Passion for healthy food spawns Wheeling's welcoming Purple Sprout

  • Lentil dumplings -- handmade whole wheat dumplings stuffed with lentils and sauteed cabbage -- are accompanied by sunflower sour cream and a purple and green salad at Purple Sprout Cafe in Wheeling.

      Lentil dumplings -- handmade whole wheat dumplings stuffed with lentils and sauteed cabbage -- are accompanied by sunflower sour cream and a purple and green salad at Purple Sprout Cafe in Wheeling. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Karim Raimbekov and his wife, Irina Kuznetsova, opened Purple Sprout Cafe in late November.

      Karim Raimbekov and his wife, Irina Kuznetsova, opened Purple Sprout Cafe in late November. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Purple Sprout's zucchini pasta comes topped with a pine nut pesto sauce at the Wheeling cafe.

      Purple Sprout's zucchini pasta comes topped with a pine nut pesto sauce at the Wheeling cafe. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • If your in the mood for breakfast, the chickpea veggie scramble crepe may be just what your looking for at Purple Sprout in Wheeling.

      If your in the mood for breakfast, the chickpea veggie scramble crepe may be just what your looking for at Purple Sprout in Wheeling. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • For a sweet ending, consider Robin's Frozen Fantasy hemp ice cream served at Wheeling's Purple Sprout.

      For a sweet ending, consider Robin's Frozen Fantasy hemp ice cream served at Wheeling's Purple Sprout. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The pro-digestion shots at Purple Sprout are purported to aid in digestion.

      The pro-digestion shots at Purple Sprout are purported to aid in digestion. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The ginger lemon with sea buckthorn superfood berries is one of many unique juices served at Purple Sprout.

      The ginger lemon with sea buckthorn superfood berries is one of many unique juices served at Purple Sprout. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Purple Sprout offers an array of vegan options plus various juices and smoothies.

      Purple Sprout offers an array of vegan options plus various juices and smoothies. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Wheeling's Purple Sprout opened in late November.

      Wheeling's Purple Sprout opened in late November. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Thomas Witom
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/23/2016 1:23 PM

While a vast majority of Americans stick to an omnivorous diet, it's no longer headline news that the ranks of vegetarians and vegans continue to grow incrementally.

Enter Purple Sprout, a vegan cafe and juice bar that husband-and-wife team Karim Raimbekov and Irina Kuznetsova opened in late November in Wheeling to serve the emerging market.

 

Their modest 18-seat storefront eatery provides a welcoming experience for all comers, from committed vegans to anyone curious about what a strictly plant-based menu has to offer.

In keeping with the vegan lifestyle, the kitchen eschews refined sugar, refined grains and flours, artificial preservatives or colorings, genetically modified soy or corn and nightshades such as white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers, both the eye-watering chilies and the sweeter bell peppers.

Still, diners will find an abundance of choices on a menu rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds -- a different regimen from meat, poultry, seafood and dairy but satisfying, as Purple Sprout clearly demonstrates.

Lunch -- ordered at a counter near cases displaying some of the food -- began with a lively pick-me-up: a cup of hot lemon-ginger herbal tea.

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The Fountain of Youth is a blend of green apple, kale, celery, lemon, ginger and parsley.
  The Fountain of Youth is a blend of green apple, kale, celery, lemon, ginger and parsley. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Among other more involved beverage choices were juice blends such as Fountain of Youth (a combination of apple, kale, celery, lemon, ginger and parsley); smoothies including mango cream (coconut water, avocado, mango, pineapple and agave nectar); and one-ounce shots such as Pro Digestion (ginger, coriander, peppermint and high alkaline pH water).

While waiting for your order to be processed, check out the small retail section of the cafe where you can find such items as organic herbs (basil, mint, sage), raw chocolate, dried mango, sunflower seed cheese and kale chips. The diversion might take your mind off the sometimes thunderous rain forest soundtrack clamoring in the background.

Back to lunch. Not counting seasonal specials, there are more than 20 different entrees from which to choose, priced from $7 to $12.

Purple Sprout's hempburger is composed of hemp seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, black beans, green beans, rolled oats and herbs and spices.
  Purple Sprout's hempburger is composed of hemp seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, black beans, green beans, rolled oats and herbs and spices. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Yuca, a cultivated cassava, isn't a staple in my diet. But as prepared at Purple Sprout, the unassuming starchy tuberous root -- served balled up with carrot and seitan (wheat gluten) at the center -- earned new respect from me, especially when consumed with the accompanying creamy cashew and sunflower seed dips.

The dish also came with two flavorful lentil dumplings and a shredded vegetable salad. A requested topping of mixed fresh sprouts further enhanced the repast.

An almond butter dressing accompanies the spring rolls with spiced tofu at Wheeling's Purple Sprout.
  An almond butter dressing accompanies the spring rolls with spiced tofu at Wheeling's Purple Sprout. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Also first-rate was the black bean and hempseed burger ordered by a sibling.

Among other dishes to consider were the brown rice paper-wrapped spring roll with root vegetables, greens and spiced tofu; zucchini pasta with pine nut pesto; and chickpea veggie scramble.

Dessert brought more pleasant tastes to the table. A scoop of dense out-of-the-ordinary chocolate hemp ice cream delighted even though its texture was punctuated by ice crystals.

Meanwhile, this nonvegan would happily return for another slice of the cafe's rich, sugar-free marble cheesecake, which coaxes maximum flavor from hazelnuts, cashews and coconut oil.

The marble cheesecake (made with hazelnuts, cashews, coconut oil and agave) alone is worth a return visit to Purple Sprout, according to our reviewer.
  The marble cheesecake (made with hazelnuts, cashews, coconut oil and agave) alone is worth a return visit to Purple Sprout, according to our reviewer. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Purple Sprout, which occupies space that once housed Shtram's Deli, occasionally conducts mini workshops. Two such recent programs were titled "Sprout Your Happiness" and "GMOs: How to Recognize and Avoid." The upcoming "Healing Gong Meditation" takes place at 6 p.m. Monday, April 11.

Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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