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Globe North dining out

Heavenly vegan, and burgers too

December 28, 2008
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Divine Cafe & Grille
50 Lincoln St., Exeter, N.H.
Telephone: 603-773-2233
www.divinecafe.org
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped, but call ahead to make sure ramp is free of snow
No liquor license; BYOB

The Divine Cafe is an organic eatery that caters to vegans, but you can still get a hamburger to die for.

The menu features a fantasia of hummus, tofu, and falafel dishes, as well as hormone-free Angus beef burgers and gluten-free baked goods. But vegans need not worry - meat never touches the griddle: All meat is cooked on a charcoal grill.

And where else can you get funny drinks like organic raw kombucha gingerade?

It's the restaurant's mission to "nourish the body and respect the Earth," according to its website. The coffee - Grounds for Change brand - is organic and obtained through free trade, and food is served on crockery unless you request paper.

The cafe is noted for its homemade vegan burgers ($6.75), made with organic gourmet rice and spices. You can buy a frozen four-pack to go for $8. But with one of us being a carnivore, we went for the real thing: the D Wayne ($9), a huge burger made with no-hormones, no-antibiotics beef. It was perfectly grilled and topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss and Cabot cheddar cheese on a whole-grain bun, served with a fresh mesclun salad and balsamic dressing.

It's difficult to believe, but true: We had one of the best burgers ever in a mostly vegetarian restaurant.

We also enjoyed Divine's homemade soup. There was a choice of vegan southwestern roasted corn or vegan tomato ($3.25 a cup; $4.25 a bowl). We chose the latter, which tasted like summer sun itself, with fresh herbs mixed in for extra flavor. We also enjoyed the whole-grain toast points served instead of packaged saltines.

We also liked one of Divine's grilled wraps, chicken breast with Boursin cheese, organic greens, and cranberry walnut relish, also served with a salad ($8).

For an extra nosh we ordered the asparagus fries ($3.75). We were expecting a breaded and deep-fried preparation but were delighted that they were sauteed and slightly grilled with olive oil. They were crunchy and fresh and the best alternative to french fries we've ever seen.

So here's the scoop. The food at Divine is outrageously healthy, but also outrageously delicious. We felt very cozy in this old, comfortable building with its wooden floors and really nice original abstract art on the wall.

Divine is open six days a week for breakfast (eggs are organic, from free-range chickens) and lunch. It's self-service, but the folks behind the counter couldn't be friendlier.

TOM LONG

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