Sunday, May 4, 2008
Veganization: Rachel's Reuben at the Goose Hollow Inn
Perhaps this should be obvious: "the Goose," as this tavern in SW Portland, nestled unassumingly behind PGE Park and the Goose Hollow Max stop, is affectionately referred to, is not really the best place to go if you are vegan and hungry. Go instead for friendly service, a comfy, warm atmosphere with charming wooden table-tops etched with numerous initials, reasonably priced beer on draught, and the significance of the place in local history.
Even though I knew it was a long shot, I wanted to try to veganize the reuben here not just because it's a nice place to hang out for the aforementioned reasons, but because they already have a vegetarian reuben, the "Rachel's Reuben" on the menu. The Rachel's Reuben is sauteed veggies, mostly mushrooms, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Bud's own Reuben sauce, which is so highly prized you can get it with any sandwich as an extra, on a dark rye bread. This is typically served with carrot sticks, potato salad and a pickle, as well as local Beaver brand yellow mustard and horseradish.
Our middle-aged waitress proudly informed me that the Reuben sauce was indeed concocted using real mayonnaise -- which was no surprise. I had expected to rely on the mustard and horseradish that I knew would be brought to the table when my order arrived. I ordered the Rachel's Reuben, no cheese, no sauce, and requested to replace the potato salad with extra carrot sticks, as I figured the salad couldn't possibly be vegan. To her credit, the waitress took my substitutions warmly without batting an eye, though ultimately there was a miscommunication and I was brought simply extra carrots, and still potato salad. But I still feel grateful that they were so willing to substitute and there was no upcharge for the extra carrot sticks. By the way, there is something superb about those carrot sticks -- inexplicably juicy jullienned carrots, and they were very generous with them. If you do order this, just be very clear you want no potato salad at all. They were more than willing to accommodate.
The Goose was packed on this sunny Sunday afternoon. They have fairly ample deck seating as well as numerous booths and tables inside. I was hoping to get deck seating so I could get some nicely lit pictures, but it wasn't in the cards. The food took awhile, which I think isn't standard, but a risk you take with any place that serves toasted or grilled sandwiches. The sandwiches, and I think their pizzas, too, are run through a big version of one of those conveyor belt toaster ovens you may have seen in your college cafeteria. B. ordered the regular Rachel's Reuben, no substitutions or omissions. He probably anticipated the pattern that seems to be forming after all, that veganizing a vegetarian reuben rarely results in something better, at least flavor and composition wise, than what the cook originally intended. Though I should note that, if it seemed relevant, he would have rated the cheesy, saucy, non-vegan reuben lower than vegan reubens we've tried.
It wasn't that the sandwich was bad, or a big let down, it just wasn't really worth the effort. I added mustard and horseradish, but I'm not sure it made any improvement. A fancier mustard, like dijion or stone-ground, would have helped. My sandwich was warm and toasty and easy to eat. It was probably one of the healthier reubens I've had, simply because it was essentially a sauerkraut and veggie sandwich on rye. (B. dispatched the potato salad I had tried to leave off). The sauteed mixture consisted of green onions, mushrooms and green pepper. I wasn't sure how I felt about such a variety of veggies. The sandwich also included a slice of tomato, thinly sliced red onion and green lettuce leaf. The sauerkraut was fine, not very memorable. There was a strange off-taste, maybe the kind of thing you only notice when a sandwich has been stripped of its more flavorful components. I felt it may have been the toaster, like maybe the old school contraption is gas-flame and some of that aroma is imparted to the bread.
Somewhat sadly, I give this sandwich a 2 out of 5. Though I'll say again, the service was great and as a vegan who frequently finds herself trying to tweak menu items, I really appreciate places that let you switch things up or substitute items without giving you attitude or charging you extra (or both). I highly recommend the Goose if you are looking for a cozy, relaxed place to hole up with a pint. But if you're vegan, I wouldn't go for the sandwiches. Though considering the kindness of the ladies there, I would feel no trepidation trying to veganize anything on the menu -- maybe one of their pizzas, without cheese? And according to the menu on their website, they do have one item that is vegan as is -- a sort of vegan chili called "cowboy beans" with salsa and soy protein.
Bud Clark's Goose Hollow Inn Pub
1927 SW Jefferson
Rachel's Reuben, omit the cheese and Reuben sauce, and potato salad side (no fries or chips here, sorry). Also comes with carrot sticks and pickle spear. Waitress that reminds you of your favorite aunt will bring you extra carrot sticks upon request and apologize when your food takes awhile. $7.50.