The easiest way to describe Guevara's, a new counter service cafe and food market from Alicia Guevara and Daniel Mekelburg, is as a vegan version of couple's two other establishments, both called Mekelburg's. Same concept—a menu anchored by hefty, umami-rich sandwiches, plus an array of high-end groceries—but now everything's vegan.
If this sounds like a bit of a departure for Guevara and Mekelburg, whose restaurants are famous for their "insanely good porchetta" as well as many other extremely meaty delights, know that for years they have both personally taken vegan breaks. And their last such meat-eating hiatus, started during the early days of the pandemic, seems to have really stuck. So when the opportunity to open something new fell into their laps, to Guevara and Mekelburg the plan was obvious: all plant-based, all the time.
Guevara's is still in soft-opening mode, and the menu will expand considerably in about a month, but there are plenty of ways to get full and happy here right now. As at Mekelburg's the heart of the offerings are the sandwiches — there's a wholly satisfying B.E.C., made from crisp-fried king trumpet mushrooms, a mung bean frittata, and smoked, melted fake-cheese. The Bagel & "Lox" makes clever use of skinned, roasted orange bell peppers, the slippery slabs a credible stand-in for salmon (capers and dill do a lot of the work here too).
The show-stopper sandwich at Guevera's is the Torta Milanesa, with its thin and impressively crackling eggplant cutlet topped with purple slaw, refried beans, and slices of avocado, pickled peppers, and tomato. There's some real heat here as well, courtesy of a harissa-like "mayo." The Vegan Nachos definitely pass the gloppiness test, and the housemade chips come with a serious crunch. For something snackier, try an Empanada or two, or a fat Papas Rellenas slathered in a lively green sauce.
Guevara's has a full coffee program (Cortados, Espressos, Chai Latte, Cafe con Leche, etc.) using the beans of the woman and trans-owned roasters Maquina and Mother Tongue. And whichever caffeinated beverage you choose, may I recommend getting a freshly-made doughnut to go with? The Guava Cream Cheese one, filled with the former, iced with a vegan version of the latter, is first rate. There are also Muffins (Rosemary Pistachio, Banana Chocolate) and Croissants, if that's more your thing. Note that the doughnuts have been selling out early in the day, so plan accordingly.
The interior's still coming together — the friendly pink walls and zig-zaggy floor tiles are both new and both staying — with the grocery shelves and refrigerated cases in the back still empty, but Guevara's plant business is apparently thriving, and greenery fills the big space up front.
When you arrive, order your food at the counter in the middle — your food will be bagged up to-go or enjoyed at one of the half-dozen small tables out on the sidewalk. The neighborhood is already falling in love with the place, so these will likely fill up fast during prime hours.
Guevara's is located at 39 Clifton Place, at the corner of Grand Avenue, and is currently open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (guevaras.com)