Veggie grub tastes like meat

Leave it to a California-based gastropub to convert a slice of its menu to veggie, and not with those California staples of salad, sprouts and squash. This menu mirrors some of the meaty bar food found on the rest of the menu at the Yard House, a beer-centric bistro wedged trackside at Gulfstream Village in Hallandale Beach.

On the plate: a soy protein called Gardein instead of the real stuff.

For those who don’t eat meat but hunger for the flavor of buffalo wings, orange chicken or burger sliders, the “sub-vegetarian’’ menu at the Yard House is worth a try. The recipes are the same, except for the central ingredients: beef and bird.

We tested the faux-meat menu on two rabid carnivores, and the verdict is in: Yes on some things, no on others.

The beef sliders were a hit, four mini-burgers with a real burger-y appearance in the takeout box. OK, it’s not beef, so get over that. But if you like the idea of the same toppings, look and even mouth-feel but don’t like eating flesh, it’s an alternative. Same for the Thai chicken noodles, a zesty mélange of egg noodles, peanut vinaigrette and veggie-cilantro slaw, all topped with strips of soy chicken.

The veggie boneless wings – who knew veggies had bones? – went fast. They looked like the real thing, and, except for a slightly rubbery bite, even tasted like the real thing, with their crispy coating slathered in fiery hot sauce. To put out the tonsil flames, the order came with celery sticks and ranch dressing.

Curiously, the vegetarian menu has a note that some of the dishes may be prepared with “animal products.” That’s a bit disingenuous and misleading, especially the veggie mac and cheese, which comes with Applewood bacon. Ahem: If it’s real meat, it doesn’t belong on the vegetarian menu, warning or not.

Other choices on the veggie list include barbecue “chicken” pizza, orange peel “chicken,’’ fried “chicken” strips and an enchilada stack filled with peppers, garlic cream, pinto beans and jack.

Back to the veggie basics, the carnivores gave the veggie “beef” burger a thumbs up and a veggie “chicken” and avocado sandwich a thumbs down. The burger, which looked a bit like a slab of liver, took on the flavor of the toppings, like tofu tends to do. But the chicken was bland and soggy. All the sandwiches on the veggie menu come with the same savory shoe-string fries as the real-meat plates.

The handsome pub, big-screen TVs and horse paddock location made us second-guess whether we should be taking out the food. But we had tired feet and enough of the holiday crowds. Plus, we had hungry relatives waiting at home. So the staff packed up our faux-meat meals in easy-to-reheat cardboard boxes and stacked everything in a shopping bag filled with plenty of plastic utensils. And we were off!

Jeff Kleinman

If you go

Place: Yard House.

Address: 601 Silks Run, Gulfstream Village, Hallandale Beach.

Price range: Vegetarian menu $9.85-$16.95.

Contact: 954-454-9950.

Hours: 11-12:30 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11-1:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday.


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