The first ever Vegan Restaurant Week in the United States came to none other than—you guessed it—Baltimore City. You may recall a post from earlier in the summer, when we reported on the exploding vegan scene in Baltimore, MD. That post is possibly the best performing piece we’ve published on Crunchy Vegan to-date! No doubt, there is immense interest in vegan happenings in and around Baltimore.
Surely that appetite was satiated this past week, when 40 restaurants from across Baltimore participated in the very first Baltimore Vegan Restaurant Week. Vegan Restaurant Week, which was planned by a partnership between Land of Kush and Golden West Cafe, intended “to increase the awareness, benefits and accessibility of a plant-based diet through a fun, innovative and community-based experience across multiple neighborhoods.”
Participating restaurants included the city’s three all-vegan establishments, most of the vegetarian establishments, and even a few omnivorous establishments which typically wouldn’t even cross a vegan’s radar.
From the perspective of a consumer, the week was an unbelievable success. There was a bountiful supply of delightful vegan dishes at every turn. My stomach may have benefited a bit too much even (with my wallet suffering for it!). We hope that the restaurants saw value enough to organize this event annually (or even twice a year!).
The Crunchy Vegan Itinerary
So, how did the Crunchy Vegan Gal fare? A bit too well, I think. In hindsight, I probably went a bit overboard. I managed to hit 10 restaurants (well, 11 if you count multiple trips to Golden West!!). The food was all spectacular, and I can’t wait to go back to some of the places I was trying for the first time—particularly the restaurants which typically don’t offer vegan dishes. I hope to see vegan items on their menus more regularly.
No. 1 // Paulie Gee’s Vegan Takeover
Eats: Black Mamba pizza with house-made vegan sausage
Drinks: Apparently pickleback shots are a thing!? Who knew!?….everyone except me, it seems…
Friday was the start of it all, and what better way to commence a week of eating amazing vegan food than at Paulie Gee’s Vegan Takeover? Paulie Gee’s (who always has a reliably delicious variety of vegan pizzas) was serving only 100% vegan* food all Friday. That’s right: the entire menu was entirely vegan! The sound of zucchini sausage was intriguing to me, so I ordered it on my Black Mamba pizza. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but was nevertheless tasty! Paulie Gee’s definitely doesn’t disappoint!
(*all vegan with the exception of hot honey as an option.)
No. 2 // Stall 11
Eats: Goodies from the Little Fig Bake Shop: a Scone and a Cinnamon Doughnut
Drinks: The Raven Smoothie
After my Saturday morning routine Anti-gravity Fitness class at the Movement Lab, I popped in to Stall 11 with my mom and brother for a quick breakfast. The Raven Smoothie is possibly my favorite of theirs. I was also super excited to see vegan baked goods from Little Fig Bake Shop! We sampled a blueberry scone and a cinnamon doughnut—the doughnut was perfectly doughy (makes me think of funnel cake!) and sweet!
No. 3 // Golden West Cafe
Eats: Buffalo Tofu, Mexican Street Corn, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Taco
For me, Golden West Cafe can do no wrong. While the communication between their staff (and thus their knowledge of what’s going on) is sometimes…well…non-existent (sorry, GW, I just have to say it!), their food always, always hits the spot. Quite possibly my favorite restaurant in the city for the variety it offers (of course, it helps that I live 50 steps from their front door…). This past week was no exception. Their buffalo tofu bites (which are finally a part of their everyday menu) are so addicting, and the tacos blew me away! They were great! Plus, I could eat that street corn all day.
No. 4 // Sweet Side Cafe
Eats: Soft Sorbet and Lemon Macaron
Try and try as I might, I never seem to make it to SweetSide when they have their specialty coconut milk soft serve! I wish they had it all the time—actually, it’s probably best they don’t because I’d be there 24/7. Alas, I missed it again this past week, but got to enjoy their soft sorbet instead. I’ve also apparently never had a macaron before, because my mind was nearly blown by the delight of the lemon macaron!
Monday *BEST MEALS OF THE WEEK*
No. 5 // The GruB Factory
Eats: Bacon Cheeseburger
Sinfully delicious. The GruB Factory has a way with food. It’s always so fulfilling, especially for my junk food tendencies. On Monday, they were serving a bacon cheeseburger with what tasted like the Beyond Burger. Cooked to absolute perfection.
