Restaurant Review: Chrissie Hynde’s VegiTerranean

The VegiTerranean
21 Furnace St.
Akron, OH 44308
330-374-5550

When a rock star is involved with a restaurant that doesn’t have guitars on the walls, it’s noteworthy.

Chrissie Hynde is one of the more vocal vegans out there. So when she found herself going back to Ohio to deal with aging relatives, she was a little frustrated by the lack of vegan food. And so, she opened her own restaurant, The VegiTerranean in Akron. No animal products are used in the food, and the emphasis is on organic and sustainable ingredients.  This makes the menu friendly to many who have food allergies or who keep kosher. The restaurant is open all day: coffee and baked goods in the morning, followed by lunch, dinner, and bar service.  J. Scot Jones, another Akron native, is the executive chef.

Looking around, I had the feeling that this was a celebrity restaurant that didn’t want to be a Celebrity Restaurant of Planet Hollywood vintage. Hynde’s name is associated with the place, clearly, and the menu includes “Chrissie” fries and the “Back on the Chain Gang” fake sausage sandwich. But the décor is almost minimalist, mostly black and white and chrome, and few of the black-and-white pictures on the wall were of the Pretenders. Hynde’s name is on the menu and on the door, but this isn’t a Chain Gang Café. It’s a serious restaurant that attracted a serious business crowd for lunch on a recent weekday.

The menu features Italian-style foods and flavorings, using many meat analogues produced by Gardien. It includes several salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas. The emphasis is on presentation; everything arrives with a pretty shape and a nice garnish to remind you that this is no hippie hangout. I had gnocchi with artichoke and creamy cashew sauce ($12.50), and it was outrageous. It was also a good reminder that vegan food is not necessarily low in fat or calories.

The grilled soy-cheese sandwich ($9.00) is a salad on bread. The onion, tomato, arugula, and dulse are topped with an orange substance that tastes a lot like cheddar. It’s good, if not traditional, but it will not impress a picky child. The Chrissie fries ($4.00) have a delightful seasoning and are served with dips of soy ricotta and balsamic ketchup. The ketchup missed the mark not because it’s not like Heinz but because it is too sweet. Were the fries spicier, it might have worked. The soy ricotta, on the other hand, was a lovely treat.

Instead of bread, we were offered bread and butter pickle spears to start. It’s a light, gluten-free way to start lunch, especially if you are a fan of pickles.  If not, skip ahead to the menu and order some hummus ($8.00).

I was delighted with the lunch fare but disappointed by dessert.  I’m no Martha Stewart, but I make a vegan chocolate cake so good that it will surpass any egg and butter concoction, with nothing more exotic than vegetable oil, baking soda, and vinegar for moisture and leavening. (A vegan chocolate cake is also easy to make. Several good recipes can be found online, the best-known of which is the Moosewood Chocolate Cake .) The VegiTerranean chocolate cake with margarine-cream frosting, was a whopping $10.00. Good thing it was plenty big for two. Unfortunately, it had the distinct flavor of soy-based addition that threw off the flavor and that is unnecessary in a good vegan cake.

The VegiTerranean has an extensive bar list with specialty cocktails, beer, and wine. They aren’t all organic, unless you happen to be a chemist, but those items produced sustainably are given special mention and include the much-loved local Great Lakes Brewing Company lineup. Diet coke and other soft drinks are offered for those who are thoroughly unwholesome, although the root beer is from Sprecher, a Wisconsin microproducer of beer and pop alike.

The service was a little less than perfect. It would have been nice if our soup (a rich and flavorful tomato-artichoke bisque with a goodly shot of olive oil, $4.00 for a cup) had arrived before, not with, the main courses. My companion and I discovered that we were underdressed given that businessfolk make up the lunch crowd, which may have contributed to the relative lack of attention we received. Still, that should not matter.

