10 Year Old "Minor" Vegan Gem: GINGER&PICKLES
Vegan is booming! With Vegan menu's and products appearing - and unfortunately disappearing in rapid pace, it's amazing seeing a vegan-friendly cafe successfully offering delicious, healthy plantbased foods to their local community for over a decade! When asked why their presence isn't well-known in the Vegan community yet, the owners modestly smiled: "We're not well known at all. We're MINOR". This absolute gem, located just a stone's throw away from Tokaidaigaku-mae Station, is everything but minor!
Can't Beat Passion!
Many exciting things are happening in the Vegetarian and Vegan scene in Japan at the moment. News of new cafe's, new menu's and new products on the market arises almost daily . Several large food chains, konbini's and famous brands have recently launched plantbased line-ups, and we're definitely on the right track. While all of this news is super exciting, and I'm definitely rushing to my local stores to try and find the new products to try.. The excitement of big companies finally caving and giving Vegan options a try is nothing compared to the respect and appreciation of visiting a local, dedicated small business that, despite the extremely difficult economy, is still managing to offer food they stand by!
Having worked for various small start ups myself, I am well aware of the challenges of small stock levels, limited budgets, break even points and balancing passion and business. I also vividly remember the pride of serving each customer - Putting in effort to make the best meal/smoothie possible for them, genuinely caring about their opinion and experience, and remembering their faces and preferences if they become regulars...
This is exactly the passion I feel when visiting Ginger & Pickles.
Set up by a cheerful mother-and-daughters team, who renovated the place themselves, using beautiful, natural ingredients, such as the huge wooden counter, and based both the name and interior on the daughters experience living in Europe, Ginger & Pickles captures a feeling of warmth, love and passion on each front: from the menu, to the interior, and most of all, the service.
I visited Ginger & Pickles for the first time on an afternoon last year after finding "a vegan place" when I was in the area. Without much expectation, we popped by and ordered a Vegan burger and a very unique Annin doufu ("almond tofu" dessert) - which were delicious! But even more than the food, the relaxed atmosphere and friendliness of the owner were so memorable we kept thinking about going back. The lady told us the interior was inspired by her daughter's experience in Europe. When complimenting the beautiful interior, she laughed and pointed at all the points they had "failed" when refurbishing the place themselves. Of course, these charming points only add to the uniqueness and personality of this little cafe.
At my second visit, during lunchtime, I was able to have a better look. The cafe and their fresh bread and pastries are loved by the locals, so if you come towards closing time, chances are most things are sold already. This time they had several delicious treats: from fresh bread to take home, banana bread, oat cookies, muffins, smoothies and various options for lunch.
I've since been 2-3 more times and tried different sweets to take out and all were DELICIOUS! I'm not always a fan of the "healthy" and "macrobiotic" places as I tend to prefer stronger flavors and to really go all out if I am going to have a treat anyway - but Ginger & Pickles' creations are really flavorful, well-balanced and have that delicious homemade/made-with-love flavor! (does anyone even know what I'm talking about?)
And guess what! I'm not the only one who feels this way. Because Ginger & Pickles has successfully run their business for 10 years already! Their anniversary was posted on SNS last month (October 2020), but they couldn't organize anything special due to COVID.
Ginger & Pickles is located minutes away from the Shonan campus of Tokai University. This means there are usually a lot of international students. With the international travel ban, shift to online learning, and less people traveling from e.g. from Tokyo to Hakone (they are an ideal stop in between!) the cafe is losing valuable customer groups and could definitely use some support!
Although Ginger & Pickles is not a 100% Vegan cafe, they are genuinely committed to the eco and no-waste concepts and go out of their way to make a difference. The homemade ingredients used in their menu's are also available for sale: Pickles, sauces, hummus, yuzu jam, caramel sauce, dressings, nutsm mayonnaise, you name it!
They come in sturdy glass jars, which are sold on a "rental" system. You pay a deposit for the jar, and when you bring it back next time, you get the deposit back.
For example, I bought this "Blueberry Nuts Cream Cake" (rolls off the tongue) and paid an additional ￥500,- for the jar. If I return it during my next visit, I'll get the ￥500 back - but let's be honest, I'll probably take that same jar back home with a new dessert in it..
Brownies, banana bread, raw energy balls, scones and other dried sweets are neatly packed in paper wraps. They work with local farmers and will have specials based on the season/harvest. The blueberry dessert I bought this afternoon was made with blueberries they picked that morning at 6 AM!! The cafe is surprisingly spacious and has a very relaxed atmosphere. Whether you are quickly jumping out of the station for some take out on the way (only a 3 minute walk!!), coming in for lunch with a friend, a date, or my next goal: to bring a book or laptop for some ME TIME, you will be warmly received and are guaranteed to leave with something delicious in your belly... or jar!
My biggest favorites so far are the Focaccia, super thick Banana Bread with flax seed, and the Passion fruit dessert (seasonal).
Be sure to pay Ginger & Pickles a visit when you get a chance and let's show them they are anything but minor in the Japanese Vegan community!
Address: 2302-9 Minamiyana, Hadano-shi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan 257-0003
Access: 3 minute walk from the Tokaidaigakumae Station
Food: Organic, Vegetarian and Vegan, Macrobiotic, Refined sugar free, YUMMY.
Price: Very reasonable for the quality and portions. The desserts are filling and the slices very generous for Japanese standards. There hasn't been anything I didn't like/found worth the price so far.
Service: Tadaima! - Feels like coming home. The kind of home that permanently has fresh cake waiting for you...
Location: Out of the way if you are in the city, but very close to the station - a great stop if you're on a day trip from Tokyo.
Overall: Absolutely fell in love with this adorable at-home cafe with their warm hospitality, delicious food and eco mindset. All the food so far, both sit in and take out have been delicious and their "deposit" system for take out food is a great intensive to go back soon!
Be sure to check their opening hours during COVID!