Nationwide chain The Counter offers a VEGAN burger, and wants us to “veg out” with them in October! »
Man everyone, I love knowing that national chains carry vegan food — let’s be real, we’re not always in the company of other vegans, vegetarians, even flexible eaters. It’s a relief for me when popular chains offer grub I can get down with and that an ominvore family member or friend will be satisfied with as well!
Now, I had never heard of The Counter before they sent us an email about their new and improved vegan veggie burger, and how they plan on highlighting it as a menu item for National Vegetarian Month in October. Of course a week later I was listening to Jen Kirkman’s podcast “I Seem Fun”, where she mentioned going a Southern California branch of the restaurant, and I was like “OH YEAH, I’ve been asked to look into that place for the vegan blog I write for”.
So look into I have. I do love an exceptional vegan burger, and I always feel like I gotta make one at home to be satisfying! Unfortunately I can’t give a review of The Counter — have any of you tried them out? I’m super interested, and will be hitting them up next time I’m in the SF Peninsula or East Bay suburbs with my family. My family members will surely find a burgers they want to eat there, and I get to try something new! Everyone wins!
I know you must be full of doubts, Vegasaurus readers, as you are intellegent and discerning vegans! You don’t want to get your vegan on just anywhere! You have guidelines, you have principles and you are TIRED OF LIMP VEGETABLE SANDWICHES. So here’s why I’m interested, straight from The Counter’s email to us:
What’s so exceptional about The Counter’s Veggie Burger? Read on.
The veggie burger is not just vegetarian – it’s vegan, too.
Unlike the “veggie” burgers that most restaurants serve that try to taste like beef, the team specifically wanted a veggie burger that tasted like vegetables. With high-quality beef, turkey and grilled chicken on the menu, why have the veggie burger taste like meat, too?
The veggie burger accounts for roughly 10% of all “burgers” sold throughout the locations.
The veggie burger is cooked on a different grill than the other burgers.
The veggie burger was in development for about a month. The Counter had originally settled on a different veggie burger recipe than the one they opened the doors with back in 2003. The first version used spinach and potatoes as a base, and ultimately it was determined to be too starchy and taste too much like a potato pancake, so the recipe – using a variety of fresh vegetables - was reworked to its current version and was met with rave reviews.
I went to the work of bolding that statement about the burger being cooked on a different grill, as I know that’s really important to most of you! Anyway, for October, The Counter wants us herbivores to go “Veg Out” with them and try the two specialty sandwiches they are promoting. Both need a little adjustment, the honey dijon mustard on the burger and the basil on the sandwich. To tell you the truth, I’d go in just to build my own burger because that’s the best! I don’t want what everyone else is having! I want it adjusted to MY NEEDS!
The two special “burger builds” on special next month include:
The Vegan Veggie Burger with grilled cucumber, roasted roma tomato, red onion, organic mixed greens, and honey Dijon on a wheat bun.
The Veggie Club with grilled zucchini, grilled carrots, roasted red peppers, sliced avocado, tomato, and basil pesto served on Texas Toast with a side of sweet potato fries.
Of course, as I mentioned before, you’ll have to make a couple minor adjustments when ordering these, or just order something different altogether. I’m super into them carrying sweet potato fries, that is FOR SURE.
Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco, veganized by The Take-Out Diet! I LOVE this, veganizing the terrifying science project that is corporate fast food. As an awful teenager in a small California suburb, I at a LOT of Taco Bell, and I totally sometimes miss it. It’s engineered to be delicious and impossible to stop eating, despite its being 100 percent disgusting. But you know this. Let’s watch all The Take-Out Diet videos and follow her on Tumblr and make cruelty-free versions of all the gnarly fast food we loved before we went vegan.
[We learned about this awesome site from our tip line! Is something awesome happening in your corner of the vegan world? Let us know!]
Interview: Meet Nicole Marquis, owner of HipCityVeg in Philadelphia! »
Healthful vegan fast food maven Nicole Marquis dreamed of serving fast food to Philadelphians and visitors to the City of Brotherly/Sisterly/Gender-is-a-construct Love. And when she built HipCityVeg, we did come, in arugula taco salad-chomping droves. Now it’s silly to even think of eating anywhere else in Rittenhouse Square! I mean, I guess you could think about it, but it’d be better to save your precious brain space for finding the best spot in Rittenhouse Square to sit with your gourmet vegan take-out deliciousness from HipCityVeg!
