Last week it was all about meat and eggs, tortillas, ternera, burgers, ice-cream. This week, the vegans have striked back, and this time, they brought the Queen. la Reina Banana. Vegan food? Sure, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind for a typical traveler through Madrid, but after a vegan friend visited this week, I realized what refreshing gesture to Madrid’s incoming vegan and vegetarian population it is. My friend came in on a layover from Heathrow, Fourteen hours of airline food and screaming toddlers later she was ready to explore. There is no end to the abundance of beautiful art in Madrid and it’s present in its most famous museums: El Prado, El Museo de Reina Sofia… “The Museo de Jamon,” was my first response to lunch the following day. “Do they have any options for me there?” My friend asked. “Sure,” I thought, a salad counts, right?
La Reina Banana is a small, and quirky spot on Calle Lago Titicaca just outside of Metro Vicálvaro. The interior decoration is very sleek and wooden. At first glance, it screams “hipster”, however, don’t let the size or look fool you, there is plenty packed into their menu. They offer take-out and gluten-free options, a variety of vegan versions of popular dishes, smoothies, desserts,, and even a bar. I decided to bring a fellow Mad4Madrid coworker along to assist me on my new journey into alternate protein sources. We sat down at a small table and glanced down at the menu. Between sulking, uncertainty and juggling my recurrent thoughts of croquetas and bellota ham, we finally decided to give “meat-free” a chance. My coworker and I ordered a burger and she ordered the zucchini pasta.
Then we ordered alitas (vegan wings). After that a banana and pineapple smoothie. Ten minutes later we were stabbing at a plate of grilled asparagus. The food kept coming and it did not disappoint. This place was was serving an end to my once pent up carnivorous frustration.
“WHAT’S A CHEESEFAKE?”
When we finally asked for desert, I felt like a blimp. One glance was all I needed to find the words: “cheesefake”. At first, we were sure it was an exotic dessert. Was I pronouncing it wrong? “Cheesfaquể?” I practiced saying aloud. No, it was cheesecake, alright, but I wasn’t convinced it could be done, at least not the traditional way. “What’s a cheesefake?” to many we looked horrified.
The couple in the table next to me laughed at loud and told us to try it. I was exposed. We were all exposed. They could smell the non-vegans from a mile away. We hid behind my menu as I ordered. I kicked my coworker out from behind my menu and told her to hide behind her own. The cheesefake came to our table a with a simple raspberry on top. It was strange but comforting; we were eating a cheesecake that tasted like cheesecake but contained no cheese. The vegan version of the popular dessert does not disappoint. The pair of customers behind me turned out to be regulars of La Reina Banana:
“It is cool to see a place that can make a vegan chicken wings and adapt to both the tourist environment with things like burgers and noodles, but also to Spanish vegans with things like pinchos and ensalada rusa.”
We ended our vegan escapade with a new perspective and one satisfied out-of-town guest. La Reina Banana not only adapts to the vegan and vegetarian but to the local and international palate as well. The fun and modern menu is worth a try.