Vedge Cafe celebrates its first birthday next month. Located on N. Main St.–a menu graphic says “No Meat St.”–it offers reasonably priced fresh fare that’s all vegetarian and mostly vegan, without being preachy about the benefits of a plant-based diet for human and environmental health. Vedge’s lunch-oriented menu is relatively deep and customizable. From wholesome soups du jour to nutty and fruity baked goods, I found a lot to like here.

Although not much to look at from the street, the small storefront is tidy and bright inside. The lime-green and persimmon-orange color scheme adds cheeriness. A little green leaf sits jauntily as the accent atop the orange “e” in Cafe in the logo, and after a few meals I came to see it as a symbol of the way this little eatery sweats the details to makes its virtuous offerings a bit more appealing for the rest of us–only 5 percent of Americans identify as committed vegetarians or vegans (though many more have tried the diets, and Ann Arbor’s share is surely higher).

Vedge’s colorful salads are displayed in a shiny glass case by the counter where you order and pay. On my first visit, the BBQ tofu with corn kernels and black beans looked good–and it was, with plentiful chunks of tofu, lightly blackened at the corners and satisfyingly chewy under a tangy sweet sauce, ripe avocado, and carrots for crunch. A spiced-up nondairy ranch came on the side. The kale salad I tried on a later visit had less charisma, in part because it arrived pre-dressed with a zesty fruit vinaigrette that I found overpowering.

The Power Smoothie tasted very fresh and not at all like the spinach that boosted its vitamin-mineral content. Chia seeds get ground together with the tiny seeds from blueberries and strawberries for a slightly gritty texture, but I thought it a real-food deal for $3.99.

At my second lunch, I tried the new Philly cheesesteak sandwich, so recently introduced it was not even on the printed menu. Vegan “cheez” gave it a greasy Hot-Pocket look and taste, almost like fast food. Green peppers were the most dominant flavor. Since the non-meat “steak” had a soft texture, I would have preferred a crispier bread to make the sandwich a more interesting chew.

Vedge makes its own seitan (wheat gluten), a popular meat substitute of Asian origin. Herbs and spices are added to suggest various cold cuts. The “sa’la’mee” works okay, because the texture holds up and the fennel and pepper come through to suggest the flavor of salami. The “turkee” was kind of tasteless. The “corned feeb” is the right color for corned beef and would probably pass in the Reuben, where there’s sauerkraut and marbled rye bread to add interest. But for me, seitan has never been a big draw. My vegan friends are more into it.

You don’t have to be vegan or even vegetarian to hanker for Vedge’s lentil vegetable soup, made in the Moosewood Cookbook style with sweet and acidic ingredients coming together for a hearty broth. (Though the golden color is similar, it’s a bit more tomato-forward than the Moosewood version). Even the $3.49 cup would make a decent light lunch, because it’s served with a good-sized slice of baguette. It’s the only soup offered every day; other rotating options range from Thai to Mexican to Italian.

At one point, I was intrigued to see a server deliver a sandwich on whole wheat toast with lettuce and tomato, with an inch-thick beige spread that looked exactly like chicken or tuna salad. The “toona” turned out to be lightly mashed chickpeas to which Vedge adds seaweed, pickle relish, and mayo. I tried it a few days later and found it pretty satisfying, although I thought only the relish suggested anything akin to tuna salad.

Vedge recently stopped offering coffee, which is a real shame because the cookies and muffins are quite appealing and would go well with coffee. I particularly liked a dense blueberry-zucchini muffin with a nice crispy top. Among the cookies I sampled, the chocolate peanut butter crunch balls stood out. Gluten free as well as vegan, they’re scrumptious golf-ball-sized treats of sweetened peanut butter and crispy rice cereal completely drenched in semisweet chocolate. A serving of two works out to just over a buck each, they come two to a serving. I thought I would save one for a friend but “accidentally” ate both.

No wonder I left Vedge Cafe feeling pretty full on every visit. The plant-based food here may be health-conscious, but it’s not lightweight.

Vedge Cafe

205 N. Main


Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Soup, sides, and salads $3.49-$9.49; sandwiches $8.49-$8.99; dessert $2.49.

Wheelchair friendly