Have you ever walked into a place and just felt at ease, like the feeling of being at grandma’s house. Even though it may have been your first time at this new place, it felt like you had been there a million times. Even though you had never talked to anyone there before, it’s as if you had known them for a lifetime. Ely’s (pronounced Ae-lees) was one of these places. It has a certain je ne sais quoi about it. Ely’s is a vegan restaurant in Boardman on Western Reserve Road. It’s a small spot with a big heart. Walking through the front doors it’s as if you are walking into a magical realm of impossibilities, where anything could happen. The décor has a whimsical, industrial chic look that is timeless. What stands out about the quaint dining room is the repurposing of raw materials. It’s cheerful yet both simple and understated. Also, there was a steady stream of patrons that were known by name. The staff was benevolent, hospitable and ardent. Without even having to say a word, each one vibrated with passion that culminated in a symphony of a nutritional nature. We were even invited into the back and had the pleasure of being introduced to each employee. Hearing their personal stories touched a certain place in my heart where my own passion for food is held. It’s not every day you get to meet a group of people that are so intimately involved and committed to what they are doing. It surely sheds a ray of hope on the Mahoning Valley food scene. I truly believe this reflects the leadership of the restaurant. Having the opportunity to speak with Ely on this occasion, it is easy to see where the passion stems from. She truly loves what she is doing and has invested her time, money and soul into the operation. Being carnivorous in nature, vegan cuisine is somewhat foreign to me. Like most of you meat eaters out there, I had a presupposition to vegan food. We sometimes think it is only raw vegetables or bland renderings of tofu. Whenever trying a new café or eatery we always drop our biases at the door. The Lorax once said “I speak for the trees”, well Spade and I speak for the food and this culinary masterpiece had much to say. The menu is concise and ever-changing depending on supply. The raw ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible. This says a lot about Ely’s commitment to our community. In this industry we are not on islands. We must always remember that as the tide rises so do all the ships.The set up is reminiscent of a delicatessen. You chose your items and bring them to the counter for purchase. Spade and I tried more than a few of these culinary creations. I enjoyed a cup of sweet potato curry soup. It had a perfectly robust flavor with a delicate spicy after taste. We also enjoyed the vegan mac and cheese with fresh asparagus and bacon flavored shiitakes. This was quite an array of flavors. I loved the texture of the fresh asparagus juxtaposed to the soft and creamy mac and cheese. As an entrée we shared a vegan rueben. Yes, I said a vegan rueben. If no one would have told us that it was vegan, we would have never been able to tell. The meat was from a local vegan butcher, which may sound like an oxymoron but is an interesting concept. The sauerkraut was mouthwatering with a delicious tangy posture.We washed everything down with fresh mango lemonade and a cacao super smoothie, which gave an energizing boost. For desert we had the pleasure of trying a vegan chocolate chip cookie and macaron. From what we are told, Ely’s is only one of two places in the country to acquire these majestic macarons.I couldn’t find one negative thing to say about the food even if I tried. The common phrase of people who have tried Ely’s is, “If I could cook like that, I would be vegan”. I think Ely could give any high-end chef a run for their money. In her own words she says, we take familiar flavors and transform them into something memorable. Spade and I were honored to have the opportunity of dining in this establishment. Ely’s far exceeded our expectations and definitely gains our stamp of approval. We hope to further build a connection with the team there, and we hope you will as well!