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Chez Olga

Fried plantains, $4.50

You’ll feel like you are a world away when you enter Chez Olga. Located inside one of the most unique buildings in the city, you’ll find a menu full of spicy Haitian Creole (totally different than Louisana Creole as we learned) and Caribbean dishes. At first glance, the menu may not look like this is a great place for vegans, but don’t let that dissuade you – it is!

For starters, try the plantains, a traditional Caribbean dish. Don’t expect a sweet banana to arrive on your plate. Unripened plantains are smashed into a patty, fried, and served with a side of (really!) spicy coleslaw. Both are vegan-friendly. There is also a fried root vegetable appetizer called Accra that comes with a creole dipping sauce.

Potato Lasagna, $7.99

Just about every entrĂ©e can have tofu substituted for the meat or seafood to become vegan. Choose from a wide variety of dishes, including gumbo, fried rice, and jambalaya. There is also a “Potato Lasagna” that is not like a lasagna at all, but a plate full of potatoes, green beans, greens, root vegetable, and onions all in a spicy sauce that we found really delicious. We also had the Gumbo with tofu. This is billed as their signature dish and came with a side of white rice. We were hesitant knowing that a Louisana gumbo means a roux traditionally made from butter. Apparently in Haiti, or at least as Chez Olga is concerned, animal products are not used.

You will also have to decide what level of spice you can endure. The waiter gave us the option of choosing the spice level on a 0-10 scale and we chose zero (Kolene is a wuss). We found that even at zero, it was spicy enough!

While we were dining, the restaurant owner Olga Benoit a native of Haiti, came out and spoke with us. She was eager to chat about our dining experience. You can tell that she is passionate about her cooking, her culture, and her customers. Her restaurant offers up one of the most unique and cultural experiences in Grand Rapids and should not be missed!

Tofu Gumbo, $9.99