The Eats: Silence-Heart-Nest, 3508 Fremont Place N., 633-5169. All vegetarian cafe serving breakfast all day (until 3 p.m.) and lunch.
Yeah, it's a little Hare Krishna-y. Get over it or it's your loss!
The Deets: If you've ever spent any time thumbing through used cookbooks at a thrift store, you've undoubtedly come across a copy of this book: The Higher Taste. It's a slim collection of recipes promoting the vegetarian lifestyle based on the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, the Indian guru who started the "Hare Krishna Movement."
Though Prabhupada had no hand in Silence-Heart-Nest, the vegetarian breakfast refuge in the heart of Fremont, another Indian spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, did. Similarly, the cafe has a cult-like feel with a waitstaff clad in saris and spiritual information free for the taking. This, hand-in-hand with that name, has come off extremely off-putting for some people.
Like many vegetarians, I own a copy of The Higher Taste, have made some wonderful meals with it, and see no problem with the gospel of peace and compassion that both SHN and the Krishnas advocate. And if that message comes swaddled in a three egg omelet stuffed with feta and smothered with basil pesto, I will happily shovel down the meal--provided propaganda isn't shoved down with it.
The Beets: Speaking of feta and pesto, let's not forget the vegetarian "movement"--at least in America anyway--took hold in the '60s, when commercial mock meats and products like Field Roast were just a glint in a sensitive, earth-lovin' hippie's eye. Back then, vegetarians made due with legumes, beans, grains, and lots and lots of fat--butter, oil, cheese (it's why Mollie Katzen famously re-issued the Moosewood cookbook in 1993 as "low-fat").
Because the Hare Krisha movement gained momentum roughly around the same time, there's a canon of delicious, loaded-with-fat recipes among adherents of both traditions. At SHN, that includes using ghee, the same--delicious--clarified butter used at countless Indian restaurants. And any omnivore who would bemoan the absence of bacon here could console themselves with the cafe's liberal use of that ingredient, and all kinds of cheese.
Talking Tofurkey, the food was amazing and the mostly middle aged staff seemed really normal, if only slightly abnormally happy to be working at a restaurant. The portions were grand, the prices were reasonable, and the Greek omelet was a fluffy, three egg explosion crammed with enough kalamata olives, spinach, and feta to choke a horse. The side of home fries were well-seasoned and great with the house made spicy chipotle ketchup.
My boyfriend, fellow vegetarian, and steadfast dining companion (heretofore known as Toby) had the Guacamole Bacon burger--a house made veggie burger topped with guac, soy bacon, and white cheddar. Can you say vegetarian heart-attack? No wait, you can't--the grease bomb contains a fraction of cholesterol next to a traditional meat burger. He devoured every crumb.
The Tweet: The only thing scary about Silence Heart Nest is its name. Get over it and there's a brunch in your future you won't soon forget.