The VegiTerranean has one amazing feature that deserves to be emulated at every restaurant in every nation: the ladies’ room has twice the facilities of the men’s room, if my lunch date is to be believed. A woman as thin as Chrissie Hynde might not know much about great chocolate cakes, but she’s all right.

If you are in Northeast Ohio, a trip to VegiTerranean is a good way to shake up the mix of bar food, red-sauce Italian, and chains in the region’s restaurant choices.  Rumor has it that the next branch of the VegiTerranean will be in New York City. Hey, if vegan food can make it in Akron, it can make it anywhere.




  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    You ought to pitch your vegan chocolate cake to the restaurant.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    And you hit the nail on the head as to why I find so many vegetarian substitute dishes completely lacking – Remember the mid-80s fad of making tofu and soy based products that were supposed to taste like other stuff and, surprise, failed horribly? I do. Tofu egg salad? Are you high?

    There are just some foods that ought not be replicated for a vegetarian market. I still can't drink soy milk. It's not milk. It's bean mash juice, and all the chemical Frankensteinery in the world can't make it taste any less beany. But I give big credit to restaurants that try and succeed more than they fail. Even though I'm an obnoxious omnivore, I would certainly give the vegan alternatives a try, so long as I'm not told I'm eating shineola but it actually tastes like -

    -well, you get the idea.

  • Elaine

    This seems like a good place to ask this — I've always been perplexed at why vegans want to cook and serve meat entree substitutes at all. I mean, why eat fake hot dogs and fake sausage sandwiches? Surely there are vegan chefs out there who are more creative than to spend their time thinking up ways to make vegan versions of traditional foods, and instead invent brand new dishes? Or is it that the eating public only looks for veggie versions of things they know?

    BTW – margarine based frosting sounds more disgusting than just using the butter. Aren't pure trans fats worse for you?

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Or is it that the eating public only looks for veggie versions of things they know?

    The last time I was in Akron, OH was in 1986, and when I ordered chicken at a restaurant, one of my dining companions said: “Oh my sister is a vegetarian, too! She only eats chicken and fish.” Chrissie is a vegan, but her business sense clearly knows the market in Akron and most likely fashions vegan versions of sausage because, well, people there like their meat and, like you said, will try veggie versions of foods they know.

  • Elaine

    Yeah good point. Although I think that sentiment (veggie versions of what they know) is really prevalent everywhere. Anyway, good for her. She saw a need & is trying to fill it. She's a scandalous right-wing capitalist. :-D

  • Arend_Anton

    As a vegetarian, I agree with you. I don't really understand the fake meat products. The only ones that ever succeed in my opinion are the ones that don't try to imitate meat–Trader Joe's makes a fantastic Masala Burger.

    Then again, I was raised as a vegetarian so I might not understand what people who came to vegetarianism later in life want from their products. I tried a meat diet around the age of 20, but I never found much of anything palatable. Now I've reached a point in which my mind cannot justify any meat consumption in our modern society. It seems so unnecessary to cause so much harm to animals, especially in the disrespectful and wasteful fashion that we participate in today, when a meatless diet is actually far healthier and easily accessible. I would even argue that our bodies are not designed to eat meat. Our close relative, the gorilla, are vegetarians and they have even larger incisors than we.

    But not everyone in the world thinks things over like that.

