By Jaime Lutz
Published: October 19, 2011
There are two kinds of vegetarians: those who are perfectly happy living on kale and quinoa and garbanzos, and everyone else. Everyone else misses meat deeply, hence the success of weird soy-and-chemical products designed to taste like chicken nuggets, and hence the reason I am no longer a vegetarian.
But I was willing to be seduced from my carnivorous lifestyle at Central Square’s new Veggie Galaxy, a vegetarian diner where the portions are generous and the price is right, with entrees ranging from $6 to 12. It’s the type of place where breakfast is served all day and where you can get your vegan pancakes with a side of seitan chorizo. You can even get vegan omelets (made from tofu). In other words, this was my kind of cruelty-free dining.
In this spirit, I ordered the smoked Reuben ($8.95). It fell short of an actual Reuben, but, well, it was bound to. The menu advertised smoked tofu, pickled cabbage, Swiss cheese, basil and something called “horseradish Russian mayo.” It was not actually mayo — it was tofu based. I couldn’t taste it regardless.
The dominant flavor was sweet, not meaty, with the pickled cabbage standing out. The smoked tofu was a bit bland and rubbery and didn’t resemble corned beef in the slightest, though it could have passed for Oscar Meyer bologna. On toasted rye bread, though, it was a satisfying meal.
On the side I ordered the mustard baked beans ($3), which frankly could have benefited from some pork. They were fine, but unbalanced — again, it felt overly sweet. The generous onions dotting the beans were cooked thoroughly enough that they lacked bite, but not long enough that they added any caramelized intensity.
My dining companion, a former coworker and a diehard meat-eater, had better luck. She ordered an egg on an English muffin ($7.25) and silver dollar pancakes with Taza chocolate shavings ($8); she received an egg on a biscuit and full-sized pancakes. It was a delicious mix-up. The vegan pancakes are drier than standard diner pancakes, but with a generous smear of caramelized banana butter, they feel decadent, rich, and satisfying. The biscuit, too, was well made and surprisingly hearty.
Service was what you’d expect from a new restaurant, but everyone meant well and my party of two was seated quickly. The staff seemed happy and at home in the kitschy, 50s-style décor. It was clear that the servers all enjoy their jobs; they should grow into it well.
Though my friend and I didn’t sample any desserts, it should be noted that half the diner is a vegan bakery. It would be a great place to bring your animal-loving friend for a muffin or a frappe (yes, they have vegan ice cream!).
But as a spot for dinner, it’s inconsistent. I’m rooting for it nonetheless. Everything is cute and charming and fun, and longtime vegetarians, used to a dearth of dining options, should enjoy it. Omnivores, however, might still feel like something’s missing. Not meat — that’s to be expected — but depth.
Veggie Galaxy is located at 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, near the Central Square T stop on the Red Line. Their phone number is 617-497-1513.