Kristin | On 18, Jul 2013
Let’s go way back for a minute… to a time before Will Travel For Vegan Food had officially hit the road. A time when I was between Boston life and Van Dwelling life, hangin’ with my folks in Upstate, NY in order to prep for road trip departure – August, 2011.
Actually.. hold on a sec. Before we get started I feel the need to clarify what “Upstate, NY” means since so many people I meet assume that Upstate refers to anything outside of New York City and Long Island. :) To clarify, when I say Upstate I’m referring to the Capital Region which includes places like Troy, Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and the immediate areas within. My definition of Upstate does NOT include Central New York (Syracuse, Cortland, Utica, Ithaca, Oswego, Cazenovia, etc.), or the Adirondacks or Finger Lakes (northern), or the Binghamton (southern) or Rochester or Buffalo (western) regions.
Are we good? You still with me?
Hey, listen – we can argue about what constitutes “Upstate” later but for now, let’s get to the good stuff. FEHRD!
247 Lark St.
Albany, NY 12210
When I’m visiting the parental units I don’t get to Lil’ Buddha as often as I’d like (it’s a 45 minute – or so – drive from their house). But whenever I stop in for a fresh juice or filling wrap I’m reminded why I consider this place a hidden gem tucked along one of the most popular streets in the city.
Set inside a cozy, garden level space with layered, vibrant colors and patterned throws, offset by exposed brick, wooden beams, and a chill vibe, walking into Lil’ Buddha is reminiscent of a warm bear hug from a long lost friend.
Opened in the summer of 2010, Lil’ Buddha specializes in gourmet teas (they stock over 50 different kinds), bubble tea, raw juice, organic coffee, healthful smoothies, and organic vegan noms.
Honest to goodness, they’ve got some of the best freshly pressed juice in the US. I’m not exaggerating.. seriously, they really know how to balance that “green” taste with the sweetness so that you benefit from the healthfulness of fresh juice without the grass clippings taste (unless you want that taste. In which case you should order a straight up wheatgrass shot. SIDE NOTE: I like taking a lemon and cayenne “shooter” after a wheatgrass shot to chase the bitterness. Try it. It’s fun!). You can also create your own juices, with the ingredients they offer. Even if you pick the most unusual combos they somehow make it taste awesome.
I love their wraps too. One of the first times I had the pleasure of noshing on a Lil’ Buddha wrap I was just coming off of my first-ever juice cleanse (six days!). I could only finish a quarter of the whole wrap because the stom wasn’t used to whole foods and presumably had shrunk a little or something. Regardless, the wrap was amazing and … okay… now I’m salivating.
Here, look at this photo while I mop up my drool. Gross.
Just before leaving Lil’ Buddha one day, I noticed the bicycle used to deliver vegan baked goods throughout the city. Which brings me to…
97 4th St.
Troy, NY 12180
Founder, Sarah Preston has been a long-time vegan activist within Upstate NY. So, in the summer of 2009, when she announced that she’d opened an all-vegan bakery in the heart of Troy you can imagine the excitement it created with all us fanatically, sweet-toothie driven vegans.
We’z be chillin.’
Arguably the very first 100% vegan establishment to open in the Capital Region, X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery has since evolved into much more than just a bakery. They serve brunch every other Saturday, have a small cooler with to-go sandwiches and snacks, and other packaged vegan goodies, and they keep healthy living, animal rights, and plant-based literature throughout the shop that you can read over, and take with you, while noshing on their treats.
More cool stuff about X’s to O’s Vegan Bakery: “We bake in small loving batches. Full cakes are made upon request and we donate any leftover items to local shelters. We offer green discounts for bringing your own container or mug, reward cards, and day-old discounts or freebies. We believe smaller is better. We offer a smaller selection so we don’t have to throw items away. Most bakeries throw away the majority of their stock DAILY (5% of food waste in the US would feed 4 million people). Smaller is more sustainable and fresh. We also keep a small stock because we make EVERYTHING from scratch and that takes more time and love. [Also], many of our local wholesale orders are delivered by bicycle or public transportation through Capital Carfree Compost & Cargo.”
Does the following pic look familiar? You might have seen a tinier version of it at the close of any guest posts I’ve written – or at the end of some more personal posts I’ve written for you before. Yep, it was taken at X’s to O’s, about a month before I embarked on the road trip (nearly two years ago!) D’awwww, memories! :)
If you find yourself in Upstate sometime there are few other vegan-friendly places worth checking out. Yeah, I know I said I’d write about just 2 places, but hey, I’ve never been very good at math.
Bomber’s Burrito Bar (just down the street from Lil’ Buddha) has some excellent vegan burritos and appetizers. There is a Loving Hut in Delmar, NY. New World Bistro and My Linh (Vietnamese) each have a few vegan numbers; plus you can pick up some classically greasy pizza from Little Anthony’s (all three are located in Albany).
That about does it for this piece.
Eat well and travel often, my friends!