  • cynthiadilworthhelbig

    My Husband took me out to dinner to Chrissie Hynde's restaruant tonight. Our waitress was wonderful and treated us like we were just as special as anyone else in the restuaruant. We did not have a reservation and we were not dressed up like the rest of the people. The matradee was nothing but rude. He sat us in the worst seat of the house but for us was fine because it had a small wall beside it and allowed us to be able to hear each other talk through out the meal. The noise level is very high and for that I was not enjoying the restaruant as much as I wanted to. At one point our waitress came to take our order and the matradee grabbed her arm and took her to another table that was sat long after us, to serve them first. It was BLATENLY obvious. We did enjoy our meals they were delicious. The service from our waitress was wonderful. The rest of the experiece was not worth the final bill.
    On our walk to our car a lady was walking her two dogs and Chrissie ran after her saying she lived above her and wanted to meet her because she loved the dogs. She stood and talked to the lady for a while and my husband and I walked past. The dogs turned to us and were very friendly; I petted them and talked to them and they were very sweet. The lady acted like there was absolutely no one there and so did Chrissie. WOW so I wasn't dripping of diamonds or dressed like I was going to the Kennedy Center (which I do), a gesture of hello would of been nice. We were carrying a container from her restaurant that was evident that we just left HER establishment.
    The moral of this story if you want unbelievable service and attention be sure to dress like you are one of the rich and famous to eat at the vegi Terranean.

  • cynthiadilworthhelbig

    My Husband took me out to dinner to Chrissie Hynde's restaruant tonight. Our waitress was wonderful and treated us like we were just as special as anyone else in the restuaruant. We did not have a reservation and we were not dressed up like the rest of the people. The matradee was nothing but rude. He sat us in the worst seat of the house but for us was fine because it had a small wall beside it and allowed us to be able to hear each other talk through out the meal. The noise level is very high and for that I was not enjoying the restaruant as much as I wanted to. At one point our waitress came to take our order and the matradee grabbed her arm and took her to another table that was sat long after us, to serve them first. It was BLATENLY obvious. We did enjoy our meals they were delicious. The service from our waitress was wonderful. The rest of the experiece was not worth the final bill.
    On our walk to our car a lady was walking her two dogs and Chrissie ran after her saying she lived above her and wanted to meet her because she loved the dogs. She stood and talked to the lady for a while and my husband and I walked past. The dogs turned to us and were very friendly; I petted them and talked to them and they were very sweet. The lady acted like there was absolutely no one there and so did Chrissie. WOW so I wasn't dripping of diamonds or dressed like I was going to the Kennedy Center (which I do), a gesture of hello would of been nice. We were carrying a container from her restaurant that was evident that we just left HER establishment.
    The moral of this story if you want unbelievable service and attention be sure to dress like you are one of the rich and famous to eat at the vegi Terranean.

  • cynthiadilworthhelbig

    My Husband took me out to dinner to Chrissie Hynde's restaruant tonight. Our waitress was wonderful and treated us like we were just as special as anyone else in the restuaruant. We did not have a reservation and we were not dressed up like the rest of the people. The matradee was nothing but rude. He sat us in the worst seat of the house but for us was fine because it had a small wall beside it and allowed us to be able to hear each other talk through out the meal. The noise level is very high and for that I was not enjoying the restaruant as much as I wanted to. At one point our waitress came to take our order and the matradee grabbed her arm and took her to another table that was sat long after us, to serve them first. It was BLATENLY obvious. We did enjoy our meals they were delicious. The service from our waitress was wonderful. The rest of the experiece was not worth the final bill.
    On our walk to our car a lady was walking her two dogs and Chrissie ran after her saying she lived above her and wanted to meet her because she loved the dogs. She stood and talked to the lady for a while and my husband and I walked past. The dogs turned to us and were very friendly; I petted them and talked to them and they were very sweet. The lady acted like there was absolutely no one there and so did Chrissie. WOW so I wasn't dripping of diamonds or dressed like I was going to the Kennedy Center (which I do), a gesture of hello would of been nice. We were carrying a container from her restaurant that was evident that we just left HER establishment.
    The moral of this story if you want unbelievable service and attention be sure to dress like you are one of the rich and famous to eat at the vegi Terranean.

  • MikaelS

    Some vegan recipes are actually quite tasty and deserve all the praise, but I couldn't be a vegan all my life. Sometimes I just crave for some meat and for a nice juicy pizza.
    __________________________________________
    Bar Equipment

  • http://www.ihop-coupons.org Printable IHOP Coupons

    Nice article and explained briefly. I liked the review. Thanks for your post.