Impressive Woodhouse Vegan offers healthful holiday alternative

G.A. Benton
West African Peanut Stew

Now that Thanksgiving has ushered in the holiday season, a suitable old song comes to mind — but with a slight revision: “It’s the most gluttonous time of the year.”

Because for me and untold other daylight-deprived people, the holidays mean that occasional pie-hole splurges (or frequent pie-hole splurges) are a foregone conclusion. Facing such inevitable indulgences, writing about an entertaining new restaurant where diners can enjoy crowd-pleasing dishes created with healthful ingredients seems like a timely idea. Welcome to Woodhouse Vegan Cafe in Italian Village, where good times are in and cholesterol spikes are out. 

Another newer eatery with a vibrant, plant-based cuisine that doesn’t live down to clichés, Woodhouse is a trendy but casual place that offers strong, all-vegan takes on comforting favorites such as nachos, Cincinnati-style chili, grilled-cheese sandwiches and house-made pastries. 

The food is good at Woodhouse, and so is the backstory. It’s a mom-and-daughters shop owned by sisters Nicole, Krista and Cara Woodhouse, along with their mother, Carla. The business previously operated as a pop-up restaurant for three years while the industrious family saved enough money to open its own place.

The Woodhouse crew has done a commendable job of converting the old brick house the business now occupies into a chic restaurant. Multiple plants and various lighting fixtures exude charm, as do personable servers clad in stark black coveralls.

A bustling, open kitchen affixed with a white tile backsplash and rimmed by a counter is the eatery’s centerpiece, but the super-tidy, smartly decorated bathrooms with green lighting make lasting impressions, too. Woodhouse’s tasteful appointments and its indie-pop soundtrack are decent distractions if — this scenario isn’t uncommon — you temporarily find yourself without a seat in the small, rather cramped and usually packed fast-casual restaurant.

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A selection from the modest but workable beverage selection might ameliorate any wait. Recommended drinks include unfussy, inexpensive Modelo beer ($3); Chateau Campuget rose ($7); Watershed Four Peel gin ($7); Dram gingergrass CBD-infused seltzer ($5); and cold brew from Mission Coffee Co. ($4). 

Once settled in, expect your food to arrive quickly, to be boldly flavored and to be attractively presented in sizable portions. For instance, the aptly titled, palate-popping Spicy Pickled Veg ($5) is a colorful and generous collection of peppery, aggressively brined green beans, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, leeks and fennel.

Nacho-style ingredients dot the menu in various fun-to-munch assemblies, such as the enormous Taco Salad ($15), anchored by mounds of partially pureed, smoky and irresistible “chipotle black beans,” plus garlicky and addictive guacamole. The dinner bowl also holds tortilla chips, house-made vegan nacho “cheese,” pickled onions, jalapenos, corn and romaine lettuce with a bright, cilantro-lime dressing.

The entrée-sized Superfood Caesar ($14), made with kale and romaine, hits most of the expected flavor-and-texture notes. It does so with garlic-roasted chickpeas, hemp-heart crumbles, a cashew-based Caesar dressing, house croutons and capote capers playing the role of anchovies.  

It’s hard to believe that the tangy-and-gooey melted matter inside the crisply toasted Lucky Cat bread of the Grilled Cheese sandwich ($8, with chips) isn’t real Gouda. Add some Caesar salad to this sandwich, and you’ll be enjoying a “Cheezer Salad” ($12).

Specials are popular, and if the“Skyline Chili”($15) is offered, and you like the original model, definitely try Woodhouse’s hearty-and rewarding take on five-way.   

I’ve saved the best entree for last: the West African Peanut Stew ($14). Deep and long-developed flavors from garlic, ginger and fire-roasted tomatoes elevate kale, collard greens, brown rice and crushed nuts into something zippy, nuanced, comforting and terrific.

Woodhouse’s pastries — such as the rustic-yet-elegant Blackberry Crostata ($7) with an impressive crust and a bright fruit filling scented with sage and ginger — can be terrific, too. Note: The limited-supply treats often sell out early, so plan accordingly.

851 N. Fourth St., Italian Village


Woodhouse Vegan Cafe