Shebeen opened around nine months ago, but we only twigged to it when their veg options got a mention on Brianna's blog in October. It seems we simply missed the hype - Shebeen has been broadly reviewed by online and offline mags, drawing attention for its not-for-profit structure. Yep, once their operating costs are covered, Shebeen channel all their spare cents to charities across the globe. Their menu goes into deeper detail of this venture than their food and drinks, describing their criteria for selecting charities, ensuring maximum bang for buck, and the excellent work that these groups do.
There's still sufficient information about the food, with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options patchily marked but dominating the menu. We skipped past the (tempting) snacks and hit both of the gleegan-friendly superfood salads. The organic black bean noodle salad with miso lime dressing and slivered almonds ($12) proved to please Michael much more than I - something about those noodles reminded me of seaweed, and neither the dressing nor the almonds could win me back.
The Mexican organic fair trade quinoa salad served with cherry tomato salsa and organic blue corn chips ($12) was a better fit all round. I loved the sour dressing and ripe tomatoes, while Michael unearthed and devoured a chipotle; we bickered over the last couple of chips.
Thankfully the veggie banh mi ($10) had already been divided for us. The salad was a little less abundant and pickley than I've had in more traditional versions, but the smoked tofu and pineapple-peanut sauce hit the right, light notes and the bun was crunchy-crusted.
We weren't ready for dessert but you should know that they make their own icecreams and sorbets ($4/scoop), and two of the three are vegan! I'm not sure which sounds more fun - the Thai chilli lime sorbet or the choc coconut icy pole. I'm unlikely to be converted to the Jesus Juice (Pepsi and Pinotage).
It was great to see Shebeen doing such good business early on a weeknight - the positive, casual setting seemed to attract the quieter after-work drinkers. This bar is built on a laudable premise, but you don't have to feel charitable to enjoy their food and drinks.
We first read about Shebeen on Brianna's blog, and it's since been positively reviewed by fellow vego Hayley at Ballroom Blintz. It's also recommended on grazing panda, jouljet and The Owl's Nest.
36 Manchester Lane, Melbourne
veg dishes $4-12
Accessibility: Shebeen has a flat, wide entry and reasonably spaced tables in the front room. There are smoking-permitted stools and tables out front and high stools at the bar. A back room appeared to have well-spaced tables but dim lighting. We ordered and paid at the high bar, then food was brought to our table. Toilets are gendered and located down a flight of stairs.