The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Books Meet Food at Red Emma’s in Baltimore

Posted on October 19, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Alicia Hückmann, intern visiting from Germany

One of the first restaurants I went to upon arriving in Baltimore was Red Emma’s, a worker cooperative not far away from Penn Station and the Maryland Institute of Art (30 West North Avenue). What’s truly unique about this place, even more so than the food itself, is its alternative spirit as well as its political and social commitment. Founded in 2004 by members of Black Planet Books, Red Emma’s was originally meant to provide financial support for the anarchist book shop by selling food and creating an atmosphere that appeals to a variety of people.

Today, they do not only provide a stage for activist groups, authors and speakers (I witnessed a speech by the transgender community while enjoying dinner there once) but they also encourage customers to make a small donation that funds meals for people in need. Furthermore, there is always an affordable, healthy $5 option on the menu for those unable to spend much money on food. My personal highlight, however, has to be the book store that is crammed with all kinds of genres of leftist and radical literature. There are books on animal rights, cookbooks, social injustice, minority groups, sexual orientation, politics, and feminism; classical novels and children’s books dealing with controversial themes and taboos, as well as works by some of the key figures of sociology like Judith Butler and Michel Foucault.

The actual reason why I first set foot into this restaurant was food, though – vegan food to be more precise. Although Red Emma’s is not 100% vegan (they are all vegetarian), a large part of their menu is (as well as all of their desserts!) and there are vegan alternatives for almost all vegetarian items. I decided to order a spanakopita as my main dish, which is a spinach and cashew-“cheese” filled pastry from Greece. My food was ready to pick up at the counter after a few minutes, so I didn’t have to wait long at all. The spanakopita was served with a small cup of homemade vegan Tzatziki sauce that complimented the flavor of the pastry: As the spanakopita had a rich, savory flavor while the sauce was rather spicy and piquant, they both fitted together really well. For this dish, I paid $6 which is a good deal considering that Red Emma’s uses organic ingredients.

Ordering dessert at Red Emma’s always means making a very tough choice. They usually serve four different kinds of sweet vegan pastry (like whoopie pies, cupcakes, and cake) that they put on display in a showcase. The prices for a piece range between $3-6. I decided to be a little daring this time when I ordered a blueberry-ginger cupcake (I love blueberries but I hate ginger!). Upon taking my first bite, I knew that I had no reason to regret my decision. The muffin was very fluffy, not too sweet and had a slightly tangy touch to it that I really liked. The frosting on top on the other hand was creamy and although it was made from vegan butter, I didn’t find it to be too fatty or greasy.

Red Emma’s is definitely a great place to go if you’re looking for a unique, extraordinary and affordable dining experience. Check out their menu and their website to learn more about them:

For information about other vegetarian restaurants in the United States, see:

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