Go Vegan for Lunch at Downtown’s New Helio Terra Cafe

Judging by the warm reception that Helio Terra has been enjoying since its early May opening, there’s room downtown for another all-vegan eats option, a niche previously occupied solely by Flaming Ice Cube. The bright, casual café recently opened in the Prospect Avenue storefront once occupied by Titan Up Café, a 1,000-square-foot spot connected to Titan’s Gym in The Residences at 668 Euclid Avenue.

The fast-casual cafe seats about 15 to 20 diners, but many customers appear to take their meals to go. Orders are placed at the counter, paid for, and then picked up when ready.

An entire wall is devoted to a chalkboard-style, all-day menu, which is divided into sections for coffees and teas, juices and smoothies, and raw and cooked food items. Everything is vegan, and most of the items are organic, according to owner Austin Ruesch, a practicing vegan for 14 years.

Cold-pressed juices and fruit smoothies are served by the pint. The Refresher ($7) is made with watermelon, apple and mint, while the blood-red Beetnik ($9) is made from beets, carrot, apple and ginger.

Naturally, bountiful salads feature prominently on the roster. The Kale Berry Salad ($9) is a toss of kale, house-sprouted quinoa, avocado, orange, pepitas and berry vinaigrette. A roasted beet salad ($8) is garnished with sunflower seeds and dressed with an apple cider vinaigrette.

Vegan or not, any diner would dig the Avocado Toast ($4), nutty all-grain toast schmeared with creamy avocado mash, crunchy sprouted mung beans, and cool tomato slices. Billed as a Tuscan Sun Flatbread ($7), the base of this dish is more like an herby lavosh, soft and supple enough to be folded around raw toppings like uncooked marinara, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and chopped greens and herbs.

I’m not going to sit here and declare that Helio Terra’s vegan Reuben ($9) sandwich is a stunt double for the meaty corned beef version, but I can honestly say that it’s satisfying and delicious. At its heart is mustard-marinated seiten, tangy kraut, crunchy sliced pickles, and some creamy non-dairy cheese-like substance that ties it all together.

Helio Terra is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. 

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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