It’s been several years since restaurant-goers in the Lewiston-Auburn area have had the opportunity to dine at a dedicated, fully-vegan establishment.

Now they can, at The Ark Vegan Cafe.

The crew at The Ark has been cheerfully serving up all kinds of plant-based foods — soups, salads, entrees and snacks — since its opening in June at 791 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. (You might recall its earlier incarnation as a Pizza Hut.)

Director Don Ball said the restaurant is currently open three days a week: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stay tuned — they hope to expand their hours of operation in the next few months. The primary dietary focus at The Ark is on “fruits, nuts, grains and veggies,” Ball said, and all foods served are completely dairy-free.

The Ark’s menu offers a selection of simple-yet-tasty sandwiches served on whole wheat breads starting at $4.99 each. Half-sandwiches are $2.99. The triple-layered club (made with vegan “bakon,” “cheez,” “chick-less salad” and veggies) costs $5.50. A fun perk — The Ark is the only place I know in town where when you order a sandwich, it comes with a side order of either Little Lad’s herbal popcorn (yum!) or home-made kale chips (if you want an extra dose of nutritious vitamin K).

Entree items include “Haystacks” (taco salads made with vegan chili and a vegan cheese substitute), the “First Hand Burger,” (a grain-based veggie burger, topped with fresh tomato, onion and lettuce), vegan chili over rice, and “Harvest Medallions” (savory oat patties topped with gravy, mushrooms and onions). Entrees run $8.50 for adult-sized portions, $4.50 for kids’ portions.


Ball shared with us the recipe for one of The Ark’s more popular dishes, which also sounded like his own person favorite — the “Veggie Alfredo,” a cashew-based sauce served on top of whole wheat pasta and a mix of fresh vegetables. The easy-to-make sauce incorporates coconut milk, raw cashews and nutritional yeast — an excellent source of B-complex vitamins for those who do not eat animal proteins. Vegans tend to get creative with nutritional yeast, using it in cooked dishes or sprinkling it liberally on top of salads, casseroles, vegetables, popcorn and other snacks.

As an added service to the community, The Ark extends its mission of promoting a healthy lifestyle by offering several workshops — most are free — on a variety of subjects. A recent class — an introduction to vegan cooking — was presented by Cheryl Farley, a nutritionist and health educator with Ready, Set, Go Healthy! She highlighted several health benefits of a vegan diet and gave class participants easy recipes to try out — without sacrificing flavor.

Since I was particular taken with the veggie burger we sampled (the recipe for which Farley shares today with readers), I am now an aspiring veggie burger maker and have since picked up a small quantity of nutritional yeast in order to give the recipe a try at home. The veggie burgers were surprisingly straightforward to make, and quite a bit tastier than those you might find in your grocer’s frozen aisle. A time-saving hint from Farley: Your homemade veggie burgers are easily frozen, so plan to make extras — they can go right into your freezer and be used another day. (LOVE that!)

Side dishes and soups vary daily at The Ark, but include such treats as Greek lentil, navy bean chowder and spicy carrot and black bean. Check the cooler before you leave, since they often have soup or vegan chili packaged up for you to purchase and heat up at home.

A fresh salad bar is always an excellent vegan meal option, and at The Ark, unlimited (dine-in only) salad bar can be had for $6.99. If you want a to-go salad, no problem. They will weigh it for you! At $4.99 a pound, scoot in and grab a quick lunch to take back to the office.

Another tip: You can stock up on a variety of Little Lad’s products while there: granola, Snacker Jacks, seasoned and slightly sweet nuts, several varieties of vegan cookies (my new favorite being the sesame) and, of course, Little Lad’s infamous cello-bags of herbal popcorn.


The primary chef at The Ark is Matt Blake, whose start as a vegan chef began several years ago when he worked at Little Lad’s cafe, then located in Lewiston on Pine Street. Because most staff at The Ark are volunteers, you will more than likely meet Blake’s wife, Jessica — and even his three daughters — who sometimes perform the roles of hostess or wait staff.

The idea of opening The Ark belongs to Pastor Rick Kuntz and his wife, Jane. Along with being a restaurant, The Ark also operates as a nonprofit organization and church. “We had a vision for this area — we really wanted to help people mentally, physically and spiritually,” he said. “We want to administer to the ‘whole’ person.”

Janet Libby, program coordinator for The Ark, said she conducted surveys to find out what types of programs people in the area might be interested in, and has tailored their class schedule accordingly. Their classes touch on a wide variety of subjects from parenting, using herbs and vegan cooking, to medical lectures (often featuring physicians from Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick) on Lyme disease, natural ways to treat depression and how to combat high cholesterol or diabetes.

Coming up at The Ark

How to go ‘raw’

6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25


Explore raw foods with Raphaelle Tisseyre, former raw foods chef at Crudessence Restaurant in Montreal, who will introduce the basics of raw food cuisine. Tisseyre specializes in fresh juices, green smoothies, superfoods along the lines of hemp, goji berries and bee pollen. Her focus is to help people select, cook and eat “wholesome foods — those that are least processed — and shows them how to incorporate more raw foods into their diets. If there is enough interest in the class, she said, she will consider expanding it into a longer workshop series.

Medicine for the Mind

A four-week series beginning Tuesday, Oct. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Learn about herbs and healing with master herbalist Jane Kuntz. Advance registration is required. Fee of $10 a person. Call Kuntz at 432-9061 to register.

Lyme disease support group

The first Wednesday of each month, beginning Nov. 6.


Veggie burger

1 cup bulgur wheat

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup oats

1-1/4 cups water

1/2 cup ground walnuts


1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1 clove garlic minced

1 tablespoon yeast flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos

1 tablespoon kitchen bouquet


8-ounce can of tomato sauce


Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until thick. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Use ice cream scoop and make individual patties. Press out into a burger shape and cook on non-stick skillet for approximately 7 minutes on each side, or bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Serve on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard.

Alfredo Cheez Sauce

1 cup coconut milk


1 cup water

1-1/2 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender on high 1 to 2 minutes, until creamy. Pour into sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Serve over your choice of pasta or rice with a side of vegetables.


The Ark: 791 Lisbon St., Lewiston

Telephone: 333-3668




People decide to go vegan for any of several reasons, including:

* Concerns about the ethical treatment of animals

* Moral or religious beliefs

* For better nutrition and improved health

For more information about the vegan diet and lifestyle, try these online sources:

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