Nicole brought me into her adorable restaurant to have me try the groothie, an organic green smoothie made of a rotating blend of fresh local greens and fruit (amazing!) and one of the most popular dishes, the Crispy HipCity Ranch. This overflowing faux chicken burger was battered fried amazingness. I rarely go for that stuff but wow, am I glad I tried it! So ridic!
I love the decor of the place: the whole pieces of organic fruit spilling onto the counter (in an artistic way), hardwood floors, and pretty potted plants. So lovely!
Nicole e-mailed me responses to my questions about how she envisioned and created HipCityVeg, her role in supporting the fast-growing vegan scene in Philly, and her life’s mission to spread the delicious veggie love.
Vegansaurus: Are you native to the Philly area? Where did you grow up?
Nicole Marquis: I’ve lived in the Philly area all my life except for a period living in L.A. during college. I grew up in Lower Gwynedd, but have been living in Rittenhouse Square for a few years.
V: When did you become interested in vegan food?
NM: I first became interested in nutrition by reading Andrew Weil. Then I read Mad Cowboy and realized what animal cultivation was doing to the earth. After reading Eat to Live and The China Study, I realized that a plant-based diet is essential to my health. I became vegan a few years ago after being vegetarian for several years, but the change in conciousness was actually developing for a while before that.
V: How did you get involved with now-closed Philly vegan fine-dining restaurant Horizons?
NM: I worked in the restaurant industry for years, mostly as a server before managing a local night club. While working on another project I met Rich Landau and he recruited me to help run Horizons.
V: What made you decide to open HipCityVeg?
NM: I felt a mission to popularize plant-based food. When something has great importance to you personally you want to see it grow and flourish. I also wanted a world where I didn’t have to peice together a couple of sides every time I ate in a restaurant.
V: What has most surprised you about operating a vegan restaurant in Philly?
NM: I was surprised by the pent-up demand. People said they were waiting for this for a long time. Who knew?
V: How many customers do you get on average per day? More during certain hours of the day?
NM: We serve about as many people as can fit in the restaurant (and onto the sidewalk), really. Our busiest time in this location is around lunch.
V: What is your most popular dish?
NM: Our best-selling sandwich is the Crispy Hip City Ranch, which is delicious. But our overall best-seller is our signature drink, the Groothie. It’s a smoothie made of bananas, apples, organic greens, and a seasonal fruit. There really is nothing better for your body.
V: How do you envision the growing veg scene in Philly? Do you think it’s greater now for any particular reason?
NM: Philly is becoming a great vegan city. It really is a hip city. People here love to challenge their tastes, to embrace the fringe. But they crave real, clean, fresh food. I love my hometown.
V: What are your hobbies, activities besides running the restaurant?
I love yoga. I love the arts. I love eating in great restaurants. I love my family and friends.
V: Anything else you’d like to add?
NM: I want everyone to feel at home in my restaurant. I hope we share the vibe of love. We’re all family!
[Groothie and Crispy HipCity Ranch photos via HipCityVeg]
McDonald’s to open all-veg restaurants in India! Globalization party! »
Turns out McDonald’s, with is half-vegetarian menu in its Indian restaurants, isn’t “capturing the market” on the subcontinent as successfully as the great McDonald’s globalization overlords would like. How do you successfully sell your chemically delicious, primarily cow-based edible food-like items to a country where many citizens eschew cow-based foods, many others abstain from pig-based foods, and many others don’t eat animal flesh at all?
McDonald’s, in its infinite wisdom, has chosen to open an all-vegetarian restaurant in Amritsar, a Sikh holy city. When it opens “in the middle of next year,” it will be the world’s first meatless McDonald’s, to be followed by the second meatless McDonald’s in Katra Vaishno Devi, near the Hindu holy site of Vaishno Devi. There just aren’t enough Indian citizens eating at McDonald’s, see, and opening restaurants that serve food that conforms to most of the religious and cultural diets observed by Indian people will fix that, for sure.
