Mac n’ cheese: those three little words make my heart (and my stomach) skip a beat. It’s also a huge reason why I’m loving the adorable, soulful and downright DELICIOUS new vegan restaurant, Seasoned Vegan.
Touted by the owners as the “first full-service vegan restaurant in Harlem,” this spot doesn’t disappoint when it comes to warm service and belt-busting platters.
A quick look-up through search engine reveals that it was actually Kickstarted and funded on June 30, 2012, so from the outset; the owners had a lot to live up to!
The interior of the restaurant is a mix of modern-wood and cozy booth seating with throw pillows — so comfy it seems like you’re kind of at your house!
Service here is, as I mentioned, friendly and welcoming, as well as attentive.
I’ve had a bit of small talk and chitchat with my server as well as the mother-son owners Brenda and Aaron Beener (maybe they should make a “Beene dip” special on their menu? :D) who seemed to be a very sweet, pleasant and intelligent duo that just want their business to thrive along with the satisfaction of their diners.
First off, I appreciate that the Seasoned Vegan menu is not crazy long like a ton of restos I’ve been to. That means they stick to a select number of dishes and cook the heck outta them!
My very first encounter with SV was trying out their cupcakes, which at $6, is pretty pricey, especially compared to other vegan cupcakes on the market like $2.75 for a Vegan Treats one or $3.75 for the vegan red velvet cupcake at Sprinkles. Still, I guess they gotta make that cash so no salt here.
Toasted coconut cupcake –
This cupcake was drenched and topped with yummy brown sugar syrup, toasted coconut flakes and a medley of roasted nuts. The cake part of it reminded me of those Hostess coffee cakes, except way moister and fresher. It was perfect with a hot cup of tea!
Iced apricot cupcake –
I don’t know if it’s just me, but these “cupcakes” seem more like dessert muffins since they’re laced with cinnamon and don’t have frosting on top like a regular cupcake. In any case, they taste great so whatever!
This cupcake had a drizzle of white icing on top and some yummy apricots baked inside the cake, and was just as soft and melt-in-your mouth as the coconut one.
Taste-wise, I could eat about 10 of them! That’s also because they’re really small, another annoying thing considering the price. So SV, if you’re listening, please make your $6 cupcakes a) cheaper or b) bigger! Or both!!
House salad –
Usually, I hate salad, as my loyal readers already know. However, SV’s salad is simple and tasty, with a tart yet sweet vinaigrette that opens up my appetite, which is probably all part of their masta plan.
The salad is a mix of spinach, red lettuce and probably some other salad leaves I don’t know the name of. Either way, it is pretty darn good!
Entrée – Smothered Chicken with string beans and seasoned rice
If the title of that entrée sounds like a lot of food… well, it is. You really get your money’s worth of portion size with SV entrees, unlike with their desserts.
Hands down, my favorite part of this dish was the mac n’ cheese. But wait, the mac n’cheese isn’t even in the title of this entrée… right? Well, that’s because the kitchen or my server got it wrong… and I ended up with a free side of seasoned rice AND mac n’ cheese. Free food, hell yeah!
Anyway, back to the mac… it is ooey, gooey, and melt-in-your-mouth irresistible. It’s the right amount of soft and salty, and they are NOT skimpy on the Daiya. It’s not surprising that it’s one of the top dishes (if not the top dish!) ordered at SV! I swear, I could probably eat this for every meal and never get sick of it. Maybe.
The mac complements the rest of the items on the plate well… I like to use the string beans to sop up the rest of the cheese left behind on the plate (expert foodie maneuver, btw). They also use a yummy savory spice seasoning on top of the sautéed string beans (a blend of pepper, chile and salt?), making it a pleasure to eat!
Finally, the “smothered chicken” also lives up to my expectation of vegan meat… soft, tender and flavorful with a thick, heavy gravy sauce on top. If you aren’t a fan of thick gravy, then this dish isn’t for you… but I love me some gravy, so I definitely dug in.
This entrée is a lesson in what works on a plate… everything goes together so simply that it is both satiating to the eye and the stomach.
Bananas Foster –
You didn’t think I would leave this place without having a good ol’ dessert, right? Even though I was stuffed, I left a bit of room in my tummy for this seasonal treat, which consisted of caramelized cooked bananas, phyllo dough and a scoop of vanilla vegan ice cream.
It was mostly yummy, but personally I didn’t like the banana part that much, since it was a bit mushy and soggy after being cooked. I won’t be ordering it again.
Apple Rum –
This was basically the same thing as the bananas foster, except with apples instead. The difference was like night and day — the cooked apples were so much more enjoyable to eat than the mushy bananas.
It also complemented the crunchy phyllo pastry nicely, plus it looked pretty!
Strawberry Heaven –
Me and my waiter joked about this shake needing to be renamed “Strawberry Purgatory” since it sounds more appropriate… not that drinking it will send you to purgatory, but more like how guilty you’d feel after having it.
It tastes a lot like what strawberries dipped in cool whip used to taste like to me — rich, refreshing and fruity. Definitely a dessert-like drink.
Ice cream sandwich cupcake –
For a more low-key type of dessert, try this simple yet genius cupcake sandwich that has a luscious scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream in the middle. At $9, I would make it a sometimes dessert, since I don’t think it should be priced that high, but it is yummy.
Overall, I always enjoy eating at Seasoned Vegan, and think the entrees are a good bang for your buck, but the desserts are a tad too pricey. Maybe next time they’ll give me a cupcake on the house?