I don’t catch public transit.
Anyone who knows me in the real world or reads this blog would be acutely aware of this. I will walk for hours rather than get on a train or bus.
It’s not that I’m a (total) weirdo about this and have an unusual phobia. I just attract eccentric people at best, and outright crazy people at worst.
And on public transit, there’s no way to escape them…
On this particular Sunday, I’m braving my fear of buses and catching one to hang out with my friend Adam, the rockstar vegan Scorpio, in his home town of St Catharine’s. He wanted to show me the non-tourist side of the Niagara area before us Nomads left Toronto, and there was a new(ish) vegan restaurant to explore.
This bus trip I sat next to a rather nice young man who was a musician and a triplet, and used to be in a band with his brothers who sung 60s pop harmonies together.
He also told me that he’d met Dallas Green, who’d suggested they should hook up sometime and jam together… who then went on to be hugely successful with his solo acoustic album.
I hop off the bus and tell Adam I’ve had a successful trip without being harassed by anyone strange – even if the young man did look like he was going to cry when I told him I was happily married to North Nomad, and checked out the passing scenery for a couple of minutes before resuming conversation with me.
Adam’s thought ahead and made reservations for Rise Above – St Catharine’s all vegan, plant-based restaurant and bakery. It’s comfortably busy for a Sunday, and I’m glad we have a spot reserved.
The high ceilings and warm wood flooring, combined with minimalist furniture and cutlery give it a bright, airy feeling. And the comfy home style couch and bookcase set-up at the front of the café prevents it from feeling spartan, or worse, too hipster.
The brunch menu has both savoury and sweet options, but is heavier on the savoury side, which is perfect for me.
Adam asks our waiter for his recommendations – his suggestion is the buffalo seitan, and the portobello benedict. The Portobello Benedict does sound tempting, but I am funny with portobellos, they taste a little too meaty to me. Adam goes ahead with these suggestions.
Usually I’d choose something I wouldn’t cook myself, but I’d been awake for 6 hours with only a protein bar to eat, so the bean, potato and tofu combination sounds protein packed and very filling.
The buffalo seitan arrives. I’ve never been quite sure how to pronounce seitan and our waiter tells us it’s say-tan. This gives me a bit of a giggle – devil worshipping and veganism aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive concepts I guess.
Adam adores this dish. I think he’s unaware of the enthusiastic sounds he’s making about it, and his fingers are covered in the hot sauce the faux wings are smothered in.
He’s a good sport and gives me a generous slice of tomato, Portobello, and grilled tofu on sourdough with vegan hollaindaise.
The tofu is grilled firmly, yet not so firm that it gets tough. And I’m impressed with the hollaindaise. Missing egg, it’s not as thick and goopy as your usual benedict sauce, nor as yellow. But the flavour is tart, yet light. It goes nicely with the tofu, tomato, and mushroom.
My burrito hits the spot. I was starving and it’s got all of the things I love in it: scrambled tofu, black beans, grilled corn, potato, capsicum, and spinach.
It’s so big that I give half to Adam. As starving as I was, I’m defeated half way through! I’m glad I chose the side of greens, as the thought of wasting wedges pains me a little.
The cold chocolate square is the perfect way to set off our warm, hearty breakfasts. And though it’s small, it packs a rich cacao punch with creamy caramel filling.
Aside from being vegan, Rise Above also provides gluten free items on the menu, and several items that can be prepared gluten-free on request.
Since our visit, the Rise Above team has included a bunch of summer changes to the menu.
I have my eye on the zucchini, carrot and chickpea flour fritters with the chipotle aioli. The miso-glazed cauliflower steaks sound tempting, but so does the lentil burger…
I’m hoping the menu stays ‘til September and if I’m lucky, I can trek out for another visit with Adam. It’s one of those rare cafes where the portions were generous, the food was tasty, the service was polite and helpful yet un-intrusive, and the cost was reasonable.
Hours and contact details: Brian Gasbarini (Owner), Tel (280) 362-2636 Email: email@example.com
Monday: Closed Tuesday: 11am – 10pm Wednesday: 11am – 10pm Thursday: 11am – 10pm Friday: 11am – 10pm Saturday: 11am – 10pm Sunday Brunch: 11am – 3pm Please note: the kitchen closes 30 minutes before closing time.
Location: 120 St. Paul St, St. Catharines, ON
Getting there: Coach from Bay Street, Toronto – or drive down the QEW towards Niagara Falls, taking the St Catherine’s exit.
Cost: $40 for a shared appetizer, two mains, shared dessert, tea, and a coffee. (not inclusive of tax or tip)
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica, over at Google+.