La Panthère Verte is a vegan treat
These days, everyone seems to want to live “greener,” but eating greener still feels like a chore for most people, myself included. As a meat eater, I admit to playfully antagonizing vegetarian, vegan or raw foodie friends about their eating habits (typically, they’re too nice to really fight back). Truth be told, I follow a mostly plant-based Mediterranean diet — meat/fish/poultry and dairy are at the skinny end of my food pyramid. So, while I may not be able to swallow the all aspects of green living, I still eat all my greens.
Whatever your persuasion, if you’re on the prowl for quick, cheap, good eats, La Panthère Verte is a safe bet. If you’re big on eco-friendliness and social responsibility, you’ll appreciate that deliveries are done by bicycle, or that all containers are either recyclable or reusable. It’s even fielding a team to compete in the second annual Iron Chef Cook-Off fundraiser on September 1, supporting Santropol Roulant’s urban agriculture efforts.
As for décor, it’s more hippie than hipster: the original, Mile-End location is festooned with plants, while the newer store boasts a pillowy, low-to-the-floor table-for-two by the window that’s officially a “no-shoe zone.” And despite my jaded pre-conceptions when faced with the cheery “granolas,” as they say in Quebec, service is good, even attentive. At the downtown shop, it is positively speedy (at least, when compared to the laid-back Mile-End): from take-out order to out the door in about 10 minutes. Rather impressive, considering that the falafel, by far the most popular menu item, is made to order.
The “golden balls” advertised on the menu are the star attraction here. Unlike the dry, mealy and generally terrible falafel sold elsewhere, La Panthère Verte’s Yemeni- (read: Israeli-) style falafel have a higher parsley-to-chickpea ratio (they really are quite green), but more importantly, they aren’t left to sit for hours then reheated. These golden balls are fried up fresh, and still sizzling hot when they get stuffed into fat, bready pita pockets, and topped with tahini, crunchy salad, alfalfa sprouts and shredded carrot. Although I’m not a huge fan of toothsome Israeli-style pita, but it is filling, and at just $5.99, the sandwich is a steal.
The other sandwiches I tried weren’t such clear winners: the tempeh (baked fermented soybean cake) had a slightly rubbery feel, but that might be normal (I’ve never tried the stuff before), though sauerkraut and a tangy marinade made it more than palatable; the veggie burger was a bit of a flop for me, not really standing out amongst all the greens and sprouts.
The soup I had, lentil and Thai-spiced peanut butter with homemade croutons, was delicious, and I forget the brand, but the ginger ale and root beer actually taste like ginger and sarsaparilla — highly recommended! The smoothies look a tad pricey, but the ingredients, like dandelion, elder flower and milk thistle, look intriguing.
I didn’t have any room for dessert, but I intend to go back to try some of their agave-sweetened energy balls, which are $3 a pop, but more than a mouthful. Worth it, if only for the vegan ball jokes.