Friday, May 22, 2009

Veganization: Nearly Normal's in Corvallis, OR

Though Corvallis is obviously not Portland, it gives me great joy to finally review this reuben, which I have been in pursuit of for at least a year. Orchestrating a successful sampling of course was not that hard -- Nearly Normal's eluded me more than once simply because B. and I typically found ourselves in Corvallis over the weekend and found it difficult to grasp that a place seemingly so appropriate for brunch would be closed on Sundays. Now that we both no longer have strict schedules, we were able to pop in a Thursday morning to try it out. Luckily, Nearly Normal's serves their lunch menu all day, though breakfast stops at 2 pm.

For all its creative menu naming and apparently hippie history, Normal's is not nearly as odd as I was expecting. After ordering at the counter, we sat upstairs in a comfy, well-lit dining room that could have been in any other breakfast establishment. I appreciated that the menu had a little laminated mini menu-guide to let you know what you could eat, or easily modify to order, if you were vegan or gluten-free. This confirmed that the only non-vegan aspect of the tempeh reuben was the cheese. I didn't bother to ask to sub avocado for cheese, as avocado on the menu was $1.95 to add and I noticed a little note posted on the cash register that dictated which substitutions were free -- avocado for cheese was not (though tamari tofu for eggs is, if you ever go in for breakfast, the menu is not explicit about this).

The tempeh reuben at Nearly Normal's is "seasoned tempeh" on a light deli rye with lettuce, tomato, stoneground mustard and kraut. B., who is becoming a bit of a reuben purist, of course was not that happy with the tomato, not to mention the lack of sauce. But he agreed that the bread was good, the tempeh was exceptional, and the kraut was good both in taste and portion size. I agreed on all those three counts, but also found myself not missing the dressing, surprisingly enough. As it was the sandwich was crunchy yet pliable and juicy -- dressing might have made it a bit too messy. The stoneground mustard was pungent and the seasoning which coated the exterior of the tempeh was wonderful. Admittedly, the sandwich was slightly dry. This was assisted by the tomato and lettuce but I think avocado would have made this sandwich a true home run (and probably bumped the rating up a good point). The sandwich came with a copious amount of decent chips, but sadly, no pickle.

Nearly Normal's
109 NW 15th Street, Corvallis, Oregon
Open approximately 8 or 9 am to 8 or 9 pm, except for Sundays (check the website).
Tempeh reuben, no cheese, runs you about $8.

We give it a 3. Though the tempeh was skillfully seasoned, the portions were generous, and the service was friendly and amendable, B. disapproved of the use of mustard instead of dressing, and though it would have be wonderful with avocado to replace the cheese, that undoubtedly would have upped the price quite a bit. I have to admit though, if someone were to ask me to choose between Nearly Normal's tempeh reuben and the one found at nearby Cafe Yumm, I'd be torn. Though Cafe Yumm, with their vegan button on the cash register, yields a better Veganization, Nearly Normal's scores points for the tasty, hefty tempeh portion and kraut. Cafe Yumm does have a delicious, delicious vegan reuben sauce -- if only their tempeh was moister and more flavorful. It's really hard for me to say. You'll have to try them both for yourself!

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