Hi. Welcome to the future. Brooklyn, NY 2015.
And I’m telling you it’s great here. We have Upton’s Naturals Vegan Bacon at almost every other market. You can get soy milk in almost every coffee shop. Everywhere you look in Williamsburg to Redhook – someone’s either walking around with a pampered dog or wearing a Vaute Couture coat. Even the mayor is trying to save carriage horses. I’m telling you this place is great! But it almost wasn’t. See just a few months ago, two pretty excellent ethical vegans – Michael Suchman and Ethan Ciment were living in Manhattan and they almost didn’t move here. Don’t worry they did and everything worked out… and today they’re our guest bloggers! Now you might recognize them from their contributions to Our Hen House rather than as our new neighbors or maybe you just know as the Vegan Mos!
Michael and Ethan started their absolutely awesome blog Vegan Mos as a way to encourage people to not only expand their circles of compassion by understanding where issues concerning gay rights and animal advocacy intersect but to also share their love of delicious food. Michael is a certified Vegan Life Coach and Educator through Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan Academy – who also happens to be working on his first book! Today he’s taking us with him and Ethan on an excellent adventure way from icy sidewalks and snow shovels to a vegetarian restaurant surrounded by swaying tropical trees in West Palm Beach, Florida named Darbster.
From the road, Darbster is an unassuming building, but when you go around back to the entrance you find yourself in a tropical paradise. Inside the restaurant is a bar and small dining room. The dining room opens onto a large covered patio that more than doubles its seating capacity. But that is not all. Just off to the side of the patio are 3 garden tables nestled under some banana palms so that when you are seated there you truly feel like you are in an exotic location, not off the side of a road in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The first time we went to Darbster, Ethan was newly vegan and I was still an omnivore. Ethan loved it, but I was not thrilled. However, upon our return four years later, both of us now vegan, it was wonderful. I am sure the food was just as good as it was on our first visit, but I was too stubborn then to admit it. In fact, we enjoyed it so much for lunch, we returned that same night for dinner.
For lunch, we both started with a Cesar salad topped with a palm cake. The salad was a huge portion of lettuce tossed with a roasted garlic aioli dressing. They use the perfect amount of dressing on the salad – not to little that you cannot taste it, and not so much as to drown the lettuce. The dressing itself is creamy and light. Using roasted garlic in lieu of fresh raw garlic keeps it from being too strong a flavor. The palm cake is Darbster’s take on a crab cake, using hearts of palm in place of crab. They are delicately seasoned and fried to a nice deep brown. The cakes and soft and dense on the inside and crispy on the outside . Although I would have preferred larger chunks of hearts of palm rather than the fine dice used, that taste great thanks to the red bell pepper, celery salt and paprika. They truly capture the essence of a crab cake.
The salads are large enough to be a meal on their own, especially when topped with a palm cake, but as we did not know this, we also ordered sandwiches. I had the BLT and Ethan ordered the Black & Bleu Burger. Both were served with a cup of diced fresh fruit and a generous helping of home fries.
The BLT contains tempeh bacon, romaine lettuce, sliced plum tomatoes, red onion, avocado and vegainaise. This is all piled onto toasted rye bread. The tempeh is sweet and slightly smoky. The sandwich is a great mix of textures from the crisp bread to the firm tempeh to the soft tomatoes. Often tempeh bacon can be too acrid, but at Darbster they know of to season it to give just a enough smoke to let you know it is there, but not so much as to overpower it. The burger is a patty made from blackened brown rice and lentils. It is loaded on a toasted vegan challah bun with tempeh bacon, caramelized onions, tofu bleu cheese, veganzise and balsamic ketchup. Both sandwiches were outstanding and filling.
Upon our return to Darbster for dinner that night we were seated in the garden. As we were being seated we noticed that at least 25% of the parties having dinner had their canine companions with them. The couple seated 2 tables away form us had their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with them which of course made us miss our boys.
To start the meal, Ethan had the fish tacos and I chose the flatbread of the day, Buffalo chicken. The tacos are made with Gardein fishless filets that are topped with a slaw of red cabbage, cilantro, carrots, and red peppers. This is the topped with some Daiya cheddar style shreds and salsa. The slaw is bright and fresh which balances the richness of the filets.
The flatbread was covered with diced Gardein chicken that had been tossed in a buffalo sauce, drizzled with ranch dressing, sprinkled with a mix of Daiya cheddar and mozzarella style shreds, baked and then topped with avocado and scallions. It is good, but the bread itself was a little tough. The cool creaminess of the avocado and ranch dressing nicely balanced the heat from the buffalo sauce.
For my main course I ordered the parmigiana. This is what I had the first time we came to Darbster and I wanted to give it another chance. I am very glad I did. This is a panko crusted Gardein cutlet topped with a light tomato sauce and Daiya mozzarella. The cutlet is served over a huge portion of linguine and comes with a piece of garlic bread that is brushed with basil oil. The dish is so large that I couldn’t finish it all.
Ethan had the bacon and cheese meatloaf for his main course. It comes with smashed potatoes, galic haricots verts, crispy leeks and a vegetable demi-glace gravy. Unfortunately they had run out of smashed potatoes so Ethan substituted the mac and cheese for them. The meatloaf is very rich and hearty, but the Daiya cheddar used in it was a little too much. The haricots were perfectly cooked to be al dente. The mac and cheese is small crock of creamy delicious goodness.
We were too full to have dessert right away so we took it to go. Ethan got the carrot cake and I got the brownie. The carrot cake contains walnuts, banana, nutmeg and cloves and is frosted with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. The cake is moist and nicely spiced. The frosting balances the flavors in the cake perfectly. The brownie is good and has a rich chocolately flavor. However, I prefer my brownies more fudgy and this is more cakey. If I were told this was chocolate cake, it would have been great.
Darbster is a great place to eat if you find yourself in the Palm Beach area. But not only is the food great, 100% of the profits from Darbster go to the Darbster Foundation. The foundation assists in animla rights efforts through eduation, charitable contributions and direct sponship of animals. Also, on Sundays if you dine with your dog between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM, you get 20% off the price of your entrée.
Note: Darbster has two locations, one in West Palm Beach and one in Boca Raton. We have not been to the Boca lacation… yet.
Darbster West Palm
8020 South Dixie Hwy
West Palm Beach, Florida 33405