Veggie Castle (II)
132-09 Liberty Avenue
Richmond Hill, NY 11419
Chapter One: Veggie Castle
Once upon a time last month I made a quick trip to New Jersey for my niece’s wedding. (She’s 25, I’m… sigh.) Flew into JFK and thanks to the wonder that is Happy Cow I found a great vegan restaurant only a few minutes north of the airport right off the Van Wyck. (Pronounced WICK not WYKE and if you try to tell me otherwise I’ll punch you in the EYE — pronounced IH.)
Veggie Castle has a Roman numeral II on the sign outside because they once had another Veggie Castle, which got its name because it was located inside an old White Castle, and do you think I can still wear my White Castle jacket that I bought before I was vegan? (On the one hand it’s made of synthetics, on the other is it promoting the eating of animals?)
One thing I forgot about New York is that it’s harder to find a parking spot on any given day than Pasadena on January 1st. But the native New Yorker in me prevailed and I found one out back between a hydrant and a Dumpster and ran around the corner to a Caribbean (food) paradise. Veggie Castle is a take-out place, so I ordered a bunch of things and ate them when I got to my in-laws’ place in Jersey. This had the added advantage of irritating my in-laws, who while not opposed to my veganizing, are under the impression it’s simply another diet like Atkins or Paleo despite repeated attempts to disabuse them of this notion. (My in-laws, no matter what the issue, are not disabusable of any notions whatsoever.)
What did I eat? Well, who says a restaurant review has to tell you what was eaten? I’m breaking new ground here. Mostly because I don’t remember. Because what happened was, as I stood there trying to choose from the amazing collection of items in steam trays before me, the owner, who was so into it that I had sought out his restaurant after finding it on the Internet, threw a bunch of different things into the container so that I could try a vast array of his creations. They were Caribbean items that included things like plantains, yams and fake meats. And they were all amazing.
In addition to the steam table items, I spotted some patties behind the counter. Seeing these immediately took me back to my Brooklyn days when there was only one, that’s right, one, restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and my favorite place to go in the neighborhood was Christie’s Jamaican Patties for “one on coco bread.” (That “one” was beef of course, ugh.) I asked about the patties and was told there were three kinds: fake chicken, fake fish, and some kind of spinachy thing whose name I wish I could remember (and yes, I’m personifying spinach here, so what, do you want another punch in the ih?). I decided to get one fake chicken and one spinachy and they smelled so dang good I broke into them in the car. Not only did they taste as good as they smelled — especially the chicken one — but it was a rental car, which is essentially a napkin wrapped in metal, right? (BTW, I don’t know about you, but I do a lot better with fake meat than fake fish.)
And… and this is not a small and… they carry Vegan Treats straight outta Bethlehem! After seeing constant references to this beloved bakery I of course had to try some. I got four different slices of cake and, here’s the best part, when I got to Jersey nobody wanted to share them! (So what if I ate four pieces of cake over two days, it’s allowed when you leave your home state.) And yes, they were good. Better than the bestest vegan dessert ever? Don’t know that I’d say yes. But I’m looking forward to a re-match, especially if I can get my hands on some of those peanut butter bombs one day.
Chapter Two: The Cinnamon Snail
So that was Friday night. And Saturday was a rehearsal dinner at The Olive Garden which provided me with a perfectly fine plate of vegan pasta. But, Sunday morning, while the others were still asleep, I took my metal napkin up to Red Bank, where parked at the farmers market was…
By the time I got there, about five minutes before their stated 9 a.m. opening, there was already a line! And I’m guessing it wasn’t just vegans lining up at the gates of food truck heaven though I have to admit I didn’t do a survey. This was pretty exciting. I’d read a lot about this place online, and this was before they got permission to start hitting the streets of New York, so the whole thing seemed kind of legendary and — how often can you say this and mean it — it did not dissapoint. The special of the day, which I was told will become a regular menu item this spring, was the Ancho Chili Seitan Burger and it is THE BEST VEGAN THING I HAVE EVER EATEN. And really, I wouldn’t even have a problem taking the word vegan out of that sentence. It destroyed. To the point that after taking a bite in the car I had to go back to the truck to tell them just how incredible it was.
I got some other things to try, too, like their “classic breakfast burrito” and a puff pastry with curried lentils and a few different doughnuts, and while those were all good, the star of the show was clearly the ACSB. (Though the burrito was a pretty good VPM on the flight home Monday, I must say.)
So to all you New Yorkers who have been too lazy to tube it over to Hoboken: go see what the fuss is all about!
And then cry for me that I live 3,000 miles from it.
At the wedding I had a terrific, and I’m not overhyping this, vegetable napoleon. If you’d gotten this at any vegan restaurant, even a pricey one, you’d have been very happy with it. Even better, after my niece told me she’d make sure they’d have something I could eat, she had them put it on the menu card. So hopefully this led some other people to get it instead of the chicken or salmon.