Located on 15 Spring St., Planted Plate is a cozy cafe that serves casual vegan fare. Their wide array of dishes includes a breakfast menu, an assortment of appetizers and salad bowls, and twists on classic sandwiches, such as the “Un-Tuna Melt.” Planted Plate offers a fun and eclectic perspective on vegan cuisine, with options for both first-timers and adventurous plant-based foodies.
Planted Plate stands among a cluster of businesses in Princeton that offer vegan options. On Nassau Street, Arlee’s Raw Blends pairs cold-pressed juices with a modest selection of vegan breakfast items, salads, and desserts. Yelp reviews of Agricola Eatery, a swanky farm-to-table restaurant on Witherspoon, also mention some tasty vegan options.
However, Planted Plate stands out among restaurants in Princeton in that it offers a full menu of vegan dishes. If diners are willing to pay the restaurant’s reasonable, if somewhat premium, prices (a sandwich and a side costs around $13 before tax), they can enjoy possibly the only casual fully vegan dining experience in Princeton.
From the outside, Planted Plate, housed in a square brick building, looks unassuming. Inside, however, it is alive with greenery and art. The walls feature various framed paintings, a massive mural with scenes from the rainforest, and whimsical chalkboards. Ornate black tiles on the ceiling complement the cafe’s colorful walls.
I visited with a friend, and we perused the myriad of menu options on the chalkboard in front of us. It included vegan classics like the “T.L.T.,” a B.L.T. replica with maple tempeh, as well as bolder, more unusual sandwiches such as “Soul Rebel,” which features Jamaican jerk tofu and pickled jalapeño showered in mango sauce.
Eventually, I settled on “The Hippie,” a straightforward veggie sandwich with avocado, red cabbage, and cucumber, and a healthy dollop of hummus and tahini. Per my order, the sandwich came on a pretzel bun with a side of onion rings. My friend ordered the “‘Chicken’ Nuggets,” and we shared the “Buffalo Cauliflower,” battered cauliflower in buffalo sauce with ranch and celery sticks.
The “Buffalo Cauliflower” was unexpectedly tender. The cauliflower was pleasantly soft and the breading was light and crisp, providing a contrast of textures. The buffalo sauce was warm and tangy, cutting through the creamy ranch. The celery sticks also provided a refreshing complement to the salty appetizer.
The crunchy greens and smooth hummus in “The Hippie” made a delicious pair. The freshness of the veggies, combined with the garlicky flavor of the hummus, complemented the soft pretzel bun. The onion rings were crisp and well-seasoned. Naturally, they were delicious with a bit of ketchup.
My friend let me sample one of their “‘Chicken’ Nuggets.” The texture of the meat substitute was somewhere between string cheese and imitation crab: stringy and delicate, but not rubbery. The nugget was savory and light — its flavor reminded me of chicken noodle soup. As with the onion rings, ketchup was a must with these nuggets.
When I glanced at Planted Plate’s menu, I was struck by the variety of options the restaurant offered. Their diverse selection shows that vegan cuisine can come in many different forms, both nostalgic and creative. Planted Plate’s fully realized plant-based vision stands in stark relief with the limited vegan options available at other local restaurants.
The quality of Planted Plate’s food, however, is equally important to the restaurant’s appeal. Planted Plate’s offerings excel at combining interesting flavors and textures, each building off of the other. Such careful arrangements reflect the thought put into Planted Plate’s dishes and their commitment to the craft of making good food.
As a non-vegan and someone who’s only visited one other entirely vegan restaurant, I wasn’t sure what to expect of my first time at Planted Plate. My experience left me pleasantly surprised, both by the quality of the food and the restaurant’s colorful decor. The customer service at Planted Plate was also excellent. The staff were cheerful, welcoming, and exceedingly patient as my friend and I took 15 minutes deciding on what to eat.
Admittedly, I may have played it safe with my order. Next time, I’m excited to try one of Planted Plate’s more unconventional items, such as “The Palm Tree,” a grilled jerk tofu hot bowl with pineapple, kale, black beans, and brown rice with mango-coconut sauce. I might even order one of their vegan desserts.
Albert Lee is a senior writer for The Prospect who often covers music and artist profiles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.