Vegan restaurants are mushrooming around Athens as meat-free living is becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst locals and visitors alike. I’m not a vegan but I really enjoy most vegan food – and having the option of eating a healthy, yummy burger with no meat in it. The latest vegan place I visited is Vegan Beat, located on Pandrosou street (7-15) between Syntagma and Monastiraki, near the Athens Metropolis.
Vegan Beat sounded like the ideal place to meet up with my devoutly vegan (well all vegans are strictly devoted to their way of eating, which is why I haven’t managed it yet!) friend Iyad Kayali, who also runs the excellent website ecotourism-Greece. It took me a while to find it as it’s a little hidden away, almost like a secret location, with a small sign pointing you in the right direction via a small stoa (arcade) Haragioni, and up some stairs. By the time I’d arrived, I found Iyad sitting with a young tourist from Israel, who told us how most young Israelis today are vegan and that he’d heard rave reviews about this place from fellow travellers.
With large arched windows, a cosy, homey, studenty vibe (when I arrived the low sofa was full of youngsters waiting for their food or one of the few small tables in this dinky place) and a casual, friendly service, Vegan Beat offers street food like Lachmatzoum (traditionally an Arabic pitta stuffed with minced meat), burgers, pizza, salads and sandwiches all made with meat substitutes such as pulses (I tried the delicious chickpea and beetroot burger), mushrooms and vegan cheeses or yogurt. The vegan Feta in our Greek salad tasted almost exactly like the real thing and the burger was highly satisfying, as was the mouthwatering sour-cherry cheesecake (made with coconut yogurt and vegetable cream instead of cream cheese) that we shared for dessert.
Throughout the time we were there the place was busy with Greek as well as foreign diners, who can choose one of around eight dishes of the day that are written out on a chalk-board. The food is prepared fresh and from scratch behind the glass counter where all the ingredients are laid out, and accompanying sauces are readily handed out to tables for whoever wants extra seasoning.
The quirky, low-key decor and miniature size create a sense of community amongst diners, as does, of course, the sense for vegans of finding like-minded souls to eat by in the heart of Athens. And with Lent in Greece at the moment, this place offers wonderful alternatives to classic Greek fasting foods, creating a delightful sense of being able to eat “junk food” that is actually meat and dairy free as well as healthy and packed with flavour.