UPDATE 1/3/2010: B. and I were back in town briefly and stopped by the Hungry Tiger for dinner. They certainly have upgraded the vegan menu, but we noted that the reuben is still served with Tofurky slices. Maybe they've improved their technique, but I wasn't willing to risk it. We went with the tempeh BLT (yum!), the basket of corn-dogs (yes, they are battered in house and totally worth it) and of course, the squash wontons.
I think I can call this a trueben, though it really is a veganization of a traditional reuben that the Hungry Tiger, Too offers. As you may have heard, The Hungry Tiger, Too, a reincarnation of the divalicious Hungry Tiger that was leveled a year or so ago to make room for condos at 28th and Burnside, has an extensive menu with many vegan options. The menu states that certain items can be made vegan, and denotes those items with a little heart/diamond type symbol. They seem very open to substitutions, and the menu lists a variety of vegan sandwich components including a Boca patty and a portobello mushroom. Maybe I should have taken that to heart, a mushroom or even Boca patty may have improved this sad, dry, vacuous reuben (spelled Ruben on the menu for some reason).
First, I am of course obligated to commend the Hungry Tiger, Too, for being so vegan friendly. And their food is often very good. I had the squash wontons once and they were awesome, and a pretty good deal. Their portions are typically very generous. Like any bar, the food is going to be uneven. Even though it's a bit out of the scope of this blog, I feel compelled to warn you that the polenta fries we had as a starter were very disappointing -- approximately 5 or 6 overfried, greasy, crunchy rectangles resting on a sea of mayonnaise. It made me wish I'd ponied up less and gotten a basket of sweet potato fries instead. The Hungry Tiger has daily drink deals, usually a dollar off something from 7 pm on, which are a good deal, but I had to remind the bartender of it when closing out, and ultimately still got overcharged. All that aside, I have a warm spot in my heart for the Hungry Tiger, Too, and will undoubtedly return. But I will certainly not get the reuben.
B. declared it the worst reuben we've had. I would say it's certainly the worst trueben. But it wasn't a horrible sandwich, and I might choose it over a vegan Rachel's Reuben, and maybe attempt to improve it with extra condiments. When it came out, I was surprised it wasn't tempeh. I'm not sure why I was expecting this, as most of the vegan sandwiches on the menu utilize Tofurkey deli slices and/or store-bought tempeh bacon. I guess I expected to see the tempeh that tops some of their salads. I was actually intrigued and kind of excited to review a trueben that isn't tempeh for a change.
Though the Hungry Tiger does employ vegan cheese in some offerings, this sandwich contained just Thousand Islands, sauerkraut and deli slices. I think the sauce was pretty good, with bits of pickle relish, but I think I was too distracted by the other perplexing aspects of the sandwich to pay attention to it. Cheese might have helped, or more sauce, as the most disappointing thing about the sandwich was how dry it was.
The bread, a marble rye, was grilled to dryness. The deli slices had all the moisture grilled out of them as well, and were sort of crunchy and seared even, which wasn't that bad on its own, but with the dry bread and small amount of sauerkraut, seemed to simulate the texture experience of eating a bunch of bark or twigs.
Though our bellies were full enough at the end, mostly thanks to the large vegan greek salad that we paid extra to sub, the sandwich fillings didn't reach the edges of the bread, so you got a few bites that were just dry bread. The dryness meant it wasn't a messy sandwich, at least, but at a cost. B. actually described it as "begging for moisture." There was a pickle spear.
I think this "Ruben" could be up there with other great vegan reubens in town, and maybe even as renowned as the vegan Club or vegan Mac and Cheese the Hungry Tiger offers. Don't grill the deli slices. Or better yet, replace the deli slices with a portobello mushroom cap or burger (or, god forbid, tempeh). Add more sauce. Add more sauerkraut. Maybe add some fake cheese, though I can't say whether the brand the Hungry Tiger usually uses is any good. When eating out, I will probably always prefer a reuben made with tempeh or mushrooms over one that uses fake meat that you would buy in the deli case at New Seasons, but this could be seriously good pub grub if someone put some extra thought into it. As it stands, I think we have to give this a 1.5 out of 5.
Hungry Tiger, Too
SE 12th and Ash
Vegan Ruben. $8. Sauerkraut, Thousand Islands and Tofurkey deli slices on marble rye. Fries, tots or coleslaw, or side salad or cup of soup for $2.
In other news, Try Vegan Week starts tomorrow! I hope to treat you to frequent posts, perhaps even on topics other than reubens! Shocking! One of those threads will feature B. as he actually TRIES BEING VEGAN FOR A WEEK. That's right, folks, the week is not just about activities like Vegan Prom and primers on vegan shopping at People's. B. eats meat. You have probably noticed he eats cheese, as he usually opts for the original version when we go out to veganize vegetarian reubens around town. I hope that this blog will chronicle this experiment over the next week.
Speaking of Try Vegan Week events, you may wonder why the Vegan Pub Crawl I've mentioned on this blog isn't on the Try Vegan Week schedule of events. To be honest, I'm wondering that, too. When I contacted the organizers about helping put something together, I was invited to take over the happy hour event at the Bye and Bye which was originally scheduled for Friday, with the Prom on Saturday. I put the pub crawl into the Pedalpalooza calendar, to make it a bike event as well and doubly cool. Then, without notice to me, the Vegan Prom got moved to Friday and the Bye and Bye happy hour to Saturday on the Try Vegan Week schedule, and the folks there haven't responded to my e-mails. Ah well, I know they're busy. Anyway, the purpose of this explanation is that I am keeping the pub crawl on Friday night -- I guess it will just be a Pedalpalooza event in honor of Try Vegan Week. Maybe this will be good, it can serve as an alternative to the Prom, or hey, come out and have a few drinks before you get dressed up.
The Vegan Cyclist Pub Crawl will be Friday, June 13th, at 6 pm at the Bye and Bye, a 100% vegan bar at 10th and NE Alberta, though I might start right at 5 somewhere like the Mash Tun, which is higher up on Alberta, and has a few inventive vegan options, though I don't know the low down on all their beers. The itinerary is not set in stone, but we plan to continue to the Hungry Tiger, Too, and probably end at Plan B.
Hope you'll join us for some drinking and tasty vegan pub grub! If you're vegan, encourage someone to try it out for just a week to see how easy and delicious it can be. If you aren't, try it! Why are you reading this blog anyway?