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Mint Tulip: Meatless magic
Sunday, 26 August 2012
Photo by Adria Malcolm
Understated vegan eatery, Mint Tulip, makes tasty mark along UNM’s Central Avenue strip

By Justin De La Rosa
I remember my first experience at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant a year or two ago. As someone who enjoys the many varieties of meat preparations available to the common American, I was expectedly dragging my feet through the doors of a nameless Denver vegan eatery, thinking to myself, “I can just slip away for a burger later on.” Much to the surprise of my taste buds, I was more than satisfied with the fare and left wishing I had an option like that back home in Albuquerque.

Photo by Adria Malcolm
That wish has been granted in the form of Mint Tulip, a vegan restaurant on the south side of Central across from UNM in a space that formerly housed 20 Carrots.

The restaurant’s sea-foam green facade had been calling my name for quite some time, and when I finally decided to give Mint Tulip a shot, it was between classes at UNM. Stepping into the restaurant, I found an understated and unpretentious white, homey decor. The menu is written on chalkboards and features meatless items that even the most veteran vegetarians might not expect to see, like a reuben, BLT, club sandwich or buffalo ranch wrap. Beverages at Mint Tulip range from fresh fruit juices and slushes to soy-based shakes. I chose the buffalo ranch wrap ($9) paired with a mint limeade ($2).

Now, I’m not going to say it tasted like chicken, but the tenderness, texture and flavors of this entrée came pretty damn close. The first bite yielded the immediate cool crunch of freshly cut carrots, lettuce and celery, followed by the slow burn of the buffalo sauce and the creamy ranch that calmed the flames. The wrap came with a choice of side dish; I chose a crisp slaw. Drink-wise, my mint limeade was everything I could have asked for on a hot day — lime and mint flavors counter-balanced with a slight sweetness.

Mint Tulip Vegan Café
2110 Central SE, 505.242.1320
HOURS: 10a-4p, Mon.-Sat.
Over subsequent months, I would stop into Mint Tulip to drop off copies of Local iQ and offer a quick “have a nice day” to owner Rosa Zamora. But at some point, I (the carnivore) decided I needed a vegan fix. Only this time, I had to bring along a friend to enjoy Mint Tulip’s meatless magic.

On this second visit, my dining mate and I started off with a plate of chips and queso ($5), which was quite creamy and yielded a nice bit of spice. For the meal, I decided on a dish I imagined would be harder to replicate than its carnivorous equivalent — the reuben ($9) — while my dining partner went with my suggested buffalo wrap. Once again, I got the side of slaw and she got the fresh pasta salad with mushrooms and a nice touch of basil.

My reuben was a pleasant surprise. There was a bit too much sauerkraut, but it didn’t ruin the sandwich. The soy meat used in the sandwich was not entirely similar to corned beef, though it did have a salty, savory element to it. The wrap proved to be a tad spicy for my dining partner, but she thoroughly enjoyed it, that is until the heat proved to be too much. Luckily for her, she ordered the pineapple slush ($2), the perfect cool quencher on a summer afternoon.

What is great about Mint Tulip is how fresh the food is. Much of the produce comes from La Montanita Co-op and everything is made-to-order right behind the counter. You get to watch as they prepare your food in good confidence that it is similar to the way they cook for themselves at home.

I certainly look forward to more lunches at Mint Tulip and also trying out some of the eatery’s breakfast favorites, such as the breakfast burrito ($5) and the sausage cheese biscuit ($3). Despite any carnivorous leanings, Mint Tulip is the kind of restaurant that might well become a regular habit in your weekly routine.
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