Vegan Options at BayouI last wrote about Bayou on Bay back in 2011. At that time, they offered a rather bland vegan gumbo that sometimes came with okra and sometimes did not, served with a side of non-vegan cornbread. And that was it for us vegans. I later unpublished the post because it was out-of-date and I had no plans to go back, so I figured my review was no longer useful. Recently, however, Bayou announced online that their new menu would be veggie-friendly with more vegan and vegetarian options! And this was enough to make me want to try again.
Last night I had plans for dinner with my husband and his family and I suggested we check out Bayou. I was pleased to see one vegan option on the menu (the vegan jamba) and two additional options that could also be made vegan: the sweet potato sandwich and the veggie cheesesteak sandwich. I noticed that the jamba had corn in it, (which made it a no-go for me due to a corn allergy), so I decided to go with one of the sandwich options. The sweet potato was calling my name and I was eager to try it.
The menu clearly states that the sandwiches come with 2 sides: coleslaw and sweet potato fries. Since the sweet potato fries are cooked in the same fryer as the meat and the coleslaw has dairy in the dressing, I asked our server if she could recommend a vegan side to go with the sandwich. She said they could sub in a vegan salad with a vegan vinaigrette, and that was good enough for me.
I love the atmosphere at Bayou and I think it's a very fun place. I still have fond memories of back-in-the-day when it was Stuart's coffeehouse, and so it makes it even more fun to eat there now. One thing to note is that the few times I have ever been to Bayou, the service has always been great and the staff has always been friendly. Last night was no different, and when I asked about suggesting a vegan side or if she could make sure the bun was vegan, our server didn't hesitate to find out what I needed and she was very nice about it. (And in case you are wondering, she verified the bun is vegan, so no worries you will be served a "vegan" patty in a non-vegan bun, as has been known to happen at Aslan Brewing Company...)
The Good Points
The menu described the sandwich as coming with a crystal aioli, and so I assumed this may have been the mistake. I was curious what kind of condiment or sauce would be added to the sandwich instead of the aioli, and unfortunately, the answer was none. The bread was dry and the sweet potato, while cooked well in terms of being cooked-through, had no added seasoning. The onions were cooked in some kind of vegetable oil, but they had not been seasoned either. My salad, on the other hand, was over-dressed, but luckily the greens themselves were fresh and very good, so I decided to try and spruce up my sandwich by adding some of the over-dressed lettuce leaves to the sandwich. I then added some of one of the hot sauces that happened to be vegan to the sweet potato pieces, which also helped a little.
Overall, while definitely not bad, this $11.00 sandwich was nothing spectacular. While I genuinely appreciate Bayou trying to expand their vegan options, I wish my sandwich had had more flavor and wasn't so dry. (Even just adding some chipotle JustMayo would have done wonders!) The good news is all of my dinner companions enjoyed their non-vegan dishes very much and talked about how the food was well-seasoned and very flavorful. So perhaps it is just a matter of figuring out how to jazz up the vegan-ized options a bit...
My Recommendations and Wishes
My Recommendations and Wishes
I think the reason people sometimes mistakenly think vegans eat bland or boring food is because they are used to relying on meat and dairy-based ingredients for flavor. What they don't realize is that most vegans LOVE rich and flavorful foods just as much as omnivores do, and often create dishes with incredibly complex flavor profiles, but you have to find ways of bringing those flavors out and using well-seasoned ingredients is key. For example, one way to bring out the flavor of root vegetables is by roasting them with a little sherry and olive oil, adding some spices like thyme, salt and pepper. Or you could go in a different direction and throw in some smokey paprika. There are a lot of possibilities! The point is, if cooked well, the sherry and olive oil combo can make the vegetables caramelize, bringing out their natural sugars and thereby causing both the texture and flavors to become rich and buttery. Add some herbs and spices, salt and pepper, and then you've really got something.
Likewise, if this isn't something that interests a restaurant that mainly caters to omnivores, just having some vegan condiments on hand to sub in when they cut out the dairy-based ones would help tremendously!
Anyway... as I have said before, I really really appreciate it when a restaurant tries to expand its vegan options, and I always want to praise that and thank the restaurant for their consideration and their efforts. It really does mean a lot! But at the same time, I do want to be honest about those vegan options and while I appreciate having a vegan choice, I am even happier when my vegan meal is as delicious and enjoyable as the non-vegan meals of my companions. As always, I remain both appreciative of what's out there and optimistic that things will get better and better!