No word on how much of the menu will be vegan, but we’ll take this. When a major international corporation chooses “less harmful” over “totally and completely harmful and cruel and awful,” we’ll take it. Abolition would be best, but abolition doesn’t sell. What does sell? Fried potatoes. Baby steps won’t help the animals being tortured and killed today, but it will prevent some from being tortured and murdered tomorrow.
Vegansaurus still hates McDonald’s on principle, and of course this move is completely profit-driven. Still, we appreciate them seeing the potential profits in meatless. Congratulations, India; enjoy your chemically delicious meatless menu.
Original story and quotes from Agence France-Presse.
Discussion question: What are your favorite fast vegan eats? »
As much as we love to spend hours chopping vegetables and making sauces and pressure-cooking dried beans and rinsing and soaking and rinsing and soaking and rinsing and boiling and fluffing goddamn quinoa, sometimes a vegan gets tired of making 10 million dishes just to eat one meal.
So what do you eat when you want something fast and RIGHTNOWGIVEITTOME? As I mention, I love a Gardein chickn tender, but even that takes too long sometimes. For faster food, I love:
A massive spoonful of peanut butter;
Carrots and celery, unpeeled and uncut;
Chips and salsa;
Basically anything in Papalote salsa;
Canned chickpeas mashed up with mustard, plain soy yogurt, capers, and salt and pepper;
Still-frozen blueberries (buy ‘em fresh, freeze ’em, eat ‘em year-round);
Tofurky Deli Slices, rolled up and dipped in mustard;
Dr. McDougall’s instant oatmeal, dry, directly from the packet (Maple Brown Sugar flavor is the best)—real talk: I eat this almost every day at work;
Toast with Earth Balance and marmite. (OK fine just marmite too, with a spoon. I love salt.)
What are your favorite, most ridiculous, fastest vegan foods? Share with us, that we might all benefit from each other’s brilliance! Though anyone who says It only takes me 10 minutes to throw together a big healthy salad with fresh veggies and a 30-second vinaigrette is subject to ban. What do you eat when you don’t want to make any effort beyond ripping open some plastic? That’s when truth happens, and that’s what we want to know.
Vegans are people too! And sometimes people are tired and lazy.
[photo by Jennifer via Flickr]
Subway’s New DC Vegan Offerings: The WaPo Has a Review! »
Only people in the DC area are getting to enjoy Subway’s new line of meaty vegan sandwiches. I was wishing I had a teleportation machine a couple weeks ago when I had to pay a dollar extra for some measly squeeze-bag avocado on my salad-on-a-bun at a gas station in Pine Junction, CO. Yes, I’d love some Daiya with that whine.
Lucky for Andrea Sachs, she’s in the area, and she’s got the full low-down on her experience over on the Washington Post’s All We Can Eat blog. My summary: They’re about what you’d expect from Subway. But way better than salad-on-a-bun.
I’ll be in DC in October, so maybe I’ll get to try them myself. Until then, let’s keep lobbying Subway to bring these nationwide! Hot dog!
News flash: Veggies are cheap! »
My cheapness—ahem, frugality—has been well-documented. I’ve even defended veganism’s monetary cost (read: It can be really cheap to be vegan). Now Forbes, the New York Times, and others agree with me: Veggies are cheaper than a fast-food dinner. In your FACE, people who say they can’t afford to be vegan!
The Forbes article cites data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Researchers examined 94 vegetables in the study; Turns out, more than half of them cost less than 50 cents per one-cup serving, and none of them cost more than $2.07 per serving.
People who say they can only afford junk food don’t need to switch to “free-range” chicken, artisanal cheeses, and grass-fed beef. They really just need to eat something besides fries, Doritos, and McNuggets, such as kidney beans (protein!), sweet potatoes (vitamins!), and carrots (fiber!).
Yeah, a lone cup of veggies is obviously not as filling or macronutrient-dense as a pr0n-approved cheeseburger. But throw a few convenient foodstuffs together—frozen rice, some of those frozen peas/carrots/corn/green bean concoctions, a can of chickpeas, and a bottled curry sauce, for example—and BAM! Dinner is served quickly, cheaply, and healthfully.
The flip side? You have to actually do some work yourself. Boo-fuckin’-hoo. Did I mention that the article says frozen veggies are often cheaper and more nutritious than even fresh ones? Get a freezer, a microwave, and a copy of The Garden of Vegan, and learn to cook something already! Your wallet and the animals will thank you.
