Chocolate malted milkshakes topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Cheesy scrambled eggs served alongside a buttermilk biscuit, sausage links, and home fries. Reuben sandwiches on marbled rye piled high with corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing. The moral of the story? Classic 50’s diner fare serves as the ultimate anathema to vegan food.
While the blatantly oppressive and spectacularly heart attack-inducing menu items popularly associated with John Travolta’s Grease days of yore prevent the dial of my time machine from ever clicking toward the 1950’s, the poodle skirt-clad waitresses on roller skates, the black-and-white checkerboard tile floors, the cotton candy pink and blue decor, and the glowing neon lighting quaintly attract me to a simpler time when “Earth Angel” constantly doo-wopped from the speakers of a juke box or a crimson Aston Martin. Unfortunately, ambiguous universal forces have long prevented wholesome vegan noms and the charming atmosphere of the 50’s from coexisting (with the glaring exception of the renowned Chicago Diner), or so I assumed until discovering All Shook Up Cafe, a self-proclaimed “old time malt shop meets new wave juice bar, because good health never went out of style!”
Located mere steps away from the Vassar campus, All Shook Up satisfies my every nutrition-nerdy restaurant need, complete with made-to-order veggie juices, wheatgrass shots, gluten-free tortillas, mile-high salads, baked sweet potato fries, locally made raw cashew ice cream, GT’s kombucha, and Righteously Raw superfood chocolates.
I first ventured to All Shook Up with one of my dormmates, who needed a late lunch. Having already eaten my daily monster salad, I opted simply for a two-ounce shot of wheatgrass while gawking at the abundance of vegan friendliness boasted on the menu, not to mention the raw cashew ice cream from local purveyors New Confectioner and Organic Nectars Cashewtopia in tantalizing flavors such as pina colada, strawberry rhubarb, and chocolate hazelnut. Needless to say, I ardently intended to revisit the health-centric eatery of nostalgia in the very near future for a complete dining experience.
Not but a week later, my mother flew out to Poughkeepsie for Vassar’s Freshman Families Weekend, during which we ventured to All Shook Up at my eager insistence for lunch. While I almost opted to sample one of four delightful-sounding vegan “wrappinis”—the “Silhouette” with roasted carrots, yellow squash, and eggplant coupled with caramelized onions and spread with black olive tapenade proved particularly tempting—all of which come served in a gluten-free brown rice tortilla upon request, the All Shook Up Salad ultimately stole my heart as well as my order, along with the “Speedo” juice and a side of baked sweet potato fries.
The All Shook Up Salad, a mountainous amalgamation of crisp mixed lettuces, sharp red onions, shredded carrots, refreshingly sweet honeycrisp apples, umami black olives, crunchy jicama cubes, succulent roasted red pepper, and nature’s perfect legumes (aka chickpeas), all tossed in a tangy Mustard Herb dressing and piled high in a generously sized ceramic bowl—these greasers don’t fool around with their salads! After downing a magenta-hued juice of beets, carrots, kale, and cucumber, not to mention reveling in the lusciously tedner and smoky sweet potato fries, my smiling belly tactfully declined a scoop of raw cashew ice cream, providing all the more incentive for a swift return to All Shook Up.
I’d also like to extol the fierce hospitality of the All Shook Up staff, who patiently and satisfactorily answered my every inquiry of multiple items’ gluten-free-and-vegan-ness, happily bringing me the packages of the breads and wraps they employ in their sandwiches and allowing me to scour the ingredient labels. Everyone with whom I interacted, especially the jovial curly-haired owner, proved wildly friendly and helpful, further heating up my already boiling-over adoration of the diner. My one criticism: I’d like to see tofu and/or tempeh among the available salad add-ons listed on the menu, as well as more gluten-free grains in their whole form rather than ground into flour and implemented in sandwiches and wraps.
Comment Provoking Questions: What are your experiences with 50’s-style diners? Do they ever offer vegan options? If so, what do they include?
Until next time, Ali.