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Green Owl Cafe

In a word: "Hoo"s on First.

The specs: #0515  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at VegGuide, Merely the Moon, Yelp, Isthmus (and profile), Eat Drink Madison blog, Fearful Symmetries, QSC, AV Club, 77 Square, dane101, TDPF, Sacred Tart; listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site, Facebook page, The Green Owl Cafe on Urbanspoon

Latest Green Owl news and reviews

JM ate the Italian "beef" sandwich with a green salad.
Nichole ate the caponata and Brazilian black bean soup.
We split the apple-maple crisp.
The bill was $25, or $12.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Green Owl Cafe a B+; Nichole gave Green Owl Cafe a B (see our grading rubric).

On a snowy February morning, when much of the city might have been burrowing into its couch cushions, we tried Green Owl. Inside it was anything but a barn, with warm green walls and a clean sort of seventies kitsch. The drinks looked tasty, but the speediness of our server barred us from ordering any. Still, we didn't screech, having spotted some lunches that looked good. When we got our order we shor teared into it.



JM got the Italian "beef" seitan sandwich, which was a little spicy for him but overall tasted fine. Nichole thought it had a bit of an anise flavor to it. The Brazilian bean soup was on the sweet side, as was the eggplant caponata and tender whole wheat bread. We splurged on a dessert, the apple-maple crisp, which came warmed through with a dollop of whipped soy and a rich crust of nuts. We left feeling a healthful 80% full.

Apple crispWe were the only pair of diners in the place, which is not to say it was empty. Three very large parties occupied the back room, and their wide range of ages, modes of dress, and visible range of dis/comfort seemed to indicate that there was some heavy intergenerational evangelizing afoot.

That's the thing about Green Owl: dining at a place with such strong vegetarian convictions is almost a matter of faith. As the latest (and only, as of this writing) vegetarian restaurant in Madison, Green Owl got more buzz than any other new restaurant in our recent memory, and there are some really excellent writeups linked in our "specs" above; so, not being vegetarians ourselves, we feel we have little new commentary to offer.

One angle JM wanted to explore that he hadn't seen anywhere else is the idea of sustainability. While some say that Green Owl's faux meat is the antithesis of why many people become vegetarian in the first place, JM thinks it may be possible that the owners of Green Owl are exploring the true Green aspect of their name. If humans are to survive sustainably, we cannot all eat meat as much as we'd like... and if there are things that taste like meat, but are made of things that consume less energy and are lower on the food chain, more's the better.

Perhaps this is indeed why Fakin' Bacon and tofu dogs are the order of the day. It will be interesting to see if Green Owl's menu will shift with the seasons, away from processed meat substitutes as fresh local foods arrive, and back again as the Wisconsin winters narrow our sustainable food options.


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Love all the owl references. :-)

Haven't been there yet, but plan on getting there sooner or later.

My feeling is there are a couple different forces at work here.
#1. You have vegetarians / vegans, that like "faux meat", since they don't eat the real stuff.
#2. You have meat eaters that either want a change / are trying to eat healthier who don't really like faux meat, since the "real stuff" is better.
#3. You have vegetarians & meat eaters that are more interested in "green" / sustainable / locally sourced food.
In some ways these three groups of people have overlapping interests & in some ways they have polar opposite interests.

As a result, I think a combination approach would be optimal, fresh / locally sourced food being the main selling point with faux meat options as an addition for those interested in it.

I have not eaten there, but I am a vegetarian. There is nothing on the menu that compels me to want to go there. Many Madison restaurants offer decent vegetarian choices.

I used to love going to the Cheese Factory in Wisconsin Dells. They had some creative recipes. Unfortunately, they have been cutting corners to save money. It just isn't as good as it was. Cafe Manna in Brookfield has some interesting menu items, but the food was underseasoned. If the menu at the Green Owl looked that these menus, I might be more interested in trying it.

I guess I would rather just go to Maharani, Himal Chuli, L'Etoile, Cabana Room, La Mestiza, Muramoto, etc. My SO then gets to have meat if he wants.

We ate here a couple of months ago on a Friday night. There was about a half-hour wait for a table for two, so we sat at the tiny bar. I ended up with a chili cheese hotdog, partly because I just wanted to try their chili but didn't feel like soup. When a vegetarian restaurant has an unimpressive veggie chili, it's a sad night. I left disappointed and hungry. The crabby cake appetizer was good, though, but even that was thanks to lots of sauce. The whole experience made me miss Peacemeal.

Elizabeth -- I would try it, just because it offers different vegetarian stuff from most restaurants in town, though I doubt it would be more than a one time visit [unless they improve the menu].

I agree that there are several "regular" restaurants that work just fine for me, mainly Indian places like Maharani, Maharaja, and even Swagat [same owner as Maharani]. David's Jamaican is also good. Will have to try some of the others on your list, too.

I, a vegetarian for 10 years, was also disappointed in the Green Owl. I don't eat meat for many reasons, but mostly I just don't like it. They should really diversify their menu by adding meatless dishes that don't require fake meatish products. Burritos, curries, salads - they have endless possibilities that would make me, and others, hoot with glee. For now, I'll join Elizabeth at other local veggie-friendly eats.
Thanks for the vegetarian analysis guys!

fake crab cake po'boy=good
fake bbq pork sandwich=BAD

Mmmm, vegetable protein mashed into meat shapes...

We went there last night with a friend. We'd all give it a B/B+ as well. I had the jambalaya, my husband had the "meatball" sub, and our friend had the vegan schnitzel. We all agreed that the food wasn't fabulous, but it was good - but the portions are fairly small in comparison to other restaurants. Not that this is a bad thing - as we all know, restaurants often give you twice what you'd eat at home, but it'd be nice if they'd price it accordingly. The atmosphere was very nice and the staff friendly. I'd probably go back if a friend wanted to go...

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