Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
Dining at MJ’s Cafe has always been a pleasure. It began in 2011 with former owner Maureen Joyce, who at the time offered the only true vegan options in the city. Mary-Brennan Faucheux has since taken up the baton for healthful vegan/vegetarian cuisine in Baton Rouge. She took over in 2017, bringing it briefly to the former White Star Market before moving into a bright and colorful permanent spot on Government Street last year.
The menu has grown since then with some more inventive dishes, but the focus is still on fresh, seasonal produce and meatless options.
The Zesty Kale salad was topped with a lovely quinoa mix, making this a large and quite filling option. I requested the coconut bacon on the side and was glad I did, as the coconut was quite aggressive. If, unlike me, you love coconut, you’ll adore its smoky-sweet flavor smattered all over the salad. Homemade tahini Caesar dressing along with pickled red onions added just the perfect amount of umph to the vegetal kale.
The Hippie Garden Sandwich was more than ample in size. The thick whole-wheat bread was substantial and held loads of hummus, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and more at bay. Capping it off was a tangy Dijon dressing.
Ginger Carrot Curry Soup, one of the soups of the day, was included with the sandwich. The base of rich coconut milk carried subtle curry notes. The carrots’ sweetness and bright orange hue shined through this intensely succulent soup.
Cookies were the dessert choices of the day. The Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle sounded the most appealing to us. The crumbly Snickerdoodle had pungent coconut flavors with very mild spice. The Chocolate Chip was more firm, with a gratefully subdued sweetness and excellent texture—though I did crave more chocolate chips.
Meat was never missed during our lunch. We were stuffed and completely satisfied. Hours later, we were still happy and experienced no midafternoon slump. Plenty of vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and even pescatarian options are available to indulge most diets.
Baton Rouge, we’ve come a long way, baby, thanks to the efforts of these valiant vegetarian mavens. Long may MJ’s reign.
THE BASICS: Owner Mary-Brennan Faucheaux has brought the local healthy lunch spot to new heights with the brick-and-mortar location on Government Street. After taking over MJ’s from original owner Maureen Joyce in 2017, Faucheaux relocated to the former White Star Market before settling into this Mid City space in 2019. It now provides breakfast items and a happy hour menu.
WHAT’S A MUST: Any of the fresh daily soups to start. Try the Vegan Quesadilla or Hippie Garden Sandwich for a substantial and filling meal, or the Zesty Kale salad for a flavorful mix of quinoa, kale and coconut bacon. For dessert, don’t miss one of the daily cookie choices.