Hold the Bacon: Tasty Vegan at Vegan Soul
Near Belle Isle, in an unassuming block of buildings surrounded by residential houses is Detroit’s Vegan Soul. Though I’m an avid fan of meat, and perhaps some readers relate, I was excited to try something new. I took a vegetarian friend with me. I had the common reservations when it comes to vegetarian and vegan food: that it tends to be expensive, that it isn’t filling, and that it can be a sorry imitation of dishes traditionally made with meat and cheese products. Vegan Soul changed my mind.
My friend and I visited Vegan Soul on a Wednesday night. There is a parking lot behind the building, and ample street parking around the area. Inside is a cozy, clean interior. Painted in soft greens, yellows and oranges, the inside is full of a handful of tables, a row of high chairs at the window facing the street, and a bar.
On each table is a large glass bottle of chilled water. In place of the usual salt and pepper shakers are three smaller versions, filled with what looks to be himalayan sea salt, a mixture of herbs similar to italian seasoning and a red Cajun seasoning-like powder. We started with the “fry basket” appetizer, the restaurant offers two options: redskin potatoes or sweet potato chips. We decide on the redskin potatoes. What comes to the table isn’t exactly what I’m expecting: instead of a basket, we receive a small bowl filled with fried potato chips. After sitting in a bowl with no sort of blotting paper beneath them, they easily get soggy, and I’m not impressed. Nevertheless, my friend and I order two promising dishes to split: the soul platter, and the coconut “BLT” wrap.
The soul platter, a signature dish of the restaurant, is a heaping plate including portions of beans over rice, garnished with green onions, a mini cornbread muffin, a small bowl of collard greens garnished with diced onion and tomato, macaroni and cheese, and maple glazed yams. It’s quite a packed dish. The collard greens have a nice, tart flavor. The largest portions are the yams and the mac and cheese. The undisputed star of the dish, the mac and cheese, is creamy enough to rival any recipe using dairy. A little sweet, with a great texture and nutty flavor, it’s worth a visit to Vegan Soul just for some of this staple homey dish. The BLT replaces bacon with coconut bacon: dried coconut strips with a smokey flavor. My friend highly enjoyed the wrap, dipping it into the accompanying ranch, a surprisingly creamy and flavorful condiment.
Vegan Soul will please meat-eaters and vegans alike. It is also very friendly for those who need to avoid gluten, with most of their dishes being gluten free. However, while the food at Vegan Soul is incredibly tasty, it comes at a relatively high price, making it an unlikely spot for a consistent college crowd, but a great visit if you’re making a day out of exploring Detroit.