Downtown Lansing is always an interesting place to visit. It is comforting how, in a way, it feels unchanged since I roamed its environs looking for sewer drain covers and other extremely artistic things to photograph as an LCC student over 15 years ago.
While the general vibe has not changed much, the neighborhood is kept fresh by the influx of new, small businesses that periodically revitalize the area with something new.
I would not call myself an aspiring vegetarian or vegan, but you could say that I aspire to that aspiration. Without fully digressing, I know that eating way less to zero meat is most likely an inevitability for humankind — never mind all the positive impacts if we all started now. Thus, the brand-new Veg Head, a fully vegan, full-service restaurant, intrigued me with its forward-thinking and courageousness in a landscape with a steady stream of new barbecue joints.
The menu offers many familiar ns with a plant-based twist — twists that meet the Midwest palette and sensibilities in the middle. Tacos, mac and cheese, burgers and “Chikn” tenders are on offer alongside the more adventurous Tofu Salmon and Spicy Cauliflower Bowl. I just checked their Facebook as I wrote this, and they’re now open for dinner and offering a hearty Seitan Steak. That’s just wheat gluten (pronounced “say-tan”), by the way, not the vegan Angel of Darkness. It comes served with mashed potatoes and asparagus.
I wanted a punch-in-the-face flavor for my to-go lunch, so I chose the Nashville Tofu Sandwich. I was then confronted with the monumental decision between a choice of side: fries or a side salad. I love a salad, but I will say it’s easy to go for the fries when you’re already being so virtuous by not eating animal products.
A hearty slab of extra firm, dare I say meaty, tofu is slathered in their Nashville hot sauce, which I was happy to find wasn’t as spicy as I initially suspected from its infamous, poultry-based namesake. The tomatoey sauce was smokey, sweet with brown sugar and complex with apple cider vinegar and a vegan, Worcestershire-style sauce. Balancing it out was the delicious, also house-made ranch. It’s creamy and bursting with fresh dill. Adding texture and the always-necessary acid were perfectly thick ridge-cut pickle chips.
The fries were, and I mean this in the best way, reminiscent of the best fast-food fries: shoestring-style, light, crispy and salty. I got to select two sauces with my order and chose to echo what was on my sandwich, opting for sides of ranch and hot sauce, which made for excellent dipping companions.
When cutting the richness of animal fat from the menu, there’s much to be made up for in flavor. Veg Head rises admirably to the task with their scratch-made condiments and choice of quality ingredients, making it a pleasure to take a fresh look at old favorites.
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