Monday, August 23, 2010
Veg Out West: Local 44's Updated Menu
Drizzly weather is a prime opportunity for things. 1) Indian Food 2) Pub Grub
West Philly has both in number. We chose the latter and rode the trolley to Local 44, one of the smarter choices a person can make in a college-run part of town. The beer selection is adult, the menu is tenfold more creative than most wing and shot bars, and the crowd is relaxed and behaved. The playfulness comes out in the appetizers on the recently updated menu.
I spot the vegan symbol next to the Queso Dip and Chips and I have to inquire. It turns out the spicy spread is made with soy milk and nutritional yeast, which means we absolutely have to try it. It is thick and gooey and every bit as zesty as a serious queso should be. I always steer clear from bowls of cheese, and this is the first queso dip that gets my stamp of approval, because it's dairy-free. C'mon, there's nooch in it. It's gotta be worthwhile. I especially like the green onions and chili oil.
The vegan Seared Eggplant is on the oilier side and by far the greasiest item that we ordered. If I had known, I would have gotten the arugula salad with raw corn vinaigrette, another vegan item that sounded like a good way to balance out the fried food we were excited about digging into. Still, those crispy shallots on top were better than any potato chip I've had, and I like the risk here. Not many places will dare to put sizable hunks of eggplant on a plate with some peppers and capers and mark it at $10. Certainly not most bars. Given some restraint with the oil, this would be a nice alternative to the bar sandwich route.
And finally one more vegan dish that we came for: the Pastrami Spiced Seitan Reuben.
I have had tempeh reubens before and they are always good. Now before you put your walls up, I remind you again that seitan is an ancient food and is certainly not trying to convince anyone that it is meat. It is already its own delicious and time-honored thing.
But this is one hell of a sandwich. Sauerkraut. Secret sauce. Rye. A pile of fries. Oh, and that spiced seitan, sliced out deli-style. Briny, peppery, diner-like. It was significant enough for two and yes, we did introduce those fries to some queso dip. Like two old men who discovered each other and wondered why they were not friends before.
The battered zucchini and veggie burger are also vegan. That's a good deal of the menu to get down with. And starting September 4, Local 44 will introduce a vegan-heavy brunch. We need no convincing.
44th and Spruce Streets
215-222-BEER | www.local44beerbar.com