Friday, January 2, 2009

With just a press of the 'Vegan' button: Tempeh Reuben at Cafe Yumm

Always wanted to open a restaurant franchise? If you read this blog, and aren't too squeamish about cheese and meat, Cafe Yumm might be your opportunity. We discovered this place after attempting, yet again, to get the tempeh reuben at Nearly Normal's in Corvallis, post-vegan egg nog party with our friend ROB. ROB recalled a new cafe that had just opened and had lots of vegan options (ROB is not vegan, but perhaps finds it interesting--the vegan nog was great!). We wandered over. It was 10 am on Christmas Eve and I had pretty much given up on reubens for this trip. In fact, when ROB spotted it on the menu I thought he was pulling my leg. But there it was. Turkey or tempeh reuben. With red onion, tomato, house reuben sauce, swiss cheese and kraut on rye and a side of corn chips. $6.95.

The owner was very friendly and pressed various samples on us. Cafe Yumm's specialties are their rice bowls, wholesome concoctions of your choice of beans, rice and various veggies and condiments, topped with a trade marked Yumm sauce. There were a few varieties of sauce, all vegan and gluten free. The Original sauce reminded me very much of the lemon tahini dressing at the Paradox, unctuous and a little garlicky.

Obviously I had my sights set on the sandwich, though. When I inquired about vegan options, the owner informed me that they don't use mayonaise, only Veganaise, so the reuben sauce was already good. They even have a vegan button on the cash register to make sure no order gets screwed up. I believe a function of the vegan button is also that it automatically converts cheese to avocado. Magical!

A chain where a true vegan meal is not only assured but practically encouraged (there was even a vegan ginger spice cookie for dessert), options are healthy and plentiful, and substitutions earn neither resentment or extra charges. Could it get any better?

B. and I both enjoyed this sandwich quite a bit. The red onion and tomato were a nice touch, and the fact that they had an already vegan reuben sauce really gives this review a boost. The bread was light and crispy and not too oily. The portions were generous (avocado in place of cheese, always great!). The corn chips were freshly fried. The only detraction from this sandwich, I am sad to report, is that the tempeh (they use Surata brand) was surprisingly bland. It had a dark crispy exterior, which leads me to believe it was grilled or baked beforehand, but it really would have benefited from a good marinating. The slab of tempeh was ample, and the other garnishes were reasonable in proportion, so unfortunately the blandness really stood out for me. Maybe they avoid seasoning the tempeh too much as they also serve it on skewers with Yumm sauce--the sauce is pretty flavorful and intense and might make any additional flavoring unnecessary. We give the sandwich a 3.5, mostly a reflection of the vegan-friendliness of this establishment.

We're also excited to report that Cafe Yumm will soon open a location in Portland, near PSU in downtown (a location in Beaverton is already confirmed). This franchise, which started in Eugene and seems to be catching on across the state, offers a variety of healthy vegan meals--I for one would be happy to return frequently, and though I don't usually eat at franchises, the idea of a reliable, familiar and nourishing vegan meal being available in various cities in Oregon appeals to me very much.

Cafe Yumm
2001 NW Monroe Avenue, #109
Corvallis, OR 97330
Restaurant: 757-YUMM (9866)
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-8pm
(With new locations opening soon in Beaverton, and supposedly also near PSU in downtown Portland.)

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