Tucked into one of the quieter stretches of Philadelphia?s Germantown Avenue is a cheerful vegetarian enterprise that nourishes the body, mind and spirit. Its compact caf� overlooks the northwestern corridor of the city with the word ?Vegetarian? displayed proudly on the glass. This catches the attention of passersby who stop and wander inside.
Enter the front door, and you may choose to go right into the informal caf� or left into the boutique.
Initially, we browse through the calming accessories: comfortable clothing, incense and oils. Also prominent are inspirational greeting cards, and books on alternative healing, psychology, debate, and African culture. The emphasis on ?Tree of Life? Qi Gong shows the boutique regulars? interest in a blend of Nubian historyand the eastern healing principles said to be followed by the Buddha. The energy of life is called the Ra force, or as in China, the chi. The Nile is part of a growing North American movement to focus on living in harmony with this natural energy in order to experience increased vitality, healing, mental performance and emotional well-being.
Next, led by the tempting aroma of cabbage and gravy, we proceed to the counter to order our meals. There, we?re greeted by a smiling face and a description of the day?s specials.
There are four main dishes to choose from. The Roast Duck is made with herbed soy and spices; the Duck Medallions are lightly fried and dipped in a special sauce. Other hearty main dishes include Island Chicken in Pineapple Sauce, and Thai Curry Beef -- wheat gluten in a coconut curry sauce with broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. All of these dishes are fully vegetarian, and complimented with brown rice and a variety of side dishes -- for at the Nile, home-style lunches and suppers always come with a healthy portion of vegetables. On any given day, guests may choose from southern classics such as okra, cabbage, string beans and sweet potatoes.
If you?re feeling hungry, order a Platter, which includes one main dish and two side dishes. If you?re famished, make it a double with the Combo Platter. Looking for something lighter? Try a single serving of any of the above offerings, enjoy a low-sodium sandwich, or try a freshly mixed salad with tahini or vinaigrette dressing. Thirsty? Perhaps you?ll be tempted by one of the unusual refreshments, such as the Kamit Moss: soymilk, Irish moss, spices and your choice of fruit.
We asked about the option of whey protein in the Power Shakes listed on the menu, but were told that the restaurant had stopped serving it as an ingredient. Otherwise, apart from the option of honey for tea, the menu is completely plant-based and vegan -- right down to the sandwich trimmings, such as soy cheese and vegan mayonnaise.
Furrama, the founder, is a twenty-year vegan who opened the Nile in May 2005 to ?encourage people to change their diet and experience a new, healthy way of eating.?
?All of our meals are prepared with your health in mind,? the menu declares. ?Our menu lets you enjoy the tastes and texture of meat without the risks associated with a high fat, cholesterol-laden diet.? To this end, the restaurant?s chefs avoid any deep-frying, and use quality olive oil.
We sampled the Pepper Steak, a deliciously moist wheat gluten saut�ed with onions and peppers. The texture of the Barbeque Wheat Meat was similar, and was doused in the chef?s special sauce. We also tried the Spicy Fish, a breaded patty served with zesty tomato, onion and pepper sauce.
And what meal is complete without dessert? A happy ending is a mango ice inside the fruit?s rind, or the coconut fruit shell sorbet, served inside a genuine coconut shell. Smooth and light, both are perfect endings to a hearty meal. The Nile also offers vegan ice cream and dairy-free desserts such as chocolate layer cake, strawberry short cake, and a variety of cheesecakes.
Clearly, the Nile is committed to the physical and spiritual well-being of its patrons. The business also hosts a variety of cultural and educational events, including yoga classes, poetry readings, keyboard concerts, and workshops interpreting the I Ching. All events are open to the public and classes are conducted on a free-will donation basis.
So the next time you are feeling hungry on the streets of Philadelphia, step inside this friendly and peaceful shop. Whether it is your body or your soul that needs nourishing, the Nile is sure to satisfy.
The Nile Caf�
6008 Germantown Ave(at High Street
Philadelphia, PA 19114
Hours: 11 a.m. ? 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 p.m. ? 6 p.m. Sunday
Delivery, catering, and private parties available.