Eating vegan at chain restaurants: BJ’s Brewhouse has vegan options! Vegan pizza options! »
I love hanging out with my family and getting away from the city for a few days. The only bummer can be going out to eat with everyone, as I usually end up getting a side of vegetables and a salad with half the ingredients taken out (cheese). I’ve made my peace with the Cheesecake Factory, but that is not the place to go every time I’m visiting. I mean, you gotta wait at least, AT LEAST, a half-hour to get a table, and it’s kinda fancy. What about casual? I just want to eat lunch with my mom somewhere, where we’ll both enjoy our food. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?
No it is not! BJ’s Brewhouse just opened up near my parents’ house and guess what? They have a few vegan options! Not only vegan, but some gluten-free options too! Plus tons of beer, including a gluten-free one (shudder), and delicious cocktails (I’m thinking of you, margarita). When my mom mentioned BJ’s for lunch, I figured I’d be eating a salad, yandet took to the internet to see what the vegan word was. You know what? QUARRYGIRL LOVES BJ’S BREWHOUSE.
Now, I do too! When Quarrygirl said BJ’s pizza was one of her all-time faves, I was excited, but skeptical. Silly me. That Quarrygirl knows her pizza! It is pretty epic stuff.
I got their Portobello Mushroom pizza, with caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar, oven-roasted mushrooms, and fresh herbs. I just left off the cheese, obviously! They let me get my pizza on a gluten-free crust instead of deep dish, too. I’m one of those people who tells themselves gluten-free is healthier for me, because I love lying to myself! The gluten-free crust was spectacular, by far the best I’ve ever had. It was light and flaky, with herbs baked into it. As for the toppings—taste party! They were the perfect balance of sweet and savory! I saved half my pizza, just so I could enjoy it when my mom and I got back home too. I told her I want to go to BJ’s every time I come visit!
Oh, Portobello mushroom pizza, I wish I could eat you again today (accompanied by another refreshing Piranha pale ale).
Lyfe Kitchen: Tal Ronnen, Art Smith, and a couple of dudes who used to work for McDonald’s want you to eat their healthy food »
Guess what, vegans and the people who love them: restaurateurs really do want your money! Seriously! They are starting a chain of restaurants called Lyfe Kitchen, which will serve “healthy” omnivorous and vegan dishes. Art Smith, Oprah’s totally not-vegan chef who was once on Top Chef: Masters, has of late eschewed his creamy-buttery-cheesy cuisine for less artery-clogging death food at his own restaurant, and is in charge of the omnivorous part of the menu, and Tal “Mr. Gardein” Ronnen will be developing the vegan section. Plans are to open the first Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto, Calif. this summer.
This sounds kind of great, right? Except it also sounds a little, um, nutty. The chain will be marketed to “women age 18 to 49, hoping they’ll like the food enough to bring back friends andfamilies. While she’s enjoying a grain salad, there’s a beefy burger for her husband. While he’s munching away, he might try a bite of hers, and even like it.” Wait, what? Yeah, who wants to puke after reading that? Three sentences packed full of gnarly stereotypes, but stereotypes sell! And this isn’t a “vegan” restaurant: “The menu so far avoids modifiers like ‘vegan,’ ‘gluten-free’ and ‘dairy-free,’” despite offering such options. Because “vegan” is “scary” and “gluten-free” is for “crazies” and Lyfe Kitchen isn’t for scary crazies, it’s for Middle American Families and the Moms Who Run Them.
So definitely this is a positive idea coming to fruition, right? We shall see—you know your Vegansaurus will be checking this place out once it opens. What do you all think: is marketing to McDonald’s Moms the right way to sell a chain of semi-vegan restaurants? I mean, in Tal we trust, but as for the rest of the business partners and the model, who knows.
Charlie Brooker’s modest proposal »
Charlie Brooker has something to say about our attitude toward food and its presentation. As a satirical genius, he uses the porniest, most revolting writing possible to address it. Here he describes the experience of eating the titular item at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which is a sort of “upmarket fast-food chain.”
You’ve got two options: tackle it with a knife and fork (the coward’s way out), or dislocate your jaw in the manner of a boa constrictor swallowing a foal, and heave it into your gullet, driving it home like a Victorian taskmaster pushing a buttered eight-year-old into a narrow chimney flue[.]
Order chips, incidentally, and your burger will be accompanied by a generous helping of deep-fried slabs the size and weight of piano keys. Eat there at lunchtime and you’ll spend the rest of the day feeling as if you’re incubating an immense, spherical beef-baby. And caesarean delivery sadly isn’t an option. Before bedtime, you’ll understand how it might feel to give birth to a banister.
What, he asks, makes eating this, with nearly twice the calories of a Big Mac, more socially acceptable than eating a Big Mac?
It seems the key to nurturing a successful chain of fast-food restaurants in modern Britain is to provide a less reprehensible version of something popular…while still enabling your customers to indulge in potentially ruinous gluttony.
I don’t think that that is exclusively a British solution. Isn’t In-N-Out the respectable person’s “drive-thru” burger? Or places like Fuddruckers, Five Guys, and Steak ‘n Shake? Fundamentally, they are McDonald’s: a place to get a quick, “American” meal. You’re still eating nightmare-food, it just comes in nicer packaging.
