Perhaps one of the vegetarian’s most common challenges (here in Davao City, at least) is finding a place to eat out in. Since I first decided to become a vegetarian almost seven years ago, eating out has rarely been an option for me. When I do eat out, it’s usually Chowking for their plain fried tofu or one of the pizza places for vegetarian (not vegan) pizza. There are other places, of course, but they all mean the same thing to me: scouring the entire menu for that one dish that doesn’t have animal products in it and long interviews with the waiter about what the food’s made of or if I could have the chicken taken out of my chop suey or the shrimps from my salad, usually ending with me settling for a huge pile of plain lettuce and dressing I wouldn’t have to pay big bucks for if I just ate at home. Sometimes, even the lettuce isn’t available.
So yes, I do resent the fact that restaurant menus on this part of the planet don’t allow vegetarians like me to plan simple lunch get-togethers with friends without having to engage in a lengthy discussion about whether I will have to starve or not.
Did I sound too bitter there?
There’s actually a happy part in this blog post. I was recently told of a small restaurant in JP Laurel Avenue that started business December of last year. The thing about this restaurant is that they serve all-vegan food. In fact, the very name of the restaurant is Vegan Hygienic Foodhaus. I could definitely give them a list of suggestions regarding the name, but hey. A vegan place, finally.
The restaurant really is small and the menu options limited. The food isn’t exceptional, but at least they’re reasonably priced. They offer a value meal of a serving of rice along with two other dishes for Php50.00. You’d wish they included a drink with that meal, but you’ll have to order one of their fresh fruit juices priced at Php80.00 each glass. The must-try is the vegan pizza priced at Php250.00, good for two to four people. Instead of cheese, they use a nut-based (probably cashew) sauce poured over tomatoes, onions, peppers, olives, veggie meat, and a whole wheat crust. Our pizza had more sauce than the one in their picture so it was a bit messy to eat, but the pizza was generally good.
Aside from VHF, there are a few other go-to places in Davao City for the hungry vegetarian. The ambiance isn’t quite as nice, but they do serve good and affordable veg food.
There’s Kong Ai Vegetarian Centrum along Gempesaw Street, which serves a fair selection of dishes from veggies to faux meat. You can also buy faux meat for home-cooking. The products range from seafood to chicken to meat, all vegetarian. And they taste unbelievably like real animal products, too!
Within walking distance from Kong Ai is Vegelicious at Monteverde Street, which is smaller yet very similar to Kong Ai. I used to go there a lot more than I do now, but I plan to visit again soon.
Then there’s Winward, an annex of the Grand Men Seng Hotel in Pichon Street. They serve chop suey and variations of noodles. The food is actually quite good, but you’ll have to be very specific when ordering because the waitresses tend to forget you want everything meatless.
Lastly, for a really affordable vegetarian lunch, you can go to the Davao Adventist Hospital canteen. You can have a full meal for two at Php90.00, complete with a dessert of banana cue. The hospital’s a bit far from the city proper, but if you’re somewhere near, it’s just in Bangkal.
I wish there were more options for me and my people in this city. More than that, I wish people become more aware of the benefits of vegetarianism and that there’d be many, many restaurants to make things easier for them. But for now, I’m happy that I have one more place to add to my slowly growing list. It just feels good to know that in this age of Facebook timelines filled with instagrammed food, we vegetarians have not been completely forgotten.