Small World Cafe
722 N Sumner (inside Big City Produce)

Having recently completed Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, I'm suddenly having a hard time eating out; I'm unable to eat a hamburger without thinking of the hormones used in the beef, unable to order chicken without imagining cages and cages of sick, E.coli-filled chickens, and especially unable to forgive the meat industry for employing so many workers in slave-labor conditions.

Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered Small World Café, a small, vegan-friendly café. Now, I know what you're saying: vegan food is gross and tasteless. For the most part, I agree with you, but I swear to God that this café has figured out a way to make food that tastes amazing, vegan or no. And even if you're a carnivore, Small World serves hormone-free beef and organic eggs.

Breakfast and lunch is available all day, and both menus offer an awesome selection of cheap, extremely satisfying dishes. On the breakfast menu, a three-cheese omelet served with fried red potatoes and toast is $5, and a three-egg Black Forest ham and cheese omelet is $5.50. You may also create your own omelet or breakfast sandwich by selecting from the giant list of fresh vegetables and meats.

Especially delicious are the vegan black bean cakes served with fried red potatoes, eggs, fresh tomato salsa, and toast for $4.50. The black bean cakes, which are the centerpiece of the meal, are dense, incredibly full of flavor, and not an ounce dry. Similarly, the potatoes are delicious and crispy on the outside without being too greasy, and seasoned with plenty of salt--always a good sign that the chefs are confident. The accompanying salsa is a zesty compliment, made from fresh tomatoes and peppers.

The lunch menu contains some skillfully crafted sandwiches, including the vegan blackbean burger (real meat burger also available), vegan muffuletta sandwich, hummus sandwich, and grilled Italian sausage. All items are simply planned and constructed, which allows one to savor the quality organic and fresh ingredients, such as the incredibly thick slice of black forest ham on the grilled ham and cheese sandwich, or the homemade hummus.

The café is located in the back of Big City Produce, which is an independent grocery store, and the location allows the cooks at the café to select the ingredients straight from the store; when I ordered orange juice, my waitress went to the produce section and hand-juiced the oranges. In the summer, there are always a bunch of kids hanging out doing things like fixing their bike on the lawn or standing around. It's so mellow, it's almost hard to distinguish the servers from the rest of the clientele.

There is a sentence at the bottom of the menu which says, "If you don't see what you want on our menu, please ask. If we can accommodate you we'll gladly do so!" This is a perfect example of the friendly and thoughtful vibe of this place. There's no need to be embarrassed about being picky here--whereas I would normally feel like an ass inquiring whether or not Nayonaise was on the menu, at Small World, it feels as natural as asking for a Diet Coke--but you also don't get the feeling that the café is there to judge meat-eaters, or that the A.L.F. is waiting around the corner to stab you after you take a bite of that burger.