Restaurant review: Wayward Vegan Cafe

The Mexican Scramble, one of Wayward’s signature breakfasts, provides an alternative to eggs by using tofu and a chorizo substitute. Along with the desserts, most protein substitutes are made in-house. Photo by Alisa Reznick

I’m a lazy vegetarian, especially when it comes to breakfast. I’ll snub cheese substitutes like a full-fledged carnivore, and I’m positive that anything scrambled should be an egg, which is why, although it’s a mere 30 steps from my house, I passed Wayward Vegan Cafe time and time again without a second glance.

But the vegan cuisine of the Wayward variety is no ordinary animal-free meal. Featuring house-made desserts and an eclectic menu that’s equal parts comfort and innovation, the only thing separating Wayward from a typical upscale cafe is the plant-based protein. That, and the perfectly reasonable prices. With breakfast and lunch entrees ranging from $6 to $10, the small cafe may have found a way to bring the almost-, sometimes-, and absolutely never-vegan crowd into perfect agreement. This unique Ave cafe proves it’s not only economical but also incredibly easy to eat vegan.

For $8, I ordered the “Mexican Scramble,” which, like other scramble options such as the “Vegeterranean,” and the “Lost Souls,” arrived fully loaded with toast and a healthy helping of seasoned greens. But this was no dainty grilled vegetable plate. Loaded with spicy, pan-fried crumbles of chorizo substitute, sautéed onions, peppers, and fresh tomatoes, the tofu proved just as worthy of a breakfast scramble as any old egg.

And I didn’t even miss the cheese.

Featuring everything from hearty breakfast burritos to a seitan BBQ sub, Wayward’s varied and original menu makes it easy to forget it’s vegan. For a lighter meal, several salads are offered, such as the Crispy Chiggen Salad for $8, which, as its name already suggests, is considerably filling. Other unique options include the biscuits-and-gravy entrees. Available as five unique dishes, they are topped with either mushroom or country gravy and heaps of extras like chorizo and sausage substitute. To top it off, and to secure a place in the proper cafe lineup, Wayward’s enticing dessert menu features $3 slices of various pies and $4 gargantuan, house-made cinnamon rolls for weekend warriors.

From behind the counter and in front of the stove, owners Tami and Colin Blanchette have been operating Wayward for three years. What truly separates this vegan restaurant from its many U-District competitors is sheer variety: From the seitan to the fried “chiggen,” the house-made meat substitutes are as varied as the dishes in which they are featured. The cafe is currently open for breakfast and lunch, but the couple and their business partners plan to introduce an entirely new dinner menu April 7.

Oddly stationed among the small bars and salons on the northern side of the Ave, Wayward offers something entirely different to the U-District: Its lively rouge walls, relaxed order-at-the-counter atmosphere, and friendly staff create a cozy space that’s as unique as the animal-free menu. Somewhere between the bottomless drip coffee and the spiced scrambled tofu, Wayward has negotiated a new space for vegan cuisine, one that’s plenty satisfying for both vegan intensives and everyday omelet-lovers alike. As it turns out, tofu can, in fact, scramble quite deliciously.

The verdict: Wayward Vegan Cafe is a great option for vegans and omnivores alike.

Reach reporter Alisa Reznick at arts@dailyuw.com.

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