No. 6 // Flight American Fusion
Eats: Crab Balls, Aunt Jackie’s Ribs
Drinks: Baltimore Harbor Cocktail
This was my favorite meal of the week! Last month, Flight American Fusion won the Vegan Crabcake Cookoff hosted by Thrive Baltimore. I had been craving their crab balls ever since! After hearing they were almost out, I was so relieved when the waitress came back to tell us they could prepare some more. We promptly ordered two plates! The ribs were also really fantastic. I can’t wait to come back!
No. 7 // Red Emma’s
Eats: Falafel Salad
I invited a bunch of my coworkers to lunch at Red Emma’s on Tuesday, but they were all crunching under deadlines. That turned out to be a good thing! I placed an order online for pickup and arrived to find it closed for a private event! Oh no! Fortunately, the staff were so accommodating and still made my order despite being packed to the brim with guests of the private event. The falafel salad is refreshing; it was the right balance of fresh veggies and the warm falafel, and their sauce was delicious!
No. 8 // The Outpost American Tavern
Eats: Buffalo mushrooms, smoked tofu, cheese plate
Drinks: Grab bag craft beer
I thoroughly enjoyed trying out the Outpost American Tavern. Their buffalo mushrooms were mouth watering! A bit heavy on the sauce, which made the dish seem soupy, but the mushrooms themselves had a great crispy texture. I would love to eat these every day! The smoked tofu was alright, nothing over the top. Now, the cheese plate, that was a pleasant surprise! “How daring for a non-veg restaurant to try a cheese plate!” I thought. It was a smart move. Three types of cheese with nuts and dried fruit, all were scrumptious!
No. 9 // Land of Kush (Chilis on Wheels Baltimore fundraiser)
Eats: Curry chicken with rice/veggie mix and yams (with a special sorbet treat from Micha Sorbet!)
Meal 9 came around and I wasn’t feeling hopeful that I could make it through the week without exploding. But I was determined to try. I headed to Land of Kush for a quick lunch break because they were fundraising for Chilis on Wheels Baltimore, a local extension of the New York-based organization that feeds vegan chili to the homeless. At Land of Kush, I ordered their curry chicken with a side of yams and rice with veggies. As if I had any more room to fit more food, I then proceeded to chow down on some amazingly smooth and sweet sorbet from Micha Sorbet! If I were worried about regret before the meal, that was all forgotten when this delicious food filled my stomach!
No. 10 // Encantada
Eats: Hush puppies, Nashville Cauliflower, Grilled Wild Mushroom
Drinks: Cheshire Cat cocktail
The final meal of the week: Encantada with my #bmoreveganfam! Encantada is like the cherry on top of the already loaded sundae. Amazing, artfully-plated food that can be thoroughly enjoyed in their whimsical space. Their Nashville cauliflower is one of my favorite dishes of all time, and the grilled wild mushroom (which I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly excited about based on the name and description) was incredible! Encantada really knows how to prepare delicious and sophisticated vegan dishes!
Vegan Soul Fest
To wrap up the entire week, I enjoyed an early afternoon walk around Vegan SoulFest. I was happy to try (for the first time) NuVegan Cafe. I ordered a crabcake sandwich with mac and cheese. It was scary how much it tasted like real crab to me. In fact, I had to stop eating it on the sandwich and mix it with the mac and cheese to mentally get over the fact that it tasted like crab! Not a bad thing if you used to be a fan of seafood! My friend ordered their chicken sandwich, which was also really delicious (actually, I was jealous!)!
It has taken me two whole days to recover from this week’s worth of feasting. Do I regret any of it? Not in the least! Well, actually, I regret not making it to more places. But I was so thrilled to try all the vegan specials I could and I hope that the week was successful in its goal of promoting veganism. The media coverage was impressive! And the number of people—family members, coworkers, etc.—who came to me to tell me about it (hah, cute! As if I wasn’t tuned into the local vegan scene enough to know already!!) demonstrated to me that the word was getting out beyond just the vegan community. I personally know a few friends who participated despite not being vegan, and I’m hopeful that there were many others.
If you want to see what others were eating and doing, be sure to check out the hashtag #BaltimoreVeganRestaurantWeek on Instagram.
Did you make it to any restaurants? I’d love to hear about your favorites!