The Lion’s Den

CLOSED.

April 24, 2007
Times Visited: 2

This little cart replaced The Divine Cafe The cooks are still friendly, cute and play fun music. At first look it seemed some of the menu items remained the same with added West African dishes: tempeh tacos, smoothies, peanut stew, ginger stir fry, portabella burger. During my first visit I ordered the peanut soup. It was brothy but served over quinoa. It was served with a few freshly fried plantains on top. The cup of stew was flavorful and not too spicy. Without the qunioa it wouldn’t have been enough food for lunch, so I was happy to have the option of rice or qunioa with my dish.

My second visit I ordered the Miso Ginger Stir Fry minus the peppers with quinoa. I love to watch my food be made and the cart makes that possible from any angle. The Miso Ginger Stir Fry was fresh with carrots, cabbage, celery, onions and tofu with lots of ginger and some tofu. I hate to say I was disappointed, but I was. The miso was light and the ginger not enough or too much, I’m still unsure. The tofu was plain and too soft for my liking. Overall, the dish was too bland for my taste buds. Next time I will opt for the peanut soup. (WB)

I was a fan of the creative vegan soups and smoked tofu sandwich at Divine Cafe, and seeing a new vegan operation in its old location gave me hope. As Webly said, the guys are super friendly and they’ll let you sample any soup – both I tried (though they have 3) while walking by one day were tasty. On my first visit, I also had the miso ginger stir fry, and while I enjoyed the fresh vegetables (minus the onions) I have the same feelings regarding the tofu and the lack of miso ginger flavor. Mine required extra tamari and srichi. I would order it again if I was downtown and craving fresh veggies over a grain for lunch. FYI, The grain choices are brown rice and quinoa. I haven’t seen any ‘specials’ listed yet, which would be a nice surprise.

During my second visit, I ordered the portabella burger, minus the grilled onions. I don’t know if the portabella was mingling somewhere with green onions that the cook didn’t think about, or if he forgot my request, but my sandwich came with portabella slices, green onions, bell peppers, spinach and vegan thousand island sauce. I annoy myself with my no onions plea, butI’m just not a fan. After peaking in and then even trying a bite, I was unable to enjoy mine. The tastes were mingled. I will say that to its credit it is a large sandwich, served on toasted bread and with a side of quinoa or brown rice as well ($6). I do think it’s misleading that it isn’t an actual whole portabella burger, and I wouldn’t order it again, but I would keep the Lion’s Den open as a downtown lunch option. (JD)

Date: July 18, 2007

Last week, I curiously returned to Lion’s Den. I felt like this vegetarian food cart had so much potential. Upon reading the menu, I was excited: it was updated and expanded to include many of the old favorites of its previous owner, ala Divine Café. The new additions included a bbq and basic tofu sandwiches and fettucine. I ordered the basic tofu sandwich, served on rustic white bread with a decent amount of avocado as well as vegenaise, tomato and vibrant greens – mustard was also available. I inquired as to how the tofu was prepared and was told “as is” or plain; but, if I wanted I could have it grilled. I opted for grilled, and had I not, I do believe I would have gotten naked tofu in the sandwich, to note. I can’t actually complain because nothing was noted on the menu stating elsewise, I was simply surprised at how ‘basic’ it would have been. To jazz things up, I added some soy sauce and nutritional yeast to my sandwich. I was reminded of a similar sandwich I’d had at Veggielicious, though it came with sprouts and faux cheez, and the tofu was pan fried.

At $5.75, I comfortably ate my sandwich and extremely moist and tasty side of quinoa at a table right outside the cart. The quinoa seemed to have a spicy peanut flavor, and I would have gladly eaten a bowl of it. Throw some cooked tofu on top, and they’d have themselves a devoted regular. I find myself wishing their veggie stir fry had this sauce. Almost taken aback, as I was eating the cook had a cigarette within a few feet of the cart which he was also doing in the area before I came. I hesitate to even mention it, but it did affect my overall experience. Prior to eating and experiencing this, I would have returned within a week or so try another new option. As it stands now, I’m in no rush and it will probably be at least a month before I go back.

Overall, it’s easy to compare Lion’s Den to the previous incarnation, Divine Café (whose passionate owner/chef Rose moved on to cook elsewhere) but now, even with a similar menu, I’ve again found the cart quite less than impressive. The all-vegetarian options and premise have wonderful promise, but I honestly haven’t experienced it fulfilled yet. (JD)

Miso Ginger Stir Fry

april 2007 121

Portabella Burger

april 2007 122

Tofu sandwich with a side of quinoa
july 2007 057

Rating: 2 out of 5
Address: SW 9th Ave., midway between Washington and Alder
Hours: 11am-4pm, weekdays

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