Café Pyrus: A vegan’s getaway in downtown Kitchener

<strong>Rating: </strong>4 out of 5 stars</p>

Price: $5-11

Welcome back everyone! Another year has come and gone, and we’re back to sticking our noses to the grindstone that is our wonderful institution. With a new year, of course, come new resolutions, or maybe just a detox from the turkey-filled holidays. This is why our first review of the year will focus on Café Pyrus, an all-vegan café located a hop, skip, and jump away from Charles St. Terminal in Downtown Kitchener.

Café Pyrus is one of the shining embodiments of Downtown Kitchener that can oftentimes feel so downtrodden. A quirky, hipster establishment, the place is idiosyncratic to a fault: a rotating selection of artists are displayed on the walls and plastic animal toys act as order markers. Needless to say, if this place was a person, it would be Zooey Deschanel — quirky, yet still relatable and somehow cool.

Starting from their “Fancy Pants Drinks” menu, the candied almond tea latte was a tad disappointing for its price, especially as it verged on the lukewarm side. Notes of the promised almonds floated throughout the foamy mixture, but its nuttiness was unfortunately overwhelmed by the vast expanse of two per cent milk. On the other hand, the soup provided exceptionally more value at three dollars, and held more promise. Perfect for the flurries of snow pouring outside, the soup contained thick, puréed onions with notes of ginger, garlic, and roughly chopped potatoes, resulting in a consistency not unlike apple sauce. Needless to say, I scooped up every drop of this soup that I could despite its roughened appearance.

Next the “Benwich”, an organic panini with daiya (a dairy-free alternative to cheese made out of arrow root and cassava), spoonfuls of avocado, whole-grain mustard, and tempeh bacon (soy-based vegetarian bacon), accompanied by the panini’s natural friends, chips and a pickle. The mustard added a much needed twang that worked well against the smokiness of the tempeh, whilst the bread added an appreciated crunch. However, the overall composition was quite dry and needed more pickles to add a light sour note to the dish. Finally, the mint chocolate cupcake — an impressive feat for any vegan restaurant. Although the lack of dairy showed in a cupcake that was a bit dry with slightly chalky frosting, this cupcake was a well-intentioned effort, with decent chocolatey-mint flavours throughout.

With slightly-more-than-average fare, the food isn’t the reason why I keep coming back to Café Pyrus. Although it’s pretty decent for healthy food, there’s a certain stillness about the establishment that’s managed to elude most mainstream coffee shops, and it’s not because it’s empty. It genuinely feels like you can sit there for hours with a good book and not be interrupted by hordes of rush hour denizens looking to get their caffeine fix. Yes, the biggest reason I come back is because I feel like a better person after I’ve left than when I came in.