Charlie Brooker, however, because he is clever and disgusting, has a genius idea for environmentally friendly breakfast cafes: if you want bacon and sausage, cut the meat off your own body. It’s not nearly as offensive as the original Modest Proposal, as you’d only be eating yourself; it’d be vegan-friendly, for those of us who don’t feel as animal-rightsy as the rest of the group. You might even be able to use the lost blood to make black pudding, he says.
There’s something more to that idea—beyond the self-cannibalization joke: You can have as much meat as you can want, so long as you’re willing to give of your own life to get it. What would that mean if it were true? Right now, eating meat robs the future to reward the present; people in wealthy countries won’t feel the effects of their choices for some time—less the occasional terrifying food recall—but less developed nations have to make immediately felt compromises to support a meat industry; and some countries, like Tuvalu, could disappear under the ocean because of global warming.
That raises the question again: what price meat? If people continue eating it despite the horrific treatment of animals on massive factory farms; despite the human health risks posed by those farms; despite the destruction of land, including rainforest, not only to raise cows but to grow soybeans and corn to feed those cows—if they still want to indulge in tasty flesh, let them eat their own. Then maybe they’ll see it as valuable, instead of the commonplace junk they take for granted now.
Plus, you’ll be able to tell the vegans by how fat and happy we’ll be.
Maoz Vegetarian NYC »
I could go for some vegan fast food almost any time of the day or night. Don’t get me wrong, sitting in a restaurant can be really pleasant. But sometimes you just really want to devour some scrumptious shit on the fly!! Lucky for me, Maoz Vegetarian has a handy dandy location less than a block away from me. On cold, blustery, rainy nights when I am dumb enough to wear flip-flops to yoga, I know I can always stumble into this falafel joint and enjoy a scrumptious vegan meal.
For $7.95 I got a winter special: lentil soup and a Jr. Maoz sandwich. For another $3 I got a bunch of orange seeds with some orange juice. In short, the food was delicious. It was filling—oh my fucking god I can’t even breathe. While the orange concoction was tasty, I prefer my juice seedless. And $3 is a lot of money to spend on seeds.
As for the service and ambience? Well, my cashier was kind of a douche:
-Is the soup vegan?
-Yes. But it’s premade so we wouldn’t be able to change it if it weren’t.
-Oh, okay. Well I’ll have the winter special thing. Could you just make sure that everything in my order is vegan?
-The falafels are premade so we couldn’t change them anyway. It’s vegan.
Yeah. When I am sincerely asking whether or not my meal has any animal products at a vegetarian joint, I don’t want to get some patronizing bullshit as a response, kthx. I will definitely go back; I just may peek my head in to see if the same asshole is at the register.
(Psst! To my West Coast compadres, a location is coming soon on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley!)
Review: P.F. Changs! »
Fuck it. I almost didn’t post about how much I love P.F. Changs because I know it might/should rape away any faith people had in my reviews of Chinese restaurants. And you should have faith in my reviews of Chinese restaurants because even though I am a Whitey McVegan, I slept with a Korean dude once, OK? What i’m trying to say is that I have an old Chinese soul. My taste is autentico. Moving on. I know the food here is about as authentic Chinese as Michael Jackson is authentic black but like, the shit is tasty! They have lots of vegan options and the tofu lettuce wraps—chopped up bits of flavorful tofu and veggies that you wrap up in lettuce leaves and eat, I think originally conceived of for Skinny White Bitches on Atkins but it’s all good—and coconut curry tofu make me happy to be alive. They also have an excellent eggplant dish and a few other tofu/veggie options. They know what vegan means and don’t make their vegetarian dishes with any kind of fish sauce. I know that is a result of this place being half-owned by a white guy but guess what, I LOVE IT. Oh and a full bar. Hooray! Also, the waitresses are mad hot, makes me want to get all drunken frat boy on them and be all, “Take it off! Take it ALLLLL off!” but that’s wildly inappropriate as I am a straight girl and also because it’s just wildly inappropriate.
Just a side note: I was in Santa Monica once visiting a friend and I told him to take me out for some authentico Chinese food, SoCal-style and he fucking brought me here. I mean, I should have known better; this is the same fool who pointed me towards La motherfucking Salsa when I requested good Mexican food. Never take dining advice from any WASP. Any WASP but me.
One more note: there are no P.F. Changses in SF proper because the inhabitants of our fine elitist Chinese city might burn it to the ground but there are a few in the East Bay, Marin and the South Bay. P.F. Changs thrives in Pleasanton and Walnut Creek because those cities are made of white people and malls, P.F. Changs’ natural breeding grounds.
Finally, the art on the website amazes. The link to that horse
is [Ed.: used to be]: pfchangs.com/images/heroes/horse.gif. HEROES? WHAT? I GUESS I’d want that crazy ghost horse to save me but I think it’s more likely he’d take me back to his dark lord after he had had his way with me. That horse = total potential rapist.
[horse photo by Josh Puetz]