offer salads, sandwiches, focaccias and calzones.
As though this wasn't enough, they have a small selection of items you can purchase to bring home: their own, fresh-baked bread, lentil or garbanzo-patty preparation mix, a variety of oils and vinegars, tofu, artisan beers and fresh juices.
It is good to see that wholesome, delicious food can be found in this city!