Serving Up Great Food Very SlowlyBy Sonja A. Sharpe
Veggie Planet (at Club Passim)
47 Palmer Street
Mon-Sat 11:30-10:30, Sunday 10 to 10, Sunday Brunch 10-3:30
Brunch $5.95-$9.95, Pizza $10
Veggie Planet is a relatively new restaurant in Harvard Square that caters to vegetarians and vegans. The restaurant, owned by Didi Emmons, focuses mostly on putting ethnic food on flat bread to create delicious and unique pizzas, which constitute the bulk of the menu. Veggie Planet also promotes the concept of socially responsible business practices. For example, the pizza dough used at the restaurant is produced by Haley House, a homeless services provider in the South End; the produce is 70 percent locally grown, with the organic tofu made in Jamaica Plain.
Veggie Planet has long been serving the best vegetarian and vegan pizzas in town, but the small restaurant only recently started serving brunch every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Emmons and her staff created a menu that departs from the “ethnic food on pizza” concept to include more breakfast foods for Sunday’s brunch menu, taking pizza dough and using it for everything from sticky buns to cinnamon toast to eggs in a box. The results are quite successful.
On a recent trip to Veggie Planet, we arrived for brunch at around noon on Sunday. After waiting at our little table for half an hour, our waitress finally came over and took our order. We selected pecan sticky buns, made with fresh organic pizza dough; vegan cranberry coffee cake; homefry heaven, a scramble of crispy new potatoes, spinach and silken tofu topped with salsa; and the pizza of the day, which was topped with potatoes, caramelized onions, spinach and tofu ricotta cheese. Tofu ricotta can actually be substituted on any pizza that uses a real cheese as one of the toppings. This makes it extraordinarily easy for vegans to find a wide range of menu options here.
The atmosphere at Veggie Planet can best be described as Bohemian. The restaurant is very bright, even though it is located in a basement, and boasts cheerfully colored walls displaying artwork from local artists. The artwork changes periodically and all of it is for sale. Aside from all the colorful paint, though, very little seems to have been spent on dÉcor, and the feel of the place is more that of a colorful cafeteria than a restaurant. The cafeteria feeling is not helped by the fact that the restaurant is overcrowded with small, cafeteria-style tables. We couldn’t even use two of the chairs at our table because they were squeezed in too close to the table next to us.
Since the restaurant is located at Club Passim, there is a raised stage on one end, which Veggie Planet uses to provide live jazz music during Sunday brunch. In keeping with the Bohemian theme, though, the jazz is good, but low key. The jazz players themselves were not a professional jazz group at all, but seemed instead to be a married couple in their 50s who simply enjoyed strumming a guitar and singing. Still, they were pretty good, and the music did make the restaurant seem less like a cafeteria.
The service at Veggie Planet is horridly slow, however. Even though the restaurant advertises that their pizzas are cooked in less than two minutes in an ecological, one-of-a-kind oven, we had to wait more than half an hour for our food to arrive. Although this was only partly the fault of our waitress, since the place was definitely understaffed and she was swamped with customers, she didn’t think at all to bring out the coffee cake and the sticky bun first, but waited until the pizza and homefries were done and then brought it all out together. Needless to say, we were starving by the time we finally got our food.
The beverage service was even worse. The organic coffee is serve-yourself, but I had to wait until almost the end of my meal before my orange juice finally arrived. However, it was fresh-squeezed, very refreshing and somehow worth the wait. In fact, that’s true of all the food at Veggie Planet. Slow as the service was, the quality of the food honestly did make up for it. The sticky buns were soft, definitely sticky, and wonderfully sweet and filling. The cranberry coffee cake was moist and delicious. The homefries were a little bland, but otherwise tasty, and the pizza was fabulous, slightly spiced and wonderfully seasoned. Potatoes on pizza is a surprisingly delicious meal, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
The main reason to eat at Veggie Planet is its fantastically delicious food, particularly the unique pizzas and the pastry items. It’s also nice to know that you are patronizing a restaurant that supports the community and operates with a good social conscience. Expect to wait a while for your food, though, and to be uninspired by the dÉcor, but if you don’t mind those aspects of the restaurant, you will definitely enjoy Sunday brunch at Veggie Planet. The food is absolutely worth it, and the jazz is pretty good, too.