Dots Cafe, a restaurant/kitschy little hipster dive on SE 26th and Clinton, is almost as well known for its food as its black velvet paintings and shockingly dim interior. Often raved about is the "Gentle Ben," a traditional reuben that subs a Gardenburger for the meat. Like the Rachel's Reuben at Goose Hollow, the popularity of this vegetarian sandwich put Dots high on my list of places to visit for this blog.
I had a plan. Dots is also famous for their spicy tofu sauce, most commonly employed in the dipping of fries or veggies, or on their vegan falafel sandwich, the Vegan Vavoom. I would omit the cheese, sub this tofu sauce for the Thousand Islands. Just maybe it could result in a great vegan reuben. However, inquiries revealed that the Gardenburger used by Dots is not of the vegan variety (I think egg whites make this the case). Sure, I guess I could have tried to swap the patty out for something else, maybe the marinated tofu that is available as a side on their menu. But truthfully, I'm already having a love affair with a certain sandwich at Dots. This sandwich is vegan already, is juicy and delectable, and comes on grilled dark rye. It's practically a reuben, right?
I present to you, the Vegan Deluxe!
Yes, I am in love with this simple sandwich, which is hummus, enveloping a slice of tomato, sauteed spinach and mushrooms, on a nice dark rye bread. At $6.50, it's one of the cheaper items on the Dots menu, and one of three or four expressedly vegan options.
I like to think of it as a healthier doppelganger to the TRUEBEN; mushrooms for protein, sumptuous hummus instead of cheese or sauce, and hearty, vitamin-rich spinach instead of pickled cabbage. But I realized I definitely needed a second opinion. B. missed the toothsome texture tempeh or tofu might have given it. Granted, he had just polished off the Vegan Vavoom when I entreated him to take a bite. He said the flavor was good, though he did find it a bit watery with a "spinachy" aftertaste.
But I suspect one reason this sandwich scores so high with me is actually because it defies expectation. Hummus, spinach, mushrooms, tomato...The fillings seem sort of like the makings of a messy disaster. But somehow the bread is still nice and crunchy, the spinach is moist but not runny, and I think the slice of tomato lends a firmness that pulls it all together. Dots typically serves herbed cream cheese and a few crudites and pickles as a garnish, but with the Deluxe you get the tofu dipping sauce for dunking your carrot, celery stick and cucumber slice. Truthfully, I haven't been that impressed with the sauce, and I don't know if it would have been a good sub for Thousand Islands after all. It has a sort of chalky tofu taste and isn't really spicy.
I admit, despite being on grilled rye, and an easy vegan option, I can't really argue that this sandwich is a certifiable TRUEBEN. But it is a sandwich worth mentioning. In fact, I love this sandwich so much I submitted it to the neighborhood rag, the Southeast Examiner, for their Favorite Dish column. Inevitably perhaps, my interview with the newspaper regarding the sandwich ended up covering the fact that I'm vegan, obsessed with reubens, have a low carbon foot print, among other things my neighbors never needed to know about me. I haven't seen the blurb yet but I think it hits your doorstep (if you live in SE PDX) early next month.