Somehow, I’ve been a vegetarian since 1996 and have approximately zero vegetarian friends in this godforsaken city. This means that I’m usually the “pain” when it comes to going out to eat with my friends. Like the time original plans got botched with Jeannie, Wendy, and Barb and we ended up eating at some place called Carve instead of Proper (which has amazing artisan pizza but was super crowded), and I’m sure you can guess by the name what kind of food CARVE specialized in.
(I used past tense there because that shitty meat palace is closed now, LOLing all the way to the post office to drop off my PETA renewal.)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck eating a basic salad or some lame vegetable wrap, or even worse: not finding ANYTHING on the menu and having to ask if there’s a special meatless menu, which always winds up being some angel hair pasta afterthought.
Don’t mind me, walking down a puddle-lined street with a pleather suitcase of sighs.
Pittsburgh actually has a decent amount of vegan/vegetarian joints these days, and Henry is secure enough in his carniverous lifestyle to go green every now and then, and now Chooch is a vegetarian too but let me tell you: that don’t mean SHIT. Kid is just as picky as ever and pretty much hates everything and thinks all the creative faux-meat creations are “too spicy.” No matter what.
Before my friend Alisha moved to Arkansas, I was kind of the bane of her dining existence. It was always, “Shit, Erin can’t eat here, though.” And then she would taunt me at times too, but that’s nothing—pretty much all my friends have done that to me every now and then.
In a funny turn of events, Alisha has actually recently become vegan! So when she came to Pittsburgh last weekend to visit, I was stoked to have someone to not eat meat with.
Plus, I hadn’t seen her since 2010!
She wanted to go to Onion Maiden and I was excited to give it a second try. The first time I went with Henry, I ordered a hot dog only because it had house-made vegan kimchi on it and I think that was a mistake because it wasn’t filling enough for a dinner entree. Henry just flat out wasn’t impressed with it at all, so he was like, “Ya’ll have fun with that” and then went to Tom’s Diner and probably got a gyro or something gross, who knows.
Alisha and I both got an appetizer to split:
- Alpha & Omega: smoked cashew rangoon
- Bunn 0))): enoki, cucumber, Korean mayo, hoisin
One guess which one I ordered.
Anyway, oh sweetly sweating seitan sacks, both appetizers were TO DIE FOR. I wanted to lay my head down on those sensual, steamed baos and take a sex dream-laden nap. I wanted to honk them, motorboat them, gently rub them over G-Dragon’s perfect face.
You know, all the normal things you want to do when a plate of precious steamed buns is placed before you.
For my entree, I had The Woods, which was an edible work of tasteful food pornography featuring lily flower, wood ear mushrooms (my favorite kind of mushroom except that Henry started using it too much and I was getting tired of them), tofu, ginger pesto (fuck yes), and kale. I ate the FUCK out of it.
Alisha had the Headbangers ball: tofu croquettes with lemongrass, black rice, ginger, cilantro chutney, slaw, and peanuts.
Oh shit, I also had a side of vegan kimchi which I had to eat with a fork and that just seemed wrong, so so so wrong. But I gotta get my Korean staples in whenever I can.
It was the perfect food to accompany 7 years worth of catching up. Onion Maiden redeemed themselves this go-around, and Alisha redeemed herself by issuing an unsolicited apology for being a meat-bully back in the day! It was unexpected and really sweet—I loved this night!
The next day was Vegfest on the Northside, basically a collection of vegan food trucks and various animal-friendly vendors, plus some live entertainment. This was its third year and I’ve got to be upfront with the bots reading this right now: I purposely avoided it the first two years because vegans and vegetarians can be super pretentious hipster pricks and even though I have probably been living that meat-free life for longer than a lot of them at these things, I never feel included. Maybe I’m not sanctimonious enough? Should I shame my burger-chomping friends more often? Wear patchouli?
There are a handful of vegan restaurants I’ve wanted to try for awhile but the vibes are strong and wrong, if you know what I mean. Forever an outsider, oh well.
But since Alisha was in town, she was going to be there with her friends Melissa and Corey, so Henry, Chooch and I took the trolley on over for a day of cruelty-free food-stuffing.
We got there about an hour after it started, and the lines were already NUTS. We were able to snag some vegan donuts and a veggie tart from Goat-something Bakery. I forget their name, but I cherished the fact that no one had seemed to notice that they existed since they were set up next to the Onion Maiden truck and a million people were too busy wiling away their day in that line.
I had the lemon lavender donut, natch, and it was too die for.
After sitting with Alisha & Co. at their table for awhile, we decided to attempt to get some actual meals. I had purposely skipped breakfast and I needed real food. I wanted a hearty lunch! Fucking feed me.
It was mayhem. Total pandemonium. People were walking into each other, food lines were intermingled, BABY STROLLERS WERE EVERY FUCKING WHERE. Every nerve in my body was sparking. This was my worst nightmare. People and lines.
Things standing in my way of food.
I wanted to cry.
I got in line for Blue Sparrow because they had a Korean foccacio I wanted (lol) but the line was actually doubled over on its self because there was nowhere else for it to snake. I had to stand stockstill, with my arms pressed into my sides, because there were people on my both sides of me and I didn’t want to bump flesh with strangers ugh. Some old dude ahead of me said that Blue Sparrow had to keep stopping taking orders because they couldn’t keep up. So we were essentially standing in a line that had nothing happening, no end in sight. Henry and Chooch walked past me eating the cold pizza they bought from some other vendor (the last two pieces, even!) and I looked at them with sad eyes and said, “I CAN’T DO THIS!”
“Then let’s go find something else,” Henry said. Because this was fucked. They weren’t satisfied with their pizza and I still hadn’t procured even a nibble of tofu, so we used our heads and walked a block down the street to El Burro, which has a vegan menu, and within 10 minutes, we had lunch.
We took it back to the park so we could still hang with Alisha and Co., who were on the prowl for dessert. We got in line for Wolf Teeth Donuts, who SOLD OUT while we were in line. And then I found out that Blue Sparrow had also sold out a few minutes after I left the line, so I would have wasted my fucking time if I hadn’t left.
Vendors were selling out left and right and we were so pissed and disappointed. You would have thought it was Vegfest’s first year, and that the city of Pittsburgh has never hosted a single food truck roundup for them to learn from.
I appreciate and support the meaning behind Vegfest. It was awesome seeing so many local people living a meatless life, all in one spot like that. Yes, a lot of them were annoying as fuck, but I tolerated them because it was for a good cause. I DID IT FOR THE ANIMALS YOU GUYS.
But I’m still mad about it. How are you going to advertise an event that’s supposed to last from 11-5 and then have most of your food vendors sell out within the first two hours? In the words of South Korean girl group Red Velvet: dumb dumb dumbdumbdumb dumb.
We had a good time chilling with Alisha at least!
Now I just gotta work on a plan to lure her back to Pittsburgh for good…