The Vegetarian Option: Swim Café
Swim Café has all the traits of a solid neighborhood coffee shop: good brew (made from Counter Culture beans); a bright, airy atmosphere with plenty of seating; and a broad menu of casual breakfast and lunch fare. But the place goes a step further, sourcing ingredients locally and from sustainable purveyors whenever possible. What's more, it devotes a large part of the menu to vegetarian and vegan options. So while it may resemble your typical neighborhood joint, Swim Café is—especially for the vegetarian eater—worth seeking out from afar.
On a recent visit for lunch, I paired Swim's seitan gyro ($9.25) with its daily soup special, a yellow pepper gazpacho. The gyro comes on a fluffy, naan-like wrap; a quick toasting on the grill adds a few crispy spots to its exterior, making the soft, doughy center all the more enjoyable. The filling consisted of thin slices of nutty, well-seasoned Upton's Seitan, along with red onion, cucumber, tomato, and a creamy vegan tzatziki sauce—which packs a lot of tanginess for being yogurt-free. Swim's generosity with the seitan makes this gyro as robust and filling as its meat-laden counterpart.
Sandwiches at Swim come with a complementary side. I gravitated toward the red potato salad, which proved to be a great choice. The potatoes were firm yet forgiving, slices of celery added nice crunch, and a dusting of spices raised the flavor bar.
The bright, super-fresh yellow pepper gazpacho ($3.50) was equally impressive. Unlike some gazpachos that are left as a clumpy purée of vegetables, or betray that tinny, acidic tomato flavor, this version featured a strained, concentrated yellow-pepper-based broth, to which the kitchen added chunks of fresh tomato, radish, yellow pepper, cucumber, and cilantro leaves. The result was a soup with far more punch and textural complexity; this is no one-note, watered-down gazpacho. Nor is Swim Café just your typical neighborhood coffee shop.