Sunday, November 18, 2007
Veg Out: The Belgian Cafe
Checking out the Belgian Cafe on an early Friday evening is not a bad idea. You'll beat the dinner rush, and there will be many servers flitting about, along with a promising group of vegan selections. The dining room, separate from the dark and gothic-style bar, was bright and open, with garish paintings taking up one wall and an interior that disrupted the Belgian concept. Not that I've been to La Belgique, but I was once quite intimate with one of their own and received the lowdown on the country's culture, if that counts.
The meal was surprisingly inexpensive, even though we went with 3 starters: Vegan Smoked Scallops, Vegan BBQ Chicken Wings, and to be complete in our tastings, the Pomme Frites. The "Scallops" were really pieces of smoked tofu wrapped in fake bacon and vegan caviar, but this dish was difficult to execute. The bacon did not seem particularly invested in securing the tofu, and the entire creation was easily rendered a mess if not carefully forked into. We moved on to the wings and forgave. The sweet-not-too-spicy BBQ sauce covered tender pieces of crusted seitan for the perfect bar snack. I'd order this again in a second, although it didn't come with the celery as described on the menu, just vegan aoli. The frites needed some work, but were tasty enough. As for the beer, there was a decent list of Belgian brews, as well as local varieties. I stuck with the Ephemere Apple and found it very refreshing.
After being pried away from the wings, I tucked into a Vegetarian Reuben sandwich, a feast of hearty seitan, melted swiss, tangy sauerkraut, and Goddess dressing on crusty bread. It was the ideal size for eating, as most sandwiches are too big for my freakishly small hands. It was served with a small salad topped with crunchy slaw.
My gastro-partners went with the Croque Monsieur, a basic toasted ham & cheese on sourdough bread, and the Bruegel burger with bacon and cheddar. You're so not interested. They also offer a vegan Spring Roll with tempeh, a vegan burger, and vegan Meatloaf, to be contended with in the future.
The Belgian Cafe, 21st & Green, 215.235.3500, www.thebelgiancafe.com