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Restaurant Review: Fork & Spoon offers the whole plate

Grade: A-

As downtown Bangor has been transformed into a much more hip version of its former self, the restaurant options have expanded as well. Fork & Spoon (formerly known as The Juice Cellar) fills the vegan and gluten-free niche in a way that is fun, affordable and delicious.

The music switched from jazz to classic rock as the lunch crowd rolled in and lined up behind its cafeteria-style setup, a format that gives new meaning to “eat fresh.” Customers have a large selection of juices, smoothies, salads and sandwiches to choose from, as well as a daily soup and dessert — all of it vegan and gluten-free. A chalkboard next to the register listed which of the day’s ingredients were locally-sourced. Local art is hung on the walls next to a large mural of fruits and veggies that reads, “A Basket of Fruit is a Basket of Health.”

Customers have the option to eat at small tables, an inviting couch or a board game area illuminated by string lights. It’s an atmosphere that draws a diverse crowd; there is a mix of young people, families and downtown professionals. Fork & Spoon makes an effort to be as eco-friendly as possible. Not only are many ingredients locally sourced, but meals are served in glassware and a bin by the trashcans holds uneaten scraps to be fed to pigs at a local farm.

The Soulshine Juice ($6), a blend of orange, carrot, cayenne and ginger sounded like a perfect remedy for a lingering cold. A staff member suggested trying it with pineapple for a tropical twist. It was a surprisingly good mix of sweet and spicy, though not recommended for those with an aversion to ginger. I do have to mention, however, that I asked to opt out on the cayenne and it still ended up in my drink. It wasn’t totally unpalatable, but was definitely not what I was expecting.

The soup of the day was lemon parsley with chickpeas ($5). While it was generously portioned and tasty (though a little over-salted), the consistency was hard to get through. The chickpeas were unevenly pureed, leaving it inconsistent with random chunks. A more even texture would have made this an entirely different soup.

I opted for a sandwich over a salad and the vegan bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT, $7.49) was recommended by the staff. Because the BLT is a classic sandwich not usually equated with veganism, I was curious but skeptical. All my concerns vanished after I took my first bite. I couldn’t get over the fact that the bread was gluten-free. Although it wasn’t quite sturdy enough to handle a sandwich as stuffed as the BLT, it was delicious. The lettuce and tomato were crisp and fresh. The tempeh used in place of bacon didn’t try to replace or imitate the original, and was complimented by a smoky mayonnaise.

The lemon blueberry cupcake ($2.65) was a well-crafted treat that proved gluten-free doesn’t mean flavorless. It was moist, light and had a center of fresh lemon filling. Real blueberries were swirled into the frosting and the cupcake itself.

While the prices might be over budget for someone looking to grab a quick lunch, the fresh ingredients and generous portions are worth the price. Fork & Spoon is (as far as I know) the only place you can find add-ins such as goji berries, chia seeds, maca and spirulina. The food offered at Fork & Spoon won’t leave you feeling bogged down or bloated like so many quick lunches do. Those with dietary restrictions will enjoy a wide variety of well-thought-out flavor combinations that fit their needs. Non-vegans and skeptics of more natural foods will be pleasantly surprised.

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