On a recent trip to the Pioneer Valley area of Massachusetts (which encompasses Amherst, Northampton, Hadley, and other towns), a friend and I were winding up a visit to the amazing Yiddish Book Center on the campus of Hampshire College. Wanting to grab some lunch before hitting the highway, I searched on my phone for “vegan food near me,” and with Google knowing where we are at all times, for better or worse, it served up what I was looking for. The first result to pop up was Pulse Café in Hadley, MA.
Though I’d visited the area on a number of occasions, this café, which is relatively new, was unfamiliar to me, but the online menu looked promising. We headed over, and wow, what a find!
With a farm garden right outside the doors, Pulse’s tag line: “Soil to seed, root to leaf, straight to your plate, 100% plant based café and market” is appropriate. For me, a 100% plant-based menu makes for delightful and dizzying indecision. Rarely do I get to places where I can literally have anything on the menu, rather than choosing one from the handful of options.
The menu features small plates, bowls, soups, luscious desserts, and more. Explore the menu here.
As you can see, some of the highlights are presented on boards sitting atop the counter where orders are placed. The offerings range from beautifully presented salads and bowls to plant-based meaty fare like grilled “chicken” burrito, house-made burgers, and the Beyond® Burger, which I think they were out of that day (not surprising, given the huge demand vs supply factor).
Just over the signs you’ll see a wood-fired pizza oven. The personal-sized pizzas include vegan versions of Margherita (made with almond mozzarella), Blanca (featuring veggies and soy chicken on a creamy sauce), and Greek, with spinach, briny olives, and tofu feta. You can also create your own pizza, with a choice of sauces, plant cheeses and proteins, and veggies. Also available are crusty, gooey calzones.
The café is in an oversized space that somehow manages to feel warm and cozy — where a single or couple can tuck themselves into a corner, or a large group can be accommodated by combining several tables.
It’s a tough choice for me when I can literally have anything on the menu. I’d been on a bit of a break from carbs, so I chose this comforting mac and cheese bowl, embellished with broccoli and BBQ-flavored tempeh. It was not only delicious, but so plentiful that I took half home.
My friend chose the Thai Noodle Bowl that’s also at the top of this post. This bountiful bowlful also yielded leftovers.
Even though we couldn’t finish our entrées, we were quite full, so we passed on the desserts. I would have gladly taken a few desserts home, but we had a nearly 3-hour drive ahead of us, and I was worried that these delicacies might spoil, even in the air-conditioned car. It was a sweltering day, though I’m happy to report that our lunch leftovers survived the trip.
Honestly, Pulse would be worth a trip just for coffee or tea and dessert. There are sooooo many to choose from, much more than I have pictured above.
Photo: Pulse Café
A special feature provided by Pulse is an array of house-made juices that you can enjoy on site with your meals or take home. A guided juice cleanse, called the Pulse Juice Reset, is a program providing 18 servings of juice to be used over a 3-day period. Learn more about Pulse Café’s juices.
There’s even a small grocery, with several refrigerated cases filled with vegan cheeses, pastas, plant-based meats, and other items.
For anyone living within an hour radius of Pulse, it’s a destination eatery. I’m looking forward to a return trip, and next time, I may make a meal of dessert!
Look for more travel & dining recommendations here on The Vegan Atlas.