Strange Town Is Vegan Fare for Everyone
Innovative dishes using fresh ingredients. And lovely wine flights including orange wine.
At Strange Town the menu is brief, 100% plant-based, and seasonal. Food occupies approximately one third of the lengthy menu while the rest of the menu lists cocktails, N.A. drinks and an expansive wine list including orange wine.
You read correctly. Orange! It’s actually a pale orange color and made with white wine grapes that were pressed with the skins and stems left on. According to chef and owner Mia LeTendre, the wine is similar in taste to rose but because it’s made in the old world way, it turns orange and not pink.
My companion and I shared a flight, three pours that were served in wine glasses set in a slice of a former wine barrel. As for the wine, it might be an acquired taste for some. My companion thought it was an ideal afternoon sipping wine. We started with Les Tetes, the lightest, followed by Queen of the Sierra Estate Amber, and finished with the fullest, Collecapretta Pigro Delle sobre.
Strange Town fits perfectly into a turn-of-the-century building on Farwell Ave. The restaurant is small, cozy, and very East Side with its black, white and grey tables, walls, and patterned floor. Large green plants add warmth and personality to this charming space where the vegan cuisine will delight even the most dedicated carnivore. In warm weather there is a plant-filled streetside patio and if all the tables are occupied, you can dine at the lovely bar just inside the door.
On my first visit our server suggested we share two entrees. The Hummus came with an assortment of pickled vegetables, a few whole garbanzo beans, and freshly baked puffy pita, still warm from the oven. The hummus was coated with red chili oil that made us apprehensive about potential tongue scorching heat, however, the oil added only chili flavor and minimal heat. There was more than enough hummus for the two of us and when we added the Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Polenta to the order, we had a delicious and satisfying meal. Tarragon pesto along with blistered tomatoes and other pickled vegetables gave the polenta the additional bright flavor boost it needed because it lacked butter, cream and cheese, the usual flavor enhancers in Italian polenta. It was healthy, tasty, and enough to share.
What you won’t find at Strange Town is fake meat such as the ubiquitous Impossible Burger. Everything is plant-based, fresh, and attractively served as soon as it’s ready. Owner-chef Mia LeTendre told us that she likes to play with new recipes at home before she brings them to the restaurant.
For the Fig and Olive Tapenade, which she made from scratch while we waited, she combined Mission figs, Kalamata olives, and black garlic. It had a deep flavor from the olives and the garlic and a hint of sweetness from the figs.
The Roasted Potatoes were anything but ordinary. LeTendre roasted local Russets, placed them on a bed of sunflower romesco, and sauced them with cashew crema. Then she added pickled red onions to this elegant dish that began with the lowly potato.
She used cashews again in the Sweet Corn Caesar Salad, this time in the dressing, a creamy mix seasoned with capers. The “Caesar Salad” part of the dish was young romaine lettuce that was tender and fresh. Pepperoncini added extra zing and the fresh corn shone as the main ingredient.
The House-made Tepache drink will wake up your tastebuds. Its strong flavor comes from a combination of fermented pineapple, Kombucha, cinnamon and ginger.
We noted three desserts on the menu: Adaptogenic Chocolate Cake, Kombucha Float, and the one I ordered, Panna Cotta. It was an impossibly light creamy coconut-flavored mix topped with house-caramel and chips that were both sweet and salty. This dessert was a masterpiece, a luxurious vegan dessert creation.
Letendre has mastered the art of combining plant foods and turning ordinary ingredients into dish after dish that burst with flavor. This small East Side restaurant is a gem.
There is a caveat. The menu changes seasonally to insure the best and freshest ingredients for each entrée. Thus, the aforementioned dishes could be absent from the next menu, but if so, I suspect they will be replaced by some equally adventurous choices.
On The Menu
- Location: 2101 N. Prospect Ave.
- Phone: 414-885-0404
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wed-Sat
- Neighborhood: Lower East Side
- UM Rating: stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)
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