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The Beer Plant Will Grow On You

11.17.2016 by: Tom Harris
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I’ve always believed that the key to making good vegan food is to respect the ingredients available to you. Trying to contort vegetables into passable meat imitations is pointless and unnecessary—there’s plenty about the plant kingdom to celebrate, and let’s be honest, nobody’s fooled by slices of beet masquerading as “fake bacon.” Let bacon be bacon, and let beets, with their sweet earthy gloriousness, be beets.

So goes my vegan manifesto. The Beer Plant defies this time and again—“butter” made from coconut oil, “cheese” made from cashews, “pulled BBQ” made from spaghetti squash—but they do so with such evident respect for the ingredients they are employing that it doesn’t matter what they call the dishes. The “butter” is still a luxuriant spread that begs to be paired with good sourdough, the “cheese” is still an umami-rich and addictive topping, and so on. The referenced non-vegan ingredient is more a source of inspiration than a blueprint.

This is an easygoing, inviting approach to vegan food, an attitude that extends to The Beer Plant’s warm, convivial atmosphere. Dim incandescent lighting, wood paneling, and an agreeable bustle give the gastropub a distinctly welcoming, neighborhood-y feel. It just feels good to be there.

The elegantly named Leaf & Spear kale salad

It doesn’t hurt that, as I’ve already alluded, the food is spot-on. The Leaf & Spear salad, featuring such hearty ingredients as massaged kale, roasted chickpeas, and cashew-based “cheese,” is about as close to rib-sticking as a fresh salad could be.

A perfectly pickly Ploughman's Plate

The other two items we ordered, the Ploughman’s Plate and the Southern Comfort, were both meze-style selections of dishes. The former was a vegan take on the British classic, pairing bread, “butter,” and “cheese” with a sweet and savory tomato chutney and sharply bright house pickles. The latter took, as one would guess, southern comfort food as its inspiration and featured BBQ spaghetti squash, greens, pinto beans, mac & cheese, and more, and ably conjured up and elevated that homey, rustic style of cuisine.

Refined rustic: the Southern Comfort

The Beer Plant is attempting to do two pretty different things—be a welcoming pub for its West Austin neighborhood, and to serve boldly considered all-vegan fare. That it admirably fulfills both aims is good news indeed.

The Beer Plant Official Website

TAGS : Clarksville/North Lamar , The Beer Plant