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Saturday, July 13, 2024

REVIEW: Black Leaf Vegan Cafe is a lukewarm offering in Indianapolis’ vegan dining scene

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Nestled in a small section of the upper canal area downtown, Black Leaf Vegan Cafe welcomes customers with a swanky, warm vibe that promises to excite. Melodic music weaves through the dining area and the décor adds to the coziness of the space, while abundant seating gives guests the opportunity to unwind while they enjoy their meal.

The menu is small but filled with good staples for variety. Sweet potato fries, mac n’ cheese and bacon ranch burgers bring an Americana flare, while the piled-high vegan loaded nachos, quesadilla and guac burger provide a south-of-the-border twist. A 100% vegan restaurant, the menu is a safe space for those with dietary needs or preferences.

My dining time of choice was dinner, but the menu boasts bagel sandwiches, oatmeal cups and avocado toast for grab-and-go options before work. Additionally, the drink portion of the menu is full of specialty and wellness drinks, like the super cider and the dragon fruit berry smoothie. Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, the menu contains options for every meal of the day, including dessert.

For my dinner order, I settled on the sweet potato fries, the loaded nachos, the original burger and a side of mac n’ cheese to encapsulate the variety of the menu. I placed my order that afternoon for pickup, but when I arrived, my order was seemingly not received. I lounged in the dining room for a bit to fill the time while they made my food, which was a nice break. It took about 15 minutes for my food to come out, so I scooped it up and headed home to beat the traffic. Here’s the breakdown:

Hanna’s Helpings:

1 order of sweet potato fries ($5.25)

1 order of the loaded nachos ($14.95)

1 order of the original burger with a side of mac n’ cheese ($14.95)

My intention was to get enough food for two people, which I thought I did. The total price tag in the end was $42.30. With that in mind, let’s dig in.

Hanna’s Highlights:

loaded nachos
The vegan loaded nachos priced at $15.95. (Photo/Hanna Rauworth)

The nachos were superb. Tortilla strips lined the bottom, topped with ground “beef” coated in a special sauce, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, guac and other sauces. Piled high inside the take-out box, the nachos never got soggy and didn’t get any less delicious on the way home.

a burger
The original burger priced at $11.95. (Photo/Hanna Rauworth)

The next-best item was the original burger. A soy and GMO-free plant-based patty is topped with teriyaki barbecue, pickles and slaw on a toasted bun. The sauce was just the right amount of sweet and the patty was smoky and had a nice texture. The pickles added a nice tang and the slaw a needed crunch.


  • The location of the restaurant is accessible and there is an abundance of parking spaces.
  • The signage is easy to navigate for those who have parking anxiety like me.
  • The staff was friendly and the ambiance inside the restaurant was lovely and inviting.

Hanna’s Hazards

While there were certainly some good things at Black Leaf Vegan, there were some “hazards” to be on the lookout for.

sweet potato fries
The Sweet Potato Fries priced at $5.25 for a regular size. (Photo/Hanna Rauworth)

According to the online menu, the sweet potato fries are coated in pure blue agave and baked. Unfortunately, mine weren’t just glazed in agave, they were swimming. All the extra agave dripped out of the box, through the bag, and onto my leather seats, which I then tried to clean up, which then got on my jeans, on my hands, in my hair … I would not recommend the sweet potato fries to say the least.

mac n' cheese
The vegan mac n’ cheese priced at $5.25 per serving. (Photo/Hanna Rauworth)

The most disappointing thing I tried was the mac n’ cheese. The color of the pasta wasn’t the comforting bright yellow I’m used to seeing. It was deep yellow, almost muddy. The pasta was also mushy and overcooked, and there was little to no flavor or seasoning.

According to the website, it was voted the “best vegan mac n’ cheese.” I do not second that vote.


  • The menu prices are inconsistent. Some say one thing, but when you order it’s more.
  • The portion sizes were very small compared to the price.


Overall, the ambience of the restaurant was cozy and warm, and the food was good, not great. For vegans, I think this is a good option, for not-so-vegans, I would look elsewhere.

Contact Staff Writer Hanna Rauworth at 317-762-7854 or follow her on Instagram at @hanna.rauworth.

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