LYFE Kitchen to open very soon, and here’s the menu! »
LYFE Kitchen (Meave wrote about them earlier this year) is set to open “later this month” (it’s already August 23! When, dammit! When!) at 167 Hamilton Ave in Palo Alto. As a refresher, LYFE kitchen is an experimental healthy fast food restaurant from some former McDonald’s head honchos, Oprah’s chef Art Smith (WHAT’S UP, O!), and vegan chef extraordinaire, Tal Ronnen. Because of Tal’s involvement, there are tons of vegan options on the menu, and they all look damn good. That’s a picture of the vegan corn chowder, I WILL EAT YOU. I THOUGHT all the desserts were supposed to be vegan, but they’re not marked as such, even though that banana run cheesecake sounds like something from Tal’s cookbook?? I dunno ‘bout that!
I got to interview Art Smith earlier this year and he was a very charming Southern gent of adorability and I fell straight in love with him. He told me Moby played his wedding’s after-party (yes, a wedding with an after-party! MARRY ME, ART! I, too, love to party hard!) and the whole thing was vegan (at Moby’s insistence, although Art thought it was a great idea, too!). Man, TO BE RICH AND IN LOVE. Although not to be a bitch but to be a total bitch, I’d probably have Leslie Hall play my after-party. Sorry, Moby! You just can’t work a gem sweater like my girl Leslie!
Anyway, what do you think of the menu? Will you be going to Palo Alto to eat there? I am pretty sure I will because even though the target demographic is soccer moms, I can eat just as much as those bitches! Also, I’d like this idea to succeed, and for the vegan options to sell well, and for LYFE Kitchen to grow bigger than McDonald’s and for us all to eat vegan banana rum cheesecake in a field of dreams! LET’S DO THIS.
Denver’s Garbanzo = Chipotle + Falafel. Be jealous! »
The A-students, stalkers, and private detectives among you may be aware that this Vegansaurus writer has recently left the cushy vegan comforts of the Bay Area for the wild west of Denver. I’m still mourning the loss of Ike’s Place (we barely knew each other!), Souley Vegan, and Millenium, but now at least I’ve found something y’all in New York and San Francisco should envy and covet: Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, a.k.a. the greatest fast food innovation since sesame seed buns.
Remember what life was like before Chipotle saved your road trips? We’ll call those times the Dark Ages, when there was no dependable vegan-friendly option sure to be in any town, any airport, anywhere. Yeah, fantastic local places are the best, but truly viable fast-food might be even more precious since it’s so…everywhere.
Well my friends, those of you who aren’t in Denver, Boulder, or Colorado Springs are currently living in another medieval period, which I will call the Pre-Garbanzo Era. I pity you.
As you can see from the epic photo above, Garbanzo serves up a mighty selection of falafel and accompaniments. The menu works just like Chipotle: They’ve got a bunch of tasty things you can combine however you like into wraps, bowls, salads, and (in this case) pitas. Vegan options include falafel, spiced rice, red cabbage, pickled eggplant, hummus, babaganoush, tabbouleh, and more. You also get your choice of sauces. And there’s soup.
One of my favorite things is this little label they have on every item. Just look for the…bear paw chickpea? Is that what that is?
This is not the best falafel I’ve ever had, but it’s good, and plentiful, and respectful of my dietary choices. The only bad thing is that most of the locations are in strip malls on the outskirts of town. I hope that changes.
Luckily for you non-Coloradans, the chain is just getting big enough to start franchising. According to their website, Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha/Lincoln, Baltimore/Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are all up for grabs right now. All you moneybags should open one in your town.
Garbanzo is going places. Here’s to hoping it’s somewhere near you.
Candle Cafe vegan meals are here! I spotted two kinds at Whole Foods in Berkeley, the mac ‘n’ cheese and ravioli! I bought both, of course, but what I really want is that freaking seitan picatta GIVE IT TO ME. What is with our Northern California Whole Foods buyer? GET BETTER AT PLEASING YOUR CUSTOMERS PLEASE!
Also, Candle Cafe/79, PLEASE release my seitan chimichurri on the West Coast PLEASE. I need that stuff like the baby needs the teet, ya dig? GIVE IT TO ME. PLEASE
Has anyone tried any? Let me know! PLEASE.